Translating style

I thought I’d try something different this week and show you how I incorporate style into my life. I shudder slightly at the word style, because it is a loaded word and it is very subjective. However, the dictionary does say that style is a manner of doing something; in my case, it is a way of dressing specifically. Because I like to over-think things I’ve come up with a process of sorts–from Pinterest mood board to on me, here’s how I construct my daily image.

1. Gather ideas.

Before Pinterest and Tumblr there were clippings, sketches, movies, TV shows–everywhere and everything is an inspiration. I used to draw outfits in sketchbooks. They weren’t very good. Gather your ideas however you’d like–and maybe write notes on WHY you liked a particular outfit or item. It will help you narrow down your preferences later. I now prefer to use Tumblr (see Uniformly Dressed) because it’s very fast and efficient at creating a constantly changing mood board. For me everything goes as long as it relates to style–hair, clothes, shoes, even atmosphere/emotion counts. Have fun and try different ways of collecting your thoughts and see what works for you.

2. Pick a few key images as your “core look.”

Clockwise from left via:
Clockwise from left via: yeobu, La Garconne, yunei, death by elocution (middle right), (bottom right)

Here’s a sample look from my #spring inspo (spring inspiration) ideas on the UD Tumblr. I already own a navy v-neck sweater (this one from my Muji trip) so that bottom left look is already in my closet. I’ve got any number of black tops to emulate the top left look, but I’m lacking in light gray loose tops/sweaters. I particularly like the loose fit on the girl in the bottom right shot but ideally with a v-neck since I prefer that neckline. This is where your carefully-chosen board of ideas comes into play. You can make digital collages like I did or just write the details down or think about them and identify what look you’re trying to achieve. You’ll have to make changes based off of your body type/budget/whatever you decide is a factor. In this case, this is a simple look that is fairly flattering across most body types. For me specifically, I have to be careful about fit around the shoulders and throughout the body because of my stature. I’m petite height-wise but I have hips and breasts that can sometimes make a loose fit add weight at the stomach. Now that I’ve identified potential pitfalls about the fit I’m trying to achieve, time to go into the store to try on tops.

3. Research what is available.

My mission: I’m looking for a light gray v-neck flowy top/sweater. I already knew the Gap had just released their Luxlight V-neck sweaters. I went into the store to try it on, polled friends and family, and even tossed up my findings on Instagram for you guys to see:

Left: size small, r: size medium

I liked how loose the medium was, but the vote was on small because it looked less sloppy and didn’t have the extra fabric folding near the stomach/bottom. Also the medium’s sleeve is just too ridiculously long. In this instance, I’m glad I asked for an opinion, because I would have gone and bought the medium and ended up with slightly-less-than-ideal fit.

4. Make a decision + (if buying, shop for the best deal–optional.)

At this point, this sweater seems to fulfill what I demanded in the beginning from my core images: loose/thin drapey fit, light gray color, V-neck. The logistical/practical considerations: the sweater is machine washable, line dry (not dry clean, hooray!), is available in light gray as well as navy (since the fit was good, I planned to pick up a navy version as well.) MSRP for the sweater was $39.95. Since I wasn’t in a rush and this is an “advanced” spring buy, I wanted to wait for a better price.

There’s all sorts of ways to get discounts nowadays–emailed coupons, credit card special discount days, holiday sales. Gap has recurring online-only sales that routinely feature anywhere from 15-40% off the entire order. I bit the bullet online just as their Presidents’ Day sales started–if I were any smarter I would have read the fine print closer–they were also honoring the same prices in-store. I could have saved money off the shipping, but buying online meant I didn’t have to drive to the mall. More time to be at home? Of course I’ll take that.

5. Wear and evaluate.

Here I am. I wore this all day Sunday to a birthday lunch and festivities. Comfy. Not cold. Layered a Heattech top under and even that was a little too warm since the West Coast is basically the polar opposite of the East right now–all sun, no rain. I fear for California’s summer this year–we are going to have a tough time with forest fires. Anyway, I also tried on the navy version of this sweater; it does exactly what I want it to do–it is an easy-fitting sweater that can be dressed up or down with accessories, it’s thin and light for spring wear and is always work-compatible.

In short, this is how I would like to conduct the rest of my future purchases. Only time will tell how the sweater will hold up–with good care on my part of course (washing on delicate, line dry, careful folding and storage.) I’m happy because I also didn’t break the bank to achieve what I wanted, which is always a plus.

I’m definitely not the first one to write such a post. If you’re curious about revamping your wardrobe OR you have no idea how to begin, Anuschka Rees of Into Mind has written a comprehensive website with articles on how to define/create a wardrobe from ground up. Her style is minimalist, but I would assume it could apply to anyone. I’ve read a good number of articles under her Defining Personal Style category and I’ve found that I was doing some of the things she mentioned natively, but there is always something new to learn.

What is your style process? How and where do you derive your inspiration, and what’s your preferred way of translating it into real-life wear?


10 thoughts on “Translating style

  1. That’s a very nice summary of defining personal style! I have to admit my spring inspirations would be quite similar to yours, with a pinch of warmer colours indeed. I like how you link your inspiration pictures to items you already have in your wardrobe, I’m guessing it helps using what you have and avoiding fabricated needs 🙂

    1. You wrote a post several weeks ago about challenging yourself to wear as much of your wardrobe before needing to do laundry. I have been mulling on that and attempting to do my own translation of the challenge–how can I get the look I want with existing pieces I own before I need to buy something?

      My wardrobe’s “problem,” if you will, is that I started from nothing (work appropriate wear, that is) and I began my project in late summer last year. This meant I started up with more button-downs than any other pieces. I feel like I’m buying a lot per season because I lacked a lot of basics–a rotation of flats, a winter coat, or serviceable work pants. The weather in my area is also a bit strange–there’s not much need for heavy knits, but a thin warm sweater is useful in our heavily air-conditioned offices and the mild winter we generally get.

      I feel that maybe one more year of introspection and careful shopping should yield a 90% working wardrobe that will hopefully last. That remaining 10% can be the space to work in “for fun” or experimental pieces, and also to replace worn-out or no longer relevant wear.

  2. I collect my style inspiration on Pinterest but I’m not sure if it’s consistent with what I wear everyday. I’m always repinning boyish sorts of outfits but I do love a good girly dress or skirt. Regardless, I like to think about items of clothing I want for a long time before I buy them, and I generally wait for sales (and if it’s sold out before then, it wasn’t meant to be!).

    1. “and if it’s sold out before then, it wasn’t meant to be!”<—I've been pretty good on this one. If it's a newly released item I'll try it on, wait about 3-4 weeks and then pick it up if I really like it. If it's a more urgent clothing need, I'll put it on hold for 1-2 days while I check for better prices online. As you do, I like to spend more time thinking about my purchases rather than driving to the store or post office to send things back if they don't fulfill my needs.

      What happens more often than not when I shop, I'll find something but then get told it's not available in my size. This usually happens with shoes. Cue frantic online searching to no avail; stalking of websites for restocks. Nothing. Eventually I just forget about the item until the next new thing comes along.

      1. That last thing always happens to me! I become obsessed with that item because it feels so-close-yet-so-far but then a month later I forget all about it.

    1. I am glad I got it! I’m debating adding one in black since it’s such a good work top, but I should probably wait for another round of sales (and donate some unused stuff.)

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