Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Case for the Basics: Personal Style


Never mind the prices or the brands; let's talk about the setup.

If you like the window shopping more than the actual buying-of-stuff - and in this economy, who wouldn't? - do as SisMei and I have done by checking into Polyvore and creating your own "inspiration board" for fashion and interior design, in super-handy JPEG form. I, for one, can't even begin to tell you how supercool this is, because it makes you feel like you're creating your own fashion spread!

That said: My first Polyvore set, as you can see here, is basically a capsule summation of my style. And the one message that stands out the most about this set?

Inconspicuous luxury.

I wouldn't be surprised if the most expensive items in my set are the Anna Scholz dress and the super-hot Stuart Weitzman peeptoes, but that's the thing - I'd rather spend on quality rather than quantity. On the other hand, however, there is a lack of label-consciousness, as well.

For me, it's a flat-out safety issue - even a place like Hawaii has its own fair share of purse-snatchers and wallet-stealers, so I'd rather take my chances on an inexpensive but practical canvas bag than a gorgeous but hefty Louis Vuitton purse that practically screams "STEAL ME."

(Not that I don't love me some Vuitton, either; in a just world, I would be carrying LV's Mahina XL bag with no shame whatsoever. But anyone who has ever carried a fine purse - even one from Aldo or Nine West, which qualifies as a "luxury item" in the Meimei household - would know exactly what I'm talking about here.)

And it's not just the purse snatchers, mind you. Part of my aversion to labels has a lot to do with the class issues I've dealt with since childhood; there's nothing enjoyable, to me, about speculating how much a person has spent on a bag, or a pair of shoes. Even something as simple as a manicure can lead absolute strangers to making certain conclusions about your net worth.

I honestly think that envy is a sin that leads to more treacherous behavior - jealousy, after all, is what drives people to think that they can get away with stealing lives and possessions just because "those rich people don't need it anymore."

But just because I hate designer labels doesn't mean that I can wear any schlumpy thing that I want, any time and anywhere. Oh, no, no, no. I still believe that dressing well is a form of respect; otherwise, why should others respect you if you look like you don't respect yourself?

Look at the detailing on those Michael Kors shirts in the picture; those tiny bits of bling are nice, but they don't detract from the comfortable cut and fabric. Ditto with the prints on the dress, and the ribbing on the cardigan. The jeans are there because they are cut in the way that makes the most of my back view without the need for any additional faffery in the front, or anywhere else. (Do you hear me, True Religion?) I love the criss-cross straps on the brown flats, which take an otherwise basic and comfortable shoe to a whole new level. I love that the bag has a nice, slouchy shape - the better to fit my usual gear in - in a soft, workable material that won't chafe my arms (or my clothes) if I carry it around every day. And, of course, a good red lipstick to pull everything together, without bleeding onto my teeth - doesn't have to be Nars per se, but you get the gist of it.

Point being: This is my style.

When I walk into a room, I don't want people to make comments about how much money I've spent on my clothes, or how much time I spent on my makeup. I want them to see me, for what I'm worth... and if I happen to be wearing something that looks more expensive than it really is, that's just icing on the cake.

Some of you may be looking at this and saying, But I have no style. Well, I obviously didn't come out of the womb with impeccable taste, either; all of that just came to me after 30+ years of trial, error, observation, and moments of hard reckoning during the times when the rest of my life have come into question. I won't say it's too late to start the journey, though.

Pay attention to the changes in your body, the changes in weather, the life that you live. (This is especially true for anyone whose professions require machine-washable clothes.) Clip out pictures that you like from magazines. Test your concept of style on sites like Polyvore and Taaz to see how it all fits. Ask yourself, many times: What draws me to this? Maybe it's not the outfit, but the mood, the atmosphere, the attitude. Remember that you are meant to own your wardrobe, but your wardrobe is not meant to own you. (Or pwn you, as SisMei's kids would say.)

Above all, be absolutely honest with yourself. Not brutal, not judgmental, but honest in a loving way. Maybe there are things that you do need to let go; think wisely, and soon you will find more room for the new.


kuri said...

Great style! I love that dress, and those flats are so cute!

Totally agree with your take on personal style. It's not about how much you spend, it's about how well it flatters you.

Chickdowntown Alyse said...

I couldn't agree with you more - designer labels aren't my thing - but that doesn't mean I don't dress myself well!

Too many times you will see women walking down the street in the "latest thing" from "the artist of the century" and they look simply awful.