Nov 062014

From February 2009, a post in which it begins to dawn on me that my aversion to avoidance of accessories is working against me. Unfortunately the article referenced is no longer available.

My philosophy has more or less always been that the personality is more significant to the idiom than is the persona; my ambition is still to create a system that uses personality, rather than physicality, to suggest style. I will get there!

idiom: A style of artistic expression characteristic of a given individual …

personality:  an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristics

persona:  an individual’s social facade or front that reflects the role in life the individual is playing; a mask

On this blog, I use the term “style personality” to describe one of six types based on personal characteristics such as how quickly we adopt new styles, whether we prefer to stand out or blend in, and how much fashion pain we will tolerate.  “Idiom” includes everything:  personality plus silhouette, signature color, lifestyle and geography, etc.

Now enter “persona”.  Sometimes used interchangeably with personality, I am snagging this word to make an important distinction:  personality is based on what you think, persona is based on the opinion of those who see you. 

A persona can be almost like a cliche.  When a man wears a navy polo shirt, khakis, and neatly groomed hair, it conveys a certain look, along with a certain set of expectations.  If any man (who had all his teeth) wanted to put on the traditional persona for a casual setting, all he would need is a navy blue polo shirt, pair of khakis, and a trim. 

This is all part of a recent epiphany I had while reading an article on Style Personas.  This outstanding quote says it all:

Whether you like the idea or not, other people will be classifying you and making certain judgments…why not help guide them in the direction you wish them to go? If you are looking to make a certain impression, it pays to know how you will be interpreted.

Jennifer Skinner

She then goes on to describe five commonly understood personas, along with some of their sub-sets, and the characteristics commonly ascribed to each. 

Having previously struggled with the question “how do you wish to be perceived by others?”, trying to identify one attribute at a time; with the attributes clustered by persona I was instantly able to see both which one I want (CHIC/SOPHISTICATE) and what my problem has been (A chic dresser favors black and neutral colors with bold accessories).  Without the bold accessories, I look either conservative or earthy.

But it doesn’t really explain my compulsion to seek out groovy prints!  Five and a half years later, I am wondering whether the Chic/Sophisticate was/is authentic to me, based in the fashion of the day, or rooted in some sort of faulty thinking. But I still love the groovy prints 😉

  18 Responses to “TBT: Personality vs Persona”

  1. Is is possible she left some styles out? Because I don’t really fit into any of the categories she shared (maternity clothes not withstanding).

    Or do I just lack style? I guess that is the other option! 🙂

  2. I don’t think her list is all-inclusive, especially as pertains to sub-sets. More likely than you lacking style would be your style not being widely understood. I also notice that she didn’t revise any of them to fit moms at home, as opposed to in the workplace. Hmmm. Maybe a future project …

  3. Her typology is a touch sparse; do you know Simon Doonan’s book “Wacky Chicks”? An amusing expansion of the definitions. The problem (if it is one) is that women try out various personae: the Conservative at work, Rocker Chick one day of the weekend., Sporty on the other…

    “Persona” comes from the Greek word for “mask” and we usually wear more than one.

  4. Yeah, that’s it. I’m just misunderstood. 🙂

    I would be interested in your project to modify those for the SAHM. Looking in my closet just now, I realize that I wear mostly jeans with casual tops. I don’t wear straight t-shirts, but I have lots of tops made out of t-shirt material, but with pleats or varying neck lines. (I feel like I am choking in a plain neck crew tee.) I prefer canvas ballet flat style shoes. I’d wear casual skirts more often if I weren’t playing on the floor most of the day, so I save those for church, with a career casual type top.

    I do admit to wearing a slightly different mas when I go out with my husband though. It is nice to get out of my normal “skin” and be a little edgy (but still modest of course!).

  5. I aspire to the “chic” category too, and lack accessories … that must be why I start to feel frumpy in my classic clothes. Its starting to click. 🙂

  6. Jennifer – sounds like you are a very respectable and stylishly dressed practical mom. 🙂

    Christie – thanks for sharing that. Now I don’t have to feel alone that I haven’t quite achieved my wardrobe goals.

    “People who dress in a chic/sophisticated manner give off the impression that they are innovative, confident, artistically-minded, alluring, and oftentimes powerful.” What’s really important to me in this list are the creative characteristics, innovative and artistically-minded, and I really want to be influential, so I think confident and powerful fit with that. Alluring probably does too, but that’s not the kind of influence I aspire to. 😉

  7. I think I’m someone who wants to be a chic/sophisticated dresser, but I’ve been raised to be a classic and I’m terribly cheap and hate shopping. So what I usually look like is a decayed classic. 😛 I hate boring clothes, though, and I love to look dressed up and put together. I don’t even know where to look for the kinds of clothes I might like.

  8. I can never quite find my style in this kind of list. I guess I am some version of classic, but I absolutely hate to slot myself in there with the preppy clothes (perky color combinations and cutesy little prints are “not me”!).

    I like well-cut clothes made out of natural fibers, and tailored/fitted is generally more flattering to me than flowing. But then I often prefer a slightly retro 1940s/New Look cut to items like jackets and dresses–and there is my odd little fondness (which started in high school!) for old-lady styles, especially shawls and heeled oxfords. Yet I don’t think I look costume-y, like the final category.

    I notice that she doesn’t have anything like a “romantic/feminine” category. Maybe there is some middle ground between classic and romantic.

  9. Your Majesty- I never realized how much alike we are! Honestly, I always sort of thought of you as one of those moms who has no idea just how cool she really is. he hee But I can totally relate to not even knowing where to look for the kinds of clothes you might like. I think that comes from being raised as a “classic”. For the most part, we are raised to shop in department stores, the most confusing places in the whole wide world!

    Have you tried Boden? They’re not cheap, but Jennifer at Live Oak Home said that’s where she’d shop if money were no object.

    Sheri – I noticed that romantic/feminine category missing too. Although it could be a sub-set of natural (maybe that’s a stretch). But I noticed Jennifer Skinner used the term “lady-like” to describe the classic. Maybe it’s the definition of “preppy” that’s confusing. I have sort of been of the assumption that preppy colors were navy and white, along with perhaps khaki, burgundy, and french blue. And I thought cutesy little prints were more romantic/feminine (while I don’t mind small-scale prints, I am never very comfortable in florals of any size).

    “People who dress in a classic/conservative manner give off the impression that they are professional, orderly, dependable, and oftentimes wealthy. ” Would you be comfortable with the idea that this was the impression you were giving? For me, I find that when I give off this impression, there is an element of my personality and abilities which is not expressed and it limits my opportunities (since I am mostly in the volunteer world).

  10. That is SO true about crew nheck tees. Why do they keep churning them out? not flattering on most women.

  11. Rebecca, that description doesn’t sound quite like me–or maybe that’s part of me, but not the whole picture. I’m not sure about “wealthy,” though! 🙂

    What I mean by perky colors and ditsy prints is perhaps a younger form of preppy: hot pink and apple green, tiny whale or pineapple prints (Talbots does some of this sort of thing), bright striped ribbon belts, and so on. I wouldn’t touch that look with a LONG pole, but I certainly do wear khaki and even–in the summer–LL Bean nautical stripe tops. But I was raised on a lake in Minnesota, and to me, that sort of look just seems relaxed and comfortable (i.e., natural).

  12. I was at Goodwill today, wearing a blue button down with a brown jacket and jeans. Thinking of this post and realizing an accessory might make me feel more “innovative and artistically minded,” I bought a $2 dark brown wooden beaded necklace. That sounds earthy, I suppose, but it added that accessory I needed, and once on, I did feel more “innovative!” I almost bought a silk scarf but didn’t feel the colors were “mine.”

  13. Just stopping by to say hi!!!!!

  14. Sheri – I get what you mean about the colors/prints. A couple of years ago I found a Christopher & Banks polo shirt, coral with a watermelon print on it. While that stuff is interesting, I would never really be able to wear it and feel like myself. (I got it at Goodwill and sold it on ebay.)

    Maybe her definition of the classic persona would be better if preppy were a sub-set. That is, “preppy” is understood as classic, but “classic” doesn’t necessarily include preppy.

    Could the piece that’s missing in describing your persona be found in the last bit of the description of the “niche” dresser? (I had missed it before, but that’s where she has the romantic/femme style.) Because I definitely think that if I saw you I would pick up another vibe/flavor along with the classic. Perhaps the retro reads as unique.

    Christie – good going on the necklace!

  15. Thanks, Rebecca. I missed the closing bit about “smaller niches,” as well. It strikes me that Jennifer S. is probably a “classic” or “sophisticated” herself, with perhaps limited appreciation for any styles that are less common; that is, these many unique styles of dress all seem like costumes to her.

    To me, a single item–for me, usually shoes or an accessory–does not a costume make! I do know what she means, though, about some of these looks being hard to maintain consistently; when I was quite young, I veered wildly between glamorous (for “occasions” and for evening) and natural (sloppy jeans and t-shirts). I grew out of all that, but I still do like a little fringe or a piece of art deco jewelry! 🙂

  16. I agree that an accent does not turn a well-crafted outfit into a costume; it just makes it more interesting. The cool thing about your idiom is the congruence, but even costumy can be congruent – for one with the energy to maintain it!

  17. This blog has some good posts right now about signature styles.

  18. Thanks! I don’t see mine yet, but I can see she’s not done. Fun!

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