Posts Tagged: style

Reader Request: How Does Your Hairstyle Interact With Your Outfit?

how hairstyle impacts outfit

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Reader Andrea had this request:

I would be interested in a post on how different hairstyles interact with outfits. How much does wearing hair down vs. in a bun affect the formality of an outfit? How much can the hairstyle you wear with an outfit change the overall look? I always seem to wear my hair the same way with the same pieces, and I’m not sure why I only ever visualize those things with those hairstyles. (I’m also contemplating a major hair change right now, so hair is on my mind a lot recently.)

When my hair was longer, I had the same experience: Certain outfits definitely called out for an updo, while others looked better with hair worn down. And even now with supershort locks, I occasionally wear something that looks slightly off with messy waves and much better blown dry.

I asked Wendy Nguyen of Wendy’s Lookbook to let me use some of her photos to illustrate how hairstyle impacts outfits. As you’ll see balance, formality, structure, and genre all play in. Let’s take a peek:

hairstyle volume outfit

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Here are two outfits in which hairstyle is a factor in enhancing or balancing volume within the outfit. On the left, the volume within Wendy’s outfit is all toward the top, mostly from the waist up. Her hair, worn down, adds yet more volume but also works organically with the loose layers. On the left, the orange sweater is the only voluminous piece. With her hair in a high bun, she avoids adding more volume to her top half.

hairstyle formal casual

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Here are two decidedly formal looks. Some updos and buns can read as casual, but paired with outfits that already give off a dressy vibe, they generally add yet more formality. Definitely the case with the bun Wendy did with her black dress, although the addition of the headband keeps her hairstyle from being formal to the point of stuffiness. The green dress outfit has a much more relaxed vibe. Although the dress itself and structured clutch are quite fancy, the open-toed shoes and loose wavy hairstyle overtake them to create a dressy but not formal look. Switch the hairstyles and the black dress outfit would be more “night on the town” and the green dress outfit would be more “black-tie affair.”

hairstyle structure

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Structure within the outfit is at play in nearly all of these examples. You can see how updos often align with structured looks, and hair worn down aligns with unstructured ones. But here are two more great outfits that show how you can juxtapose structure and looseness using your hairstyle. Wendy’s cropped trench and pencil skirt are decidedly structured, but wearing her hair down adds some soft, flowy lines. Her white trapeeze top is loose and breezy, but her headband and bun balance it out.

hairstyle genre

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Finally certain hairstyles lend themselves to certain genres. At left, Wendy has on a preppy/classic look that could’ve come direct from the J.Crew catalog, and has chosen a bun/headband combo to match. The middle outfit has both Boho and preppy elements to it, and the loose ponytail complements them both. For the beachy outfit on the right, Wendy wore her hair down and loose to match.

Hope this was helpful! And thanks again to Wendy for use of her gorgeous photos.

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Reader Request: Wardrobe Diversity

wardrobe outfits same

Reader Monica asked this question:

I would like to hear your perspective on style or wardrobe diversity. Often I feel like I have a few types of tried and true outfits, but feel ‘boring.’ And then I think, well, Sal always looks great and many of her outfits have a similar flavor, maybe it’s not that important? It seems you may have an interesting perspective on this.

Monica’s got me pegged: Even back when I had a lot more stuff, I had my go-to formulas and I wore them into the ground. Above you see three outfits from earlier this year, all of which feature a jacket, top, slim pants, and ankle boots. I could live in variations on that outfit just about every day from October to April.

It’s been great to see the press focusing on stylish women – many of them working in the fashion and design industries – who opt to wear personal uniforms. And I think there’s absolutely no harm in wearing slightly tweaked versions of the same outfit every day of your life. UNLESS doing so makes you feel bored, boring, or stagnant. It comes down to the difference between a signature style and a style rut: A rut feels bad, frustrating, and difficult to get out of. You’re in a rut if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and cannot think of anything else you’d rather wear. A signature feels natural, aligned with your inner vision of yourself, freeing, serene. You’ve developed a signature if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and feel pulled-together and perfectly like yourself.

So the answer to Monica’s is a question: Is wardrobe and outfit diversity important to you? If it’s important to you but you aren’t managing to support that importance with putting time and energy toward your personal style, is there a way to compromise? Maybe create three main outfit formulas to work off instead of sticking to just one? Are you bored with wearing the same things each day? If so, what’s keeping you from branching out? Could mixing up your shoes and accessories be helpful?

And if anyone ever complains to you that you wear the same outfits over and over, I highly recommend mooning them. Or suggesting some other hobbies aside from tallying and cataloging your outfits!

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The Right to Bare Arms

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I’ll fess right up: I’m not terribly fond of my arms. I lift weights every week based on a regimen created for me by a personal trainer, and there’s loads of muscle in there. Seriously, just ask me to flex. But there’s also loads of jiggle. And although I don’t want to be, I’m self-conscious about it. And I generally dress to keep them covered.

But it’s summer in Minnesota and that means it can get hot. Also nastily humid. Ya know, that sticky, icky, clingy environmental moisture that makes you feel like a giant dog tongue has just licked your whole body, clothing included? And under these circumstances, 3/4 sleeves become implements of torture.

And the fact of the matter is that my arm-related self-consciousness is centered on a recently developed, socially generated expectation that – in addition to slender legs, a flat belly, and lush breasts – all women should have toned arms. Absolutely jiggle-free, rock-solid, sculpted and toned arms. Similar to the ones seen on Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, and other celebs who have live-in personal trainers and whose job it is to look a very specific way. Like all body-related mandates, this is unreasonable, shaming, and downright awful. I know this inside my brain. And it angers me endlessly and I want to fight back. Unfortunately my emotional self still kicks and screams when I pull on a tank top, wailing at the size, the jiggle, the uneven skin tone of my exposed arms. It then becomes an internal battle of wills: Shirk the imposed body mandates and feel exposed and self-conscious, or give in, cover up, and attempt to relax?

I try to bear in mind that sleeveless garments can be more flattering than short-sleeved ones, and go that route when it’s sweltering. And if it’s cool enough, I do 3/4 or cuff my long sleeves. But other days, days when my outrage manages to squelch my insecurity, I just force myself to remember this important mantra: All women have the right to bare arms, regardless of size, shape, or tone. The vast majority of us HAVE arms, many of us are forced to deal with heat and humidity at some point in the calendar year, and we should not allow restrictive social norms about how our bodies “should” look to shame us into dressing in clothing that makes us feel hot and miserable. Arms come in all shapes and sizes. Flattering them can certainly be a priority, but covering them up on a miserably hot day and risking heat rash in the name of hiding a little jiggle? No way. Not OK, not reasonable, not necessary.

I used to be incredibly self-conscious about my belly, and I still dress to downplay it. But friends, I have come to have a real and deep affection for it as a natural, biological, lovely, and defining part of my physical self. It took years of work, but I got there. So I have faith that my arm-battle will end because I want it to end. And I know what my ultimate conclusion should be: I have the right to bare arms. And so do we all.

Image courtesy sean dreilinger

This is a refreshed and revived post from the archive.

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