Style Statement: More Than Two Words

I bought Style Statement as the ultimate lifestyle guide/workbook.  Danielle LaPorte and Carrie McCarthy put a lot of time and effort into this book and gal pals raved about it.  Nothing but glowing reviews and two-word revelations about how people I knew had found their true selves.  So when I became so suddenly unemployed, I thought, “Let’s give it a try!”  I wasn’t sure where I was headed or why… and I was hoping this book would put that all into perspective.

I sat down with the book and a notepad, and diligently followed a few of the exercises.  Was I “this” or “that”?  Was I “matte” or “glossy”?  Was I “round” or “square”?  How do I feel in a bookstore?  How do I spend my free time?

As I wrote, I began to notice that I was writing the same things over and over – not one or two words, but whole lists of words written out like punishment on a chalkboard.  Soon enough, I stopped writing.  I would gloss over the questions, and read others’ responses.  Playful Casual… I liked the sound of that.  Dramatic Contemporary… I like the sound of that!  Cultivated, Magic, Frivolous, Vintage, Connected, Cherished, Feminine, Cosmopolitan, Treasure, Vibrant, Curated…  Full-time Dreamer.  Motherfucking Starchild Odyssey.

And as so many of these words kept popping up, I realized that I just like words for words, and that I couldn’t boil my life and experiences down to just 2 words.  Sometimes I feel like Cultivated Magic.  Sometimes I feel like Connected Treasure.  Sometimes I feel like Frivolous Vintage.  I looked at my closet, I looked at my house.  I looked at my art, I looked at the treasures I collect.  I looked at these little slices of my life and all of them were different, and intertwined and just as much a part of me as the next.

At this point, I haven’t been able to nail down two words that define me.  80% here, 20% there.  I haven’t been able to hit that magic number and I think it’s because I often feel like I’m more than a ratio.  The whole “trying to fit my existence into two words” felt a little like surpressing all the other words I wanted to or could possibly be.  And I know that that’s the point – once you figure out those magic two words, your life falls into place, you realize who you are and what path you’re on and all the sudden the Universe magically opens and you can rename your blog and your cat and your purpose in life.

Unless you’re like me… in which case, all of that happens without having just two goddamn words.

I have to give it to Style Statement’s authors.  They genuinely made me think, and I’m not sorry I bought and read over half the book.  And I think someday, I’ll probably plow through the rest and realize what I’ve been missing. Eventually, maybe, I’ll find that magic definition (Ooh… that’s a good one, right?  Magic Definition?!) that I can’t quite nail down because my brain is a maze of letters and pictures and stars and numbers.  I tried so hard to want one of these statements but the Childlike Wild-Thing (Is that one?  I dunno… I think that’s 3 words) inside me cannot commit to one set of ideas.  Objets Magiques, Strange Treasure, Random Clarity… my brain fills up with all the words I could be – words just spilling right out of my ears, there are so many – and somehow I’m comforted in knowing that somewhere inside my head I’m already defined.

As my Notes from the Universe said the other day: “Insisting on details, Birdie, always limits you.”

All Things White and Wonderful…

Normally, it’s not something I’d admit, but I’m loving all things white right now.  Of course, trying to work white into my closet can be quite a challenge.  I admit, I’m a fan of stripes, and I definitely embrace white when it’s mixed with other colors in my wardrobe.  But white – solid white – makes a bold statement that I’ve never really been able to use.  Solid white would be a great graphic addition to the darker colors I wear, but the color itself is intimidating.  White makes you instantly visible.  I worry that wearing white will make me look ruddy, or will wash me out.  I worry about looking sallow and sick, or that my makeup will look overdone while wearing white.

White is virginal and I have a tendency to sometimes be a slop.  White is prone to stains and spills.  I’ve seen a lot of white done wrong – especially in too-light trousers.  In the past, it’s been easier to not buy white, just to avoid the challenge of keeping it clean.  I’ve often opted for light grays, light blues, light greens, even black and white or red and white stripes – anything to avoid committing myself to a solid color that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

But there have been a few accessories I’ve coveted this spring that have made white a little more accessible in my wardrobe.  Along with the accessories, the second Bloggers Do It Better challenge really turned me on to the idea of white done well.  There were lovely lace skirtsslim trousers, and ladylike dressing.  It’s still intimidating (and I’ll admit, I bowed out of the white-out challenge)… but I’m working my way up to wearing white.

For example, this pair of Chanel sunglasses did me in.  I spied them while wandering around Nordstrom, waiting for a friend.  The sunnies were a little out of my budget but ultimately gorgeous. I tried a pair on and was hooked.  They’re not too wide, not too hip; it was love at first glance.  And they looked great with the red and gray outfit I was wearing.

chanel white 5185 sunglasses

And since then, I’ve found myself drawn to things like this white crackled leather bowler bag at Rice and Beans Vintage…

Celine bowler bag: Rice and Beans Vintage

Seeing all this white done well gives me a desire to do away with all the winter black and gray – or at least use white to add contrast to darker outfits through accessories and wardrobe staples.  I’ll be adding large ropes of white or ivory pearls to everything.  I want white, dangly crystal earrings to complement little black blazers, and big white sandals to stomp around town in.  In my fashionable day-dreams, I would love to rock white cigarette pants with a loose, darker-colored top.

Are you embracing the white-trend this spring?  How are you wearing it?

If I Had The Cash, I’d Write About Fashion

I don’t know how many times in the last couple months this thought has run through my head.  If I had the cash, I could spend money on this and write about it… if I had the cash I’d do more online browsing… I’d do more in-person shopping…  I wonder; Does having a couple extra bills to drop make it easier to blog about fashion?  Is fashion for the “haves” versus the “have nots”?  And ultimately, how does one become inspired by, and write about fashion if they aren’t necessarily an avid consumer?

I don’t think fashion is necessarily a money game, even though it seems hard to be fashion forward without buying seasonally.  As Ashe Mischief’s “Finance and the Fashion Blogger” series shows us, a girl on any budget can be inspired by and have some serious fashion impact.  And it’s not some frivolous game for vapid girls who have nothing else going for them.  As Mary Quant said, “[Fashion] is part of being alive today.”

Mary Quant Royal Mail Stamp

So what’s a girl to do when she’s on a limited budget?  How do you become inspired by fashion – how do you write for the fashionable masses – when you don’t have the funds?  If you feel you’ve lost your fashion mojo because you just can’t keep up with the stylish Joneses, think again.

Look to your favorite fashion mag.  You know women only wear about 30% of what’s in their closet, which means that hidden among the hangers, there’s probably a whole Elle Style outfit waiting to happen.  Who cares if it isn’t designer, or if it’s not spot-on?  Inspiration doesn’t have to be perfect.  Personally, I love sitting in the sun, tearing out looks I love from thick magazines.  When I’m done, I have a collection of looks and tears that I liked, just waiting to inspire me.  And if it’s not the whole look I love, I go through with a silver sharpie and circle the pieces I love.  I write thoughts and phrases on the pages as they come to mind – so that when I’m feeling uninspired, the images + words recreates inspiration in my noggin.

Look at old photos of yourself.  Maybe there was an outfit you just loved 2 years ago – figure out how to make that current.  Chances are you still have one of those pieces in your closet, so get a little bit creative and put those pieces to work for you.  But don’t just pull out your midriff sweaters, Docs and tartan minis to wear to work à la Empire Records.  Get creative and pair that little sweater with a high-waisted, ladylike skirt and appropriate shoes; you’re recreating the feel of that bygone outfit.

Look to your friends – chances are, they’re more stylish than you think!  This works for 3 key reasons.

1. They’re instant inspiration in what they’re wearing.  Don’t go all “single white female” and copy their every move.  Instead, look at how they’ve paired things, maybe ask where she got that sweater that you love.  Watch what they do with proportions.  My favorite friend look is Mitzi’s “Long batik dress + Boots + Structured jacket”.  I don’t personally own these very same items, but I have flowing skirts that I can pair with structured tops and jangly jewelry to get that same structured-boho look.

2.  They can often help your style woes.  You don’t know what to wear with this?  Ask that pretty Laura, who will tell you a ladylike way to dress it up.  Don’t know how to pull off studs?  Ask Scarlet – because she’s the queen of rock ‘n’ roll chic!  Shorts plus cowboy boots?  Pull a Kirsten and pair them with black tights, a rock tee and a granny sweater for a fun, hip look.

3.  They will trade wardrobe orphans with you.  Pair of shoes that doesn’t quite work?  They’ll take it!  Need a belt to go with that dress?  They’ve got it!  Wardrobe swaps are the way to go when you’re on a budget and if your friends are into the idea, trading out pieces can be the perfect inspiration for your look.  Even if you don’t end up swapping anything out, you may learn a few new ways to put those pieces together.  Instant inspiration.

Other obvious inspirations: Celebrities, store windows, your favorite TV characters, reading up on fashion history (Mary Quant for example!), history books, movies, runways, people watching… the list is long…

Fashion doesn’t have to be about the cash it takes to stay current.  There’s a world of inspiration waiting, and you’re more fashionable than you think – just fatigued from standing in front of your own closet with “nothing to wear”.  And if you’re truly  not feeling it, don’t force it – chances are, it will come to you when you’re ready!  (CHEESY: If you build it, they will come)

How do you get inspired by fashion, on a budget?

From the Archives: Fictitious Media Standards

I found this in my written archives and after reading through it, I thought the message was poignant.  At the same time, I’ve seen recent fashion shows – like Betsey Johnson – where REAL models walked the runway.  I’ve seen beauty ads – like Bobbi Brown – where real women are used.  And I sort of wonder – have fashion’s fictitious standards changed that much in the last few years?  Read on, and let me know!

There was an article in Newsweek asking what the media standard of super-thin models is doing to our society.  With the close of NYFW that February, Newsweek reported that an epidemic of slimness was on the rise again! They mentioned the symposium at Bryant Park on weight guidelines in the fashion industry – noting harrowing stories of models who were only allowed to eat “lethally small amounts of lettuce and Diet Coke“.  The article reports that, although the industry claims to be monitoring girls for unhealthy habits, designers are hesitant to impose minimum weight guidelines for catwalk models – Diane Von Furstenburg, most notably, saying weighing runway models would happen “over my dead body.”


(Img courtesy of NY Magazine)

The article pointed out the discrepancy between fashion models and the average woman.  On average, an American woman stands 5?4? at 155lbs, where the average model now boasts a height of 5?10? and weighs 23% less than that.  No wonder women today cling to fad diets and unhealthy eating habits that could eventually lead to more weight gain in the end.

(Img courtesy of LongStation.com and Amber Mac)

The models themselves can’t even keep up with their own images – the article notes that even after hours of hair and makeup styling, their photos go through hours of rigorous photo-manipulation to look perfect on the cover of popular fashion mags.  No wonder women feel a little outdone by runway and magazine models – their images are unreal.  They’ve had their freckles erased, every stray hair photoshopped into perfection, their legs and necks lengthened, their faces slimmed and realigned for symmetry, their nose shaped, their breasts lifted – and all of it is done through the click of some editor’s mouse.

(Img courtesy of Jezebel.com and David Airey)

In the end, these images we’re bombarded with on a daily basis may contribute to how we perceive ourselves.  In Dove’s “Real Truth About Beauty” study, Dr. Nancy Etcoff of Harvard University says:

“Only the minority of women see themselves as above average in appearance, and only 2% claim to be beautiful… Indeed, the study shows that women are less satisfied with their beauty than with almost every other dimension of life except their financial success.“

And Dr. Susie Orbach from the London School of Economics states,

“The overwhelming majority of women … [do not] wish to be excluded because they fail to find their beauty reflected in the images which bombard them, on average, in 2000 advertisements per week.… Beauty itself must be revitalized to reflect women in their beauty as they really are rather than as portrayed in the current fictions that dominate our visual culture.“

Indeed, the study did show that women feel that the ideal standard of physical attractiveness is almost impossible to obtain, and that weight and proportions are inextricably linked to that standard of beauty.

The best part of the Dove study was that women do consider beauty a combination of factors (including physical attractiveness).  Women do know that beauty is about who you are, not just how you look according to some fictitious standard set by the advertising industry – but with the continuing bombardment by mainstream media, we sometimes find it hard to believe.

Perhaps we are judging ourselves a little too harshly against some false standard set by people who want to sell us product.  The truth is, beauty IS on the inside as well as the outside.  If you feel good about yourself, and feel confident in your lifestyle and choices, that inner radiance will shine through.

It’s time we recognize the unrealistic standards our media and fashion industries set, and begin to love our selves, despite what anyone else thinks is beautiful.  Appreciate people (including yourself), not solely for their physical attractiveness, but for that beauty they possess that isn’t based on weight or proportion.

Sources:
Newsweek.  Why Skinny Models Could Be Making Us Fat.  Feb 28, 2007.
Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.  The Truth About Real Beauty: A Global Report. September 2004.

To Try, Then Buy

“If you don’t want to spend money shopping, don’t shop?”  He helpfully offered.

Don’t shop? The words roll around in my head.  Don’t shop?  Isn’t that what fashion and style bloggers do?

Shopping addict? Via Know the Unknwn

I had stopped checking all the sample sales, I turned a blind eye walking past the H&M when I was laid off – but it was an upcoming ladies tea… and the curve of a wedge heel, and the urge to shop was there.

It’s not that I need to buy, I told myself, I just like looking at stuff.  The cut of a hem, the drape of a satin, the alluring sparkle of sequinned tanks.  And besides, what harm can browsing do?  Except, I saw this dress that was a gorgeous sateen cotton and I had to try it on.  And that was the trap.

I’ll just try this on… it probably won’t fit.

It didn’t.  The dress was too small to get over even my narrow shoulders and because I mourned the ill-fitting cut of the dress, the entire experience gave me pause.  I can’t afford to just browse and shop.  It’s true that I have great reason to browse – I can surf through a collection in person and write about it later.  But it was the realization that I went into this store, consciously ready to consume.  Unwittingly ready to buy had that little dress fit (and had it been oh… $10 cheaper – but even $10 is easy to rationalize) and I didn’t realize that until I was majorly bummed that it didn’t fit.  I had a guilty second where I thought to myself, “I should NOT be here…”

Stepping outside the store gave me a breath of fresh air and I rationalized that I’d been emotionally shopping – I went in because I was bored and killing time.  I haven’t felt the ego-blow of being laid off (because ex-employer was sort of a dick), but there is a sense of mania when I ask, “What am I going to do with myself now!??!”  I’d rationalized my purpose for going in (“Oh I can just browse to kill time…”), but I hadn’t realized that I went in with the wrong mindset.  At that same time, if I had seen something truly unique and special, that would seamlessly integrate right into my closet… shouldn’t I buy it?

I need to be aware of the underlying mental reasons for wanting to “just browse” – and if I had cash-in-hand the situation would have been much different.  If you’re going to browse – just browse – without having the money in your pocket to purchase, do so with an editorial eye.  Had I gone in, in the right frame of mind, telling myself “I’m going in because I want to note the construction of this line, or the new trends and fabrics”, I probably wouldn’t have put myself in potential debt danger (wait, how was I going to pay for this dress if I didn’t have the money on me?  OH right!  Credit!).    Had I gone in with the actual money right in my hand, I would have been justified to try and buy.

I don’t think the solution to not frivolously throwing money out is to not shop.  It’s a source of wardrobe inspiration, and often it’s a source of blog inspiration.  Hell, we probably all spend at least half an hour browsing through sales on the internet while we’re looking for post-fodder.  I think the solution to that mindless consumption is to be mindful of why you’re shopping, and what you’re feeling while you’re doing it.  And to think I almost rationalized an ill-fitting dress just to satiate my feelings!  I think for me, it will be about having that money right in my hand and available when I actually want to shop to consume.  And to realize when there is an underlying emotion as I’m out surfing the racks.  Don’t shop to kill time, but do it with a sense of purpose – whether that’s to write about the experience, or to actually purchase something.  Know your purpose, be mindful of your triggers.  Shop, but know why you’re there.

Mindless consumption is a pretty serious and prevalent problem – especially when you’re on a limited budget.  How do you stay mindful while browsing?

 

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