Style Evolves

What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me —  is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

~ Ira Glass

Ira is, of course, talking primarily about writing, but also about other artistic endeavors. Yet when I first read this quote several months ago, I thought immediately about style. My own style. I thought about how I started out with good taste, and that got me into good clothing, but that it took a long, long time for my actual style to emerge. And it took a long, long time for me to feel like I’d really hit my stride.

Occasionally, I’ll get an e-mail from a reader who has just read through my archive. This blog contains over 2,000 posts, so I am always honored and humbled to hear that anyone has taken the time to read them all from the beginning. I’m also a little mortified because my views on style and body image have changed substantially since 2007. I know a lot more now, and have refined my philosophy over the years. So some of those old posts? They’re not really me anymore.

And my, oh my, has my style evolved.

2007

When I began this blog, I had no intention of taking daily outfit shots. Photos of me were used in tutorials to illustrate concepts of figure flattery, and that was it. So there are very few images from the early days, but these two perfectly capture my style back then. I am wearing head-to-toe Boden in both shots, and although I didn’t own a closet full of Boden, outfits like these were my staple: Solid top, cute embellished skirt, the end. I’ve mentioned before that I credit Boden with sparking my style obsession. I saw a catalog at a friend’s house six or seven years ago and my head caved in. Something about the clean-but-quirky design aesthetic just slayed me, and I spent many years relying on Boden’s cute pieces to create my style for me. Purchasing darling pieces meant the garments did all the heavy lifting. I didn’t have to think or be creative, I just relied on my taste to carry me. (UPDATED: Please see this comment thread for a bit more on how I feel about Boden/personality pieces.)

Also represented here are my hairstyles: Ponytails were slicked back and severe, but when my hair was worn down it was an all-one-length curly bob. Before the blog, I was parting it in the center. My grandma made some comment about how she wished I parted it on the side, and I sheepishly took her advice.

2008

By the following year, I began playing a bit more with proportions, separates, and interesting combinations. I began gravitating toward some items that would become signature pieces – like the curved-hem bolero – but also hung onto others that I would eventually realize fought my figure – like wide-legged pants.

This outfit also illustrates how I hadn’t yet started to be more intentional and strict in how I deployed my black pieces. I’d still do hot pink and black together now, but not quite like this – there’s nothing uniting these pieces.

This self-portrait shows an outfit that’s slightly closer to what I’d wear today, though I’d likely try for a more unified top and bottom. It also proves how far my standards for photography have come. When I got started, I was convinced that all my photos should be taken in front of a an all-white, non-distracting backdrop, a standard that I bent occasionally for in-the-office-restroom-self-portraits.

2009

This outfit is a great example of my personal version of “trying too hard.” I love all those colors, I probably saw them worn in combination in a magazine somewhere, and I cobbled together an ensemble that threw ‘em all in the pot. I was trying to explore new options and experiment a bit more, which was absolutely key to learning about myself and my style. But it didn’t always WORK.

Occasionally, I’d let things flow a bit more organically and rely on some of my favorite pieces as focal points. This technique still serves me well. Though I’m glad to be rid of those oyster-colored widelegs.

As 2009 progressed, I began to make some big changes that helped me eventually hit my personal stride. For starters, I got a layered haircut. I have always needed – not wanted, NEEDED – to be able to pull my hair out of my face. My hair is wild and unruly, and it tickles my face all damn day. At night, at the gym, and when I just need a break, it must go up. So I’d shied away from layered styles for fear that I’d never be able to pull back my locks. When I discovered that certain styles could be worn up and down AND provide some much-needed volume for my ‘do, it completely transformed my look.

Here’s the first outfit I pulled from the archive that I would wear, exactly as photographed, today. I was still fumbling a bit, but I had begun to find combinations that worked for me: Lots of dresses, fitted tops, heels, fun jewelry. I began to see how pieces interacted with each other, and learned the value of unbroken figure lines.

Also notice that photos are more interestingly composed and NOT confined to white backdrops. I’m finally letting Husband Mike‘s skill set shine through!

2010

And then, a setback. In my glee at discovering that my style could be funky and fun, I pushed the envelope a bit further than I now believe I should’ve. The above outfit is cute, but also a bit “off.” The brooch could probably stay, but the scarf-as-belt is jarring. Since it’s the object that ties all the other pieces together, it needs to remain in the mix, but would be better around my neck or in my hair.

At this point, I wanted to be Creative with a capital “c.” I was putting lots of pressure on myself to wear cool and unusual ensembles, and that pressure prompted some unwieldy combos.

It was also around this time that I began obsessing over color. In the summer, I’d launch the Summer Black-out, which was a fun and worthy experiment, but also added to the self-generated pressure to be super-duper creative and new and fresh and different and unique. I still consider myself to be a champion of color, and still love to experiment with unusual and unexpected pairings – and encourage you all to do the same! But I’ve since eased up on myself about making every outfit burst with brights.

Another example of an outfit I’d wear unchanged today! And another example of how my style works best when I have fun, but don’t push too hard. Sure, red and leopard is a bit “expected,” but damn. It works.

This is another outfit that I’d totally wear, but shows quite well how incredibly LONG my hair got by the end of the summer of 2010. Having pored over photos from that era, I’m pretty convinced that – at least, in this style and with these products – shoulder length is ideal. Longer gets frizzy and bushy.

Here’s a late 2010 outfit that shows how I continued to wear longtime staples – the color red, curved-hem boleros, obi belts – but did so with a little more refinement. I’ve made a lot of progress.

2011

Before I started this blog, I had two completely separate wardrobes: One dressy, one casual. I was fairly formal during the week and pretty disjointedly messy on weekends. I spent YEARS working my fancier duds into weekend wear and attempting to merge the two styles. This is the first year I’ve felt like I have my casual looks nailed. In fact, at a certain point over the winter, I began to PREFER my weekend looks.

Also this year I felt like I could “style” challenging pieces better than ever. This sweater duster could totally swamp my figure and age me 15 years, but paired with the unusual necklace and edgy boots it looks just right. Just right on me, anyway.

Also this winter I discovered blush. I’m amazed by how much more defined my face looks with just a touch of blush on my cheeks.

Looks like a pretty tame ensemble, eh? But with this outfit, a few things clicked into place: I have long joked about being the Mayor of Matchy-Matchytown, and done so a bit sheepishly. But the fact is that I LIKE matched looks. I feel chic and refined and pulled-together when my belt and boots match, and I’m good with that. Also, I don’t need to force my wardrobe staples – like this fabulous shirt dress – to look super trendy, unique, or unusual. They work, I feel great in them, and that’s good enough.

It’s fun to see how much more refined my standby formulas – cardigan, dress, belt, heels, for example – have started to look. My eye for fit and garment interaction has truly evolved, and I’m just more comfortable constructing my ensembles. I definitely miss the mark sometimes – here, here, and here for examples of outfits that I’m not fond of, in retrospect – but as I ease the pressure on myself to deliver innovative, colorful outfits every single day, I find that what I wear looks better. Looks more natural, more cohesive, more like me.

I am in no way ashamed of my 2007 looks, and I did not write this post in an attempt to tear myself down OR pat myself on the back because “I’ve come so far.” The point is to say that style evolves. ALL style evolves.I am quite sure that I’ll be dressing in an entirely different way three or four years from now because my style, like all personal styles, is in a constant state of flux and refinement. And that is a very, very good thing.

In fact, if I hadn’t changed my look at all since 2007, I’d be a bit worried. Occasionally you’ll come across someone who shifts her look so frequently that you can’t get a bead on her personal style, but far more often you’ll come across someone who has stagnated. Tweaking and refining your look helps you to look fresh and current.

If you’re exploring your personal style and you’re in a place now that feels like what Ira Glass is describing – experimental and exploratory, but frustrating because it’s just not “good” in the way you want it to be – don’t give up. What you are doing is an artistic endeavor, a very personal and emotional artistic endeavor, and you WILL get there. If you keep playing and trying and creating and recombining, you’ll find your way. Be patient with yourself, and enjoy the ride.

Although I’d never intended to do daily outfits, I’m glad that you folks eventually demanded them. All the style guides and fashion advice in the world won’t teach me nearly as much about what I should and shouldn’t wear as a daily catalog of my looks. Even just assembling this post opened my eyes to a few things. So thanks, friends. You tell me with humbling frequency how much of an inspiration I am to you. Your feedback, input, and comments have had an incredible impact on my personal style, too. And I’m truly grateful!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

  • http://chalkdustandboots.blogspot.com/ Chalkdust and Boots

    I loved seeing this evolutionary post! I think that I, myself, am still trying to figure out my own style (hence the reason for having my blog), so it’s nice to see that we all go through this.

    Also, a little off-topic, but I actually think you wear your wide-legged pants better than you think. The two photos where you’re wearing them both made me stop and gaze for a little longer…

    • http://www.365danbury.com Leslie

      I agree! I think the wide leg pants look great on you!

    • Miss T

      I totally agree — the wide-leg pants are incredibly flattering.

      • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

        You gals are very kind, but I think I must’ve just picked photos where I’m standing at good angles! Believe me when I say I’m happier without my widelegs:

        http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Wegm2iRtFk4/SpRsgqYFafI/AAAAAAAAEJ0/ZzPtjQHdHIg/s1600-h/widelegs.jpg

        http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Wegm2iRtFk4/Sb1dVTcfr9I/AAAAAAAACnI/8i1LyG4BGWw/s1600-h/pants_w.jpg

        I’d also say that I’ve just come to prefer other pant silhouettes over the years. Flattering or not, widelegs aren’t a style that I long to wear anymore. Know what I mean?

        • http://corpgoth.blogspot.com/ Trystan (the CorpGoth)

          Yeah, sometimes wide-leg pants rock on you, Sal (I adore the pink & black outfit on you & would steal it in a heartbeat!), but sometimes, not so much. I’ve had the same issue w/that style. It’s very tricky to make work & sometimes it’s all about the right combo or even the right angle.

        • Miss T

          Yes, I do know what you mean. Maybe in 10 years, that style will feel “fresh” again. Fashion is funny that way. I think much of it has to do with the fit of that style of pants, too: if they fit slim in the thigh and then flare, they generally look very good on most figure types. If they are wide all the way down (like sailor pants) then it does take a certain (rare) figure type to really make them look terrific.

  • http://www.elegantbohemian.blogspot.com Serene

    Okay…..this may be one of my favorite posts of all time. Seriously. You did in this post what I can’t even MAKE myself do….go back and look at what I’ve put together. I’ve gone through all of these same phases and am FINALLY starting to get in my groove. Thing is, I’ve always been complimented on my style; but then I start blogging and trying too hard to be creative and in so many of my Winter 2010 photos, I look and FEEL ridiculous. But partly, I didn’t trust myself. I was on inspiration overload and tried EVERYTHING.
    I have the same thing about matching….I like for my belt to match my shoes. And while I can step out of my comfort zone some, there’s a difference between expanding one’s horizon and completely being untrue to yourself. My requirement for my clothes is that when I get dressed there is a touch of elegance to the outfit. And for me, that’s often found in simplicity. Your post made me feel not quites so embarrassed about being all over the place. I am a creative person and I have good taste. I think the lesson here is to really trust yourself AND your taste. From your pics, I can see the progression and my absolute favorite is the jeans, vest, long white top and boots. I’d wear the CRAP out of that!!! Elegant and timeless while still being fun!! Whew, I’m exhausted from all this typing!! Thanks again!!!! ~Serene

  • http://birdonyourshirt.blogspot.com Kristin

    I’m definitely in the throes of a similar evolution, myself, so I really enjoyed your analysis! Currently, I’m feeling much more directed in my choices and am desiring a significant cull of items that I feel are pushing the envelope for my style or have been concluded to be failed experiments. The crazy thing is that the very definition means that there is no endpoint, just constant growth and change. It’ll be interesting to see where your style goes :-)

  • http://notdeadyetstyle.blogspot.com/ Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    It’s wonderful to watch your looks through the years. Your great posture and smile never changes! I appreciate your explanation of *how* you changed your style, adding and subtracting ideas.

  • http://www.closet-coach.com Heidi/The Closet Coach

    Boy, does style ever evolve! You’re a brave girl for revisiting your progress. It does go to show that once you realize what works for you, you *really* know it; it jumps out in photos.

    I’ve been sorting through photographs recently (real paper ones; remember those? :) and there are a lot of doozies in there, and yet I also stumbled across a couple of outfits I had in the ’90s that would hold up well today. So I guess there was a kernel in there?

    It also demonstrates what a good stylist can do for a woman–help her excavate and discover her best style without having to spend years of trial and error to find it :)

  • http://catspajamas-dogstuxedos.blogspot.com/ coffeeaddict

    I think that your early styles weren’t bad at all, but they were what I would call safe. All the combinations were really figure flattering and cohesive but I feel that your personality wasn’t really coming through.
    I really like your recent styles more because they really reflect your vibrant personality and confidence.

  • http://www.relatablestyle.blogspot.com Lili @ Relatable Style

    “I have long joked about being the Mayor of Matchy-Matchytown, and done so a bit sheepishly. But the fact is that I LIKE matched looks. I feel chic and refined and pulled-together when my belt and boots match, and I’m good with that. Also, I don’t need to force my wardrobe staples – like this fabulous shirt dress – to look super trendy, unique, or unusual. They work, I feel great in them, and that’s good enough.” AMEN, sister. That’s not only good enough that is awesome :-D I’m with you on the matchy-matchy side ;-)

    The fact that my personal style blog helps that personal style evolve so tremendously is the one thing that keeps me going if I have a “meh” blog day ;-)

    Here’s to evolving! :-D

    Relatable Style

  • Elise

    LOVELOVELOVE this post Sally!!! Oh my gosh, love it so much, I’m gushing up here in Canada, ha.

    Some of my favourite outfits of yours (of all time!) are showcased in this post and the message behind it is amazing. Reading your blog makes me so happy and so aware of my own body and style evolution. I’ve been reading for the past year or so, and I’m going to continue – I always love your messages and pass it on to friends.

    PS. As an FYI, my favourite outfits are: the jeans and vest combo (which is also my boyfriend’s favourite), the leopard dress and red combo, the sweater duster look, and the red dress and matchy-matchy accessories. LOVE ‘EM!

  • http://cohabitatingcloset.blogspot.com/ Anne

    It’s so cool to see just how much your look has evolved! And you’re right, I think our styles are always evolving. I feel like mine hasn’t changed too drastically in the last few years, just been more refined. Like I buy less pieces simply because they’re on sale, which was a huge weakness of mine in the past. Now I look for quality, versatility and things that will flatter. I’ve invested more in shoes and accessories than I used to as well.

    I still need to learn how to really work my weekday stuff into my weekend wear. I can do it okay in the summer, since I wear skirts and dresses pretty much all the time, but it’s trickier for me in the colder months. I’ll keep watching your casual outfit round-ups for ideas.

  • JennyDC

    I, too, loved this post and have probably read through most of the blog. Watching how your style has changed is both interesting and informative. Maybe next we need to see how your shoes and accessories have evolved? Shoevolution?

  • http://spontaneousgeneration.typepad.com/spontaneous-generation/ marisa

    what a great post! i loved reading this. i’ve only been reading your blog for about a year, and i’ve looked through some older posts, but this was really cool, to get a sense of how your style has developed.

    also . . . you look awesome in the wide-leg pants.

  • http://www.stylinstacy.com Stacy

    I’m a matchy matchy girl, too, and feel no need to apologize for it! ;) I think for me it is a bit of the Type A personality. I think people look cute in their haphazardly colored outfits, but I couldn’t do it. Not creative enough I guess. Perhaps my style will evolve along those lines at some point…

  • http://burntphotograph.livejournal.com lauren

    wow, that quote! that quote completely puts a positive spin on the exact way i have been feeling about my graphic design career. i feel like i have really good taste but everything i do falls flat (luckily, not to my bosses, but i’d like to please myself as well!) – especially when i compare myself to others (which i can’t help but doing). yikes. i didn’t realize everyone felt the way… i just figured i was a sub-par designer (honestly) and have been thinking about a career change.

    your style is truly evolving in a great way! makes me wish i had photos of me a few years ago to see if my style has changed… :)

    this is a great post, thank you.

    • TK

      Agreed — I’ve seen the quote before, but this time I printed it out so I wouldn’t forget! I’ve been going through a major funk with dancing (which I do competitively) and it’s such a great reminder that it’s okay to feel discouraged, even for a long time.

      And I loved the outfit photos. Thank you Sal.

  • http://www.stuffjewishgirlslike.com JG

    This is such an interesting retrospective. I really enjoyed your analysis of the ways your style has changed and developed over time. I see myself reflected a bit in your very first Boden stage, except Anthropologie is my Boden. It’s so easy to let pretty pieces speak for themselves, and so much more difficult to find a way to express your creativity without competing with the clothing or trying too hard.

    Thanks for inspiring some thought this morning!

  • http://peregrinaje.wordpress.com La Peregrina

    I’ve been a reader for the last two years, and I’ll say that this retrospective to before I started reading is fabulous! I especially love the last three pieces from this year that you showcased.

    I also love the two outfits from 2007, and my first thought on seeing them was, “I want outfits like that!” And then I sheepishly thought, “No, these are the *before* pictures.” But I appreciated the way you wrote up the article, so that I can say to myself, “I want to try some patterned skirts and solid shirts” as my own style evolves, without feeling as though you now turn your nose up at that combination.

    So thank you!

  • http://blog.myrnagiesbrecht.com Myrna

    It was interesting that you nixed the wide legged pants both times. They look way better on you than you think and create very flattering lines.

    Loved the quote. I’m in that struggle myself right now especially to transfer my abilities with textile art to my abilities with dressing myself. It’s a journey. Life long. We’ll always learn and make mistakes and learn – by doing. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • http://austinstf.tumblr.com Cathy Benavides

    Thank you for sharing your fashion trip down memory lane. I love that your style has evolved and I love that you want to share that with your readers. And you are correct- red and leopard may be expected but it’s still brilliant!!

  • http://monkeyobsessions.blogspot.com/ alice

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. It’s very interesting to read your own commentary about your style choices and what was going through your head then vs now. I liked getting such a personal perspective since if you had only posted the pictures I would have thought, wow Sal always had such great style! But clearly there’s a certain way you view your own style that might not be immediately obvious to everyone. I also found it interesting that you felt you were trying TOO hard to be creative at times. I wonder about my own style, especially when I read fashion blogs and everyone is layering and wearing statement jewelry etc – am I playing it too safe? I really enjoy simple, classic looks, but are they boring? Anyway, loved this post!

  • Mar

    Ah, what a GREAT post! I loved seeing the evolution of your style, and it gave me (along with the opening quote) motivation to continue with my own play with my personal style. I’ve definitely hit the spot where my “taste” seems better than my current skill and eye to put together outfits, and it can be quite frustrating. Thank you, Sal!!

  • http://frumpfactor.wordpress.com/ Anne @ The Frump Factor

    Love this. It’s like a guided tour of one woman’s style evolution! (I can totally relate to the layered hair and blush epiphanies). You look so cute in the early photos, but you’ve given us the gift of seeing that your amazing looks today don’t just happen because you have some innate, magical touch that is inaccessible to us. By allowing to really see the process and the growth, you can help us see that style isn’t just something that you have or don’t, in finite quantities. Thanks for that!

  • Anon for this

    Thanks for this gutsy and informative post!
    I actually dig the simple shirt + fun skirt style, but maybe ’cause that’s where I am some of the time now, especially since I’ve realized that I have a hard time carrying shirts that are too “busy”. I’m currently leaning toward shirts in solid colors, so any pattern *would* be on my skirt/pants.

    Threadjack: There’s a great conversation about washing vs. dry cleaning *suits* going on at corporette, but it’s also branching out into the “hand-wash” vs. “delicate” setting on washing machines, and more!
    http://corporette.com/2011/07/19/tuesdays-tps-report-annarita-n-blazer/

  • http://Cookiegeisha.wordpress.com Cookie

    I love this post. It’s so much fun and educational. I can look at an outfit and know that I like it or that I don’t like it, but it’s so nice to have you describe what you thought should be different about an outfit and realize that’s exactly what I couldn’t articulate.

  • Lydia

    A fascinating post – I was moved by how you viewed your past style choices — you considered them with respect, but seemed willing to move forward without fear. I applaud your bravery! Also, I think the wide leg pants look fabulous. (I didn’t like my own pair of wide legs, until my mom pointed out that they looked good when I was walking in them, and not just to judge the wide legs when I was standing — just a thought).

    The quotation you chose really resonated with me as well. Lately, I have been in a bit of a style freeze, and have not liked some of my clothes, and outfit combinations. Now, I have a reminder that this is all part of the process to arriving at what feels and looks right for me.

  • http://smackingdowntheapathy.blogspot.com D

    This is a great post. I’ve actually read all of your posts- yours was the blog that got me into reading blogs- and detailing your evolution really makes me think about mine. I think I sometimes still gravitate toward styles like your first ones – let the super cool skirts do the talking! – but I know that watching your style evolve has in some ways made mine evolve as well. Your outfit in the last picture is fantastic! Also, I never would have thought of an outfit like the one featuring the duster before reading your blog! Thank you for making me think :)

  • http://www.befabulousdaily.us Cynthia

    I’ve been reading for, oh, about a year and a half, and this is really cool to see. I have noticed that you’ve changed your style a bit since I started following, everything seems a bit more relaxed and like you’re not working quite as hard to put as many ideas into one outfit.

    I think I’m still kind of in the Boden phase and may always be. There’s something to be said for items that are cool enough to stand on their own.

  • http://sweetandsage.blogspot.com/ Sage

    Fantastic post! I love seeing your style evolve. I’m very new to blogging, but this post makes me feel better about my current style. I don’t have to have it all figured out right now! Thanks for the reminder that it’s OK for your style to change over time.

  • http://corpgoth.blogspot.com/ Trystan (the CorpGoth)

    I *LOVE* that Ira Glass quote too! Great post, great topic. Thanks.

  • http://shelflove.wordpress.com Jenny

    I teach French and often tell my students just what you say here — that their ability to criticize themselves will at first outstrip their ability to write in French, which can be frustrating but will eventually, with practice, evolve. I never thought to apply this to style! Wonderful post.

    I too am at the Boden phase, and while I doubt I will ever be as stylish as you are — I’m essentially lazy about clothes and my budget and space are small — I am doing some careful thinking (inspired by you) that might take me a little farther than I otherwise would have gone. So thank you.

  • http://howdeepisthecloset.blogspot.com/ Vixen

    Awesome post! I totally agree that it takes time and a lot of self-forgiveness, but daily outfit photographs can really teach you a lot. Posting my outfits has allowed me to gain some distance and see what the clothes are doing for me from a different perspective.

  • http://sololisa.com lisa

    This is an awesome look at outfits past, Sal! Like you said, there’s no shame in changing and evolving. If we can change and improve as people in other aspects of our lives, why should we expect our personal style to remain the same?

  • http://www.cloudclearing.wordpress.com Rachel

    Hi! I’ve been lurking on your blog for a good couple of months now and just want to thank you for all your inspiration! I’ve also gone through a lot of your archives, and enjoyed watching the style evolution. Thank you for your insightfulness and candor in your posts, often it provides a much needed self-esteem reflection for myself. And I think your style rocks, keep up the great work!

  • http://www.femininebravery.com/ Charlie, Feminine Bravery

    I think those wide-legged pants are fabulous and suit you well! If you don’t feel comfortable in them then that’s another story, but you sure look great!

    Also, I think it’s interesting how much style evolves in only one year of blogging time, my style has changed so much since I started already, and I haven’t even been blogging on Feminine Bravery for a year yet!

    xxx

  • Jennifer

    Love this post!!!

    Question – what boots are those in the pic with the cute vest and long (but still adorable) hair? I’m having the hardest time finding brown knee-high boots, and those look just about perfect!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      BGBGeneration Doris. They’re from several years ago, but you might find a pair on eBay.

  • ParisGrrl

    Love this post. I’m in the process of taking every item of clothing out of my closet (no small feat), trying it on with critical eyes, and either re-tailoring or donating anything that doesn’t look and feel great. It’s been an eye-opening experience, but also a positive step in evolving my own style. Kudos to you for sharing your re-look with us!

  • Anat

    This is an incredibely fascincating post! Thanks for inviting us to share your evolutionary style path over 4 years of blogging. There is a lot to learn here. I especially like the message that it’s not too bad if you push the envelope once in a while – and end up flopping. It’s part of the process!

    A side note – what do you think now about belting on your ribcage? I’m referring to the first 2 pictures in 2010. I’ve seen this work beautifully on some women, but on me it is a bit like it looks on you- a bit strange, and not as flattering. Do you manage to make it work?

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Hmm. My natural waist is pretty high on my torso, so those belts are only an inch or two above. The final photo – yellow cardi, B&W dress – is belted in the same spot and works. I think it depends on the outfit.

    • Passerina

      I noticed the same thing! Compare especially the second 2010 post (color-blocking extravaganza with green belt) and the final picture (black and white dress with red belt). The belt looks out of place in the first one, but perfect in the second even though the belts have the same high placement. I think it has to do with two things: (1) Putting the cardigan over the belt makes the belt look more like a subtle waist accent and less like a strap bundling the whole outfit together. (2) The first outfit cuts the body into a bunch of almost equally sized horizontal chunks — a red skirt chunk, the mid-section below the belt, and the chest above the belt. These equal proportions are what make the belt seem unnaturally high to me. In the second picture, the belt divides the top and lower portions of the body at roughly the golden ratio, which is much more pleasing to the eye.

      PS – This was a FANTASTIC post. So thought-provoking!

  • http://brightsidedweller.blogspot.com/ Chelsea S.

    Okay, this is the BEST POST EVER! Sal, I am just blown away by it… I love reading about how you look back at your style at different periods and how your style has evolved (beautifully, may I add). You are truly an inspiration, with every post!

    You know I’ve got mad love for you, lady! xoxo

  • Anne

    You know, I printed out that quote when you linked to it a while back. Getting back to writing is on my short list right now. And that article is taped inside my file of writings. While reading your post I thought about a play I’ve heard about: Love and Loss and What I Wore (I think that’s the name?) It always amazes me the stories our things tell about us, I guess that is why we have trouble sometimes letting our things go. Thank you for sharing your transformation with us. Life is all just a process of getting somewhere isn’t it?

  • Nadine

    I love this gorgeous, honest, lovely post! I have been following your site for years now, but when I first found it I DID go back and read everything in your archives . . ! That shot of you with extra-long hair in the FABULOUS tweed vest is still one of my all-time fave outfits, AND all-time fave photos.

  • Marie

    I loved this – thanks for being willing to go back and give us a peek at your critiques of your own outfits! When you see someone’s style everyday (whether via a blog or in person) you don’t necessarily notice how it’s gradually evolving until you take a look back.

    I agree with several other commenters – the wide-leg pants are very flattering! I’ll try to take your word for it that the photos were just at particularly good angles… Of course, it doesn’t matter what others think if you’re not comfortable in them.

  • http://www.geekthreads.blogspot.com Audi

    What a great retrospective! I look back at my older posts and note how much my style has changed over time; even a few short years makes a world of difference. There are many outfits in my catalog that I wouldn’t wear again now, but at the time they suited my aesthetic. Others just plain didn’t work, but they were still important in the overall process. I think it’s nice to look back and see the evolution; I want to feel like I’m always pushing myself to explore new styles.

  • http://debutantemedia.com Hayley

    This is one of the BEST posts you’ve written (in the year or so that I’ve been reading). I love that you went so in-depth with your style evolution and pulled out photos that have been archived in the blog that are excellent examples of what your style was like at the time. Love, love, love.

  • Lynne

    Loved this post – thank you.I found it very timely as I think lack of time, energy and imagination find me very much in the 2 looks you have posted for 2007 with the colourful skirts and plain tops. In fact I have been toying with adding yet another colourful skirt to my collection but will resist for now and experiment a bit more with what I have in my wardrobe.

  • http://keepwarm-daniellabella.blogspot.com/ Danielle

    This was really interesting! Thanks Sal!

  • http://fashionmeblog.blogspot.com angie

    You’ve written an incredable article once again and helped ease the frustration we occassionaly or very often feel about our outfits.Personaly i can see that my style evolves ,it has become more quiet and more subtle. I still haven’t nailed it but I’m more often happy with what I wear.

  • Lisa W.

    Thanks so much for that quote by Ira Glass— I am posting it above my desk. I just love him and I don’t think i’ve ever heard anyone state that sentiment, although I have strongly felt that is true in my artistic pursuits. I think lauren and I are living parallel graphic design lives! Really gratifying to read something so candid about the creative process. I am similarly in the creative process in terms of my dressing each day and feel like I’m emulating your 2007 right about now! But that’s okay, I’m much more patient with myself over that than with the evolution (or not) of my art creating, for better or worse! It’s a process, not a destination. Love your candor and brilliant posts!

  • Mel

    Sal-
    Once again a fabulous post!

    Funny about the quote you started with. I think it could apply to many areas of one’s life.

    I’m an intermediate violin player. I want to be good, I have the potential to be good, I’ve worked hard at it, but, frustratingly (!!!) I’m not as good as I want to be. I don’t play with that spark that gives the music life & the past few months have actually considered quitting.

    And then I read this part of the quote… “It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”….and realized ah….I guess I haven’t put in enough volume of work yet.

    So….off to practice I go. In my less than stellar outfit. :)

  • http://thesuburbexperiment.blogspot.com The Suburb Experiment

    Wow. I came over here from Serene’s blog (The Elegant Bohemian) and can relate to a lot of what you said. I was frustrated for a long time on my blog thinking that what I wanted to say with my outfits wasn’t being conveyed properly. I still working on it. . . :)

    Jenn

  • http://wendybrandes.com/blog/ WendyB

    Really fun post…and I LIKE the oyster wide-legs!

  • Sandra

    Dear Sal,
    Under your influence, I’m molting my old feathers and growing new ones.
    I’m curious about whether you’ve renounced Boden altogether, and if so, why? Boden has been a craze of mine, too, for the last six years or so. I haven’t seen you incorporate any Boden pieces, though, for a long while.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Sandra, my gosh, NO! I actually realized in retrospect that there may have been some “Boden = bad” type messages in this post and that was NOT my intention at all!!! (Three exclamation points!!!) I still adore Boden and drool over their catalogs, and buy the occasional piece. Just wore a Boden top a couple of weeks ago: http://www.alreadypretty.com/2011/07/daily-outfit-7511.html (Although I did mention in that post I was letting the top do the heavy lifting for me …)

      Shops like Boden – and I include Anthropologie and Modcloth in the same category – offer some basics, but also lots of darling items that are absolutely brimming with personality. Those items are, in my opinion, less-than-versatile. Unless you’re going for a pretty over-the-top look, you can only employ one such piece at a time, and that can be limiting. For myself, I prefer to work with garments that feel more like building blocks than stand-alones. I feel more artistic and creative when I feel like I’m making outfit soup from my own, relatively plain ingredients.

      But there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying, wearing, and loving personality-filled pieces! You are still expressing yourself and exercising your fabulous taste by doing so. It is not lesser-than or beginner, it is just another way. And I hope I didn’t come across as disdainful of Boden, or the Boden way. It works for and looks fabulous on many women, and served me well for years!

      • Sandra

        Thanks so much for your reply, Sal! I’d never thought about it that way: building-blocks vs. stand-alone pieces. I do fall in love with Boden patterns, and they become the focus of any outfit.

  • Domenica

    Love this blog entry, Sally! It’s fun to see you evolve from lovely to fabulous! And, I’m going to wear my leopard-print dress and red shoes tomorrow. Had never even thought of that ensemble, so thank you for the tip. :-)

  • http://fashionforgiants.blogspot.com Gracey at Fashion for Giants

    This was a lovely and fascinating post. What you’ve done here is part of why I began blogging in January. I’ve always been aware that my style is evolving, but also that there are some constants. For the couple year before I began blogging I journaled about everything I wore was able to see the progression there, but not as clearly as I can through my blog.

    I enjoy trying things out and being able to be honest about what worked and what didn’t, if not at the time I wore it, then in retrospect.

    Again, absolutely fascinating. Thank you for sharing!

  • b.

    Sal, as others have also said, this is one of my all-time fave posts of yours. Seeing your style evolve gives me courage and hope that I, too, can learn and revise and experiment. You were and continue to be a beautiful woman, but I love how your style appears to become so much more YOU! Thank you for having the bravery to look back and to show us looks that you still love and others that you’ve “outgrown”. Your honesty make you a true role model!

  • http://neverfinishedblog.wordpress.com priscilla

    I love this post! Thank you so much for doing this. It’s wonderful to hear about what you thought worked or didn’t work and your own perspective on your changing style. Developing a personal style can be difficult, and I know that I have given up on finding my own more times than I can count. This is inspiring because it reminds me that it’s okay to not always get it right. One thing you always do get right: the smile!

  • Pingback: Hautelinks: Week of 7/21/11 – College Fashion

  • Anne

    Just wanted to chime in and say thank you for posting all these years – I didn’t realize how fast time flies. I’ve been showing up to read your posts every day since 2007. I may not always agree with your style choices, but I ALWAYS love your writing and heart. Keep up the good work!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Wow, thanks for sticking with me, Anne!

  • http://modernmrsdarcy.com Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    This post is fantastic! I just started reading AP in late 2010, and it’s soooo interesting to watch your self-curated style progression.

    I applaud your self-awareness about what works for you and what doesn’t, like that you think you look best when you’re having fun but don’t push the envelope too far. That’s what I love about your blog, really–you DO look like you’re having fun with your style, but in a totally fun, accessible way. Can personal fashion be “friendly”? Because I think you have a friendly fashion sense.

    Keep it up!

  • http://vasiliasvintage.blogspot.com Mel

    Sal – yes, your style has evolved over the past few years, but I liked your style even in the older pics. You’ve always looked so pulled together, and I would have LOVED to have those oyster-coloured wide-leg pants that you got rid of, if they would have fit me, but I doubt they would have! :)

  • Becky

    Wow, Sal, thank you so much for this post! I am, at 42, discovering style for basically the first time. Looking back at your evolution over only four short years is so inspiring to me! You look much more stylish than I usually do from your very first posts — but seeing the time and effort you have put into evolving and refining your style has taught me (again) that style is not a destination, but a creative process that’s always new, where there is always more to learn. I have a tendency to think that I am trying to “build a wardrobe” as if eventually, I’ll be finished. Which is so frustrating and creates way too much pressure for any of this to be fun. And if style isn’t enjoyable, then good lord is it a miserable chore — as it has been for most of my life until recently. So thanks again.

  • Pingback: Smorgasboard of Awesome #3 | Ega Jones

  • Pingback: Link Love from YLF Members | YouLookFab

  • http://thespectacledbean.wordpress.com Ally Bean

    Love this post. It validates the reality that personal style changes– and that it is okay. I’ve seen way too many unhappy women (and men) wearing clothes that they think they should wear, not allowing themselves to move on to something different and current.

    Your photos are great. Very interesting. Thanks for the glimpse into how you came to be who you are now.

  • http://www.eastafritac.org/index.php?/member/136169/ king cake

    I’d personally also like to convey that most of those who find themselves without having health insurance are generally students, self-employed and those that are jobless. More than half in the uninsured are really under the age of Thirty five. They do not experience they are needing health insurance because they’re young and healthy. Their income is normally spent on property, food, as well as entertainment. Many people that do go to work either full or part-time are not given insurance through their jobs so they go without because of the rising tariff of health insurance in the states. Thanks for the strategies you share through this web site.