5 Silhouettes. No Direction.

Beth-Ann kindly suggested I post a few more looks and tried to explain my style objectives clearly. I'm not at all sure of my objectives, so perhaps it helps to explain my current practices and how they've resulted in my closet being a grab bag of avant garde retro classics that I love to wear but struggle to style.

Disclaimer: this is long and involves advanced wardrobe diagnostics. If you can't be bothered to read, scroll down to the eye-candy and shoot on my outfits.

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Here's how I roll:

- I try to practise slow fashion. I don't like rapid turnover and I prefer to keep things for as long as I can. 

- My budget is not unlimited and I like to buy the best quality I can afford, which means lots of thrifting, vintage and designer outlet bargains.

- I tend not to have a "shopping list" and my strategy is quite reactive. I'm more likely to spot something and know that it will work than go looking for something in particular (because when I do, I almost never find it).

- I buy things based on quality, fit, colour palette and wearability rather than any notion of a particuar "look" or persona. 

- I don't work in a formal office with a well-defined role that I have to dress for.

- I love experimenting with new styles and I'm really attracted to the unusual and original. 

- I try to future-proof my wardrobe because I don't want to look dated, so I try to steer clear of obvious trends.

- I sew a lot, which means I often make the things I want to make rather than to fill a particular need.

So I've ended up with lots of things I like, mostly nice quality and a few real trophy pieces. This becomes a problem when garments become part of an expressive collection rather than a working wardrobe, but I'm working on that.

Here are five looks from late October/early November when I was on an arty/eclectic kick. These are essentially smart-casual weekday looks I'd wear to work with close colleagues, meet with friends and maybe go out in the evening. I'd wear some of these in the classroom but not to meet business clients. I do have a load more business approriate looks, which tend to favour classically masculine tailoring: blazers, pant suits, brogues etc. There's also the more sporty/hipster/urban strand, which overlaps with what you see here.

1. Vintage silk shibori haori with Uniqlo HeatTech shirt, skinny pants from Marks & Spencer, Underground creepers. 

The haori was a HEWI which I hunted high and low through many, many kimono dealers before finding it. It's not hard to wear but it's more of a summer piece than winter. Worn over a couple of essentials: black turtle neck and slim black pants.

2. Striped Pirate cardigan by All Saints, waxed cotton dropped crotch pants BYBROWN, boots by Maison Martin Margiela. 

A FFB. These pants are the best. I have another pair in gold. The All Saints cardigan is ancient but still going strong. The boots look a bit beat up in the picture, but they've just come back from the cobblers Looking Like New.

3. Self-made skirt with short sleeved jumper from COS, layered over grey marl t-shirt.

I am loving this skirt, which I made very recently. A surprisingly fun layering piece under an oversized winter coat. Definitely a weekender.

4. Vintage '80's Kenzo jacket, jeans by Isabel Marant Homme pour H&M, hat by Uniqlo, creepers as in 1.

This is probably the most controversial of these looks, but also the one I like wearing the most at the moment. The silhouette of the fitted cropped jacket and men's jeans feels just so, and both pieces fit like they were made for me. But it's definitely advanced pattern matching and not exactly trendy. That's my default hat.

5. Self made top and skirt, boots by Maison Martin Margiela again.

This is becoming a go-to day-to-evening choice in the colder weather. I love the complimentary colours. The top is an absolute winter workhorse. 

So, where's the problem?

I'm trying to strike a balance between a lot of contradictory patterns. I like to keep things I love for as long as possible but I also like the challenge of unusual statement pieces. I want to future-proof things but I keep getting distracted by new trends. I want to make sensible purchases but my shopping strategy requires me to know what's right when I see it and make quick decisions. I want to look authentic, not eccentric. I want to distinguish myself but not stick out like a sore thumb. I want to wear my clothes and not the other way around. 

The biggest problem right now is styling. I need a better feel for what works together, and how I can work the things I love into looks that feel contemporary. I'm trying to find a way through this that will lead me to silhouettes and colour palettes that really work for me, figure out which are the key pieces that are pulling their weight, and build more sensible strategies from there. I'd like to develop something that resembles a philosophy or signature look, but I don't know if that's at all realistic given the diversity of content.

If you've read this far, thanks for sticking with me. I'd love to read comments from people who recognise the problem of accumulating things that really work over a number of years but still keeping it fresh. I'm feeling very uninspired by what I see in high fashion right now, so I'd prefer to develop my own personae using the materials to hand. Angie's wisdom has helped me a lot in the past, but right now I need to take stock of what I have and try and make sense of it. I think this may take a couple of years. 

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This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.

18 Comments

  • crutcher replied 3 years ago

    With a couple of exceptions, your philosophy of style could be me...I kept smiling as I read...I don't however sew and from the skirt in 3 you are quite a talented seamstress...I love that skirt...Great fashion looks...I love how you mix the eclectic and the classic...Thanks for sharing...

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    I am not at this advanced style stage, so I fear I can't offer you any real advice. Especially since all of this works brilliantly, to my eye. I see no problem whatsoever! Instead, I see a defined and FABULOUS modern arty style. Unique, personal, and yet contemporary. It's not easy to achieve that. Also, you know what works on your body. 

    Because I tend towards minimalism myself, my personal favourites are #1 (WOW to the haori) and #2. 

    By the way, I have a vintage BIba kimono jacket that I also love but I pretty much have to wear it in summer also -- it's not really winter worthy. 

    But having said that, I also ADORE #4. Love. 

    So...given what you say here....The biggest problem right now is styling. I need a better feel for what works together, and how I can work the things I love into looks that feel contemporary... I am pretty sure what Angie would say: 

    If in doubt, pair with a modern classic. 

    If you choose your favourite neutral and buy a core set of items in a modern classic style, these will "fill in" when you can't figure out how to wear your more eclectic and hard to style pieces. 

    Oh...and we should make a shopping team. I have a tendency to buy ONLY "essentials" (i.e. modern classics that some might consider boring) and my wardrobe lacks the fun and unique statement pieces. You have the opposite tendency. We should meet in the middle! :) 

  • replied 3 years ago

    Wow! I think you have awesome style! I love Suz's suggestion; to add a (modern)classic item here and there is probably the way to go when you feel that some of your pieces won't seem to play well together.

  • replied 3 years ago

    PS. I love the skirt you made yourself. Lovely to meet a fellow sewer :)

  • shevia replied 3 years ago

    Well I read and enjoyed the whole thing (after first peeking at the pictures). I am also so impressed with the skirt in #3 - I was waiting to see who made it and it was you!

    I have a similar shopping style - I am drawn to the well made and interesting and therefore prefer to shop in second hand shops of various kinds to find what I like at affordable prices. I do find it helps to anchor my more interesting pieces with some classic, current essentials. In other words, I second (or third) what Suz said Angie would say. I would wear the first three outfits here with delight. But I do admire the way you mix things up in #4 and 5. 

    Are you sure you need advice, you seem to be doing fantastically! More outfits please!

  • jackiec replied 3 years ago

    I love your creative streak! Wow - what fantastic outfits, and varied silhouettes! My fav is #2 - just outstanding & I'd wear that in a heartbeat too. 

  • Angie replied 3 years ago

    Mooi. 

    I really enjoyed reading your prose approprio, so thanks for sharing your succinct thoughts that nail your huge triumphs and small challenges. I think you're in an Arty and Creative profession which makes your style more suitable right away. 

    Only you will know if you are being authentic wearing these combinations because it boils down to a sense of calm and greater confidence on the inside. (Style is always from the inside out). Listen to those feelings and act on them. Eccentric can be authentic. It depends on how the person carries the style and whether they are relatable. Again, go with what's in your heart. (I am VERY un-authentic in a quirky and avant-garde outfit because I am not a quirky and eccentric person. Case in point).

    I like your fresh approach to slow fashion. And how you like to find your treasures. But yes - you also need to think about how the items in your wardrobe work together. There is little point in having a closet of treasures that do not work together to form outfits. So you might find that you need the right set of simple essentials that “glue” all the pieces together.  

    All that said, I love all your outfits here. Killer all round. I think you’ve done a marvelous job of conveying your style goals, and I wouldn’t change a thing. WELL DONE, and rock on. xo

  • LACeleste replied 3 years ago

    I love your style!  Viva originality!

  • approprio replied 3 years ago

    Ah ladies, you're all much too kind. To be fair, I was very much on a roll that week and I didn't post any of my mistakes. These looks are much more representative of where I'd like to be rather than where I am. 

    From Angie:
     you also need to think about how the items in your wardrobe work together. There is little point in having a closet of treasures that do not work together to form outfits. So you might find that you need the right set of simple essentials that “glue” all the pieces together.  

    Yes! This! This is one area that definitely needs development. 

    I'd like to drill down into the nuances of body shape and colour palette to work out the best way forward. For instance, I'm not always convinced that I look that great in skinny pants, but I wear them anyway. I love wearing black, but I'm not sure that's the best neutral for me. And I want to change up these glasses as soon as my optician will let me. 8)

    The other area I'd like to focus on are the personae which get expressed quite subtly but distinctly through all kinds of details. I'm a pretty fearless experimenter and that can lead me down some blind alleys. As a result, I think I have more than one shadow style lurking in the wardrobe and they are somewhat prone to fighting with each other.

    Suz, I'd be delighted to buddy up to shop for some essentials as soon as I've worked out what they are. But I should warn you that I'm not very good at picking things out for other people, so the affair might be a bit one-sided :P

    And I can't claim any credit for the amazing piece of material in #3. All I had to do was figure out how to sew it together and put on the waistband.

    Once again, thank you all so much for your comments. I really hope you'll stick around and help me pick all this apart. 

  • kkards replied 3 years ago

    slow fashion. oh, i love that phrase...i'm going to think about that for a while.

  • kkards replied 3 years ago

    Btw, i really love #3, it's a bit unexpected, and more sort of high fashion, but totally approachable.

  • TraceyLiz65 replied 3 years ago

    I see fashion as creative expression and your style definitely reflects a strong artsy vibe. I love the idea of Suz helping you find that balance and you could so challenge her to try something artsy...It wouldn't be so much about picking out specific pieces for her ,but encouraging the trying of such pieces on and each building the confidence in your current strengths. Confidence is key!

  • catgirl replied 3 years ago

    I see a lot of Firecracker in your style palette and patterns, though not as much in the outfits themselves.  Arty and eclectic.  The silhouettes are different but the vibe is very cohesive to my eye.  Interesting to see that you can have cohesiveness in repeating a silhouette OR in varied silhouettes with other aspects (pattern, color, etc.) being consistent!

  • shiny replied 3 years ago

    The skirt's great but my favorites are #1 and #2. Wish I had your eye/instincts for finding statement pieces!

  • thimblelina replied 3 years ago

    Yes, I can't help you but I admire your POV!

  • Firecracker replied 3 years ago

    All of these outfits are fantastic on you, approprio! I really love your self-made dimpled skirt and the last outfit. I don't see evidence of the challenges you mention here, but as you've added above, these are your successes. These outfits are beautifully composed, current looking, and flattering on you. So one strategy is to go back to these looks and see what worked and try to emulate the general concepts here, whenever you find yourself stuck. 

    I need to listen to my own advice, because I can identify with your challenge of figuring out how to wear some of my prized pieces.

    It looks like you have some great layering items to go with your more arty ones, and you have wonderful footwear to complement your clothes. As to colors, it looks like black is a key neutral for you. You may find that there are other neutrals you want to supplement it with, but I have the feeling you may not want to move too far away from black, because of the edginess it provides to your style. I've found that as much as I want to get away from so much black, I either can't or won't eliminate it from my looks. I keep returning to it. I have a lot of black-based wardrobe items, even as I've added more olive, taupe, and dark brown, which are more flattering colors on me.

    In sewing, these days I am trying to be careful to make only things that I at least have an idea of how to wear with other items in my wardrobe. Occasionally I still slip, as with this odd dress I made last summer. And sometimes what I envision making isn't what comes out the other end of the sewing process. But if I'm going to the trouble of making something, I want to at least have a plan for what I'll do with it. Maybe sewing for you is more creative than it is for me--maybe I'm a little more of a functional sewer?

  • approprio replied 3 years ago

    Firecracker, this is exactly what I needed to hear. I love your style and I see a lot of parallels in how we dress, so I was hoping you'd say something! I've been looking at these pictures, trying to figure out what it is that's working so well, and all I can come up with is that they all feel like versions of my best self.

    Yes, black is important. I love the bold punch and edgy look it creates, but the effect can be rather unforgiving, so I try not to overdo it. Navy is another key neutral, as are white and grey to soften things up. I'm also inclined to be much more colourful in the spring/summer season. 

    I totally identify with what you say about sewing. I always like to stretch myself with new styles and techniques, and I don't think I'm ever completely certain of the outcome. The wild card looks great btw, such a breezy summer dress in beautiful colours, but I can see why it's a challenge. I'd probably wear it with sneakers.

  • viva replied 3 years ago

    I love your style and envy your vision and talent. That #3 is amazing. AMAZING.

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