How a Shopping Diet Helped Me Discover My Personal Style
A stylist I was once assisting told a very young me to be careful of looking up to fashion models. Underneath a beautiful frame and photogenic face, they don't always have a hold on style. Harsh, I know, but intriguing. This was probably one of the first distinctions I made between what it means to be 'fashionable' and what it means to have 'style'. Fast forward seven years later and I have somewhat discovered what personal style really means. On the outside, its a confidence boost and a form of communication without speaking. It can represent your interests, and the person you are. It’s about owning whatever style is 'you' and being unapologetic about it. Most importantly, it’s fun! It’s the reason I love to write, read, observe, and chose to pursue fashion as a career.
Dressing is very personal for me, and even though I have particular likes and pieces that I'm instinctively drawn to, I don't over-think what I wear. I would say my style stems from my personality—being intuitive, creative, sensitive and idealistic. I would describe it as equal parts feminine, vintage, and occasionally colourful. All while being quite a minimal consumer.
Even though my dad would never think of himself as a stylish person, I see a lot of my interest of past decades of music and fashion stem from his stories. While the '70s lent a generous dose of cool with the era of disco and Farrah Fawcett vibes, it was the '60s that captured my dad’s heart, and as a result, mine. "It was a revolutionary time" he always says. There were many renditions of stories my dad would tell me—of really dressing up in the nice outfits to see a band or a film. I love that. Why don't we all do that today?
Over the last few years as my career has progressed, from fashion student, to intern, and now a junior, I could easily say it was a struggle to keep up with the 'trends' on a budget, but it was through putting myself on a shopping diet that I was able to discover my true style.
Below are some lessons I've learned that I'll carry with me forever. You don't need a full bank account to be stylish or define your personal style, just a bit of creativity, curiosity, and shopping smart.
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I'm all for trends! It's only through trial and error that I've discovered what works for me and what has become my signature look. It was only through working different trends, that I've been able to find what actually works for me every season, so I don't have to constantly update my wardrobe. Metallics, bold colours, buckle features, draping, and backless are some of the features I've always loved and will always have in my wardrobe. I like browsing through physical stores like Zara and department stores to see how visual merchandisers encapsulate collections and trends and make a judgement on whether it has lasting power.
This is the part about shopping I love most now, but there was a time when I hated everything my small town retail stores had to offer and op shops where my only option. What I've learned from vintage shopping is that no matter what is trending right now, its had its time in history and was perhaps done better the first time around. The original trend, whether it be a bold shoulder blazer from the '80s or neon jewellery, can always be contrasted back with modern pieces. This is what really makes 'trend' dressing, authentic. The best part is, it won't break the bank.
The most important thing I took away from my fashion design course was the simple methods of tailoring. The hemming of dresses and skirts, cuffing jeans, adding darts, pleats and re-purposing pieces. It's the little adjustments that make all the difference. This taught me the importance of tailoring because when something fits your body perfectly, you never want to throw it away. Simple adjustments can be done at home and won't cost a cent.
There's certainly nothing new about borrowing from the boys, but men's white cotton shirts, button ups, sweaters, jackets will always have a place in your wardrobe. There's something about the effortless feel of an oversized fit that makes these pieces versatile through every season.
Lauren Hutton, Bianca Jagger and Jane Birkin are still talked about today and it's not just to do with their careers. Their style was defined in its own way which still makes it memorable and referenced today. Feeling inspired by these muses, old and new has been a way for me to see classic and trend pieces in a new light. It's fun getting a little lost searching for inspiration through old movies, books, and Pinterest. My biggest takeaway? These style icons all own signature pieces that make their style memorable. Another piece of advice given to a very young me was "be inspired by others but never follow", and I always remember that.
It was through stylish women like Kirstie Clements, Garance Dore, and Ilona Hamer that I learned the importance of building a wardrobes on basics; a white T-shirt, luxurious lingerie, and quality swimwear. An elegant watch, a red lipstick, and your signature fragrance. While I love the idea of maximalist dressing the way Leandra Medine, Caroline Issa, and fictional character Carrie Bradshaw so effortlessly encapsulate, there's also a sense of simplicity about dressing minimally and investing in the classics. Cost-per-wear is an important rule and something I am working towards!
Opening images: Collage Vintage