Once upon a time, an online makeover client came to me feeling a bit lost. She’d been an adventurous dresser in college, experimenting with punky/alternative looks and really embracing her quirkier side, but had fallen into a self-described Ann Taylor rut in recent years. She was bored of looking in the mirror and feeling bored with her clothes.
So we corresponded a bit, and she sent me links to tons of TOTALLY FANTASTIC dresses from Modcloth and Trashy Diva that were inspiring her at the time. Stuff with fun silhouettes and retro flair, gorgeous prints and fantastic detailing. I drooled over these dresses and skirts myself, and was excited for her to try ’em all.
But as we started working with her existing wardrobe – a marvelous stable of flattering basics in great colors and classic styles – something occurred to me. The Trashy Diva and Modcloth stuff was all SO fun … but she should probably hold off on buying really distinctive pieces for the time being. She was in the process of redefining her style in a huge way, and she had such a great foundation of basics already. I suggested she focus on recombining pieces she already owned – adding some really eye-catching accessories here and there – and figuring out more of what she wanted to look like before buying lots of vintage-inspired or super-stylized pieces.
I told her once she’d built up some confidence in her ability to create awesome outfits from simple items and could describe her personal style easily in, say, ten words or less, then she’d be ready to start buying zany shoes and vintage frocks. I felt like a bit of a troll saying, “No! No darling dresses for you! Stick to cardigans and belts until you’re older and wiser.” But the thing is, if you force yourself to recombine classic, basic items into fun new configurations, you build a skill set. If you splash out on five fab frocks that can only be worn ONE WAY, you’re relying on these items to be your style for you.
Transitional style is tough. You want definition and surety, so you reach out for things that radiate definition and surety. But when you’re still defining your own look, it can be more effective to use what you’ve got, embellish it a bit, and focus on remixing and reworking.
Images both via Trashy Diva, a great resource for the distinctive AND the classic, as it turns out!
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