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:
- Wear lipstick and a touch of gloss, and then make sure you smile.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Be yourself. If you have a big, flamboyant personality, dress it up! If you're soft and sweet, focus on your femininity.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don't become paranoid about sizes. Buy clothes that fit, and cut out the tags.
- 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.
- 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.