One weekend last year I was enjoying a bit of window shopping with my family when I noticed something peculiar. My daughter, who was about ten at the time, was wearing her favorite combination of T-shirt, jeggings and fur-lined Ugg boots…and so was every other girl on the street. It was as if all the young women in Los Angeles had gotten up in the morning and tweeted: “Today I’ll be in Old Town Pasadena wearing my skinny jeans and Ugg boots. Hope to see you there!”
What is it about fashion that makes so many people, myself included, desire to look like carbon copies of everyone else?
Clothing is a language. We express who we are and who we want to be with our wardrobes. In our sartorial autobiographies skirts and shirts are nouns, accessories adjectives, shoes and purses verbs. As a fashion student I wore black, black, and more black, just like all the other fashion students. Later my career took me to a large corporation where I experimented with suits and toted around a large organizer as if attending meetings was a status symbol. When I was a stay-at-home-mom who spent her days watching over toddlers at the playground I wore the uniform of all mother hens; jeans, sneakers, t-shirts and sweatshirts. More recently I have returned to my career as a designer and have started a fashion blog. As a “style blogger” I spend a lot of time on my appearance, carefully crafting each outfit to make a statement and express my personal style while modeling current fashion trends. Gee, can you tell?
Clothing choices are also a form of social advertisement. We tell those around us what group we belong to by what we wear. If Ugg boots and jeggings meant “young, cute, trendy girl” on that chilly day last year, then certainly my comfortable flared jeans and t-shirt meant “mom with young children” to all around me. Back when I took care of my children full-time I could always tell a working mother by the way she was dressed. A delicate fitted blouse, smart trousers and low heeled pumps said “the nanny called in sick” before a word was spoken.
I like to think that I’m beyond all this and that my personal style is unique and uninfluenced by the world around me, but I would just be lying. Currently I’m craving a new clutch bag so strongly that I might just have to sew one if I can’t find one I can afford. This isn’t because I love clutches. In fact I’ve always found them rather silly and impractical. The leopard one I’m toting around in these photos has sat, unused, in my closet for twenty years. (It belonged to my mother, otherwise I’m sure it would have made its way to the Goodwill long ago.) No, I want another clutch because all the other personal style bloggers are posing with clutch bags.
There are trends, of course, that have never made their way to my wardrobe. I enjoy the “hippie-bohemian” look on other women, but peasant tops have never really been my thing no matter how in fashion they are. There have been years where I couldn’t find any new clothing because everything looked awful on my shape. I’ve found my personal style by navigating the choppy waters of current fashion trends, deciding upon pieces that speak to me and flatter my figure, and avoiding the ones that don’t.
Our sartorial vocabulary is limited by the pieces of clothing in our closets. We can add to our vocabulary with new purchases and DIY projects, but even those are limited by availability. I find it to be a sticky situation. I neither want to be a slave to fashion nor oblivious to its charms. I want to look current without being a carbon copy of all the other women who do what I do and like what I like. The trick, I think, is to mix new trendy pieces with older items you love. Take for instance the my hat I’m wearing in these photos. I’ve had this little beret for over 20 years. It’s very “me”. The plaid coat is new, but the flared, swing shape is a returning theme in my wardrobe. Years ago I owned a black leather skirt very similar to this inexpensive vinyl one I recently purchased. I’m not entirely sure the black turtle neck t-shirt is part of a fashion rut or my “signature style”, but I do know that I currently own almost 30 black t-shirts and wear them with almost everything.
True personal style can only come by knowing who you are and what you want to say. My advice? Enjoy current fashion trends by adding new pieces to your wardrobe from time to time, but mix them with older pieces that you’ve loved for years. Make sure everything you wear fits well, looks great on you and is something you really love. Try new shapes, colors and textures as you never know what will tickle your fancy, but if a certain style doesn’t look good move on to the next trend. There will aways be a new one coming along.
Now about that clutch bag…
- Beret – Laurel Fenega
- Plaid Coat – Kensie
- Scarf – a gift
- Turtleneck T-shirt – The Gap
- Vinyl skirt – Zara
- Leopard Clutch – Vintage
- Boots – Lou
What do you consider personal style and how do you craft your own? Ever been somewhere and seen a whole bunch of people dressed all alike? Do you agree that clothing is a language?