“Style is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.” ~ John Fairchild
For much of the time I lived alone in New York, I worked as a senior copywriter for a multi-billion-dollar corporation. (I won’t say which one, but let’s say Clive Davis dropped by on a regular basis.)
I spent weekdays in an office, and quite a few weekend nights out on dates with men I met through moonlighting writing gigs or online dating sites. My wardrobe reflected this life: crisp black trousers, white dress shirts, clingy dresses, high heels, push-up bras.
I found none of these items to be particularly comfortable.
I yearned for flowing cotton skirts and funky patchwork pants, for colorful leggings paired with long Indian tunics. I had recurring fantasies about once again owning the banana-colored classic Frye boots many of us wore in the 1970s. But since these items were impractical for my New York City day- and nightlife, I pushed these desires aside.
Three years later, I left my job to start my own writing business. Now that I was working from home, there was no one to impress with my straight-out-of-Elle-magazine wardrobe. This thought hit me one day after my morning shower as I stood staring into my closet. “I have nothing to wear,” I said to the bulging racks of neatly pressed trousers and shirts.
Immediately, I grabbed handfuls of my old work clothes and stuffed them into garbage bags, which I delivered to Goodwill that very afternoon.
Then I went out to a shop in “Curry Hill,” Manhattan’s South Asian neighborhood, and bought four gorgeous kameezes (Indian tunics) in the softest cotton I could find. Finally it occurred to me that because I had taken a step toward embracing life on my own terms, I could be the one to dictate my dress code. As for date nights? I figured any man who wanted to be with me would have to embrace the real me. And for the love of Joni Mitchell, the real me wanted to wear comfy clothes.
Now, I don’t wish to imply that you have to quit your day job in order to reclaim your style, but you can definitely infuse your current wardrobe with items that do nothing more than please your individual sense of taste.
Should be easy to do, right? Maybe not. Many of us have spent so much time following the marching orders of the fashion and corporate worlds that we have no idea what our true style is.
Here’s a great way to find your style and reclaim it in the name of your Holy Self.
Eight Steps to (Re)claiming Your Own Style:
Clear your mind of all you know about fashion and what image you are expected to relay with your wardrobe. This exercise is about you, no one else.
If you find this difficult, just imagine for a moment that you are The Supreme Ruler of All Things and no one will question your style choices.
- What are your favorite fabrics? Silk? Cotton? Rayon? Wool? Make a list.
- What type of fit makes you feel good? Form-fitting? Loose and flowing? A little of both?
- What garments seem the most “you”? (You can answer this by taking a look at the activities that most interest you. Gardening? Sleeping? Walking? Playing sports? Reading in a comfy chair? Going out on the town?) Are you more comfortable in dresses? Skirts? Pants? Jeans? Pullovers? Button-down shirts? T-shirts?
- If you were to combine your favorite fabric with your favorite garment, what would it look like?
- Where might you buy or acquire such a piece?
- Go out, get it (or make it), and put it on!
- Congratulate yourself for taking your first step toward reclaiming your own style.
- Repeat this exercise until your wardrobe is complete.
Don’t Forget Lounge Mode!
This is essential. What is Lounge Mode? It’s the clothing you wear at the end of the day to put your feet up and read a book, write in your journal, listen to tunes, or indulge in a Downton Abbey marathon. My Lounge Mode attire consists of obscenely soft yoga pants and an equally dreamy loose-fitting cotton shirt, with an occasional cotton scarf/wrap or bamboo robe, if the weather is chilly.
You’ll find what you like—and when you do, the end of the day won’t come soon enough.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: courtesy Rachel Astarte