A while back, I wrote a bit about how my style has evolved since I began blogging. I opened that post with these two photos from my bloggy beginnings in 2007:
As I mentioned in that older post, I am wearing head-to-toe Boden in both of these shots. Although I didn’t own a closet full of Boden at the time, outfits like these were my staples back in the day: Solid top, cute embellished skirt, the end. 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 began accumulating as many pieces as I could afford. (And maybe a few that I couldn’t quite afford.) They looked like clothes I’d design for myself, if I had that skill set, and suited my taste perfectly.
I then spent years relying on Boden’s cute pieces to create my style for me. Purchasing darling, personality-filled pieces meant that the garments could do the heavy lifting. The plain-top-and-matching-quirky-skirt formula was simple and effective, and I seldom dabbled in layering, accessorization, or color play. I didn’t force myself to think or be creative, I just relied on my taste to carry me.
I mentioned all of this in the previous post, then realized in retrospect that it may have broadcast some “Boden = bad” type messages, especially to those of you who currently employ and enjoy the plain-top-and-matching-quirky-skirt formula. So let me be clear now, as I should have then: I still adore Boden, drool over their catalogs, and buy the occasional piece. I also love my fun and distinctive garments for their ability to elevate an outfit from nice to noticeable, and wear them with pleasure and pride. I did not mean to imply that letting your taste shine through is lazy or wrong, or that learning to layer, accessorize, or work with color are hallmarks of superior style. Style is diverse, and there is no wrong way to be stylish.
But here’s where I’m coming from: In my experience, vendors like Boden, Anthropologie, and ModCloth offer a few basics and classic items, but focus mainly on darling pieces that are absolutely brimming with personality. At least in the context of my own style, I find these pieces to be delightful but less-than-versatile. Unless I’m going for a pretty over-the-top look, I don’t generally employ more than one such item at a time, and that can be limiting. 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 didn’t mean to disdain Boden, or the Boden way in my previous post. That style of dressing works for and looks fabulous on many women, and served me well for years. Making the switch to plainer garments worn in compelling combinations made me feel more like I’d hit my sartorial stride, but that doesn’t mean you must follow suit.
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