I recently watched a makeover segment on a tv show where the lady was given a truly dreadful new look, and promptly broke down in tears on camera. As soon as she came out I shouted to my husband “What on earth have they done to that poor lady!” Well, thankfully it turned out to be a prank on the presenter, and the lady, who was an actress was in on it.
I could have done without a woman’s appearance being ridiculed on tv for a “joke”, but it got me thinking about personal style, and how we express ourselves with our image.
Even though we are bombarded by the likes of “Dress like a French woman”, “What style men really like”, and “How to dress like a Man repeller” in the media. We ultimately dress for ourselves.
Left, the prank makeover on TV’s This Morning. Right, the most popular of “how to dress and be” themes, The Parisian.
I believe we are at our happiest when we dress to reflect our own sense of style, personality, function and comfort. In Mazlow’s Hierarchy of needs, He begins with the foundation of safety and what we need to survive. It rises up through our different levels of needs, finally arriving to self realisation and fulfilment. This may sound super theoretical, but it applies to how we dress and express ourselves. Starting from the basics of being clothed. (We can’t be walking about in our birthday suits can we, we’d get chilly ;) All the way up, to feeling confident and expressing our true selves in the way we look.
Back when I studied Fashion communication, we talked a lot about the sending and receiving of messages through our clothing. The idea that we choose what we wear to send signals to others about ourselves and what we want the world to know.
It’s easiest to see in teenagers, and especially groups of young people who typically dress to belong to a specific group, usually influenced by their musical taste. Think of Mods and Rockers, Goths, New romantics, Indie kids. I had my own awkward grunge and indie kid teenage moments, thankfully there’s very little photographic evidence from the 90s!
Left, When Vogue and Marc Jacobs were inspired by Grunge. Middle, Two Goths in the 1980s. Right, one of my first style Icons, the fabulous Adam Ant.
My faves and their lookalike fans. Depeche Mode and the 101 tour bus kids in 1988.
Nowadays we see Streetstyle, Maximalists, Minimalists, the list goes on. But it seems to be linked to the fashion style first, not the music scene, as was so common before. This may say something about the times we live in and the superficial Instagram world at present, but that’s probably a whole other chat on its own!
Left, Gucci’s reinvention by Alessandro Michele has brought Maximalism back into the mainstream. Right, Celine’s glorious A/W 2013 show, a personal favourite of mine, and minimalism gorgeousness .
When it comes to creating a personal style, different elements come into play.
Silhouette, Colour, Function, Comfort, Personality
We know what looks good on us even if we can’t articulate it. I ask clients to show me a photo where they felt the most happy and confident in themselves and what they were wearing. It’s no surprise that they always pick a shape that really flatters their body type. When we dress our body in a silhouette that flatters, it takes away the doubt and feeling of “It’s wearing me”. Often, I’ll overlook another doubt if the silhouette is perfect. Also, I notice that if I buy something but never wear it, even If I love it, it’s because it doesn’t sit right on me. If you’re really struggling, go through photos and see if you can find a common link to all the outfits you love and why.
As a 5ft 2 inch curvy girl, short, fit and flare shapes work best on me. The photos above are taken a week apart. The outfit on the left is much more flattering and looks like my style. The Loewe by Paul’s boutique outfit in the middle and right are obviously fun and wild, but the material swamps me, and make me look like I’m wearing a tent. It is better however, opened and worn like a coat. This may sound mad, but I would have bought this dress if I could have afforded it (it was 2000 Euros!) I have a tight, uniform like style, but I can get a little wild, fashion wise in the summer, and would totally have gone for it. I can just imagine myself, cocktail in hand, sun going down, ah hurry up summer!
I’ve gained a little weight this winter and can’t fit into some of my tighter dresses. So I’ll open them up and wear as a loose coat/dress over a skirt and top. A great idea to get more wear out of your wardrobe.
If like me, you’re stubborn, and like to wear shapes that technically you shouldn’t, there’s also ways to cheat. I’m a sucker for huge billowing shapes and as a short, curvy person that’s No bueno! So I’ll layer up and use long gillets or a jacket on top to create a better shape for myself.
This waistcoat saves my bacon on the daily, it creates a lovely, lean silhouette and breaks up any unflattering clothes that I love.
Colour can be tricky for some, me included. I’m pale, and mostly stick to white, black, navy, grey and the odd splash of pink, coral, or pale blue. Although the older I get, the more I feel like I need to branch out and be more brave. I notice that my skin looks much brighter when I wear colour. If you struggle with colour selection do some research and match up your skin tone and what colours work best for you. There’s lots of information online, or if you would prefer a hands on approach, go to a personal stylist and get some expert advice.
Rare sightings of me in colour :)
Function and comfort
Two of the most overlooked concepts in the Instagram era. Of course it’s easy to take a selfie in the mirror wearing a fabulous, yet incredibly impractical outfit, but I don’t believe for a minute, that half of the bloggers or influencers dress that way on a day to day basis, let alone go anywhere outside, or by foot! The clothes you wear must be suitable for your everyday life, not for an imagined or idealised version. I live in a large, sometimes scorching hot, city, and spend a lot of time walking and hopping on and off public transport. So footwear is really the biggest consideration in my day to day life. Then add in the weather considerations, and its a wonder I make it out the house at all! So when I’m shopping, I really put huge emphasis on practicality and comfort, and if it’s none of those things, I don’t buy it. I’ve already got lots of high heels sitting gathering dust.
Whether I’m in a city, or at the beach, comfy feet come first!
Last but certainly not least. In fact it’s the most important. Whether you want to belong to a specific group or feel unique, your sartorial personality is how you express yourself. Even if the outfit is perfect for you, in terms silhouette, colour, and function, if you don’t feel like yourself you won’t wear it, or if you do, you won’t love it. It won’t fill you with Joy, as Marie Kondo says. And really, that’s what it’s all about. Your clothes should fill you with joy. Life’s too short for feeling uncomfortable in your skin. When you’re happy in your clothes you feel like you can take on the world!
My 4 types of looks!
1. Every day city, layers, black and white and something ridiculous on my head.
2. Sporty Spice
3. On Holiday. Pulls out colour and print from their hiding place.
4. Heading out, equal parts Depeche Mode and Ballroom bondage.
Remember Amigos, whatever you wear, express yourself and have fun!
Love, Pamela x
Just like Shalom Harlow in this incredible Versace shoot below. Living!
Always having fun, and usually wearing too many accessories!