Repost: Following The Prime Directive

Between now and mid-August, I’m giving myself a bit of a break on the blogging schedule. I’ll still be writing new posts a couple of times per week or as inspiration strikes, but I’ll also be re-posting some of my favorites from the past few years for your (I hope) enjoyment. 

Lt. Uhura rocked that uniform like no one else. Cool earrings too!

Even as a child I was a fan of science fiction, and especially loved the TV show Star Trek. In that program, the one overriding guiding principle of Star Fleet and the Federation of Planets was known as the Prime Directive. (While this concept could be a bit fluid at times depending on plot points, it was consistently referred to throughout all of the various Star Trek franchises.)

So what does a policy of non-interference in alien civilizations have to do with style?  Not much, except that it was the first and most important rule from which all others flowed.  Many of us have our own Prime Directive when it comes to our conscious and unconscious style rules. Some examples of a Style PD might be:

  • To look thinner
  • To look younger
  • To look more sophisticated
  • To project a specific image at work
  • To look sexy
  • To look pretty
  • To look rich
  • To be on the cutting edge of fashion
  • To declare disdain for convention
  • To wear only timeless classics
  • To signal one’s allegiance to a philosophy, activity or social group (think Goth, Preppy, sports team jerseys, local norms, religious traditions)
  • To be comfortable
Nothing inherently wrong with any of these, and one’s Style PD might shift and change from time to time, or be a blend of any of the above. But adhering to a particular primary rule year in and year out without ever re-examining whether that objective is still what’s most important to us can close off some avenues of self-expression through style.  
I’ve written before that I was a chubby child in a very weight-conscious family. “Thou shalt wear only what is Slimming,” was the Style PD I was handed as a catechism. That included no tucked shirts, nothing in bright colors, no pleated skirts, no horizontal stripes.  And for decades I hewed uncritically to those rules, with “Slimming” as my clothing mantra. But in recent years, I’ve found that sometimes ignoring my Prime Directive allowed me to find and wear pieces that I loved and felt best expressed my inner self, even though they may not have been the most “slimming” choice. (My horizontal stripe marinières as an example, have become wardrobe favorites though they break that particular rule. And there are often ways to style certain pieces to make them more flattering.  Inside Out Style is a wealth of information on how to make certain pieces or styles work best for different body types.)  
It’s fine to have a Style PD, as long as it’s a conscious choice and a true expression of who we are today. I love finding garments that not only express my style but are flattering as well. But it shouldn’t feel like a prison sentence, or prohibit experimentation with new and different looks. Especially as we go through life’s passages, our identities and needs change. At some point we may decide that dressing primarily to try to look young or rich or classic just doesn’t express who we are anymore.

These days, my Style Prime Directive is to dress joyfully. The manifestation of that may change from day to day, but the elements of joyful dressing for me are Movement, Color (not necessarily *vivid* color), Harmony, and just a bit of Edge. Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I think that the resultant look is more flattering when I feel *good* in what I’m wearing. Confidence, bien dans sa peau, call it what you will, it’s a powerful force.

Do you have a Style Prime Directive?  Has it shifted over the years?  Do you feel it’s still working for you?
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  1. I don’t have one but I would like to commit to “making an effort every day”
    I work part time from home, so make up is a once or twice a week application for me and most days I can be found dressed like a down and out! I really can’t stand the feel of tight, structured, non stretchy or itchy clothes but I envy women who are groomed all of the time, part of me cares and the other part blows raspberries at the thought!

  2. Re-tuning our internal voice to be kind, complimentary and accepting = confidence.
    Crucial message…thanks for your post.
    I welcome reading some of your older ones since I just started following you.

  3. I try to dress to look slimmer and to divert the attention to my ample bust!
    Joyful dressing is definitely what I have been trying to embrace since I turned 50…
    I think taking a bloggy break is a great idea…I may follow in your footsteps.
    I think some gems from the archives would be wonderful.
    Take care,

  4. First, you are allowed a ” small break ” ; ).
    I have always wished to dress comfortably. I still do. Doing so, I think I look more happy and pretty and certainly – more at ease.

  5. My prime directive?
    To wear clothes that are flattering to my figure.
    Next season there will no clothes shopping for me as all the cuts of the new styles,at least so far as I’ve seen in most magazines, are unflattering for anyone who isn’t a 6’0″ model.
    Enjoy your time off from blogging…you deserve it!

  6. This may sound strange but I think my PD is to be in sync with nature. I retired from working in the city and live in the country, garden, hike and enjoy nature. Nature’s palette and esthetic has retrained my eye. I love natural fibers & materials,colors that exist in nature, simple graceful lines and proportions.

    Here’s a handbag that is an example of what I like best:

    Locally made, sturdy, each one unique and beautiful to my eye.

  7. I don’t have one either – I feel that I’ve learned what works for me and what doesn’t over time. Because I’m a painter and spend most days in the studio and am way to lazy to change in and out of clothes for it, most days I’m walking around in paint stained jeans, tops, and work boots. I think this probably informs my other wardrobe choices because it seems that I wear and buy only better versions of what I paint in. Also, like others have mentioned, I like to be comfortable – all the time.

  8. Growing up, it was “don’t spend too much money” and “don’t draw too much attention to yourself”.

    Today, my primary objectives are to wear what flatters, and to be comfortable. I don’t feel like I need to look “thin”, per se, but I am careful not to wear things that don’t make the most of what I consider to be my good features.

  9. I love the Prime Directive idea! I definitely harbour a disdain for convention – which comes from my teenage punk years – combined with a fondness for more classic pieces as I’ve gotten older. Looking rich is not something I’d ever dream of, I’d rather look interesting.

  10. My goal is the very common one preached by all style/fashion books & blogs: to own only flattering, beautiful clothes that I absolutely love. Seems simple and logical, but why do so many of us struggle with this? I am coming out of a ten-year “fat period”, after the birth of my second child. As a lifelong normal weight person up to that point, I was confounded by not only keeping the baby weight on, but adding about 25 more pounds! (I blame late-in-life pregnancies, followed by early menopause). During those years I kept all my “thin” clothes, but obviously needed to buy “fat” clothes. Of course I was going to drop the weight any minute, so didn’t want to invest a lot in the fat clothes…as a result, I ended up with lots of clothes I didn’t really like all that much. Not to mention, it’s hard to dress well when you are 60 lb overweight.

    So now, after losing 50 lbs, I’ve been shedding the fat clothes as I go. I’m also revisiting the old thin clothes, to see what fits now, is still stylish, and hasn’t disintegrated! As one might guess, most of the pants are a no-go. Some dresses are still good, and lots of tops, especially classic button front shirts. Working on the weeding-out process, and trying NOT to buy anything new yet. Still finding it hard to let some things go…need to be brutal about weeding out, and very selective about adding new things.

  11. I am trying to sort out my wardrobe too, Jill Ann. When I retired and was planning to move to Spain, I gave most of my work clothes to the charity shop. I kept one trouser suit and one skirt suit that suit me and are fairly classic in style. I have recently had a purge of my summer clothes and comforted myself with the thought that again they were going to charity! I am naturally a hoarder so this is difficult, but I have decided to build up a more stylish but comfortable wardrobe. For everything I buy I must now throw out at least one item.