Friday, September 18, 2009

School of Thought: What's Your Style?

Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada

How to Have Style

Hara Estroff Marano

It's clear to me from the many people I talk to that there is a great misunderstanding about style. Style is not a price. It is not an age. It is not a size. And it can be learned.

Style is one part self-knowledge and one part self-confidence. In other words, it's an attitude. It is a life-affirming expression of your character and spirit, a conviction that you are worth knowing, worth looking at and can present yourself well. It is knowing your strengths and weaknesses so that you can accentuate your strengths, not hide real or imagined shortcomings. Feeling good about yourself is a sine qua non of looking good.

There is one more element of style, and that is clothes, but style should never be confused with fashion. Fashion is synonymous with clothes, but style is merely expressed through clothes. Fashion is IN the clothes. Style is IN the wearer.

Style is nothing if not a celebration of individuality. It glorifies the fact that we are all different. It exposes as preposterous the notion that there is an ideal body, an ideal woman—that there is only one perfect way to look, that any one way is perfect for all women. Style always delights because it is a revelation that the possibilities for originality are limitless.

Style rejects ideals. It goes its own way. In fact, style is nothing if not a triumph of the fresh and unusual.

Style is intelligent, because it requires self-knowledge. Style is optimistic. Style presumes that you are a person of interest, that the world is a place of interest, that life is worth making the effort for.

Style is a way of avoiding the clutter of stuff. It is a way of sorting through the crowded marketplaces, a way of selecting, making choices influenced not so much by pressures such as advertising but by internal considerations. This kind of style no more requires change from season to season than does your character. But neither is it completely static. Ideally it should evolve over time, as character does.

"You have a personal style. You have specific and unique tastes. You have your own sensibilities, values, passions, and dislikes, as well as your own sense of what image you would like to project. But self-doubt, conditioning, and the desire to please others often combine to prevent authentic self-expression. Being concerned about other people's opinions of us becomes a habit, so much a part of ourselves that we lose our true identity. " —Kate Mayfield

What's your style? I'd taken all the magazine quizzes to find out if I was a Classic, or a Romantic, an Apple or a Pear, an Autumn or a Summer—a loser or a winner. Since I didn't fit any one category, I thought I had no style. Nobody had written a quiz that matched me, the real me. It wasn't all about fashion and figure, either. I was trying to fashion myself—figure myself out. That's when I got this book:

10 Steps to Fashion Freedom

I read, "Each and every day we have to present ourselves to the world, and like it or not, other people judge us based on the way we look . . . Ideally your identity, your uniqueness, is something that you project in your image. It's the visual presentation of your inner and outer self. It is the manifestation of your personal style."

How do you feel when you get ready every morning? Do you feel confident that you send the right message in business, social and casual settings? Do you worry about the way you look, never quite satisfied with your appearance? Do you send the right message?

"Your socks should never be funnier than you are."
—Hal Rubenstein

My book said: "Many of you are projecting a style that is not your own personal style but a composite of other's interpretations of you. Your desire to look a certain way—cute, sexy, strong, younger, fill in the blank—has camouflaged the most interesting aspect of your image—you. That's right, the real you is so much more interesting than the 'you' that you attempt to project.

"We have been conditioned to believe that caring about the way we look is vain, self-indulgent, shallow, and in the grand scheme of things, unimportant. But image is a serious matter, because it affects how we live, our self-confidence, and the way we feel about ourselves in the world. You may be thinking, 'If people are going to judge me by my appearance, then those are the wrong people for me.' Of course we don't want to be judged by our appearance, but the fact remains we are and will continue to be. You cannot avoid being judged, but you can encourage people to make judgments that are correct.

"You are not a category. You are an individual. Your image reflects your inner style: your attitudes, your behavior, and the way you communicate. True makeovers are not the dramatic before and after stories we see on TV. They are journeys of discovery. The journey is a comforting progression toward discovering and revealing your true self."

An exercise in the book is to create a Personal Style Statement: a goal-oriented statement of what you desire for your image and how you would like to be perceived. I chose three qualities I want to project: Gracious, Intelligent, Genuine. These words have deeper meanings to me.

kind, thoughtful, grateful, polite,
stylish, loving, appropriate, chic

educated, insightful, knowledgeable,
polished, creative, discerning, funny

authentic, natural, open, pleasant,
spontaneous, approachable, enthusiastic

Instead of asking if this dress makes me look fat, or if this color makes me look sallow, I ask myself, "Do I seem approachable? Am I appropriate? Do I look polished?" It's just a new way of thinking. I want to look like the person I really am. Our own personal style is the 3-second resume we hand to everybody we meet. What does yours say?

"I base most of my fashion sense on what doesn't itch."
—Gilda Radner

Homework: Do any or all or be inspired.

~Come up with ten words that describe you and your image. Ideas: current, attractive, confident, casual, unique, elegant. Look your words up in the dictionary and let the definitions inspire you. Write a Personal Style Statement such as, "I project a sophisticated, unique presence," or I present an image of confidence, elegance and quality."

~Are there clothes in your closet that send the wrong message? A stiff jacket you never wear because your style is more laid-back? A T-shirt with words you won't let your kids say? Give yourself 15 minutes to load a garbage bag to take to Deseret Industries. (Increased style and a clean closet in a jiffy!)

~List three style words that are important to you: Sophisticated, Modest, Vintage, Glamorous, Funky, etc. Now introduce a character in your novel using those three words. Prompt: "Jack wondered what his brother would think of her. She was . . . "

Think about it: What's Your Style?

"Her only flair was in her nostrils."
—Pauline Kael

*If you do any part of this assignment on your blog, please link it back to TravelinOma and provide proper attribution. Leave a comment here (with a link to your homework if you want to share it) and/or a link to your blog (so we can get to know you.) School Days has open enrollment so join anytime. No make-up work required! If you're new, click here for an orientation.


dalene said...

ok so i had a little fun with this one (after i got over my initial panic attack).

here is my homework.

have a great weekend!

the wrath of khandrea said...

funny. i am avoiding getting ready for work today by reading your blog. why am i avoiding? because i am taking 9 special ed kids on a field trip to the county fair today, and i absolutely cannot figure out what to wear. i've currently chosen black and pink nike workout attire. i'm trying to figure out the line between professional, and "acceptable for sidestepping cow poop." it's just not coming to me.

but my hair looks great, and my nostril's have one hell of a flair.

great post, marty!

polly said...

I loved this post. Must think about and write later when I'm not attending to Jake's needs in my casual, but unique style I wear when I am at work!

Alana said...

Thanks for the inspiration! Made me think.

Leave Your Pants at the Door

Marissa Marie said...

Now I want to go shopping! I guess I missed the point? Ha! Here's my post.

Rebekah Writes said...

thanks for the inspiration. I definitely needed it today.

diane said...

This is right up my fashion alley. I may spend a little too much time evaluating my style. I love trying new things to see if I can pull it off. Effortless chic is what I'm going for but sometimes it requires a lot of sffort.

kenju said...

Unfortunately, over the last 5-6 years, my style has been more Gilda Radner than Meryl Streep in the movie. Part of that is due to lack of funds with which to buy new clothing and part is due to the fact that I've gained weight and haven't the motivation to do much about it - or my wardrobe.

Diane L said...

My hairstylist once said to me, "Diane if want to improve your hair even just a little bit, all you have to do is spend more than 30 seconds on it every day. Even five minutes would make a big difference."

Side note - after reading my post about my hometown, my brother-in-law was there for a business trip. He took pictures on his phone of places I mentioned and sent them to me.

On to today's assignment
week 3 assign 5

audrey said...

Thank you Oma! I really appreciate all the time and effort that goes into this. I love waking up in the morning anticipating what you will have to say next!


Misty said...

Do we get expelled if our assignments aren't even close to what you're asking for? (No reason, just wondering.) Botched It.

care020 said...

Great post! It made me think and write a post of my own.

Allison said...

I'm late again but I had a lot of fun with this assignment!


kelly said...

i can describe my style in one word: anthropology

Miranda said...

Did you write this post for me? Seriously, how did you know I was having a style/identity crisis?

~j. said...

thanks for the suggestion.

Katie H said...

This one was hard for me, so I took the easy (chicken?) way out & did a simple prompt.

I did like, however, that this is a whole new way of thinking about my style. And here's to hoping I can project my descriptions, no matter what I wear.