How to Find Inspiration Everywhere

This is a photo of Vanessa from Big Girl, Small Budget, Tiny Town. She is wearing a kick-ass outfit with some bold colors and fun proportions. Vanessa and I have different shapes, sizes, budgets, proportions, and shopping resources, but when I look at this photo of her, it inspires me. It makes me want to wear yellow and orange with a pink-printed scarf. It makes me want to try a tunic over a midi. It makes me want to do a short layer over two longer layers. And yes, it makes me want to visit the Badlands, but that’s not the point! The point is that, despite all of our differences, this image of Vanessa’s from back in October has sparked my imagination and prompted me to think of ways I can interpret her look for myself.

This is a photo of a runway model in the Emanuel Ungaro FW10 ready-to-wear show. She is wearing a kick-ass outfit with some unusual colors and fabulous prints. This runway model and I have different shapes, sizes, budgets, proportions, and shopping resources, but when I look at this photo of her, it inspires me. It makes me want to wear mustard, coral, and green together. It makes me want to try leopard with colors other than my standby reds, teals, and purples. It makes me want to do a big solid sash with a tank, blazer, and printed pants. And yes, it makes me want to purchase those SPECIFIC pants, but that’s not the point! The point is despite all of our differences, this image of a runway model in a show from several years ago has sparked my imagination and prompted me to think of ways I can interpret her look for myself.

This is a page from a Madewell catalog showing 10 looks. I don’t own any items from Madewell and feel like much of their merchandise is a bit overpriced. But many of these looks appeal to my personal aesthetic. The women in this spread have different shapes, sizes, budgets, proportions, and shopping resources than I do, but when I look at these images, they inspire me. Even though I have absolutely no intention of buying any of the items showcased. This catalog page makes me want to swap out those bright blue jeans for my bright red ones, and pair them with a gray cardi and boots. It makes me want to wear my black opaques with rich brown boots all winter long. It makes me curious about tying a fringed scarf around my neck, cowboy style. And yes, it makes me think I probably need a pair of  bright yellow ankle booties, but that’s not the point! The point is despite the fact that I don’t own these specific items, this image has sparked my imagination and prompted me to think of ways I can interpret these looks for myself.

Sartorial inspiration is everywhere, if you’re willing to latch onto it, and even women who are different from you in practically every way can still inspire your own unique style. Even stores whose merch you don’t own can spark outfit ideas. Even women with far more or less money than you can inform your looks. Even decor, nature, and graphic design can drum up ideas for color and texture pairings. Inspiration is everywhere. Really.

What are your main sources for outfit ideas and garment pairings? Blogs? Mags? Catalogs? TV and movies? Your peer group? Do you feel like you can derive stylistic inspiration from images of women who don’t look like you at all?

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  • Randeep

    First time commenter here, although I’ve been reading for about a year. I just had to speak up and say that this post is great. I work in a cube where nobody sees me all day, and then go home to an eight month old, so I have only recently starting feeling that I should start paying a bit more attention to my personal style again (it’s been pretty much on hold since the baby was born).
    Reading style blogs is fun, but can be a bit overwhelming when you feel like you’re starting from almost scratch, but this post is clear, straightforward and inspiring. So thanks! :)

  • http://Www.considermelovely.com Rocquelle

    I love this post!! Inspiration really is everywhere! I get inspiration from blogs, magazines, tv, and mostly things and people I see in everyday life!

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

    Great article, Sal. I used to have to get inspiration from fashion mags (pre-internet era) and now it’s so much more fun to look at real-life women for inspiration. Style seems so much more accessible and affordable.

  • Mary

    I’m a sucker for Lucky Magazine, of course, but not so much Vogue. I’m sure we all appreciate “approachable and affordable” in a different way than we appreciate high fashion.
    And I do love street style, walking around certain neighborhoods where twentysomethings predominate and a few expensive strollers might be seen – I always see unique proportions and mixes of colors, and I love being in those areas anyway. Makes me feel like I’m cool.
    But the thing that inspires me the most by far is going to the fabric store. Handling a yard of something texturally pleasing in the remnant room makes me want to make it into a skirt, with pockets! … or a summer dress; or – oh, that fabric would look great in a winter coat …
    And then it continues when I come home! I put on my favorite tops and red lipstick and clear the table for cutting. I feel most myself – or possibly the best version of myself – when I’m working on clothes.

  • Anne

    Sally this post is a great reminder that you don’t have to have a huge budget or a model’s figure to participate in fashion. When I look at the Madewell catalog page I see several looks that I could replicate at home. These days I look to several blogs for style inspiration. I also like Instyle magazine and the various catalogs that come my way.

    One of my favorite ways to gather inspiration is just to people watch, especially at events like Farmers’ market or Sacramento’s Second Saturday Art Walk..

  • http://www.beautyraid.com GenkiOriana

    I’ve been inspired a *lot* by the blogs I’ve found and also the people around me. Ever since I started blogging a little less than a year ago, I’ve started to notice things I ignored and realize a lot about what I like and can do thanks to those around me. Students: they do some crazy things and I’m not going to lie, they inspire me. Co-workers: I’ve never realized how much time and thought goes into what people wear to work. That inspires me. Bloggers: seeing different looks makes me want to play and feel more comfortable playing in public. I wore a belted shirt for the first time in a long, long while. I contribute that to the inspiration I find online. :)

  • Secret Squirrel

    I get inspiration from bloggers, sometimes from images I pull out of Vogue, but quite often from commuters I see on the train. Also crazy colour combinations from plants at the garden centre!

  • Barbra

    Yay for Vanessa! She’s one of the rare few that know how to do color right, without looking clownish or bizarre. She truly has style.

  • http://theonepercentclub.blogspot.com ily

    I love that outfit with the leopard pants…awesome.
    It’s true, inspiration can be everywhere. I’m inspired by fashion bloggers, street style (mainly from blogs, since I live in a pretty boring town, fashion-wise), movies, musicians, and different time periods. I’m usually not especially inspired by runway looks, but there are some exceptions. Men’s fashion also inspires me a lot; I like to put masculine and feminine elements together. So yeah, I don’t really care if “inspirations” look like me, since I don’t even care if they’re my same gender. My body type (bigger, but not too curvy) doesn’t really exist to the fashion world, anyway. I enjoy style blogs from people all over the size spectrum, although if someone is more similar to my own size/shape, I can take a more literal inspiration from their look.

  • http://www.snappyandsavvy.blogspot.com Vanessa

    Thanks for the shout-out. It made me grin to remember this day with my parents and our recent road trip shenanigans!

  • Jen

    Honestly, although I read one fashion mag monthly and many more fashion blogs daily, I haven’t really looked at them for fashion inspiration. Because I’m plus size with a prominent tummy, much of what I can wear or is available to me is different than my smaller-sized peers. Plus-sized stores often seem about 6 months or a year behind the current trends for instance. I guess I’ve been looking at them thinking, ooo, pretty, without deconstructing how I can make it work for me. Vanessa is one of the few fashion bloggers that does inspire me because she is about my size and shape and seems to have roughly my budget. I’m going to try to do better now–as Tim Gunn says, “Make it work”.

    I mostly come up with color combinations through getting out my beads and jewelry making supplies and playing around with what colors look good together. Then when I make a piece with two-four colors, I look to my closet to see what will match it. I’ve discovered some unusual and favorite color combos that way. Turquoise and coral (duh, the ocean) or tuquoise and red, olive and navy or olive and turquoise, deep purple and magenta, hot pink and burnt orange, yellow and gray. I’m still venturing into using more than two bright colors and a neutral though.

    I’m still on the shallow end of the pool when it comes to different shapes of clothing. I generally like my clothes to be fitted but loose over the belly for comfort. I have a few basic silhouettes that I know work for me, and I tend to stick to those.

    Recently though I thought about dressing like my Christmas tree this year–hot pink, apple green, magenta, and purple. My tree is turn was inspired by a shirt that a four-year-old girl I teach had on one day with an owl pattern in those colors. I’m still working on getting the right pieces together. Four bright colors is a style stretch for me.

  • LaChina

    I love your blog. It’s like a nice treat after a long day. I get my inspiration from everywhere, I keep a “look book” of things that catch my eye from catalogs, magazines, books, etc. I also review blogs (like I can’t stop thinking about the blog “Modesty is Pretty” and her plaid men’s shirt, belt, a frilly skirt and rain boots, I just loved it!) Other stylish women I see on the street, TV (especially the 40’s and 50’s), and most often just my own creations, i.e. pieces I love that I figured out how to make them work.

    I really love the leopard print pants, and the blue jean shorts, tights, boots and jacket. So cute and comfy!

  • Robert

    I get my inspiration from reading fashion blogs,catalogs,fashion magazines..And pretty much anything else that catches my eye…

  • Eleanorjane

    I get my inspiration from a vague gestalt of various fashion mags, online sources, ads etc. then by actually looking at what’s in the shops and what I think would suit me. Some trends I just dismiss without even thinking about it as I know they’re not for me.

    I rarely think “I’d like some mustard yellow booties” (for example). Maybe because we have very limited shopping here, it’s not possible to think that you want a specific thing unless if happens to be a strong trend or a staple. I tend to look around the shops and see things I like. Then I may or may not actually buy it, depending on how much I need it, how much it costs, wearablity etc.

  • Val C-MN

    Great post, Sal! Well, I discovered fashion/lifestyle blogs via your blog (the Lori & Julia’s interview with you on-air one day) and via Lucky magazine which was one of the first mags to list bloggers monthly that they liked. From there, I looked at other blogger links to find what appealed to me.

    I am also inspired by the regular art “color wheel” where you see the primary, secondary, complementary, contrasting colors and see what colors work well with others..

    I have always been inspired by catalogs/online-catalogs – especially Spiegel, Talbots, JCrew, and Coldwater Creek because of their use of colors, geometric designs, and different outfit styles. I even find color combo inspiration from looking how they showcase their colors for a garment by stacking all those colors together of a sweater or a tee (JCrew and Talbots are great for that) .

    For the past 2 years, I have collected hardcover fashion books by Rachel Zoe, Isaac Mizrahi, Lloyd Boston, Lucky, In Style, Harper’s Bazaar, June Ambrose, Bradley Bayou, and Nina Garcia for inspiration.

    Sometimes a tv show, movie, or celebrity might inspire me with a particular garment or jewelry. It’s good that there are now so many places for one to become inspired.

  • http://thosetwocrazygirls.blogspot.com Jess C

    Love this post! My husband was asking me the other day why I read so many fashion blogs (he was being curious, not rude) and I told him pretty much the same thing- I like to see other people’s ideas and figure out how to make them work for me. Very cool!

    thosetwocrazygirls.blogspot.com

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