In reference to the outfits I blog about, I was asked, “What inspires your looks?” Great question!
Though, I wasn’t prepared to answer that, a generic answer escaped my mouth, “Everything. Depends on where I’m going, how I’m feeling. I like going to thrift stores, not buying the generic pieces, and turning something that would normally be passed over and into something that looks great. I want to show that you can wear a $1 thrift store dress and have it look as good, or even better, than a $100 one.”
But, is that true? Getting to turn a piece of clothing that may be not-so-obviously amazing and turning it into something that can be seen as beautiful…Is that really what inspires me? Hmmm…yes and no.
Yes, that is what I like doing through my styling. How I share my message, show who I am, and…present my inspiration, if you will. But what is that message? What is that inspiration?
I’d like to be able to say, the breathtaking sunsets over the ocean, the curves of a delicately carved wooden stairwell or the lights that the city shines after a rainy day are what inspire me. And they do. Everything does in a way. But what is at the core of that inspiration?
Rachel Zoe said, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” And while every outfit is based on how I feel or where I’m going, there is one concise message. One consistent piece of inspiration.
The Little Fashionista
To get to where I am now, you need to know a bit of my styling past…
Growing up, I was kind of on my own. I was shy around new people…except maybe Grandma. And she liked dressing me in ruffles and puffy dresses – the only choice I had was the color. My mother was (is?) a self-proclaimed tomboy. Basically, I didn’t have someone to give me fashion advice that would be personal to me…unless I wanted more puff or an extra layer of ruffles 😲
Admiring fashion was my gateway to style. It inspired creativity and gave me guidelines.
The fashion world, as seen on TV and in magazines, was my adviser. I started copying what I saw, quickly realizing the importance of money when buying clothes. The un-
fashionista family does not take it lightly when you ask for money to buy a slightly dewy orange blouse that looks almost like the regular orange one that’s a fraction of the cost (as any family should!!)…but for the record, there is a difference! Needless to say, copying was not going to work. So in my not-giving-up nature, I adjusted.
I started looking at the fashion world more critically and with an open mind. Admiring the creativity, but critiquing the lack of attainability (both in a financial sense and in the can-I-really-wear-that-huge-feather-on-me-all-day sense). I went through a phase of copying the looks I liked with items that were much less expensive…I even started making my own things if I had an idea (it was usually bad 😶, though remembering this makes me want to try this again now that I’m an adult and experienced 😜).
Slowly but surely, I began experimenting with looks that weren’t on a magazine, putting outfits together because they expressed the way I felt or what I believed at the time. Welcome, the art of (FINALLY) telling my story through fashion and styling.
Fashion shows are great because you’re watching a designer’s story come to life. Whether it be the story of a warrior, tribe or an animal, there IS a story behind it. It may not always be one we know, but if you look at it beyond the careful stitching and sometimes questionable decor, there is one. And whatever that may be, it is a story that’s personal and close to the creator. It’s a representation of an experience; a representation of oneself.
Styling also tells a story. It just so happens to be put together from items that are already there. Styling gave me a voice, as Rachel Zoe said, to tell the world who I was without having to actually talk. An introvert’s dream come true. And what I wear now tells you my story.
What is that story? Embracing transformation and minimalism. An introvert turned extrovert. It’s the story of turning “nothing” into something. It’s the story of a blouse that was once so overlooked it found its way to a clearance rack. But, with adjustments, turned into a better, bolder, stronger version of itself. So strong that it didn’t need to hide behind so much fuss. It’s the story that represents turning my own shortcomings and insecurities into advantages and certainties, and being comfortable enough with them to not hide who I truly am.
In styling, like in life, we are able to transform into whatever we want. No matter how ugly or overlooked we might feel, or think we look. Whether we come from a thrift store or a private collection, we can change it. There’s no need to stay within a confined space that we’ve been categorized into. With some styling, we can transform that overlooked blouse found on the extra discounted rack from an overlooked thrift store into something that’s regularly complimented. We can make something “ugly” into something beautiful. And, truly, that blouse really wasn’t “ugly,” it just wasn’t polished enough yet; or maybe it’s an acquired taste. But it’s our job, through creativity, to make the most of our blouse, no matter how “thrifty” or “un-thrifty” it may be…yes, I know un-thrifty is not a word.
Why is transformation so important to me? Because I have transformed numerous times. I’ve changed as I experience life; and changed even when I don’t experience it. Though I may not share much of my life on this blog (something that I plan on doing more of, by the way), there is a lot of ugly in my past that I have overcome. And that is where my fascination for transforming something “bad” and making it into something “good” comes from.
Transformation is inspiring because it means hope. It means that not all is lost and even though I may feel “thrifty,” I still have something to offer.
Maybe the idea of “less is more” comes as we get older. Or maybe it’s because we’re trying to save money💰 😉 For me, minimalism is the acceptance of transformation while embracing who we are without all that extra fluff. That thrifty blouse, though enhanced, is now more stylish. No need to cover it up with too many accessories or layers. Let it shine the way it is now. The way it has always been – only now a better version of itself. A more confident version that doesn’t need that clutter.
Why is minimalism so important to me? Not many people know me. The real me. The me who, even with a variety of interests that go from watching fashion shows to camping out primitive style, still has a hard time unveiling herself. But, when you take off that extra clutter, that extra styling (like those gaudy, but really cute statement necklaces), you’re left with what’s really there: a clearance rack, thrift store blouse.
Minimalism is inspiring because it means confidence. It means that even through hardship, I can overcome. I can be confident, and proud, of being a thrifty blouse.
My Styling Process
Transformation and minimalism inspire me, which makes finding unique looks a lot of fun. Every styling session is different because every person wants something different. Every person is different. Even when I’m shopping for myself, the process may be the same, but the outcome is always different. Generally, I follow three steps: 1) Giving the look a voice, 2) Identifying transformation and 3) Ensuring minimalism.
STEP 0: Setting the standard
OK, so this is not a step that I really take now. What is the standard? Glad you asked! It’s knowing what fit and color is best for you.
There are tons of websites that talk about the best fit for your body type (like this one from Real Simple), or what color is best for your skin tone (like this AWESOME read on the importance of wearing the right color tone).
And while these are great OUTLINES to start off with, don’t be afraid to try something new. You won’t know if you like the way you look in it until you try it. Just because I’m told that ruffles aren’t really my thing, my grandma would definitely say otherwise 😂 And, just because a makeup artist says I shouldn’t try dark lips, doesn’t mean I can’t rock them out whenever I want.
BOTTOM LINE: YOU set your standard.
STEP 1: Giving the look a voice
My first thought when putting a look together is what it should say about the person wearing it and if it’s appropriate to where the look will be featured.
- What kind of event is it?
- What message do I want to share?
- Does it share that message?
- How do I want people to receive this message?
- How loud or subtle should it be?
- What does my audience think now?
- What would I like them to think about me if they ONLY saw me?
There are so many options for even just one event. And one outfit can change based on what you want to get out of the event you’re going to. If you want to appear more serious or mature (something I really take into consideration at times), you might go with darker, muted colors and traditional looks. Versus if you want to appear more outgoing or friendly, you might go with bright colors and business casual looks.
BOTTOM LINE: Your outfit should compliment what you want it to say about yourself.
STEP 2: Identifying transformation
I don’t like using anything I buy just once. Being able to use it multiple times is usually always the goal for most. And the key to making sure we do this every time we buy a new top/dress/shoes is to think about how many times we can wear it. Of course, one-time buys are OK every once in a while…like for themed parties!! 🎉
Think of this step as not just transforming that blouse into something prettier, but transforming it to fit more than just one specific look. Can you wear that blouse with jeans? A skirt? Over a dress?
The hard part of this step is remembering what’s in your closet now. We all get stuck; and when that happens, think about the different places you can wear that blouse to. On a date? To work?
BOTTOM LINE: Whatever you’re buying should be used more than once. But it’s OK to buy one-time uses every once in a while.
STEP 3: Ensuring minimalism
The last step in my styling process is making sure that you are “wearing the dress” and not letting it “wear you.” This is more than just knowing what’s best for your body type, what compliments you or what colors look best (see Step 0). It’s about being confident in what you’re wearing because it makes you stand out.
How do you know if you’re “wearing the dress”? Easy – ask yourself if you, not the outfit, stand out…answer honestly! And if you are “wearing the dress,” then you should be able to wear it without adding all sorts of layers and accessories (unless you’re feeling it that day).
Because this piece won’t be used just one time, or just with that necklace (Step 2). It should be used with whatever you’d like, more than once. And you should love that blouse so much that you don’t need to cover it up with so much fluff.
BOTTOM LINE: Love the piece enough that you would wear it alone and not have to only wear it with added accessories/layers.
It’s a Wrap 👗 (get it?)
With these two ideas, I’m inspired to put together looks that are interchangeable. They can be altered and styled in different ways to fit every interaction, every interview, every situation. My style adjusts to different messages based on what story I want to tell.
My style is personal to who I am, adjusted for every situation, and vulnerably out in the open without many trends and accessories to hide behind. My style is real, relatable and genuine. No, I’m not saying that just because someone else adds on multiple accessories means their style is not true to him/her. I am saying that my style is the version of me.
So what does this blog rant tell you? My process started probably just like everyone else’s did. But what makes it special is the story behind it. The story my outfits share are, at the core, about who I am. And it may not be special for you, but, at the end of the day, it’s who I am. And I’m happy with that.
I’ve been asked when my interest and passion for styling and fashion started. And, up until I wrote this post, I didn’t really know what to say. But now I know. My interest for this form of art (yes, it is a form of art) never really started. It was always there. Styling, for me, is a way of expressing who the wearer is.
Even in my carbon copying days, what I wore was a reflection of how lost I was. And eventually it led me to styling in a way that reflects who I am now.
What’s next? We never stop changing; so I don’t see my styling staying the same. From the moment we wake up, we are a different person than who we were just a few seconds ago. Hell, I’d say I’ve changed just by writing this post. And my styling and interest in fashion will continue reflecting those changes. It will continue to change and evolve based on how I change and evolve. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what my style will be 10, 20, 30 years from now. Maybe ruffles and puffy dresses will make a comeback!