Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Stylish Giveaway

Art by William Adolphe Bouguereau

What's your style?

People with style intrigue me. I don't just mean a sense of fashion, although that can be part of how it's expressed. Style has more to do with confidence, idiosyncrasies, attitude and individuality than with hemlines or wispy bangs.

Over the past few weeks I have interviewed almost 100 women from various backgrounds, between the ages of 19 and 97 years old. We weren't talking about style, but I noticed theirs. Some were gracious and relaxed and others whined and griped. One beautiful woman in her early 40's, wearing elegant, chic clothes, was bitter and unattractive--not a great style. Another woman, hobbled by disease and using a walker, had an easy sense of humor and made me feel comfortable. She had style.

I think personality traits influence style. These are some characteristics that represent the style I'd like to project: Eclectic, interesting, relaxed, genuine, poised, classy, chic, original, smart, youthful, happy, elegant, fashionable.

Some of us camouflage our personal style by projecting someone else's. We dress ourselves up and then feel uncomfortable when our clothes represent the persuasive salesgirls look better than it does our own. Or we know we can't pull off 4-inch heels while pushing a stroller or a grocery cart, and we decide style is for someone else in some other stage of life. But that's wrong. Style is really just expressing yourself visually. Hara Estroff Marano wrote: "Style is optimism made visible. It presumes that you are a person of interest, that the world is a place of interest, that life is worth making the effort for."

The Triumph of Individual Style
, by Carla Mason Mathis and Helen Villa Connor, is one of my favorite books about style. It taught me to see myself with an artist's eye. Another wonderful book is Ten Steps to Fashion Freedom by Malcolm Levene and Kate Mayfield. This book's secret is to become comfortable with your image from the inside out. The Grown-Up Girl's Guide to Style by Christine Schwab convinced me that I could be beautiful at whatever age and whatever body I am in at the moment.

I've got a whole shelf of books on fashion and style. If you comment on this post by Monday at midnight you could win one of them in the new Oma Book Giveaway! Just share a secret of style or fashion.

Here are Ten Fashion Secrets I learned while observing my unsuspecting interviewees:
  1. Wear lipstick and a touch of gloss, and then make sure you smile.
  2. If you use a cane, carry oxygen, use a wheelchair, or whatever, don't let it make you self-conscious. One woman had an exquisite small quilt draped over her walker, which made it almost an accessory! Another woman had a cane which was covered with a colorful collage and then decoupaged. It was a piece of art.
  3. Be enthusiastic about the weather, the project, the walk over, anything! It lifts everyone's spirits to have a breath of fresh air. Then it doesn't matter what you're wearing.
  4. If you're toting a little child, let it show that you're enchanted by him. It's charming to see a mom appreciate her little one. On the other hand, an over-anxious, apologetic mom draws attention to obnoxious antics. (But try to keep him under control.)
  5. Be yourself. If you have a big, flamboyant personality, dress it up! If you're soft and sweet, focus on your femininity.
  6. Wear the colors you love. If green makes your face look washed out, get some green shoes. Have a bright color near your face to draw attention to your eyes.
  7. If you have a bunch of old clothes you love but can't wear for some reason, analyze what gives them that favorite status. Then try to recreate it. For instance, if the way-too-tight gray and green argyle sweater reminds you of your high school colors, buy a green sweater and wear it with your gray pants. If it's the argyle you love, find some argyle socks. Or get a giant teddy bear and let him wear the sweater.
  8. Don't become paranoid about sizes. Buy clothes that fit, and cut out the tags.
  9. Your body is one-of-a-kind. Clothing is mass produced. Your body is not the problem when something doesn't fit right. It's the clothing's fault, not yours. Factor the cost of tailoring into the price.
  10. A good haircut is the most useful and worthwhile accessory you can buy. Some women will pay $100 for a necklace they will wear a few times a year. I wouldn't. But I think it's worth paying a good stylist $100 for something that sits on top of my head, drawing attention to my face, every minute of every day.
OK. Your turn. I want your secrets of style. If you leave a comment by Monday at midnight, you'll be eligible for the Stylish Giveaway!


polly said...

have a signiture look for how you feel at a particular time in your life. When I was sick and not feeling or looking well..I decided to be kind of bohemian or have a gypsy look with skirts and loose fitting tops and jewelry to match. I don't know or care if I looked good or if anybody noticed I even had a "look", but it made me feel better about myself and that is all that mattered.

Holly said...

Wow. All of these are great. For me, I've learned to always get dressed and have my hair done and a bit of make-up on. Even a casual pair of capri's and a t-shirt looks better when it looks like you care about yourself. I could stand to lose quite a bit of weight. But, walking around in sloppy clothes does nothing for my self-esteem. A cute hair clip and some mascara and lipstick do wonders for how I feel and when I feel good about myself, I project that.

Christie said...

Ooh, what I wouldn't give to win this one. I need some fashion help to get me out of the capris and t-shirt rut I'm in.

I think you need to not be afraid of bolder accessories. A big, bright necklace can really make a statement, without having to make that statement with your whole outfit.

Nicole said...

For my current stage in life my motto is this: wear spit-up with pride. I rarely get dressed up these days, and I am not going to change my shirt everytime I get a little goober on my sholder. I wear these "badges of honor" with pride. You won't see me embarrased by the smudge on my shirt. I'm too busy enjoying my life. Hopefully you won't even notice the snot because I will be looking you in the eye with a smile on my face.

Hold your head high, and work that drool!

Oh, and getting a pedicure always makes me feel fabulous.

Ink Poison said...

I've been noticing that if I'm happy with my haircut, then life is good. I could be dressed up to the nines with a free Nordstrom make-over, but if my hair is not right, it throws everything out of whack. Spend the extra money on a good haircut.

quitecontrary1977 said...

no matter what kind of rags i'm wearing, i always wear great shoes. they say your shoes hint at how you feel about yourself..

Keri(th) said...

Uh-oh, maybe I should get a hairstyle. I gladly fork over $18 for mine every three months or so. And the whole 'outfit' thing has certainly gone by the wayside.

However, one thing I will never skimp on is skin care. Great skin and a huge smile go a long way in the style department.

MissKris said...

I think I've covered this topic with you before. I'm the "un-stylish" tomboy, middle-aged go-to-my-own-drummer barefoot dreamer. And totally content with it. Even with the baby burp-up and sticky finger prints all over me, haha! And one of these days my hair will be long enough again to skim back into a convenient ponytail that baby fingers can't pull. I'm hopeless, Marty. But Dear Hubby loves me just as I am, so I guess that's all that counts for me.

LBB said...

Comfortable clothing - that which fits well and feels good while wearing - is the best style for me. Comfort does not have to equate with sloppy, and style does not have to equate with "fashion." When I am comfortable in my clothing, I feel confident, upbeat, and happy and as a result I look good and feel great.

And a good haircut is well worth the cost!

Sheri said...

I've never found my own style. But I love to watch "What Not to Wear" on cable TV. They can make an over-weight frump look fabulous with just the right clothes, hair-cut and make-up. It is all about the cut of the clothes, the colors and what is right for your body and personality.

Sarah Bauer said...

I think a personal sense of style starts with treating people the way you would like to be treated. When I think of those who I consider stylish or classy I think first about that person as a person. If they treat me like dirt, it doesn't matter what they are wearing or how stylish they decorate, their impression on me has been marked as someone I don't respect. Respect is what makes your style. Respect for yourself, then respect for others show through anything else you can do for yourself.

Quelly said...

My favorite style secret is to make eye contact. It's simple. Of course what you do after the eye contact is made is the cherry on top or your own personal style.

If I had to pick two of my own style secrets it would be to always have at least one piece of jewelry on. I try to wear, at the minimum, earrings - a nice bracelet or necklace is just that much better.

cpullum said...

My style secret is going to the beauty college I can't believe some of the hairdo's I have come out with. They are awsome and cheap! Always get comments!!! Good ones too!!!