Creating the Character of You
I had some unexpected client work to do this morning, so I'm bringing back this post from my original site over on Wix - just a great overview of my approach to style and something very relevant to think about as you start dressing for the new Spring season! Originally posted on 2/3/2015.
Today I'd love to talk some more about the difference between Fashion and Personal Style. In Fashion, the designer gets to decide what kind of person for which he is designing - "She's modern, sassy, full of life and mystery..." You get the idea. But you get to use your Personal Style to tell the world what kind of person it's dealing with on any given day.
On a very fundamental level, your garments help create your spatial relationship with others. How tall/wide/dense/ethereal/present do you want to appear? One of my clients works in a field dominated by men - so when she needs to Get it Done, she will wear her tallest stable heels with a chic and structured suit in a substantial fabric. The added height and density makes her mass and volume seem more similar to those of her male counterparts. This says, "I am a person of substance, and I am your equal." Her very presence helps set the stage for her interactions - instantly and effortlessly - so that her time and energy can be spent on her business dealings.
Notice that my client doesn't try to look like a man. She doesn't pad her shoulders or put on weight or body build. She has gorgeous, flowing, long hair. She doesn't hide her shape. She simply harnesses the power of her spatial identity to work for her.
Color is another very powerful, instantaneous mode of connotation. Colors can speak directly to the Reptillian Brain, that deep and instinctual part of the brain that manages our survival. Colors can indicate danger - Don't eat that orange frog! Don't mate with that green woman! Don't ignore that bleeding hole in your side! Colors can also suggest warmth, health, aggression, and so on.
Most of us already know which colors attract us, and we can usually find someone we trust to help decide which ones are most flattering. But it's also important to think about which colors truly describe a feature that we want to share with our daily audience. Will a neon pink dress scare a first date? Will a sour green shirt put off a potential employer? Will wearing all black make me feel slim but make me look dour and unapproachable?
Cultural indicators are the most literal and popular ways to communicate personality - yet many consider them superficial or superfluous when cultural indicators are absolutely necessary to the human experience. That is, other humans will necessarily read your cultural indicators whether you decide to control them or not.
Man's first piece of clothing was a string fringe skirt used to denote a female's ability to conceive. Even all those years ago, it was too inefficient to go "door to door" looking for a potential mate - and back then there were far fewer people and far fewer mating requirements! Imagine if you had to stop and have a conversation with every single person you came across to determine whether or not you might want to date/hire/befriend/avoid/mentor/patronize/yadda yadda. Our modern indicators can be more subtle and nuanced, but every single human has still evolved to constantly read and interpret them.
If you are, say, a business man who thinks he doesn't need "style," to function, you probably actually mean that you aren't interested in fashion trends. Think about the small things you do to look office ready versus ready for the weekend. You tuck in your skirt. you wear a belt. You wear a collared shirt and tie.
All of these seemingly blank, generic items hold potential to communicate what a fabulous employee you are. Do you take the time to use collar stays in your shirt? Is your belt distressed plastic, or is it a lovely polished leather? Did you choose cuff links? Is your shirt tailored? What do your ties look like, and what colors are they? What do the little details say about you, and do you approve?
Reverse-Engineering Your Visual Resume
Let's go back to that first string skirt. Someone wanted to communicate puberty, so they exaggerated the look of pubic hair using string. We can all do the same thing in our daily lives (minus the pubic hair thing, of course).
Think about the attributes you value about yourself, and think about the things that truly move you and make your soul sing. Who would you like to surround you? What are your goals? What makes you the perfect person to achieve those goals? And most importantly, how can you harness all the wonderful, instantaneous, automatic media at your disposal to communicate your awesomeness?
Let it marinate for now. More on this later. :)