The allure of a uniform (and not just a man in).
[Hey everybody! This is our first guest post from Angela! Guest blogger bios will be up soon…]
Angela: I can hear my mother already, words muffled from inside the giant walk-in closet where only, say, a third of her clothes reside. “Angela, a fashion blogger? But she doesn’t even like clothes.”
That, my friends (I’m just going to be hopeful and start off by calling you friends, okay?), is where she is wrong. I love clothes. I just don’t have that many of them. I like to believe that I think like a designer: constantly developing, evaluating, and editing. I love the idea of a uniform. Not an actual uniform (I once worked at a tourist trap where we had to dress in what I like to call 19th century period-polyester, and I still have nightmares), but an outfit I can go to day in and day out, that always makes me feel fantastic. Currently, this usually means dark skinny(ish) jeans and some kind of white or black or grey or blue (colour!) top. Structure is key – clean lines, perfect proportions, no embellishments (this is why my mother thinks my style is boring). I like to think I look like a Scandinavian architect. Please don’t tell me otherwise.
So, while some people seem to believe that fashion = bigger!newer!cooler!, I think that a very defined style and fashionability are most definitely not mutually exclusive. People can find their internal style compass and have it direct them to true north at all times, without losing sight of the shore of fashion (yes, the shore of fashion; it’s a lovely place. I recommend visiting in May).
There are a few people who are so very dedicated to their individual style that I keep them in mind when I find myself coveting something that falls outside my selected aesthetic (not that there anything wrong with a pretty, trendy something every so often – I just know that most things I pick up that don’t fit with my style will be worn zero to three times. And when I do wear them I will almost always feel un-cute).
Any of the people featured in Joanna Goddard’s New York Magazine feature, “One is the Loveliest Color” (photos by Tina Tyrell). Dressing in only one colour shows slightly more dedication than I am willing to muster, but I have to admit the idea did appeal to me.
Lynn Yaeger. Ms. Yaeger, veteran fashion writer, is characterized by a style I like to call doll explosion. I was going to call it poupée explosion, because I think the French adds something, but then I realized anyone without French language skills would pronounce it in a way I don’t want associated with this look. Yes, it’s a little extreme, but I adore it. Pretty well the opposite of my own stark architectural thing, but I admire her passion.
Monks. Okay, I realize this is another extreme, and about as far from Lynn Yaeger as you can get, but I am totally inspired by monks and their (ahem, it feels weird to say this) fashion. A psychic once told me I was a Buddhist monk in a past life, so maybe my current inclination towards stylistic discipline comes from a karmic history of asceticism. Or not.
Dita Von Teese. Dressed up or down (if you can call it that), girl is always dressed. Love it. Were I to be pulled away from my monkish, architectural wardrobe, I like to think I would become a total sexpot a la Ms. Teese. Damn, I need some new high heels.
So, L-A, what say you? Is having such rigid style guidelines totally boring? What kind of aesthetic guides your wardrobe choices every morning? Any be-uniformed dressers you love and/or hate?
L-A: It’s funny you should mention “uniforms”, as I was just reading about something similar in Tim Gunn’s book A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style (which I have from the library). Because he’d be my first nominee for a man with a very stylish uniform.
He is very clear that it is not about the same thing everyday, but a “cache of categories of separates that can successfuly interact.” He goes on to say that we “like having a uniform. Not one uniform, but a number of various looks, the components of which can be mixed around and accessorized.” And since he is Tim Gunn and pretty much always looks good and has the professional CV to backup what he says (not just Project Runway, but he used to be Chair of the Fashion Design department at Parsons), I think he’s on to something. And if you look at his closet, you can see he practice what he preaches:
Yes, in addition to his “uniform”, he owns flip flops and Chucks. I can’t picture him wearing them, but there you have it. That should make the rest of us feel better about having a pair of flip flops in the closet.
Moving on to extremes, I have to say Lady Gaga:
The bitch is crazy. Her clothes are off the wall and are sometimes barely even clothes. But she is committed and that’s why I have almost come to respect her. She has commitment to her style in the same extreme way that the Buddhist monks do. Except, her motivations to be this committed are quite different. And I’ve never seen her add a pair of Crocs to her outfit (I don’t care if they’re monks. No Crocs!). I also agree with you on Dita von Teese’s commitment to her look.
I love it. In it’s own way, it’s an extreme (she wore that to Coachella. Which is in the middle of the desert, when the temperatures are hitting 100+ degrees. Which translates to “damn hot” in celsius), just one that is far more wearable than Gaga or a monk. I can’t even imagine what it must be like in the life of Dita, to get up every morning and try to think of how to work that look. But I guess that’s just it. It probably isn’t work to her anymore. And if it is, then it’s moved from uniform to costume. The whole point of this, getting back to Tim Gunn, is to have your own style uniform that you’re comfortable in and look good in.
So do I have one? Not really. Because despite writing a fashion blog, I really don’t have a sense of style that I feel connected to. I know I’ve got something happening. When I shop with J.Lau, she has often said to me, “that’s very you” to different items. And when I shop too far outside of what is my comfort zone, I end up wasting money on something that might be fabulous on the hanger, but I never really wear. Like a skirt that is too short. It might be not look too short to the world, but I’ll be walking around tugging at it and feeling self conscious, so what’s the point?
Something that did intrigue me was the link you had of people who only wear one colour. Not quite to that extreme, but I think that is something we all go through. I remember I once owned more blue clothing than you can shake a stick at. I loved blue. I also owned a lot of brown once. And it was sometimes to the exclusion of other colours. Like, I didn’t own any black for years. And I know I’ve teased friends who have been committed to their all-black wardrobes. In the end, it’s not having all one colour that is boring, or having a very definite sense of style, it’s what you do with it. If you are everyday in jeans and a t-shirt, then yes, YAWN. But having a bit of a uniform, it probably just means you have a good sense of who you are and your sense of style.
On that note, I think you’ve got to take it easy with the uniform. Because this:
is just a bit too much. A bit too wacky. It starts to look costumey. And Tim Gunn is always telling the designers to avoid costumes. (Although that lady all in green? Originally from Nova Scotia. She looks a bit crazy, but she is from here, so I had to mention it).