Wednesday, 18 March 2015

My Style lessons From the Past Year: Part One

It feels as though my experimenting is mostly done.  It was, in the end, very much an exercise in learning what I did not want in my closet or on my body.  I tried many things which have not all been shown on the blog.  I experimented with colours, styles and fabrics and I have also learned a great deal about what is actually available to me locally.  There are significant limitations not only to what I can find new in retail but also in what shows up in the second hand shops.  I have been through an extensive process of binging and purging, accumulating clothing in order to experiment but continuously taking things out to donate or sell and most of what came in went back out again.  At times I worry that it has been a waste of money, but I try to look at it as a purchased experience. I have never been very keen on purchased experiences and always prefer to get something concrete for my money.  So that in itself has been an interesting set of lessons.

In the proverbial nutshell (and I do like nuts), I have settled into a habit of wearing jeans with a sweater if I have no intention of leaving home and creating an outfit I enjoy with a dress or skirt if I do intend to go out, even just to the grocery store. This changes a bit in summer when a loose dress is the best thing for a hot day even at home.  Although I want to look nice and wear items that visually appeal to me comfort is always first and for that I need things to move with me, feel soft enough and keep me at the appropriate temperature.  On a moderately good day, a day when I am able to get up and shower and dress but spend most of the day sitting cross legged on the sofa, I will pretty up my jeans and sweater with jewelry and have lately taken to wearing a bit of eye makeup.  I know!  How odd.  It grew from a desire to detract from the big dark circles I have developed.  Looking your best can help psychologically even if it doesn't cure any illnesses.

                              Here are 25 things I have learned. 

1.   I do not have easy access to much variety or quality clothing to my taste (quality pieces on offer here tend to be classic styles) but it is worth paying for quality items new if I make a good choice.  Even if five dollars is spent on the wrong thing it is still five dollars wasted. Experimenting with lower cost second hand clothes makes me more confident now about what I am willing to spend more money on.

2.   I generally don't do a preppy look but can sometimes take a preppy looking piece and use it my way.  Has ironic-preppy been invented yet?

3.   I like many styles but my personal preference has a hippie/boho/lagenlook vibe only not everything that fits those categories is right for me and I do not copy looks directly from celebrities, stylists or designers.  If it looks Victorian, Steampunk, slightly Goth, Mori-girl, Lagenlook, Forest Fairy, like an Elf from Lord of the Rings,  from the 70s, Medieval  or 20s-30s era, I will probably like it but that doesn't mean it will suit me.

4.   My body shape is somewhere between soft hourglass and  warped rectangle and I do not wear the same size top and bottom.  For an unfitted dress, US size 12 usually fits and if the top isn't stretchy enough sometimes I can cheat by wearing a layer underneath and then not doing up all the buttons over my chest. I am closer to 14 on top and 10 on bottom which puzzles me because I don't think I look top-heavy. 

5.   I am happier with my look if I don't put too much volume on my top half

6.   I must STOP buying things that do not fit perfectly unless they are fabulously worthy of being tailored to fit me.

7.   I should only buy natural fibres or a mostly natural fibre blend or I will not wear it.  If it is velvet I will want it but must not let that blind me.  Cotton and linen are great because I will likely want to dye them or over dye them.  I can soften denim in a vinegar wash.

8.   I don't like the way black clothes look on me (Still can't part with a black velvet waistcoat I never wear-see lesson 7) but pewter and charcoal are usually great. 

9.   I don't feel right in crayon bright colours, neons, geometric patterns, bold shapes, graphic shapes, sparkle, sequins, metallic threads or blingy things.  This fits both my personal colouring and my personality. 

10.  I prefer monochromatic or analogous (I love that word) colour combinations in soft, greyed tones; sometimes I will wear jewel tones if they still have a sort of dusky quality.  I am often attracted to warm tones but cool tones suit me better.  In all cases it is best if the colour is a greyed version, with the main feature being soft.  If I would describe it as greyed, heathered or toned, I know I am onto the right thing.  Mottled, imperfect and faded are also appealing to me and work for me.

11.  I do not dress to be noticed; I do dress to look my best and to feel good.  To me there is a difference and it's okay that I do not want to be noticed most of the time.

12.  I consider myself very feminine but clothing feels wrong if I would have loved it when I was nine.  Thus I would describe my style as feminine but not girly.  There is nothing wrong at all with girly, it is just not right for me.

13.  I really, really like 3/4 length sleeves and always have but they are admittedly a bit of a nuisance when putting on a coat.  I will buy them anyway.

14.  I am uncomfortable in structured clothing and that includes many jackets. Most of the time I will not wear most types of structured clothing.  Vests/waistcoats are a likely exception as might be a formal ball gown if I ever need one.

15.  I need fitted cardigans.  I have been buying them too big. No more sloppy cardigans!

16.  I could live in boots, preferably lace ups.

17.  I love the idea of  sewing things, upcycling/repurposing and altering clothing but I am not likely to do much of this.  That's okay.  I won't let go of the dream just yet as I have a stash of garments waiting to be dealt with.

18.  I really like weight on the bottom of my outfit and feel agitated if I don't have it.  That seems to be why I am less comfortable in shorter skirts and it usually means I prefer layered skirts but this is a bit of a problem in summer.

19.  I have no body part I am honestly interested in flaunting yet I like my body more now than at any other time in my life.  This may not be saying much but it's a start.

20.  I generally won't wear prints unless they are subtle or well blended but have a higher print tolerance with summer clothes.  I prefer prints in skirts or scarves to anything else.  I adore paisley!

21.  I love hats but they are often too hot for me.  I have a lot of hair..... or maybe just a hot head.

22.  I love the look of maximalism more than the feel of it.  I am finding my own version of it, something sort of medium with fewer accessories if I am just staying home.  Even when I am sleeping I am wearing three pairs of earrings per ear, a nose stud and two or three rings on each hand.  I don't think that qualifies as minimalist.

23.  The goal to keep in mind for shape is soft, skimming, unstructured but close to the body, flowing, draping, slight movement with a suggested but not cinched waist.

24.  I know what I want to add to my wardrobe and now I need to be patient or more resourceful.  Often I have pieces in my closet that I would like to pair style wise but I don't like the colour combination.  This gives me a clue as to what I should be holding out for to purchase next.  If I like something I am happy to have a version of it in more than one colour.

25.  I may not be able to buy all of my clothes second hand but I will always buy some of them that way.  Fewer things but the right things is a concept that makes sense for me but I have not attached a numerical value to the term 'fewer'. (Update: I estimate that 70% of my wardrobe is second hand and that's better than I thought)

It is not that I will never experiment again.  I know I will and there are still a few items in my closet that are as yet unworn and are awaiting their trial run.  But overall, I feel I really know what will not work for me and that eliminates much purchasing error.   Knowing what colours suit me best, what fabrics I prefer, the shapes that flatter and how I want to put pieces together, will hopefully make it less intimidating to sometimes spend the money on quality. 

A peek into my closet looks like this: Colours are not totally accurate but close.

The top shelf has tee shirts, jeans and leggings on the left and sweaters on the right.  I organise the sweaters more by bulk than colour just in order to keep piles from toppling over. Scarves are on the far right wrapped around the dowel.

I won't be able to end this post without an extra focus on colour, with which I am obsessed.  I love most colours so it was particularly difficult for me to figure out which I looked best in because I couldn't see past just liking the colour itself.  It was taking photos for my blog that helped me to really see the colour on myself and how it worked, or didn't, with my own personal colouring.  Even knowing that I am best in soft colours toned with grey or shaded with a bit of black, I am still inclined to make the mistake of falling for and purchasing colours that are too warm to really flatter me. Yes, I could wear them away from my face, but then I have to have something to wear on top that looks good with them so I am trying to keep them out of my wardrobe to make things simpler.

I played around with some dabs of watercolour paint, trying to make  sample of the colours that work for me and the ones I am attracted to but need to avoid. It's not perfect but it does give a bit of a visual idea.

I am attracted to these but they are both too warm and too bright to suit me.  I can see these colours on Natalia.  I always love the colour combinations she creates but I do not love them on me so instead I will enjoy these colours vicariously.  I like to use them in my art too.  Softening these colours with a bit of grey makes them more wearable for me, but warmer tones are still not my best.  With the in-store lighting not always helping, I am still inclined to err in this direction, especially with greens and browns.  I love a mossy green.  When I am falling for something in green or brown I need to stop and think about whether or not it is a bit too warm to work for me.

The colours that fill my closet now and which I want to focus on look more like these.
If you are a follower of personal colour analysis, my colours are from the deep soft summer palette.

They are generally toned with a bit of grey, and I can wear a deeper version and a lighter version of them but tend to look best in the mid-tone range using two or three colours or combining mid and deep or mid and light of the same colour.  I can wear a very cool lemon yellow but am not particularly fond of wearing it.

Finding greyed or muted versions of colours is challenging so not everything I have is as muted as I might like it to be.  The right off white is quite a challenge too but when I do get it right I love it. It can't be too cream coloured or it looks like warm yellow on me but also not a stark optic white.  Ivory, off white, winter white and whites that are almost blush coloured work.  I find it useful to keep a small piece of white computer paper in my purse to use for checking a white's undertone when shopping.

Everyone has colours they objectively look better in but whether or not you care about yours is a personal choice.  For me, it matters or I feel uncomfortable, just as wearing the wrong style or the wrong size feels uncomfortable.


  1. Shawna, what a thorough study you've done! I think you had a very interesting, unique and genuine journey. I remember the first photos of your outfits, and you have learned a lot how to express yourself through your sartorial choices by now - there is no doubt when looking at you that you live a life of an artist, not work in the office etc.

    I agree about colors. I think to me it's pretty intuitive, but sometimes I try too hard to make a color that just doesn't work on me look good (sort of try to still love it on me). Yes, the colors you showed here are good on me, and I love them. I agree that you look great in cooler tones.

    I also noticed that I don't enjoy structured clothes, even though structured jackets and dresses do look good on X-figure. I guess I prefer them to be not too structured, maybe soft stretchy fabric - then it's OK by me. I love comfort just like you do. (A little strange that you love wearing jeans at home then - they are not on the top of my list for comfort - those buttons, especially after dinner!)

    I also am learning lately, that the first thing for me is to really feel the outfit. It has to be that feeling, you know when you are very aware of yourself. Then you don't even think - just create. That's why I sometimes change an outfit later in the day, for no apparent reason - just feel differently. I for longest time couldn't really point my finger on it - what is it, the outfit is great, I love all the pieces... but I dislike it! Then Melanie said something along these lines, about feeling it. And it struck me like a lightening - yes, of course, you have to feel it right now, just like with any art, writing, any creating. As an artist, you can only work from within, from your honest genuine feeling right now, in this particular moment of creating... That's why I could not possibly pick just one style for me! Too many different feelings, moods, states of mind, different sides of personality.

    I loved this, and I loved the peek in your closet! It looks colorful, well organized, and I love your wooden hangers!

    Looking forward to your next creations! xxxx

    1. I don't wear really tight jeans! LOL though I do like them well broken in and with a touch of spandex or lycra. I also find a mid-rise most comfortable, just a bit below my natural waist. I dislike tightness on my waist and tend to wear skirts a size too big so they can sit lower. I change part way through the day sometimes too. Usually it is pretty obvious to me that it is about comfort though sometimes it is about appropriateness for a situation or activity.
      I like the way you play with different styles. That is your style-to play with variety.
      Wooden hangers are aesthetically pleasing, which is why I have them but they do take up more space. xoxo

  2. finally!!!! :-)
    i´m glad you went thru this without giving up. as you say - it can´t cure illness but it helps your moral. if you feel uncomfortable because there is pain/exhausting/melancholy you don't need scratchy polyester, poking waistlines and the overall feeling of wearing a costume, on top. wearing colors which do you favors helps to love that person you see in the mirror on days when this seems not possible.
    you feel restricted in jackets? whats about capes? ok. a "cross body bag" will not work good with that......

    1. I could wear the cross body bag under the cape. Actually I want to knit myself a poncho. xoxo

  3. Great post - I really enjoyed reading it and am inspired to do this myself...although I don't know if I could ever have such a tidy closet.
    You're a knitter? Are you on ravelry? There are some amazing poncho patterns.

    1. I am only a beginning knitter so I peek at ravelry and wish I had skills. I thought a poncho might be a good one to find a beginners level project. I have also thought of making up my own by just knitting two big rectangles. :-)

  4. Oh yes, looking your best when you're not well makes a massive difference, there's nothing worse than someone telling you how bad you look, is there?
    I let my heart rule my head when it comes to clothes, I only own what I love. It can be a bit of a problem if I'm going somewhere that requires practical clothing, like camping, as I don't own jumpers or waterproofs, but at least I look good when I'm freezing to death or soaked to the skin! xxx

  5. Wow. I think you've done so well to figure out what you like and what you want to purchase from now on. Me, I'm too easily swayed when I go into thrift and secondhand stores. I always like to "give something a chance".

    That said, I do know what colours look best on me and am attracted to them to generally I don't mess up too badly. I need to create a list like yours though.

    Well done!


    1. I love lists of what I know, much more than lists of what to do! You don't appear to ever mess up and even though you say you are easily swayed by different things, you certainly present a very consistent style on your blog. You always look effortlessly chic! xoxo

  6. Shawna, that is quite an extensive list! My goodness. It's good to know that the past years have presented a clear understanding of what you want to wear.

    1. Thanks, Glenda! It's nice to see you here. I am coming to visit you today! The blog that is. Though trip to SoCal would be rather nice. LOL I am slowly getting to my favourite blogs to see all my favourite gorgeous ladies! xoxo

  7. I could comment on your list , but I'm going to comment on your closet instead ... WOW ... so tidy, so organised ... I spent hours cleaning mine up the other day and it still doesn't look half as neat as yours :0)

  8. I'm with you on 7 and 13 particularly! You've obviously learnt a lot, that's great!! Not sure I have!! The colour palette is beautiful and I am awed by your wardrobe!!x

  9. I think of you as a soft summer person as well. Do your eyes, the iris's have white flecks in them? Just wondering. I am a soft Autumn and that was what made the difference for my color analysis. I have gold flecks in my blue/green eyes. I look better in the soft muted warmer colors. If a color is too cool for me I have dark circles under my eyes. If I change the palate they disappear. Colors are amazing that way.
    I get frustrated when I try to find fabrics that I can sew there are so few good fabric stores any more. I have started to re purpose sweatshirt material into jackets that are softer in shape. There is so much you can do with this fabric. Sort of like what Coco channel did with her 1920's knits. Anyways I am glad you found out so much through your journey it is so interesting to hear about your process

    1. I love jersey fabric but am a little nervous about sewing with it. I don't have a serger so I have to learn how to do it on a regular machine. Years ago, in the eighties I participated in a Colour Me Beautiful 4 season personal colour analysis. I was typed as a winter because in those days they seemed to think only blondes were summer. I knew it was wrong but it still threw me off for decades. I kept trying to make winter colours work. Then I found out that the seasonal palettes had finally been sorted into 16 groups and that the soft summer was one of the types frequently mistakenly typed as a winter. It makes so much sense. My eyes were always a dark green with a bit of a grey-blue tint to them but have actually become more blue as I've aged. My parents' eyes did the same thing. There are flecks of a very pale cool taupe colour in them too. My eyes and skin are quite cool but it is my hair that can sometimes seem a bit warm. My hair sometimes looks auburn and I was born a strawberry blonde. Like you, the wrong colour emphasises the dark shadows under my eyes and makes my skin look sickly. I can get away with some shades that are slightly warmer and there seems to be a bit of an overlap between the soft summer and soft autumn palettes but if I go too warm it doesn't flatter me. I can usually get away with warmer pinks, something a bit more coral. xoxo

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Wow, you have put some serious thought into this, Shawna! I would have major difficulties in drawing up a list of my own style lessons, I do have preferences and True Loves but they come with a heap of caveats and "it depends..." Just as well I'm not one for lists (I always lose them!) Xxx

  12. I see you have learned a lot. With time I have discovered that black is not my colour but for others I'm not so sure. My skin colour is very different in Winter as opposed to Summer but I think I have a typical olive complexion....when tanned ( and I do mean naturally tanned not orange) I feel more comfortable in any colour.

    1. Some people are less obviously warm or cool but it is usually easiest to tell by deciding which flatters you more, silver or gold. You may be more neutral than obviously warm or cool but I would think that with your dark hair and eyes, saturated colours suit you well. It can be difficult to see past our preferences and although some people prefer instinctively what suits them we don't all. That has often been my challenge. I like everything. xoxo

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Colour just gets ever more confusing to me, I never could decide if I was a Spring, Summer, Autumn etc (def. not a winter) because I have cool toned skin and warm toned hair and eyes, I'm a mutt on the colour wheel. I can wear orange and khaki no problem but I can also wear magenta and soft blues, black is not my friend but I still cling to it for safety!...I am drawn to muted, soft colours generally like you, absolutely no bolds, I do love those sorts of muted gray blues and pinks. And like you can only wear certain white or cream tones. Like you I have far too many things in my wardrobe that simply don't fit, complete waste of space. I do clear things out every year but every year accumulate more. I have stopped buying things just because they are cheap, as you say sometimes it's better to invest in quality. I sometimes wish someone would come in and just chuck out 80% of my wardrobe so I could start from scratch, it is such a confused mess! ;-0

  15. It is generally skin tone that matters most and you sound to me like you are a summer of some type, probably soft deep like I am. I do orange better than most yellows but I have decided to stay away from it as it doesn't mix well into my wardrobe. I want to invest in quality but generally cannot find locally the things I want to wear. Try putting everything except a few tried and true things into a different closet. Then shop that closet when you need something or want something 'new' If there is anything in it that you haven't gotten out after a year get rid if it. ;-)

    1. Yellow is not my friend - mustard or even soft lime maybe, but really generally no to yellow! I've come up Spring or Summer at various tests (my Mom used to have the Colour Me Beautiful book, but it seems they've expanded the categories to soft, clear, etc). Space is a real issue for me, I have none and it's all spilling out everywhere.I need to move before I can even look at my wardrobe properly! The throw out after a year of no wearing thing, I have tried, but there's is just soooo much stuff that falls in that category. I will do another weed out though, every little bit helps! :-)


I love visitors and I love comments. I will try my best to respond to everyone! Thanks for stopping by.