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Style: I’m pretty sure I can’t define it

March 14, 2011

L-A: So, we’ve been asked this kind of thing before, but a tweet yesterday from another blogger asked the following:

Despite being a fashion blogger, this is a question that stumps me almost daily. Well, maybe not daily. But on a regular basis. Like, everytime I go shopping. It’s like the caramilk secret of fashion. Yes, it is that philosophical. I was once asked, to on the spot define my style. I hated that question and I hated my answer. While I can sometimes be a bit of a label whore, I do not like labeling my style. If I manage to boil it down to “California country casual” or “uptown girl chic” or “party girl on a three day bender”, then I am probably making shit up.

Anyway, in my attempt to answer the twitter question, I turned to Lauren Conrad’s book Style for research (which seemed better than google. I’m meant to review the book for Edward’s Book Club).

Sadly, and not terribly surprisingly, LC didn’t offer any groundbreaking answers. Although, she did give tips on liquid eyeliner and the side-braid.  But no clear answer on how to figure out personal style. Just a dissection of her own personal style.

Which is cool, if you like LC’s style (I sometimes do). But if you don’t, you’d probably scoff at the notion that every wardrobe needs a white collared shirt, a blazer and skinny jeans. And neither you nor LC would be wrong about wardrobe basics.

Essentially, this entire post is a long winded way of saying “I don’t have a fucking clue.”

But here’s what I do know: it’s what fits and it’s what feels comfortable. Even if something looks fabulous on you, if you’re not comfortable in it, then it’s probably not part of your style. Two examples of this.

1. During a mad rush shopping trip for some work appropriate clothing over a year ago, I was given a blouse to try on by the salesgirl. It was sheer and kind of floufy. The salesgirl loved it on me. My honest and trusted shopping buddies loved it on me. I felt weird and uncomfortable. I knew I’d feel weird if I wore it to work. I’d pick at it. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t my style.

2. I have a friend who hates how pants look on her. No matter how often she tries on pants that I think look good on her, she doesn’t like the fit. She’d rather be in a skirt. So she wears a skirt, because that’s what she’s most comfortable in. For whatever reason, dress pants just aren’t her style for work.

I could make a case for needing to step outside of your comfort zone just a little bit. The dressing room or your friend’s closet is a good place to do this. I had pretty much written off jersey dresses as not ever being a part of my style, but boom! tried on a friend’s dress (at her insistence) and it was surprised to find it looked good. This doesn’t apply to all jersey dresses, but at least now I try them – just in case. The thing is to at least try it on. Trying new things can be a bit scary, but scary is different than completely uncomfortable.  But like I said, if it fits (because sometimes we love things that look horrible on us and we need to break up with those things. for reals) and if you’re fairly comfortable, it’s probably your style.

And I don’t necessarily think that it matters if your style is in style. There are some pieces that will be dated and should probably go and there are things that really, well, they make you look frumpy or bumpy or not so hot. But generally, take some advice from this man:



Make it work (for you).

15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2011 1:12 pm

    Style is the real life output of your fashion avatar.

    • L-A permalink*
      March 14, 2011 11:31 pm

      I think the trick may be knowing what that avatar is. If you don’t know what part of you to display for the world, then your style is going to flounder a bit.

  2. March 14, 2011 1:42 pm

    I once read somewhere that style is like turning yourself inside out.

    It’s expressing your personality, how you feel on the inside, on the outside. Which is why the reverse is also true (the What Not To Wear principle): if you wear completely crappy/icky clothes all the time, you eventually start to feel that way on the inside. That’s what I love about that show. On the surface, it appears to be a superficial exercise. But there hasn’t been a single person on the show who hasn’t been changed on the inside, too, by learning how to express themselves through clothing and style, showing how they feel and who they are on the inside. Making the outside match the inside.

    • L-A permalink*
      March 14, 2011 11:36 pm

      Maybe the trick to developing style is to develop a sense of who you are on the inside. If you know who you are, then you’ll probably figure out how to turn that inside out.

      Sometimes I think What Not to Wear misses the mark, but they are right about matching your outside and inside so you feel good about yourself. In a way, I think that may be part of what I mean when I say you need to be comfortable. You need to match how the clothing feels with how you feel on the inside. Because if you can feel comfortable (and by comfortable, we all know I don’t mean sweats, right?), you can pull off that outfit with confidence. You’ll own it and it’ll be your style.

  3. Joyce permalink
    March 14, 2011 3:01 pm

    I love the picture of Tim Gunn! He looks as if someone has presented him with something ugly, slapdash and barely recognizable as clothing (the way they do.) Good advice, too.

  4. Ellie permalink
    March 14, 2011 4:14 pm

    Also love the Gunn pic. Project Runway is the best. show. ever. Even if Heidi Klum is moderately offensive on it.

    Can you share LC’s tips on liquid eyeliner (still can’t do it, although have mastered the pencil) and side braid? I totally heart me a sophisticated side braid, but mine just always look like an I’m-too-lazy-to-wash-my-hair side braid. ellie :)

    • L-A permalink*
      March 14, 2011 11:30 pm

      LC on liquid liner:
      1. rest your elbow on something sturdy (so basically, I’ll never get this as my bathroom isn’t really set up this way)

      2. place brush at the inner corner and drag it outward, stopping at the outer edge – less pressure gives you a thinner line.

      3. pause at the outer corner. If your face was a clock with your eyebrow at 12 and your ear at 3, you want to go for 1:30.

      So basically, I’ll never master this. (I think I may do an entire post on how I can’t do eyeliner)

  5. March 15, 2011 1:25 am

    One time, the clerk in a vintage store asked me to define my style. I was thrilled to be asked, and totally clueless how to answer. I think I said, “Classic styles with interesting prints.” When I did the fashion page of the local weekly, I said something like “California boho meets Mad Men.”

    Anyway. Looking at my closet my style seems to be blue-and-white striped shirts and lots of jeans.

    And my best trick for cat’s-eye liquid eyeliner is to extend the natural angle of your lower lash line. This 1:30 business confuses me.

    • L-A permalink*
      March 15, 2011 9:08 am

      I’m not always sure what mine is, but whatever it is, it involves a lot of nautical strips. Maybe “landlocked sailor chic”?

      Eyeliner of all kinds befuddles me. I always make a mess of it (although I can do a passable job of my lower lid).

  6. March 15, 2011 11:39 am

    The only issue I think people have with “personal style” is how others respond to it.

    Try as we may I think there’s always a little bit of us that wants to get dressed in our favourite outfit and have someone stop us and tell us how fabulous we look.

    The flip side of that – and the issue I tend to be faced with a bit more – is that my personal style is a little off trend from most people’s. I could care less to see one more Dior or Chanel purse but love my Harvey’s seatbelt bag and Dooney & Bourke is next on my must have list. They are no less couture than the more recognizable designers but seem not to have the “status” as a designer bag.

    Now, I may pair my bag with a sale rack red trench and some Spiderman rubber boots but who’s to say that personal style can’t have a few little quirks.

    • L-A permalink*
      March 15, 2011 1:34 pm

      I don’t think actual designer labels have anything to do with style, unless that particular designer fits your style. For example, I generally like Marc Jacobs, but not every design, every season. Even if I could afford it, I wouldn’t wear it head to toe. I’d just wear the pieces I like that fit with my style. And I’d never judge a style based on whether or not it includes the latest whatever by whomever.

      That said, I may not like a style for myself, but I can usually appreciate it. I’ve seen some seriously committed styles (such as rockabilly or something) and thought “wow. That looks good on you.” Some styles I don’t appreciate, but in the end figure, you be you and I’ll be me.

      • March 16, 2011 9:45 pm

        Personal style is all quirk, no label. A person with style can walk into any practically any store and put an outfit together in an interesting way, on a budget. Any bonehead with a fat wallet can walk into a designer store and dress themselves head-to-toe like the mannequin in the window. Boring.


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