Posts Categorized: style

One Tool of Many

style collage

In my very first conversation with Carly, we talked about how some people scoff when we tell them what we do for a living. Writing about style, working with women on their wardrobes, and hiring yourself out for personal shopping strike many people as a shallow, frivolous, even extravagant group of activities. But just like me, Carly said she has gotten a hug from EVERY client she’s worked with because at the end of the session, that woman feels more confident, more stylish, and more like herself. That woman feels braver and more empowered. She has spent time and energy tackling an aspect of her self-presentation that she felt wasn’t quite right, and having done so has learned about her body and her self. We both agreed that we love our jobs because we help women feel like better, stronger versions of themselves. The fashion and style aspect is loads of fun, sure, but at the heart of the matter are self-esteem, pride, self-awareness, and security.

For me, doing this work has reinforced my belief that body knowledge gained through explorations of personal style can foster self-love and self-respect. I want to continue to have conversations about how style impacts body image, and how dressing well expresses self-respect and self-understanding. Because over the years, my own experiences and the input I’ve gotten from readers, clients, and students has shown me that style can be an important and valuable tool for cultivating self-love. A surprising and unexpected tool, in many cases, but often a remarkably effective one.

That said, I don’t think style is the magical body image cure-all for every woman currently walking the planet. I know that some women prefer to address their own body-related struggles through writing, discussion, reading, therapy, or more physical endeavors like yoga, strength training, or sports. Or through work and contemplation and activities that are so specific and personal that I couldn’t even begin to imagine or describe them. We are all unique individuals with unique needs and perspectives, and every one of us who battles with body image must choose her own path. The reason why I write about style is because my own journey involved using clothing to gain a better understanding of my body, and because changing how I dressed was the only thing I’d ever discovered that alleviated some of my own self-loathing. Dieting didn’t do it. Exercise didn’t do it. Ignoring my body and hiding it in big, oversized garments didn’t do it. Waiting to get older and hoping it would matter less didn’t do it. For me, it was style. And having had countless conversations with the women in my life about their own body image hangups, I determined that the more options we have for understanding, accepting, and feeling positively about our bodies, the better. The more tools we have in our self-love toolboxes, the better our chances of learning to love ourselves. Style is my chosen tool, and one that I like to encourage other women to consider using because it can have very quick, very tangible results. Because we have to get dressed anyway if we want to go out in public, and learning to do it in ways that bolster our confidence is a wise and valuable practice. Because you can change how you dress and shift your feelings about your body without actually changing anything about your body.

Style is the means through which I aim to help women heal their body images. Style is my chosen tool for confidence, empowerment, and understanding. I am fully aware that it is just one tool of many. But the way I see it, the fuller the toolbox, the more prepared the woman.

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Reader Request: Long Over Lean for Summer

long over lean for summer

Emily e-mailed me this question:

I’m fairly new (2 years) to this whole style thing and I’m encountering a problem. The long and lean look looks great on me (I’m 5’3 and a size 20ish) but I can’t figure out how to do it in the summer. I’d love your help with how to do this so I can be stylish and comfortable this summer.

The long over lean dressing formula can feel a little covered-up for hot weather, but it is possible to make this look work for summer! Here are some ideas:

Short-sleeved or sleeveless tunic, slim bottom, open footwear

sleeveless tunic and legggings

Eileen Fisher | Macy’s | Garnet Hill

The quickest route to comfortable long-over-lean looks for summer is to lighten up your tunic. In addition to considering fibers and weight, lop off some sleeve length. Short-sleeved and sleeveless tunics still look elegant and edgy with leggings and skinnies. You can do booties or other closed shoes if you prefer – my toes freeze all summer, so I sometimes do – but sandals or ballet flats that expose a bit more foot real estate will help make your look feel seasonal.

Lightweight tunic, cuffed or cropped denim, sandals or booties

tunic and jeans

Nordstrom | Torrid | Nordstrom

As you’ve likely guessed, how summery you want to make this look is directly related to how much skin you feel like showing. In this variation, a lightweight sleeveless tunic and sandals paired with cuffed skinny denim will give you the most ventilation and may feel the best during the true Dog Days. But ankle boots (show an inch or two of lower calf between boot and jean) worn with half or 3/4-length sleeves can work just as well. Ballet flats are always a comfy, cute option for summery long-over-lean, too.

Lightweight tunic, clamdiggers or capris, flats or sandals


Nordstrom | Garnet Hill | J.Jill

This is definitely the trickiest of the three options, as a slim bottom that hits mid-calf or higher will divide your leg line. Add a tunic that hits mid-thigh and you’ve created another division. If you’re concerned about breaking up your figure or creating odd proportions here’s my main tip for making clamdiggers and capri-length leggings/pants work with tunics: Shoes that are nude to your skin tone will soften the break at your ankle, and a tunic and leggings that are similar in tone will soften the break at your thigh. So the blue tunic and black leggings outfit is totally adorable, but does create some very hard lines along the legs and lower body. Something to think about if those breaks concern you. (And yes, I know that middle image doesn’t feature terribly “lean” or slim-fitting bottoms, but it shows a wonderfully summery way to style a light-colored linen tunic.)

A few other considerations:

  • Palette: There’s a lot of black in these example images, but lighter colors, pastels, and white will help your long-over-lean looks feel seasonal.
  • Asymmetry: Jagged hemlines have a lot of movement to them, which aligns nicely with breezy summer weather. Asymmetrical hems also look fabulous on sleeveless tunics, so they’re a natural for hot-weather tunic wearing.
  • Fibers and footwear: OK, these have already been mentioned. But I’m calling them out again! Linen, cotton voile, and other summer-weight fabrics are great choices. And consider sandals and open footwear to lighten your look.

Are you a fan of long-over-lean looks for summer? How do you create yours so you don’t overheat? Any other tips for making proportions work?

Top images courtesy Nordstrom (left) and Nordstrom (right)

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

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Cosplaying Confidence

I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Capricorn, because my childhood house was constantly full of chaotic siblings, or because I’m just an awkward nerd at heart, but I love a good routine. Once I find a way of doing things I like, I tend to fall very easily into a habit, and it takes a conscious effort to shift myself out again.

In terms of fashion and style, this means my entire wardrobe gets worn in the same way, with the same accessories, even the same makeup, over and over and over again. I’ve developed a rigid little box into which I put everything I deem “me”, and anything that’s “not me” doesn’t even get a look in. Unfortunately, because I’m not super confident,  the list of things that are “not me” is MUCH longer than the list of things that are “me.” Knee socks and skirts are very me, so I have lots of those. But crop tops and jeans? Hairbands, heeled boots, and oversized t-shirts? Definitely “not me,” and I have none of these items. Knowing what suits you is all well and good, but my wardrobe is, on the whole, far too repetitive and predictable.

I don’t WANT to have a predictable wardrobe – I see lots of things I’d love to try, but it’s so hard to convince myself to switch things up. For example, I noticed I wear WAY too much black, so I set myself a challenge to try and go a whole working week without wearing an all black outfit. That was six months ago, and I STILL haven’t been able to make it a whole week. Sheer willpower just doesn’t seem to have enough oomph to get me out of my nice comfy rut – I feel confined by the idea of “me” that I’ve settled on, and yet it’s almost impossible to shake.

But every now and then I get the opportunity to dress as someone else – then all bets are off.

CatwomanTardisMe in a Catwoman cosplay, attempting to take off with The TARDIS. You know Catwoman totally would.

Being a fan of pop culture, I’ve been attending what passes for a convention here in Australia for as long as there have been any conventions. It took me a couple of years of watching the cosplayers and building up my courage before I tried it myself, but from my very first cosplay, I was hooked.

Death CosplayMe as Death from the Neil Gaiman graphic novel series Sandman

The experience of cosplaying isn’t entirely sunshine, roses, and self expression – there are still a lot of people around who are quick to have a go if they think you’re too fat, too small in the bust, or too otherwise “unconvincing” as your chosen character. There are also those that think if you play your character well, it’s an invitation to behave inappropriately.

But on the whole, I have had more fun dressing up for cosplaying than I have dressing up for any other event – for the simple fact that it’s the only time I feel I have total freedom. I’m not dressing as “me,” so everything I’ve ever wanted to try is suddenly on the table. For example,  I put together a Catwoman costume a couple of years ago, that featured two things I would NEVER have considered wearing in public otherwise – thigh high spilts in my skirt, and heeled ankle boots. If I was dressing as “me”, these things would never get on my body because I feel like they’re probably too unflattering, even though there’s a part of me that’s always wanted to give them a shot anyway. But Catwoman wears them, and since I was dressed as Catwoman that day, the part of me that wanted to give them a shot was allowed to play.

CatwomanSultryMe in my interpretation of the late 60′s Catwoman costume

Cosplaying allows me the freedom to take apart the image I’ve constructed of “me,” and blend it together with things I’d like to try, what fits me, what I can afford, and what fits the character. This process of collage is enormous fun, and can have really exciting results.

There are so many different ways you can interpret the same character, and this process of interpretation and innovation is my favourite part of cosplaying. You can change a costume so it’s more suitable for your body type, or simpler so you can actually sew it. You can make it more or less revealing to suit your comfortableness with showing skin, and you can even change up a costume so it fits your gender rather than that of the original character. “Gender-bent” cosplay (cosplaying as an opposite gender version of a character, ie a female Batman) has become really huge in Sydney over the last couple of years, possibly because if you’re a woman, picking from a pool of male characters gives you WAY more variety. By stepping outside the traditional gender presentation of a character, “gender-bent” cosplay seems to really encourage people to just go nuts with the process of interpretation, and I think it’s brilliant. Let’s take, say, Captain America, who looks like this in the comics;

CaptainAmerica109Captain America #109 (Jan. 1969).
Cover art by Jack Kirby and Syd Shores.

Captain America can be cosplayed in a really femme, pinup sort of style, like this;

DSC_0105Cosplayer at Sydney Supanova 2014

Or in a more “accurate,” miltiaristic style like this;

FemmeCaptCosplayer at Sydney Supanova 2014

These are all recognisably the same character, but the cosplayers have adapted the original design to suit their different styles. It’s such a joyful experiment, taking all the elements of the character and mashing them together with your gender, budget, style, and shape, to make something totally unique.

For myself, I find the experimental delight doesn’t always wear off once the convention is over – once I’ve convinced myself to get something “outrageous” into my wardrobe, then I’m more likely to wear it again. For example, I’ve always wanted some brightly coloured wigs – I love the look of coloured hair, but I have a job where it’s not acceptable, so wigs seem like the perfect solution. Only I could never convince myself to actually take the step of getting any. But for my Borderlands Siren cosplay, I needed a pink and red wig to fit the character. Once I had that wig, I managed to convince myself to “get another wear out of it” at a party, and since then it’s officially become my “party hair.”

Pink HairMe cosplaying as a Siren from the video game Borderlands – this wig has now been worn so much I actually need to replace it

I’ve been trying to make a concious effort to translate more of the experimental aspects of cosplay into my everyday wardrobe recently, and while researching ideas I came across a wonderful project called Disneybound. It’s essentially a group of Disney fanatics putting together “everyday cosplay” – outfits that are an interpretation of a Disney character, but still subtle enough to pass in the street as just plain cute.

tumblr_n3bfebeH2p1qjir3uo1_1280Tumblr user thepathweshare cosplaying as Ariel from The Little Mermaid, via the DisneyBound tumblr

This is precisely the sort of subtle boundary pushing that I want to get better at, and cosplay is my favourite way (so far) of convincing myself to actually take a chance once in a while. What about you? Have you ever cosplayed? Would you try it in the future? Do you prefer full costume cosplaying, or the Disneybound route?


Photos of the author taken by the author

Captain America cover 109 by Jack Kirby and Syd Shores, image courtesy of Wikipedia

Photos of Sydney Supanova cosplayers taken with permission by the author – please contact us if you can assist us in naming these talented cosplayers

Ariel Disneybound outfit photo from thepathweshare tumblr, via the DisneyBound tumblr

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The author of Reluctant Femme, Cassie is a queer thirty-something Australian who thinks too much, reads too much, and has way too many pretty things. Her writing revolves around exploring concepts of femme and femininity, feminism, and just how much glitter you really can fit into a polish before it’s unusable. You can catch up with her in shorter bursts on Twitter , look at pictures of her favourite pretty things on her Tumblr, and browse her shiny accessory creations at her Etsy store 

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