An Everywoman's Style Manifesto
Was there ever a moment when you stepped out into the world wearing something the blogosphere (or social media, the Internet, a magazine ...) was gaga over, yet made you feel uncomfortable in your own skin?
Have you ever tugged at a strap, pulled at a hem, done a frantic mirror check or engaged in some other type of self-conscious, automatic adjustment tick 50 times during an 8-hour workday, only to arrive home, strip down ASAP and hide in your jammies with a slice of pizza and an equal helping of regret?
I have, lots.
Add wine to the above scene and you have me between the ages of 22 and 29 on any given weeknight.
I wouldn't quite call myself a "fashion victim": I could never afford to be fashionable in the realest sense. Designer labels have always been out of my reach.
But I have made some missteps.
It was probably around my 30th year when things really started to change. At some point, I started studying my actual body (not my six-months-from-now aspirational body), my personality and my clothing needs. And I started to tell myself the truth, for the first time, about what looking good might really look like.
Now, don't get me wrong. This wasn't some sort of duckling / swan situation. I didn't transform into a stunner. My evolution was gradual and went largely unnoticed. I don't claim to be stylish in the "style blog" sense, and am certainly still not fashionable. (Skip the Prada, I'll take a trip to Peru).
But with the help of a few empowering books and a commitment to serious wardrobe editing (no studded belts for me!), I have become comfortable in my own skin AND my clothes.
Along the way, I developed a sort of informal manifesto — a set of rules I live by when getting dressed in the morning.
Grab a slice. Pour some wine, and repeat after me:
1. I reserve the right to wear clothes that fit.
The correct fit is not a privilege to be enjoyed by a select few. Every single life-giving, air-moving, impact-making body on Earth is shaped differently. Yet, what we buy in stores is most often created in giant factories where corporations assume that a few sizes and dimensions "fit all." They don't. Your clothes fit you and only you. If something tugs, pulls or puckers, put it back on the rack. If it's perfect save one or two minor tweaks, take it to a tailor. You don't have to be rich to have something adjusted to the correct shoulder drape or hem length.
3. I reserve the right to be "boring".
Karl Lagerfeld. Jean-Paul Gaultier. Alber Ebaz: All big designers, all responsible for dressing top celebs in experimental, expensive clothes season after season. Yet, they refuse to drink their own "of the moment" Kool-Aid, opting instead for self-prescribed sensible uniforms consisting of mostly black-and-white basics. If you don't believe me, take it from Tina Fey who said, "Don't wear what fashion designers tell you to wear. Wear what they wear." Invest like Warren Buffet and dress like Carolina Herrera and you'll likely never run out of money — or go out of style.
4. I reserve the right to wear yoga pants.
I get so sad when I hear someone utter a wistful variation of "I'm a [mom, freelancer, trainer, etc.], so I just wear yoga pants all day." If you feel great in yoga pants, and those pants are cut to make you look like Catwoman and you could leap across power lines and take on world with the crack of a whip AND you're not walking into an environment with an expressed or implied dress code, WEAR THEM.
Comfort, confidence and athleticism are stylish. The fact that you made it to your 5:30 a.m. spin class before most of the world made it out of bed is SEXY. Hear this, oh anti-yoga-pant constituency: We will not accept your 24/7 no-spandex mandate. We'll primp when we're good and ready. Right now, we have other things to do.
5. I reserve the right to a perfect tee — without losing my shirt.
A responsibly made, durable, comfortable everyday T-shirt can cost upwards of $100, but it shouldn't have to. Here's another option.
6. I reserve the right pursue quality over quantity.
Two-for-one sales are a trap. So are "you get 20% off on your purchase today if you sign up for this credit card" deals. Department stores want you to buy more. Don't. You don't need ten cheaply made shirts for the price of five when you can purchase two or three really good ones instead. The same goes for purses, belts, handbags and polarized sunglasses (which will change your life). Treat department stores like grocery stores. Buy only what's on your list and stay under budget. If that means you can buy only one higher priced item that will last you for the next 5-8 years, you've got yourself a deal. I promise.
7. I reserve the right to ignore other people's definition of style.
So you saw a pair of floral palazzo pants in a magazine yesterday. The tall, sleek woman in Biarritz (at least that's where it looked like she was) appeared stunning in them. As she should: She got paid a lot of money to stand there looking like she felt stunning in said pants. Someone put lots of makeup on her. A professional photographer (so, basically an artist / genius type) took that picture in just the right light, from just the right angle.
The fact that those pants looked awesome at that moment, on that model, is probably not up for debate. What is up for debate is whether or not those pants would look just as great on you. If they would, hooray! Thank you, Biarritz woman on page 63. But if floral palazzo pants really aren't your thing, it's OK not to want them, ever.
8. I reserve the right to reject trends.
Fashion trends are fun: They make us think about our image in new ways and encourage us to try new things. But every outfit just doesn't work on everyone. Don't be seduced by the "ideal look." Find yours instead.
Try this: The next time you're in a hot boutique and you pick up a pair of ripped-beyond-recognition jeans and feel obligated to buy them out of a sense of duty to follow someone else's idea of what looks cool right now, just take a breath. Put them down. Now, walk away slowly and carefully. Tell tell the jeans "thank you," and "goodbye" and wish them the best of luck on their journey to find their rightful owner, for that person is not you.
8. I reserve the right to stop thinking about style so much.
Because there is a whole, big, arrestingly gorgeous life to be lived out there. Let's get up, walk confidently and resolutely to the closet, put on something that fits and feels great and will last forever and then get on with it. Nothing looks better or more "now" than effortlessness.