Continuing our series on inspiration boards, I wanted to talk to you about my own style board. This post is a bit of how-to identify your own style, and a lot of here’s-what-goes-on-inside-my-brain-when-I-buy-clothes-and-go-to-get-dressed because maybe, just maybe, it will encourage you to start one of your own and inspire you to become more thoughtful about the things you put on your body too, because you know what? Life is just TOO SHORT to dress boring!
Clearly, I’m no fashion expert and this is not a fashion blog, but I do love clothing and I find that being able to identify your style helps identify your creative identity in so many other ways. I love reading about it, watching documentaries about it, and staying up to date about it, especially if it’s clothing that’s bright, fun, interesting and well-made. I find joy in the design and artful aspect of clothing design from the surface pattern to the colors to the shape to the craft, and finally the presentation. It really is the ultimate in art and craft because you both wear it (practical) and express yourself through it (art). I’m not interested in the type of fashion that is only meant to reveal your body, but the kind that doesn’t take itself too seriously and takes risks.
At this point in my life, I’d say I’m living pretty true to the idea of how I’d like to dress. Of course, I wish I could buy the last few season seasons of Gucci, Dolce, and Dior’s collections, but other than the lack of couture, I’m pretty happy with the key pieces I’ve been collecting over the years. It wasn’t always this way though. As a kid I was interested in the art of fashion and ripped pictures out of magazines keeping them in accordion folders. I didn’t have the confidence, or the money, to really go to town with it. I’d characterize myself as a plain jane with the secret desires to be a wild eccentric. I started taking a few more risks but it wasn’t until my mid twenties that I started feeling more comfortable with the way I always knew I wanted to dress. I always knew that I loved color and pattern, but having the confidence to pull it off was another story. Why is that?! Sometimes we think that people are judging us and critiquing the way we look and who knows, maybe they are! But more often than not, they aren’t. And even if they were, WHO CARES?! What do they know about fashion? They’re probably snoozeville anyway! Ha!
Over the years I kind of said, “screw it” and decided to have a good time dressing. A part of it I have to owe to the words of creative director and style guru, Simon Doonan. I had interviewed for his husband, Jonathan Adler, one fine spring day in NYC for an internship during graduate school. I wore a white fitted shirt dress with a black floral pattern, a kelly green green vest, and natural raffia high heels with black accents. Ha! The details you remember when you’re trying to impress. I had taken a bus from Washington, DC to NYC that morning and I felt like I was ready to take on the city. There’s such an awe to the city when you approach the skyline. Of course, I was nervous as all get-out and wanted so badly to be fancy knowing that I could only do the best I could, which was not too much on a student’s budget. The person interviewing me invited me to Simon’s book signing at Barnes and Noble at Lincoln Center (RIP) that night. Of course, I had to go. Who would turn an invitation down from a hopeful employer? That night I changed into a vintage purple pussy tie blouse with a cashmere (JCrew on sale) sweater over it, grey cigarette pants, and purple flats. Simon talked about his upcoming book, Eccentric Glamour. In it, he talks about the recent trend of women who started to dress alike since the “epidemic of slutty dressing and porno-chic that took over since the arrival of Paris Hilton.” Ha ha ha ha! He’s wild. I love it! He applauds those who found their style and go to town with it so that they don’t look like everyone else. That night I got my book signed and have read every thing he’s written since and completely agree. Who wants to look the same as everyone else?!
With new motivation to use my dressing as a form of artwork, I used my time in graduate school to play around. I was in art school so it was the perfect time to experiment. Again, I didn’t have much money, but I did live right by some of the best shopping in DC, specifically, Anthropologie and visited their sale section often. Turns out, you can get some great pieces at a massive discount.
Nowadays, I make it a goal to buy one good piece a month as it incentivizes me to work hard and stay focused throughout the month. I don’t spend money on beauty care or entertainment, so I choose to spend a few dollars each month on a few key pieces. Plus, as a blogger, I convince myself that my Instagram photos need a fresh breath of air every so often so of course I have to do it! Of course! (and by of course, no one really cares, ha!)
4 ways to identify your style
So, how do you know what your style is? You may see something you like, but how does that fit into a cohesive group? Here are a few things that I do.
1. Identify good influences
Lately, I’ve been finding it helpful to identify people whose style I admire and print it off so that I have it right in front of me. It helps me make better decisions when I go to buy and when I dress myself in the morning. I’ve reached the point where I no longer want to buy things just because they are on sale. I have to LOVE and be CRAZY about every piece I buy. Because you don’t wear the things you’re not crazy about. You just don’t. Perhaps you don’t feel like you are crazy about too many things. But I’m here to say that they exist! You just gotta do a bit of homework to find it by identifying brands you like or icons whose style you love and can be inspired by.
2. A tip: Identifying your style with the help of Pinterest
Pinterest, of course, is one of the best ways to discover things you love. On mine, I have two boards for style. One called “on my person“, which are things that I want immediately in my closet. The other is labeled “style” for ensembles that I appreciate, but maybe wouldn’t want to wear myself. The distinction helps me to think inventively about how I create my style story and I can turn to the “style” board if I need to challenge myself.
3. Naming your style icons
So, who are my style icons? That’s a fun question as there are so many goodies out there.
One who I first became familiar with over a decade ago, I was only able to identify by name a couple of years ago. Her name is Olya Thompson. She’s a textile designer based in Moscow who dresses in a mix of antique and modern clothing, a bit folk, and bit current. I love what she says in this interview on Vogue, that she doesn’t want one piece to stand out, but that each piece of the ensemble should all work harmoniously. Plus, the images of her with her gorgeous family are just dreamy. One of the first images I remember seeing of her was with her family. Each one blended so well together.
Maya Jankelowitz of Jack’s Wife Freda.
I don’t know how I discovered this NYC restaurant owner on Instagram, but I’m glad I did. She has a beautiful collection of bright and pattern-filled dresses with always the perfect shoe. Plus, they have a cute cookbook!
Everyone’s favorite style icon. She just doesn’t take herself too seriously and has a ball with dressing.
I’ve loved the style of this professional stylist for a few years now. This is her here:
And this is one of my favorite shoots she’s ever done:
Lately, Elle Fanning has been doing a great job, wearing clothing with lots of beautiful colors and patterns. It’s young, fresh, and doesn’t take herself too seriously.
4. Identify designer inspirations
In addition to finding people whose style you like, identify designers whose style aligns with yours. You may not be able to purchase their clothes, but it will help you narrow down what it is you like about them. For me I’m attracted to color, pattern, texture, and layers and they are all having a moment right now. Here are some designers that are inspiring me right now. It’s not a complete list, but it provides an idea of where I turn to for inspiration. Use magazines, Pinterest, articles to identify your own.
We were lucky to use some Whit NY pieces for the book and they turned out so well!
I’ve loved Marimekko for ages and even got my hands on one of their heritage pieces, bottom left. I LOVE IT SO MUCH! It’s available from here.
If I had lots of events to go to, Valentino’s gorgeously decorated dresses would be ideal with it’s beautiful embroidery.
And here are a few additional designers that I’m loving right now:
- Miu Miu
- Dolce and Gabbana
- Mara Hoffman
Just assembling this list helps me see clearly what catches my eye: bright, lovely, contains a lot of decorative elements, and patterns. I’d love to hear what yours are!
Assembling your board
Once you’ve identified 1) people and 2) designers whose style you admire, print them off and assemble onto a tangible board. Here’s a tutorial on how to create an awesome style board. Though I have about 75 Pinterest boards I find that narrowing the images down to just a few helps me see what exactly it is that really excites me. And seeing it on a physical board provides a daily reminder to stay on track. Of course my style can change and of course I can break my own rules, but it generally helps me to make better decisions.
Though I’ve been thinking about my own style for quite some time, I hadn’t yet done the world to see my focus. I discovered so much about what makes me tick! I’d love to hear how your own personal style boarding goes. What would you say your style is before you start? And how did you define your style afterward? Any surprises there? I’d love to hear all about it!
Photography by Anna Killian for The House that Lars Built