On Saturday, I had the pleasure and privilege to participate in a group style workshop led by Imogen Lamport of Bespoke Image (whose blog, Inside Out Style is a treasure trove of great style information), with Karen (Of A Certain Age) assisting. Karen is starting an image consulting business here in LA.
I learned so much from this one-day workshop, and would recommend it even for (especially for?) women who are well established in their own style, as it provides a professionally trained eye and fresh perspective.
Some things I’ve learned/realized:
1. Our color changes as we age (we lose pigment), and getting a professional color analysis every decade or so can be a great way to keep us looking our freshest and best. The last time I’d had my colors analyzed was in my late twenties, when I learned that clear, bright, warm colors (“Spring”) were best for me. In recent years I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by really bright colors, and gravitating toward more muted warm tones. Turns out my instincts were correct, as the color analysis revealed that my best colors are now “dusky” warm, light colors. A couple of the women in the group were surprised to learn that their best colors were in the warm family, when they’d always assumed they were “cool.”
2. While I’d always assumed that I was an “hourglass” shape, it turns out that I’m really more of an “H” which changes what styles will work best for me. And we also learned that proportion (relative lengths of different areas) is as important as shape when finding what will create a balanced and harmonious effect. It can make a huge difference to an overall look where sleeves and necklines and hems hit. Even just a couple of inches difference can totally change the entire look of an outfit.
3. Pattern, texture, scale, and structure (or lack of), and horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines (not necessarily patterns, but rather where pockets hit, in which direction seams or gathers go) all factor into the mix. (It can get complicated!)
4. Women’s bodies really do have a lot of natural variety. It’s one thing to know that on a philosophical level, and another to really see it. Two women of the same height and size may be built totally differently, and look good in vastly different styles. Too often we beat ourselves up when something doesn’t look good on us and blame our bodies for not being “right,” when really it’s about figuring out the brands and shapes that are cut right for our unique physique.
5. I really do need to reduce the percentage of black in my wardrobe, especially near my face. Thanks to Imogen’s “black aversion therapy,” it became very apparent that black actually does drain a lot of color from the face, and emphasizes lines and shadows.
6. Personality matters. Some styles may look great on us but will feel uncomfortable if they aren’t in sync with our personality (or in my case, personalities). Sometimes a garment that breaks all of the rules is something that will make you feel great, and if that’s the case, wear it anyway even if it isn’t the most flattering thing in your closet.
7. What we admire isn’t always what we should emulate. In a conversation with Karen on the ride back from the shopping portion of the day, I was reminded once again that the styles that I tend to admire most on others really don’t fit with my body, my personality or my life. (I will never be an “Elegant Chic.”) My personality is more playful, my life more casual and complicated, and my style needs to reflect those factors. I think I gravitate to those more refined looks as that was what my parents idealized. Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy…cool, slim icons of WASP-y perfection were the feminine ideals I was taught to aspire to. Despite my various and sundry style rebellions since childhood, something in me has never fully pushed aside that particular archetype as an attainable ideal.
But everyone has their style icons. The trick is to separate fantasy from reality, to take what inspires, what works, a pinch from here and there and create a personal mix, rather than trying to follow literally another’s style script. I’ve been inadvertently doing this the last few years: starting with clean lines and neutral color, and adding some whimsical or artistic or casual touches of my own when the purely classic elements start to feel stultifying.
With what I learned from Imogen on Saturday, I now have even better tools to add, edit, tweak and continue to develop a style that’s workable, flattering, cohesive and most importantly, my own.
Thanks, Imogen and Karen!
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