Oct 072014

In the artistic composition that is you, what are the dominant characteristics? They may be things that create the most challenge for you; they may be your greatest strengths. Those could be the same.

For example, today when I saw myself in the yoga studio mirror, I noticed something I hadn’t really noticed about myself before: my outline (silhouette) is comprised of short, broken lines – straight and curved – in combination. Even my shoulder line presents such. In the past, I always saw those curves as bulges; but, in reality, it is simply my design pattern.

In principle, the concepts that are likely to yield the best return aesthetically are, IMO: silhouette, length proportion, color value contrast, and style personality. Identifying the first three can be done inexpensively from a photograph.

I am still trying to develop/adapt a diagnostic instrument for what is arguably the cornerstone of personal style: personality.

Aug 282014

This post, from way back in the early days of the blogosphere, tells an amusing story. On me. It was originally part of a “blog carnival”.

The invitation:

I want to invite everyone to write about their most significant fashion purchase. Not the most expensive or most exciting, but the one that was somehow pivotal, or meaningful to you personally.

I’ve always been kind of a contemporary dresser, with a strong practical streak. But for a time, I let my practical (functional, sporty) side get out of control. Which led to one embarrassing evening.

It was in 1998. My husband worked for an engineering company, and the annual company Christmas party was held at the country club (that’s about as upscale as it gets here in the Great Northwest). I had this great dress from Goodwill (do you hear the rising sounds of impending disaster?): velvet top, full polka-dot skirt, puff sleeves. Positively Deb! I realized my mistake, but too late. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure my husband still doesn’t realize it.

The pivot point: I did not want to repeat that scene the following year!

Not sure how my friend knew I badly needed help, since she hadn’t seen me in that get-up, but she offered to take me shopping. After questioning me over coffee, I agreed with her that I wanted something more elegant. We prayed and then we hit the stores.

My friend is one fast shopper. (It helps that there aren’t that many stores here.) We found the ubiquitous bell-shaped long skirt at JCPenney, at a price I could afford, but we had to go to the other mall to get my size. Still, no top. Then, at one of those prom-dress stores, I spotted a possibility on the mannequin in the window. Sparkly, sleeveless and boatneck, believe it or not, it matched the skirt. Together they look like a two-piece dress.

The pivotal purchase: It was just a simple skirt and top. I didn’t spend even $100 or more than half a day shopping. But I promise you, there was not a woman at that 1999 company Christmas dinner who was dressed more appropriately.

The following summer I wore the dress again as hostess at my sister’s wedding. By then I had regained my fashion footing. Throughout the several days of festivities, varying levels of formality, I was never under-dressed.

Now, later this week I will be attending an event that challenges my idiom: dessert and coffee at a new restaurant, with sort of a dramatic interior, in a group with a bunch of young moms. What do I wear?

Aug 232014

Is it possible that great style for one could be colossal fail for another? Of course it is! And the mini version of that is the question I often find myself thinking,

If (fill in the blank) looks so good in that, why can’t I wear it?

Usually, there are reasons; I am in the process of learning about those now. As I learn different principles, and try different concepts, I find other aspects of my look need tweaking.

So what makes style individual? My theory:

when two artistic principles conflict because of your unique body and you create an artful solution

For example, my hips are wide and my legs are short. Wide hips are supposed to be balanced by flared pants; straight leg pants with a slight taper makes legs look longer. These two principles conflict. That could be frustrating. Or an opportunity for me to develop great individual style.

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Jun 052014

Based on my schedule for the summer, this is what my pie chart looks like:
… But it isn’t that simple.

Realistically, I live in each of these categories for some portion of each and every weekday. (I am using a list method, rather than pie chart, for planning the remaining categories: business and social.) To further complicate matters, Active Leisure and Smart Casual nearly always appear in quickchange or “simultaneously both” configuration. Designing is next week!

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In the meantime, I discovered a surprise in performing this analysis: I have basically no use for sporty casual looks (as in, jeans and tee-shirt) in my lifestyle. That segment used to be my “just get dressed”; habitually, I still think that way. Borrowing a theater strategy, I am going to hang my outfits together in the closet to kick the habit of opening the drawer everyday to find separates to coordinate.

In addition to analyzing my lifestyle this week, I have been biffing through my closet in preparation for this weekend’s clothing exchange (between my peers party). If it doesn’t accurately portray my character and support my action, it has to go!

Jun 032014

So it occurs to me that if my style is only 20ish% classic and the remaining 75 to 80% is a combination of ingenue and gamine, that is, playful, both on the girl side and on the boy side, that is going to impact my everyday shoes. I don’t need heels.

Which actually explains a lot. Last weekend, my sister was here and we all took a big family walk; she wore one of those euro-type shoes that are basically a heeled clog. I never wear backless anything (except on my way to the shower at the gym). Naturally, I wore my Chacos.

The youthful connection also explains my preference for “barefoot” looks. Matching your legs, especially with a shoe that is a light style, results in the shoes sort of disappearing; it always surprizes me when people don’t like that look. For sure it makes your legs look longer. But some people are uncomfortable with looking shoeless. I suspect they are less immature. 😉

As I design my wardrobe for this summer, I can see that all my shoes, with the exception of the business category, should be flat and blend with the leg. All I still need is a pair of dressier sandals.

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If we each understood our style essence blend, perhaps we could honestly get by with fewer shoes. Here’s brainstorming style essences and summer shoe styles:

  • Dramatic: prob’ly the gal who always wears heels
  • Gamine: flat loafers and boat shoes?
  • Natural: flip-flops
  • Classic: Keds, metallic Borns
  • Romantic: ballet flats
  • Ingenue: sparkly Thoms
  • Ethereal: sandals with super-thin straps

Off the top of my head. What are your thoughts?

May 272014

According to Kibbe, the use of separates is a distinctive of the artistic expression of each style type. I distilled the 13 categories down to these four flavors:

  1. The Dramatic is best in a powerful head-to-toe look, rather than mix-and-match.
  2. The Romantic combines soft, drapy separates in a blended – rather than contrasting – manner.
  3. The Natural type majors in mix-and-match, and appears matronly in an overly matchy-matchy look.
  4. Gamine use of separates creates a well-coordinated look with alot of animated detail.

(I know someone is going to ask. Concerning Classics, he says, “Use carefully and sparingly. An obvious use of separates is counterproductive to your elegance. Make sure colors, textures, and prints blend together to maintain your smooth visual lines.”)

While the capsule wardrobe concept makes sense to me from a mathematical and theoretical perspective, it never seems to work. I like things decided. Could the use of separates in one’s wardrobe be connected to the J and the P in MBTI?

Andrea Pflaumer suggests young moms hang entire outfits together. I suggest that as a strategy for any artistic J type.

P’s may want to do as the hero does:

he has five pairs of gray, black or brown trousers and probably 15 dress shirts, none of which would clash with any of those pants.

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May 232014

This year, my Memorial Day has more of the feeling of the winter holidays: just coming off a big project and anticipating the opportunity to make a fresh start (in my wardrobe, if nothing else!).

So, this weekend, along with bbq and extended family, I will be enjoying some Memorial Day weekend reading:

In this little (150 page) gem, author Andrea Pflaumer includes descriptions and diagnostics for all seven of Kitchener’s style essences. She even answers the question which went through my head yesterday (at Trader Joe’s), “which style includes bohemian?”

Bohemian: A combination of Romantic/Sensual and laid-back Natural/Relaxed …

Memorial Day is also a great time for shopping sales:

May 212014

In discovering an “image identity” based upon the yin and yang of facial features and body type, Kibbe’s system falls short in a couple crucial aspects:

  1. He has no “type” for anyone who scores highest in “d” answers on his quiz (d is the delicate yin).
  2. He strongly advises against defining yourself as a combination of types.

Parenthetically, for those who do not have the book:

  • A answers represent sharp yang and are associated with a dramatic personal style.
  • B’s are strong yang; style is natural (as in “sporty” or “relaxed”).
  • C’s are balanced and classic, of course.
  • E is soft yin, romantic.
  • A combination of A’s and E’s defines gamine.

Allow me to propose an alternative way of using Kibbe’s quiz:

  1. Watch the John Kitchener style essences intro video. Make a note of the essences with which you resonate.
  2. Taking your scores from the Kibbe quiz, apply them to the corresponding style essences and figure your percentage. Use “d” answers to identify the “youthful” (aka “ingenue”) category. (I did not include “ethereal” in this exercise.)

My results:

  • The three Kitchener style essences that resonate with me are gamine, classic, and youthful. When I saw the picture of Meg Ryan, I was especially convinced about that last one: I am always getting told I look like Meg Ryan. 😉
  • I am positive I have ZERO dramatic and romantic. Therefore, I added my a’s and my e’s together for my gamine score. (It also occurred to me that my body type, according to The Triumph of Individual Style, is “combination of opposites”, which is Kibbe’s definition of gamine.)
  • I had no “b” answers on my quiz.

Undoubtedly, this is a crude method. My breakdown was:
50% ingenue + 25% classic + 25% gamine.

The percentages may need to be refined, but it is a starting place. If you do not have the book, well, don’t sweat it – how can it really work without a type for mostly d answers? Just choose your style essences from Kitchener’s and start working with them. Have fun!

Edit: This page has helpful suggestions for each type.

May 202014

Like many Christians, I had a vague notion of the concepts yin and yang. Out of ignorance, and possibly fear, I avoided such research and discussion for the most part.

But there is much more for me to understand about putting together a look rooted in personal artistic expression. From time to time, yin/yang comes across my metaphorical desk, most recently when Imogen Lamport posted a mini-series about it on Inside Out Style. Using the terms advancing and receding (for yang and yin, respectively) brought to my mind the alternative wording “advancing” and “receiving”. That opens up a whole new world of understanding!

What if we just thought of yin and yang as vocabulary lacking in the English language? In The God-Shaped Brain, Dr. Tim Jennings likens the circle of life to the expression of God’s character of love through nature. As I see it, everything healthy is continually in a cycle of giving and receiving.

More about yin and yang, style essences, and personal idiom to come. In the meantime:

May 192014

Alot has changed since I started this blog; for one, there is WAY more valuable information accessible via the Internet. Lately I have discovered some useful concepts, and some things about myself. I am having fun again. 🙂

Over the course of the last few months, my thoughts have changed about what colors look good on me. If my coloring is so muted, why do I look so much better with *white* next to my face? And when I took that pile of tee-shirts into the dressing room at Target, why was the deep apricot the worst color, and the tomato red the best? As I explore the wearing of brighter colors, I feel more like myself.

Psychologist Diana Divecha writes of her own rejection of fashion’s values in an article at The Monthly:

As a teenager in the ’70s, in a small town in northern Minnesota, I sewed most of my own clothes. For inspiration, I studied Glamour magazine’s “Dos and Don’ts”—which featured girls with visible panty lines or the “wrong” blouse—and was a little terrified that there were rules of fashion that were arbitrated from New York and enforced by the printing of innocent girls’ dress violations in a magazine. I boycotted the pressure and decided to dress in a way that said looks don’t matter, I’d rather be taken seriously.

In the 1980s, I got my first academic job in a mostly male-dominated department. My colleagues commented that I added “estrogen” to the room and wondered aloud that I could be pregnant and smart at the same time. Being a woman was clearly a liability, something to downplay, and so I retreated even further into baggy pants, ugly boots and, I hoped, credibility.

What makes dressing fun? Using your clothing and accessories, your personal style idiom, as an expression of your inner self. Diana Divecha learned to do this by booking an appointment with John Kitchener and Hella Tsaconas. Most of us need to figure it out ourselves.

Conforming to the rules and expectations of others is confusing and frustrating. This John Kitchener video answered alot of my questions. I can’t wait to get to work on my wardrobe!