What Moves You?

Dancing in Paris

Last week’s repost of musings on what’s flattering generated so many great responses! I enjoyed reading them all.

In figuring out my style, one of the hardest aspects has been separating what styles I love on others or in general from what I love on me. I’ve come to understand that it’s not just enough that something suits my shape and lifestyle; there’s an emotional component too. I need to feel a connection, otherwise I experience that disconcerting sense of wearing Someone Else’s Clothes, even if the outfit generates compliments.

But conversely, relying on love alone can result in closet orphans, beautiful pieces that I either have no place to wear or that overwhelm me. I began thinking about this balance as points on an axis, which led me to pull out the handy whiteboard to illustrate…

Style Axis

Yes, I know I mis-spelled physical… 😉

…the left axis being those physical components of style (body type, lifestyle) and the bottom axis being what we respond to emotionally. Ideally we’d be finding and wearing styles that fall as close to the upper right hand quadrant as possible, higher for both physical and emotional appeal, and avoiding the bottom left.

How do you identify what elements of style connect with you emotionally? I’ve always been one of those “I know it when I see it” types, but utilizing Pinterest has really helped me isolate and categorize what inspires emotionally. These aren’t all necessarily meant to be interpreted literally into my wardrobe, but rather intended as clues to what resonates.

Movement

movement collage 2

I’ve always been drawn to images that convey movement. I love clothing that has drape and movement, that flows. It’s my version of feminine. An outfit composed entirely of woven tailored pieces (even if they fit me well) feels too stodgy. Referring back to that axis though, I need to watch the volume to avoid looking like I’m wearing a tent. The best pieces for me are those with a fit-and-flare silhouette which aren’t too voluminous but allow enough fabric at the hem to provide that movement.

Simplicity

simple collage

While some people gravitate toward patterns and colors, I love a clean look that avoids visual clutter. Some of this may have developed over time as I’ve learned what works with my small stature, but in general I’ve always been drawn to the simple, bold images, which leads me to…

A Little Drama

drama collage 2

Just a little. 😉 Maybe it’s an interesting shape or bold detail. Something to draw the eye. But again, thinking back to that style axis, big dramatic clothing shapes can overwhelm me, so I often resort to a bold accessory or two for a dose of drama.

And last but not least…

Black

Black collage

Black and white photography has always spoken to me in a way that even the most stunning color photographs do not. Something about the play of light and contrast invokes deep emotional responses. And I’ve always been drawn to and loved wearing black. I’ve said before, there’s something about black that feels solid and grounded to me. It doesn’t have to be head-to-toe, but I find I’m happiest and feel most myself with at least one black piece to an outfit.

(Looking at these style style inspirations, it’s not hard to see why I have so much Eileen Fisher in my wardrobe, as it seems to score high on both of the physical and emotional aspects of my Style Axis.)

What are the elements that inspire your style? Do you try to balance physical and emotional appeal when choosing what to wear?

All images curated from Pinterest. I’ve put them all together on a board, What Moves You?

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17 Comments

  1. September 3, 2014 / 7:55 am

    My daughter asked me to define my style recently and I called it “tailored with a kick.” It has helped me so much to define the messages I want to send with my clothing. Like I write about I selected five messages I want to send…I always ask myself in front of the mirror if my outfit sends those messages. Through a commitment to this process, I have developed my style. I mainly ask DOES THIS OUTFIT SAY I AM STRONG, CONFIDENT, AND CREATIVE (that’s the kick!)? If it does, then it works for me. If it is communicating something different, then I don’t wear it. I use to dress with too much emotion and it was a train wreck. The last four years has been about learning what fit, color, and styles communicate the messages I want. Good post!

  2. Duchesse
    September 3, 2014 / 9:35 am

    I’m struggling with placing “budget” on the physical axis. For me, budget is more “the last step”: once I know my physical realities and emotional preferences, how much am I willing or able to spend to acquire clothing in that sweet spot?

    When I worked, I often had to juggle a third axis, which was what the (“business formal”) work culture required. No wonder I had such bulging closets!

  3. September 3, 2014 / 9:35 am

    Such a great way to do this. And reviewing these images, the style I have seen you wear most often most happily comes shining through.

  4. September 3, 2014 / 9:55 am

    Very interesting way to define what is right for you. I’m petite too, and have many of the same concerns, but also love a little movement. Very helpful analysis, merci.

  5. Marilyn Leslie
    September 3, 2014 / 11:19 am

    A thoughtful post. I am first drawn to color, texture, fit and price. Then I go through my closet mentally to see where it will fit. My final qualifier is ” Do I feel beautiful in it?” If the answer is “no” then I don’t buy it. The last qualifier was suggested by a college friend and has kept me from buying expensive mistakes.

  6. Susan
    September 3, 2014 / 11:35 am

    What a great post. I find that my first parameter is usefulness–does the garment mesh with my lifestyle? Will I wear it lot, or will it languish in my closet? I also wear a lot of Eileen Fisher, but avoid the voluminous look and have found that it is very difficult to get movement without volume!

  7. lasallepal
    September 3, 2014 / 12:38 pm

    Pour moi? What moves me is bold, new silhouettes and color combinations carried off with a certain élan.

  8. September 3, 2014 / 2:01 pm

    So well said, Une Femme. I dread being bored with my clothing, but I’m not a big dramatic dresser. You’ve shown how a little shape and swing can change everything.

  9. KPL
    September 3, 2014 / 3:02 pm

    I have learned to buy clothing, etc. for my real life as opposed to an old one. No longer do I buy a new cocktail dress to have in my closet for upcoming events, that I don’t have or go to anymore. I tend to splurge on one special item each season to sort of “up” my usual outfit of jeans, boots, etc. This year I bought a Ric Owens suede jacket and am looking forward to wearing it. Also looking for a new pair of black boots. No prints, colors, etc. for me – just never wear them. I love your chart – brilliant.

  10. September 3, 2014 / 3:26 pm

    Love this post. I am currently trying to figure out how my style will change now that I’m retired. No more business casual for me…just casual. And a lttle something to blig up my jeans for a dinner out.
    Shopping for jeans today was soooo frustrating. I tried on 50 pairs (well almost) and came home with a sweater! I’m beginning to feel that the boyfriend jean thing…might just have to pass me by. I tried on BF jeans in 4 stores and each time felt like I was wearing someone else’s clothes. And said so the the sales person….funny you should use the exact phrase. Great minds and all that!
    Again…I love this post. Who knew that blogging (both writing and reading) would uncover so many kindred spirits 🙂

  11. nell
    September 3, 2014 / 5:36 pm

    Enhancing, “happy” color, classic lines, sparing punctuations of whimsy.

  12. September 3, 2014 / 5:57 pm

    Another variable is fit. I’m not talking about whether I happen to be plumper or have slimmed down at a given moment, but having very small shoulders and a big bust. It makes fit difficult, especially for jackets and coats.

    I love skirts that move, in particular gore skirts with some volume at the hem and not too much bulk around the hips. That is also because I’m on my bicycle a lot. In dream sequences there is a big flowing scarf like a banner, but in reality one definitely does NOT want to die like Isadora Duncan.

    And also love the couple dancing sous les ponts de Paris, their movement, style and verve.

  13. Julie
    September 4, 2014 / 6:42 am

    I could not agree more. This may be my favorite post that you have done. Very insightful.

  14. sybes1
    September 4, 2014 / 7:13 am

    Susan this is a great post. I love the images that you chose. I’ve never analyzed my style further than ‘clean lines; no patterns’–and yet first and foremost for me is the emotional component. I need to feel comfortable in the cut and color of the pieces that I’m wearing. I like to feel elegant and minimalist. I wish I had the artistry to pull off looking like a Parisian woman, but alas I’m just a California girl at heart. Sally

  15. jangrahammcmillen
    September 4, 2014 / 1:41 pm

    It was almost painful to read your excellent repost … your writing was grand and resonated so strongly for me, but my own inadequacies once again popped front and center into my head. Had to shake them off to finish your great article. Impact, and great, thoughtful stuff.
    I’ve long given up focusing on what might often perceived as flattering on my short, square, aging body. I’m not yet ready to take on Advanced Style-level rambunctiousness, but I spend some satisfying hours trying to make what I like from the world of fashion work for me on what ever level I can manage.
    I’ve long known that I have taste. It just isn’t great taste. What I like isn’t always what I can manage, financially or physically. What I admire on other women either is best suited to a slimmer frame than mine, or a taller frame or the combined ideal. ( There just are no short, squat style icons that I want to emulate. Except Judy Dench, but I’m not willingly there yet, either. ) Additionally, much of what I see that I like hangs on the shoulders of a woman with a classically beautiful face, or at least a REALLY “handsome” one … if I put my hand over the face in a magazine photo of an outfit I love, my opinion of the outfit itself is often quickly revised. That’s happening a lot this year.
    I’d like to say I manage to dress with some actual, certifiable confidence. But more often it is just stubbornness.
    I’m not really this dreary-feeling, and if I stop whining, I remember that at least I am responsible for my own choices and my own width, if not my own height. I won’t take responsibility for that, but I will wear a heel in reaction!

  16. Linda B.
    September 5, 2014 / 2:33 pm

    I have been reading and rereading this post over the past few days, and staring at the gorgeous images, because I have found it all so inspiring and thought-provoking. I have been feeling for the past few months that my style is suddenly ready for a new phase–not as colorful and whimsical as the past years. More about the qualities you brought to life here in this post! You really nailed it on the head! I am ever so grateful to see some words that describe so wonderfully where my heart seems to be leading me!

    Also, I have to say I love the comment by Pam, above. Great critieria for an ensemble: does it make one feel strong, confident and creative? That is what I am looking for too.

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