The Art of Stylish Dressing
Being Your Own Fashion Coordinator Can Be Fun
You Can Be Your Own Personal Stylist
Every day I go out or prepare for a special occasion I enter my imagination and decide what fashion story I will tell. Do I want to look like Claudia Schiffer in a floral maxi dress by Dolce Gabbana or like philanthropist Helen Nonni in a blazer, long flowy skirt, pretty blouse, turban, and boots? Whatever I choose I want my clothes to say the right thing about me, so I take my time and select carefully. Then when others see me they know immediately whether I'm in a playful or serious mood.
If I had the budget to hire a professional stylist, that's exactly what I'd want them to do for me. But, since I don't, I have to employ their tactics to "build an outfit" from the ground up. After reading Woman of Color by stylist/blogger Latonya Yvette and taking Fashion Styling with Danielle Wallis at Academy Of Art University last spring I've learned a thing or two about styling. The best part about doing it for myself is I don't have to start from scratch. I can add new things here and there to my existing wardrobe, and rearrange them accordingly.
Okay, it's not always that simple, especially in the era of individuality but the steps it takes to learn it are and can be perfected by anyone.
What Is Style?
Definition of Style
Before you become your own stylist you need to understand what style is. Described as "elegance or giving a particular design to" in Merriam Webster's Pocket Dictionary when I think of style I also believe it's an artful way of dressing that shows one off in the most becoming way.
In the past, that meant as well-groomed as Cary Grant or Audrey Hepburn, but today it can be as daring as Tracee Ellis Ross or Billie Porter. To discover your own style it's important to assess your sartorial likes and dislikes, lifestyle, color preferences, influences and budget, then you need to determine how you want to enhance your look each season to remain current and relevant.
Well-Dressed Out on the Town
Spring Trends 2020 Part I
This Spring trends are reflecting the vibrancy of the season with prints-zebra, checked, gingham, polka-dot and floral-and colors-green, light-blue and beige. Denim is still big too, with the most popular being '70s-style jeans, midi-length skirts, boilersuits, bermuda shorts, '80s paperbag waists and crafted.
Accessories are equally substantial, with the "top-handle" and clutch purse, jeweled button earring, chunky-heeled shoe and wide boho hat topping the list.
Denim, in particular, can be adjusted to fit anyone's style and work with items they already own. To give '70s-style jeans a nice Jane Birkin twist you can easlly pair them with a denim button-down, vintage menswear blazer, classic Chuck Taylor converse, a bucket bag and aviator shades. The button-down, but this time in white or other light shade, and blazer also work with the denim bermudas, long pendant, bead or chain necklaces, a head-hugging hat and dressy sandals.
If you already own a pair of denim bermudas, or want to alter a pair of old jeans by cutting them off at the knee you can save a little money, and spend your savings on a kicky doorknocker ring to dress up your denim outfits.
Getting Down with Basics, Part I
To create an effective wardrobe with reliable components you need to have the following list of basics in neutral colors (i.e., white, black, navy blue and brown).
- Button-down shirt
- Short-sleeved t-shirt
BLACK OR NAVY-BLUE:
- Dress ("the little black dress)
- Two-piece skirt or pantsuit
- Trench Coat
All of these garments have been in my closet for the last five years, added in one incarnation or another, as the rock of my selections. The reason I love them is they all automatically go well together and lend themselves easily to coordinate with vintage, secondhand, retro, ethnic and designer finds.
An example would be five ways to wear a beige trench coat and a black dress could be worn with slight variations and accessories, during the workweek. From Monday to Friday here's a rundown of what you could do.:
- Monday: Beige trenchcoat + Black dress + Floral scarf + Black knee socks +Vintage black men's oxfords.
- Tuesday: Shawl over beige trenchcoat + Black dress + Black knee boots.
- Wednesday: Beige trenchcoat + Cardigan sweater + Black dress + Black tights + Ballet flats.
- Thursday: Beige trenchcoat + Knit hoodie + Black dress + White sneakers.
- Friday: Beige trenchcoat + Black dress + Knit hat, scarf, and glove set + Tights + Loafers
Getting Down With Basics, Part II
Other components of the basics group can be worn with equal ease and distinction if they're acquired thematically and with an open mind. Take the midi skirt, that's so popular this season, you can purchase one in denim and wear it with a bold yellow cardigan or vintage blouse, or buy one in pleated pink and pair it with a print or white turtleneck, or a blue or black turtleneck and white sneakers. A structured wool midi skirt, whether it's contemporary, retro or vintage, can also replace a pair of tweed menswear pants then be topped with a feminine black blouse, heritage print blazer or black leather coat, for a more feminized version of the masculine/feminine look.
Long maxi skirts, a big trend in Fall 2019, can be equally versatile and worn in different fabrications depending on the season. In fall, a long pleated one can be worn with a checked blazer, fair isle sweater, mini crossbody purse, and knee boots, and in spring or summer, a long gauzy one can be worn with a short-sleeved button-down shirt. A classic turned on its head, and deconstructed with two easy pieces, are the cardigan and long satin skirt. Replacing the traditional evening or cocktail dress, they work just as well for a dinner or theater date.
Once you've pinpointed your basics, within your wardrobe, you should try them on to see what else needs to be added to give them your own personal stamp. If you want to wear something ultra-girly one day but give it an added street edge, you can replace something pretty for something rough, (i.e., a denim, leather or suede jacket with a floral dress or brown ankle boots paired with a vintage white blouse and frilly skirt).
Cozy and Warm
Cool Weather Style 2020
Sometimes the type of weather you'll be encountering will dictate your choices. Whether you commute by bus, subway or drive to work or school, the elements affect you. When I was growing up in Los Angeles, California during the '60s and '70s, the weather rarely dipped below 70 degrees, but now it can be as low as 30 degrees in the morning and down to 50 degrees in the evening in Fall or Winter.
Rain and wind can also be contributing factors making scarves, hats, gloves, coats, umbrellas, and rainboots a necessity. Despite their addition to your wardrobe it's important to incorporate them as seamless components instead of add ons that look thoughtlessly included. For colder days it's wise to add coats, sweaters, scarves, boots, etc., to get through the season as comfortably as when it's warmer.
If you don't want to totally commit yourself with a full fall and winter wardrobe, an excellent and inexpensive solution would be a cozy hat, turtleneck dickie, scarf or gloves you could use to accessorize a tee, sweatshirt or button-down shirt. If you do go for the whole shebang, and you're on a budget, it's possible to buy inexpensive, but sturdy coats, jackets, and vests at Target, Ross Dress For Less, TJ Maxx, Goodwill Thrift Store, amazon.com or amazon.com.
Tying One on With a Scarf:
Taking a knit winter scarf you might try tying one the following ways.:
- Knot one simply around your neck then accent with a pretty brooch on the knot.
- Drape one on each side of a long coat or sweater then belt it in the front.
- Drape one on each side of your neck then secure with a colorful brooch.
- Wear with a matching knit hat.
In addition to adding warmth, knit scarves can also add color, in either a darker tone than a monochromatic ensemble (i.e., beige or gray), in plaid, black and white or an abstract print.
Turtleneck Dickies are just as versatile, practical and budget-friendly. While you can splurge on an expensive one for $70-$150, you can also find ones with a saner price tag at amazon.com for around $20. Within a set of four, in black, red, beige and white there lie unlimited coordination possibilities. Perfect for either plain or patterned button-down shirts, the best thing is they don't feel bulky or unwieldy as you layer on a cardigan and a coat for total protection.
Versatile Turtleneck Dickie Wear
Timeless Transitional Garments and Accessories
For those of us who aren't blessed with oversized closets or budgets we often look for clothes and accessories that are versatile enough to be worn in the fall, winter, all year round with a few sartorial adjustments. Comfortable, attractive and able to be dressed up or down the top 10 are:
- Denim jeans
- Button-down shirts
To make them seasonal layers can be created by combining them with different items depending on the season (i.e., for fall or winter, a pullover sweater can be worn with jeans leggings and khakis and for summer, a simple boho top or t-shirt.
Sturdy Pant Looks
Warm Weather Style 2020
The '70s are big again this Spring, harkening us back to a time of flares, floral dresses, Bermuda shorts, pastel-colored blazers, vests and A-line skirts. Undoubtedly cliched and costume-y if worn as they were during the 1970s originally, the best way to update this trend is to add something modern to give it a fresh spin. Here are some ways I'd translate and make it reflect my own personal style.:
- Flared or wide-leg pants + a Ralph Lauren button-down shirt + a leather motorcycle jacket.
- A floral dress + a military jacket + sneakers or men's lace-up oxfords.
- Bermuda shorts + a soft blouse + a pastel-colored cardigan.
- A blazer + a rock or Hip-hop tee + distressed jeans or army pants.
- A vest + a white tee + khakis.
- An A-line skirt + a short-sleeved top or pullover sweater within the same color family.
Whenever I read a new book, see a film, exhibit, or go to a cultural event, I'm inspired to recreate it and it influences the way I dress. In my day job, as a Special Ed Instructional Assistant for LAUSD, I'm often required to dress according to a theme such as Spirit Day or Halloween.
While working at Palms Elementary School we were supposed to dress up like a character from our favorite book. Always eager to encourage the students I worked with to enjoy reading as much as I do, I decided to dress up like the fairy Violet from the short story, The Frost King/The Power of Love, from Louisa May Alcott's children's book Flower Fables. So I went to Ross Dress For Less and bought a whole wardrobe suitable for Violet-a black floral skirt, a lavendar top, a white tulle sskirt, a black satin skirt, a lavendar top, a black floral jacket, a lavendar top and a pair of beige suede wedgies.
Lovely and effervescent the clothes I chose for this occasion were quite different from what I usually wear, thereby allowing me a chance to think outside the box and add something new and relevant to my wardrobe and style.
Cinematic Influences: The Black Swan
After I saw Natalie Portman in the 2010 movie The Black Swan I became intrigued with the pink, black, gray and white palette the costume designer Amy Westcott and the designers Rodarte created to reflect the ballet world. Then when I saw Portman in all those lovely light-colored evening dresses in the January 2011 Vogue I was hooked. Working with my own clothes, if I wanted to recreate her look in my way I'd either pair my pink wraparound cardigan and pink tee or pink cotton tuxedo shirt with my white cotton vintage skirt, white sneakers or brown combat boots and pink fedora.
Accessories: The Final Touch
As you stand in front of the mirror to examine your outfit what do you feel you need to complete it to give it pizzazz. Do you need a vintage rhinestone pin on your lapel, a black crocheted beret and strands of pearls or a boldly patterned scarf? It's up to you to decide, but whatever you chooose, you'll know it's right when it feels and looks right for the persona you're trying to project.