Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Developing style

(This is the second in a short series of posts in which I aim to focus my thoughts towards creating a useful tool in order to be more conscious of my clothing selections, making them both useful and meaningful to my lifestyle)

I've been on a quest for a different holy grail, the definition of my style. A way to not only express who I am, but to feel comfortable in the clothing I choose. Once upon a time I could pluck a dress from the rack that would work for me without a second thought. Now, not so much. What was once easy had become a chore. In fact, there were years where I couldn’t imagine what the store buyers were thinking of when they ordered the clothes that hung on the racks.

I looked for a collection of photos and sketches that illustrated the type of clothing that fits the life I enjoy. The pictures I looked for were, in reality, images in my mind. Trying to find something similar in print proved to be difficult. Picture Katherine Hepburn in trousers and a cashmere sweater. Or Meg Ryan, but replace the sweater with a button-down dress shirt.

Somewhere on the internet I read about Style Statement, a concept developed by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte. Their premise is that your style is an 80/20 combination of the core of your being and your creativity. I borrowed the book from a local library and buzzed through it in a few evenings, answering the questions on scrap paper. There were a lot of good questions. The answers very quickly show where your values lie. The underlying messages that ran through my answers were "traditional", as in traditional values and family traditions, and "nature", like the seashore or the mountains as opposed to skyscrapers. So tradition is the basis of my foundation and nature is what inspires me, making something like "Traditional Nature" my 2-word style.

But sometimes this doesn’t capture the “whole” person, or brings up the wrong image. I don’t wear loose, flowing sand-toned woven cotton dresses. They’re nice, but I’m not drawn to them. So sometimes two words don’t say enough. They don’t tell this:

I’ve worked late shift hours, enjoying life after most are asleep. Whether for celebrations and dancing, or chatting at the diner in the wee hours of the morning, or just driving home down the empty streets when all are tucked into bed, I’ve felt the peace that exists when the world is at rest.

On the other hand I’ve waited tables, serving breakfast and lunch to some of the most wonderful, real people I’ve ever known. Working side by side with the best crew you could imagine in the midst of the hustle and bustle, topping off coffee cups while business deals were being made one booth over from children dipping fries into ketchup puddles on their plates.

I’ve worked from home doing piecework; either hand-quilting on commission, or knitting hats and sweaters for the ski crowd. The pay wasn’t enough to make a living, but it helped and I enjoyed being in control of my hours.

I’ve worked in several major industries, navigating office politics and making sure the product was everything it was supposed to be, or that supplies arrived where they needed to be, on time.

I grew up during the 50’s and 60’s, graduating high school in the early 70’s. ‘nuff said.

I love to build and rehab things. My years of DIYing house projects with my ex gave me the confidence to buy a little bungalow that needed a decent amount of work. From painting the outside, clearing out years of overgrowth, repairing the wood siding, replacing lattice on the back deck and installing bead board in the kitchen, I helped bring it back to life. I have the confidence to know I could do it again, and more, if I so choose.

I listen to and read the news, I do my homework, and I vote.

And when given a bunch of plums, I make jam ;)

It’s kind of that “I will survive” attitude. Or maybe a feeling of enjoying what life has to offer. A mix of free spirit and blue-collar worker.

So, if my Style Statement was a bit longer than two words, I’m thinking it’s more like “Traditional Nature with Strength and Ability”. If I want to feel comfortable in my clothing choices, I’m supposed to keep that in mind when I go shopping. Maybe it's time to take a walk through a few stores.


Laura said...

I would love to hear about the new pieces you choose based on what you have learned. I find that since I have to wear a uniform to work, I live in jeans the rest of the time, but when the occasion to dress up arises I have nothing to wear. I feel at my age I should have a few staples in the closet, im still a work in progress.

Maria said...

Great post - I left my style back in the 70's and 80's. Then, in the late 80's and 90's when I was raising my kids, I had NO style! A pair of sweats and sneakers was about all the style I had! Now, I am at a place in my life, where I don't necessarily care about style. I care about function, warmth, (or coolness) and durability. HOWEVER, I have a 16 year old daughter who keeps me on my toes, in case my function and durability don't cut it when I'm going out.....It is nice to have someone who can give you a few pointers. I think not worrying about style takes a little stress off me. And I am all for de-stressing....

I can't wait to see some more of your clothes!!

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

Hi Laura,
There were 9 yrs where I wore scrubs, which made it easy to be "me" outside of work :) I envy you on that respect. (Less wear and tear on your own clothes, too!)

Hi Maria,
You're lucky to have a daughter to "guide you through" the tough decisions ;)
Maybe she's got a future planned in fashion????