Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Defining Your Style

I've received a few compliments over the years on things I have worn here and there and that got me thinking about what my style is and what it is people may like about it.   And that got me thinking of how we define our own styles.  Brace yourselves, this one is a long (but hopefully entertaining) read.

As mentioned in an earlier post, when I was a teenager, I used to let my mom do my shopping for a while.  I'm talking from ages 14 to 17ish or so.  It's just a little insane to me today, but I think I liked the shopping part but not the trying on a ton of different things.  While that was my norm in high school (definitely not the norm for others!),  I did notice that when the seventies trends started to touchdown -- let's say around 1996 to 1998 -- I would actually rock some stuff from that my parents had saved from that era, which were stored in closets in our basement.  I'd pair a normal tee shirt with my dad's bell-bottom jeans from the seventies.  Of course they'd have to be pinned with large safety pins on each side in order to try to fit on my hips.  Or I would grab an old pair of my mom's wedges and wear them around.  Okay, so I did have some affinity for clothes and shoes back in the day.  I also distinctly remember wearing rings on almost all my fingers on any given day.  I still have them actually!

This is very similar to a typical high school day in which I would wear about 3 to 4 rings on each hand.  I lived in that one turquoise ring on my index finger that my sister bought me from Virginia Beach.  It's a bit tighter than I remember though... Why yes, that is a mood ring on my middle finger!  I loved my mood ring.  And of course, who doesn't love a cute dolphin wrapped around her ring finger. 

Check out the cute froggy ring I wore on my thumb.  Yeah that's actually pretty accurate of my style back in the day.  In fact, these are the exact rings I would wear in that exact formation...  

So there were occasional glimmers of my style even back in high school.  There was hope where almost none existed.

To travel just a bit further back in time, I distinctly remember telling my mother that I wanted to wear a dress instead of pants because she was dressing me like a boy!  That was about age 4 or 5 if my feeble 30 year old memory serves me right.  I was very young and loved dresses.  So that must be where my girlie-ness in my style comes from.  I love dresses just as much today.   But also I do love pants too.  I don't think I look at all manly wearing them!  To a 4 or 5 year old, that was a big deal!  Defining your style by defining your gender!  I know many a little girl, nieces and goddaughters alike, who just love dresses and love showing them off!

In college there was a lot of self reflection going on.  From 1998 to 2002, I loved the dorm style of wearing pajama/sweats and cute camisoles to class in warm weather.  The hoodie layered under the jean jacket with the pajama pants and cami look.  The flares with heeled loafers.  The first pair of white capris I bought.  And who can forget the ever-present stretchy black pants with tank top from Forever 21 for going out!  I think I just got rid of the last pair of black "ponte" pants from Express I owned only a couple of years ago, which had been converted to work-out gear.  I only owned one pair of sneakers that barely got used unless it was finals week.  I had one pair of shoes to go out in.  Black, open-toed, high, chunky heeled shoes for $19 which I had bought during my freshman year, and which had finally broken in half within that year after I graduated!  In fact, college appeared to be the only time in my life (thankfully) that my friends and I shopped at Forever 21, Aeropostale and places called "Rugged Outlet Warehouse" got deals on clothes for under $10.  While I did have friends who owned expensive brands and designer duds, they also joined in our bargain shopping details! At that time, I wore my clothing until it literally ripped apart or, in the case of shoes, broke in half and had to be thrown out.  I think part of that was so easy to get away with because college was so conducive to casual dressing and, when you had to dress up to go out, most people dressed the same in black pants or jeans and a cute but potentially disposable top.  Good times!

In law school I really developed a taste for shoes, more so than ever before.  This was also a time in my life I realized how accessories can really amp up a person's outfit.  Somehow this was neglected for so long until a good friend introduced me to the power of accessories, earrings, necklaces, bracelets and purses.  Oh glory day!  I cannot believe I was in the dark about this for so long!  Entering law school also introduced me to brands that others had worn for years but I had never heard of or owned myself like Citizens of Humanity and Seven for All Mankind jeans and Reef flip-flops (undoubtedly the most comfortable ones I have ever owned).  And there I was doing my own cute thing in my (seemingly expensive) Express jeans and camisoles, under which my friends and I used to wear those bras with detachable clear straps.  We all thought we were so cute!  So I gave some of these new products a go and loved the results!  My law school standard look included the one pair of Citizens of Humanity jeans I owned and wore almost everywhere and Reef flip flops -- because we lived in New Orleans and it was almost summertime all year, or a denim mini-skirt with a tee shirt and heels.  It was a great time for clothes.  Mean Girls came out in theaters in the end of my first year (1L year to law school proficients!) and that style was very popular.   I love this movie but I always thought that those clothes (and that skin showing) were meant for someone a bit older... Hmmm... Perhaps myself??  I mean I was only in my early 20's right?

For nostalgia's sake, here is some of that good ole eye candy (the scenes, not the girls!):

Picture courtesy of

See Lindsey's outfit here, that was quintessential law school style, and not just worn by me!
Picture courtesy of the Washington Post online. 

"You can't join the Mathletes!  That's social suicide.  Damn!  You're so lucky we're here."
Picture courtesy of

Regina: "Is butter a carb?"
Cady: "Yes."
Picture courtesy of

Also before I leave this delicious nostalgia, the one scene about them confronting Regina for wearing sweatpants and telling her she could not sit with them just after the "butter carb" discussion is priceless.  My favorite lines include Regina saying: "Whatever, those rules aren't real."  And Karen's response "They were real that day I wore a vest!"  When I bought a vest a few years later this scene stuck out in my mind.

One thing I've continued to learn over the years is that the younger you are, the more different styles you can get away with.  This is not to say that older people cannot pull of trends but they have to worry more about fit and taste, especially when it comes to interacting with other adults in professional or other important social settings.  When you're younger, those types of thoughts about presenting yourself probably do not go through one's head since the only persons they're dressing for are their peers and they all dress within a same set of rules!  The kids get to have all the fun!  Passing by high schoolers in the morning on my walk to work makes this distinction all the more clear as they're wearing super tight and super skinny jeans tucked into Uggs or with a pair of Converse for a typical school day.   And I, in my pencil skirt and trench coat sigh longingly for that freedom sometimes!

Hitting the professional scene, even though my office is business casual, has had a drastic change on my views on appropriate styles of dress.  I have my own rules for what clothing is OK for work, what is OK for outside of work and which pieces are interchangeable.  I love dresses because they're a full outfit  in one piece and always look chic and polished.  Pair with cute flats or heels and you can change the look of a dress instantly!  I also love cardigans, jeans (flares, bootcut, skinny, cropped and colored), tees, ribbed tanks with shorts, pencil skirts, high waisted skirts, cropped, skinny and wide leg pants...well... pretty much everything!

Others have considered my style as girly, some have characterized it as classic a la Kate Middleton Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and some point out that I've "rocked" some trends.  I'm not too sure about any of that but I do appreciate the compliments and definitely have style icons of my own that I look to for ideas.  Nowadays I guess I could define my style as:

Pictures courtesy of

Charlotte (naturally..)

Pictures courtesy of the LA Times online.  

Plus a little Kate Catherine, the Duchess

Pictures courtesy of the New York Times online.
The shift dress is a quintessential Washington DC staple.  I couldn't live without a few in my own closet.   I also appreciate FLOTUS's high fashion choices as well as her budget friendly picks.

Add in a bit of Michelle Obama (A.K.A. FLOTUS)

Pictures courtesy of the Hype on 

And throw in a splash of Carrie:  

But just a splash of Carrie for me.  Too much of her and my look could go to this:

Pictures courtesy of

While I love how these look on her, I just could not pull off the jeweled panties or belly baring long sleeve cropped shirt without spending 5 hours a day at the gym!  In fact, there is no where in my life, work or personal life that either of these looks would go.  And yes, understandingly she was doing a fashion show in the jeweled panties.  But the super cropped belly shirt look is a hard one for me to try to wear anywhere, particularly with how hard I work out trying to look good in just a bathing suit!  Imagining trying to be that fit for every day would be exhausting!  I really do love that she takes chances and that definitely influences me to experiment a bit.

So those are my thoughts on defining my own style.   I truly believe this is an evolving process and changes with age and situations in life.  There is an underlying appropriateness to everything I do that is much more clearly defined as I get older.  A few words that resonate with my style include fit, fun, balance and taste.  If I could sew, I would totally be making most of my own things or altering many of the things I own!

Here are some persons who definitely know their own style as defined within their own culture.  Courtesy of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.  Excuse the blurriness... I took these photos with my iPhone!

I seriously thought I was watching Jersey Shore for a minute there. 

This girl is at her 15th birthday! Wow! That is a lot of rhinestones and/or crystals.  And a lot of close dancing!

Even more adornments in her hair and around her neck!  She's in the middle of talking about how her mom is ruining her party.  Poor kid, she just wants to find a husband to run off with...without having interacted with the opposite gender before.

This 17 year old bride has about 1000 Swarovski crystals on the bow covering her boobs.  

Add in a 75 pound skirt and a 5 inch tiara.

Just another American gypsy family Thanksgiving bash.  Compete with rhinestone covered cut-out, mini dresses and a limousine lap dance!

Woop!  Woop!

If I had to describe this style, the words flashy, crystals and rhinestones come to mind!

Here's one of my own personal style icons who lives right in my house:

I'm sexy and I know it!
Thanks for that one LMFAO!

Look at that gorgeous coloring! 

She rocks the white, tan, brown and ginger combo and always so poised and confident.  Also she matches the one Louis Vuitton I own.  This lady knows she's got it and how to rock it!

Everyone has their own style. Whether it is a personal definition or defined by culture.  Work, school, family and friends also have a great influence on our personal styles.  Look through your own closet and what do you see?  A lot of shift dresses?  Tons of colorful jeans?  Billowy tops and skirts?  Where did our style journey start and where is it now?  What defines your  your own personal style?  Whatever your own personal taste and style, nothing elevates a look better than a positive outlook and a good dose of confidence!  I see amazing women on the way to work every day and continue to be inspired by their own take on what to wear to work.  Keep on doing what you're doing ladies because you all help me figure out where to take my next style direction and you may inspire others when you don't even know it!

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