Style Lab I: Definitions

All this talk of churn and wardrobe planning puts me to shame. I need to take a long, hard look at myself and what I’m trying to achieve in my style. In the first part, I am taking apart my style descriptors, examining what they mean to me, and why they are important.

Descriptors: Timeless, urban, eclectic, androgynous, individual.

Timeless - Heritage Classics The heart and soul, believe it or not, is a deeply classic sensibility. Tailoring and craftsmanship are essential. Denim is premium selvedge. Oxfords and a good blazer go anywhere, anytime. Creepers are George Cox originals, made in England since 1949.

Urban - Acid Sport ’80s New Wave and ’90s rave culture followed me to Amsterdam at the end of the 20th century. Now hitting middle age as a wannabe Japanese teenager. Loved fun fur, metallic fabrics and colourful sportswear for as long as I can remember. Platform shoes are a necessity. Concert shirts add instant cool to any look.

Eclectic - Euro Folk This is the outcome of a lifetime of thrifting and absorbing art, culture and history. Part art-school hipster, part urban boho, part retro vintage, not quite any of them. Draws influence from traditional workwear, primitive art, antique costume and international folk textiles.

Androgynous - Gender bending Playing with masculine and feminine identities, never tilting too much either way. Femme looks are tough and full of attitude, mannish looks are detailed and embellished. Not personally comfortable with too much feminine performance, but love looking ladylike when the occasion calls for it.

Individual - Conceptual Modern High concept, avant-garde and deconstructed pieces are key, usually in one of the core neutrals.

The last, which I called Conceptual Modern because I can’t think of another way to describe it, only emerged as a major theme a few years ago, but it’s been there as an aspiration for much longer. It’s taken me a very long time to work it into the look, mainly because it’s so hard to find the right pieces and sometimes I have to make them myself. This is the glue that holds everything else together, informing all excursions into other territories. I’ve noticed lately that I can’t get dressed without it, so it’s a major consideration in future acquisitions.

A good rule of thumb seems to be that essentials and indispensable statement pieces fall under timeless/androgynous/individual, and accent statements fall under urban/eclectic.

My challenge for 2017 is to work my existing wardrobe further into a coherent style around my view of the above descriptors, merging old favourites, found items, fantasy dressmaking projects and opportunistic purchases. Anything that doesn’t fit into this new philosophy will have to go.

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.


  • Style Fan replied 5 years ago

    This is a great post.  I haven't come up with my style descriptors yet.  It is very useful to break your style down and define it like this.  You have such an interesting and unique look.
    I have always gone on instinct but I am working on being more aware of what I am putting together.  It really goes against my grain.
    Although we have different styles we do have some things in common.  A love for well made clothing that goes beyond trends and becomes art, an appreciation for pieces of clothing that really are us and end up in our wardrobes for long times (for you the bad BF jacket and for me the brown suede fringe jacket) and I am sure there are other themes that we have in common.

  • replied 5 years ago

    I love the way you defined what each descriptor means to you individually.  What a brilliant idea.  An idea I need to emulate. 

  • replied 5 years ago

    Very well thought out and articulated descriptors.

  • Joy replied 5 years ago

    What Sterling said. A brilliant idea to start looking at where you want to go style-wise.

  • Suz replied 5 years ago

    This makes sense to me. Restricting the urban/eclectic to accent pieces won't feel too restrictive at all, I don't think. The only question might be how to define "accent." Is it an accessory or is it say, a jacket? Or maybe that doesn't matter. 

    Your closet includes a lot of great statements. Keeping the individual/ conceptual in your core neutrals should help to ground things. 

  • shedev replied 5 years ago

    Well done, I'm looking forward to hearing how this plays out for you.

  • Emily K replied 5 years ago

    I appreciate reading your descriptions.  I can see all these influences working together in your wardrobe, so I think you are articulating your fashion well.   I think I understand what you mean by the importance of your own individual pieces--they give an integrity to the whole that prevents the other bits from becoming a pastiche.  

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    As always Liz, I enjoy reading your thought.

    FWIW, Unstructured Avant-Garde Androgyny comes to mind when I think of your current style.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thanks all! As ever, you give me lots to think about.

    Stylefan: that's very true. When I look at your WIW's I can see that even though we look quite different, we're applying very similar values to the choices we make. The fringed jacket is a great example of that, the Pucci blouse too. I remember the photos :)

    zoiechic, Joy, shedev, Sterling: when I started thinking this through I was surprised at how well these descriptors expressed themselves in my style, to the point where I can look at any outfit and see how it plays out. It was a bit of an "aha!" moment.

    Suz: I'm still bending my brain over what'a an essential and what's a statement. I wonder if it depends on the look I'm going for. Statement pieces such as the fur wrap coat or the Trippen boots are in constant rotation, hence "essential statements". Others like the Bad Boyfriend I would class as accents. These are a look in themselves so I build capsules around them, or put them on with (essential) essentials to provide interest. But now I think of it, a classic blazer could be described as a statement essential (rather than vice versa) in that it defines a look and you couldn't make it work any other way. Confused? I surely am.

    Angie: that's a very interesting description, and not far off the mark. I'll keep that in mind, thanks! As we've discussed before, the challenge is finding just the right amount of structure in these unstructured outfits :) I'll probably come back to that when I get onto the silhouette conundrum.

  • replied 5 years ago

    Great assessment of your key descriptors. Well thought out and makes perfect sense. I'm just as confused as you about statements, essentials and statement essentials etc.'s all very much on a continuum and varies from outfit to outfit and person to person. I'm sure as you work through this exercise and nail things down more it will become clearer.

     Love Angie's style descriptor words for you too :)

  • El Cee replied 5 years ago

    What a fabulous and thorough assessment. Love your style descriptors and think they are spot on.

  • rachylou replied 5 years ago

    Good stuff. Conceptual Modern was very clear to me right away (!)

  • shevia replied 5 years ago

    Ok, this is just what I needed. Will try to think about this all day. Thanks!

  • Greyscale replied 5 years ago

    You did a great job of capturing yourself in words. I'm inspired by it - there are so many elements of what you wrote that I want to highlight more in my own look. 

  • Angie replied 5 years ago

    High five, Diane.

    Liz, to my eye your outfits are far less structured than they used to be (not that that's in any way a problem!). In June 2015 when I met you and we had our fab day together - you wore an '80s Demeulemeester blazer, complete with glorious shoulder pads. That is the last time I remember you wearing something structured. 

    (I on the other hand, and craving structure more and more). 

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Thanks so much for the positive feedback. It's nice to know you find it useful and I'd love to know what others would make of this exercise.

    Emily K:
    sorry I didn't pick that up first time round. You make a very good point about pastiche, because I'm always cautious when buying vintage pieces. I don't mind if they look of their era, but they need show quality and versatility to bring them up to date. I also notice that it can take a while for an item to settle into my closet. Unique pieces often take some trial and error before I fully figure them out.

    I think the anchor until relatively recently has been the core of classics, which has been my approach to styling in the past. I like the way these recent additions are pointing in a new direction, but I need to be realistic about where it goes from here.

  • approprio replied 5 years ago

    Angie: the move into baggy clothing is as much a practical requirement as anything else. It's chilly in the new workspace, the bike ride is longer, and I love the freedom of movement.
    But don't worry, I do still love my blazers, which I wear mainly for teaching and social engagements. The Ann D is still one of the best things I own and another velvet blazer (10+ years old) returned this autumn, layered under the fur wrap. Will photograph eventually!

    I'll address the varied silhouette in detail in another post.

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