My personal style:
(pants are H&M, a couple months old, can’t find them online!)
I think about my own personal style all the time. Obviously 😉 And everyone else’s too…if I’m being honest. I love to observe style and try to figure out what a person is saying with their clothing/accessories. Unfortunately, most of the time it looks like people throw on whatever is clean and go on about their business (keeping in mind I don’t go to an office job everyday, so my observations are a bit skewed), and I’ve also found that personal style is also very geo-specific.
Here in the Dallas-area, there are a lot more labels, bling, and top-stitching (ugh) and in Austin it was all about vintage (sometimes to the point of being silly), hipster (ALWAYS silly IMO) style, and hoodies. Honestly, no matter where I’ve lived, I’ve never really observed or found anyone else who shares my particular style (except one friend; when we shop together, we always buy the same things).
Which leads me to trying to identify what exactly IS my personal style. I tend to think it is minimal, but I don’t really even know what that means. Is my style minimal in terms of few colors or monochrome? Yes. Minimal in terms of shape? Not exactly, I do tend to wear unconventional shapes. Minimal in terms of number of items? Definitely not!!
I also sometimes think my style is boho because I love long flowy dresses, hippie style (within reason), and clogs. I appreciate Rachel Zoe’s look with flared jeans, fur vests and loose, flowy caftans, but I don’t always feel like me when I try to dress like that. I walk into Free People and tend to want everything, but when I try it on, or think about how to incorporate pieces in to my wardrobe, I end up with nothing.
Obviously, I gravitate towards all things James Perse, so what does that mean? I’m a California girl at heart?? And Splendid. Both those brands are California-based. But I don’t really identify in general with “California-style” – I’ve always felt I have more of a New York look, like Helmut Lang & Vince. But maybe I’m wrong about that. Helmut Lang, Vince, Rag & Bone, are all more “structured,” fitted, and edgy, things I think are characteristic of a more east-coast look, and James Perse & Splendid are more casual, without any edge at all, really. They’re more slouchy and laid-back. Is that really who I am?
But I like to THINK I have edge. Doesn’t my Alexander Wang bag give me edge? Do my Harrow booties give me edge? My Vince sneakers? My Veda leather jacket? I don’t know…maybe it’s wishful thinking! My look in general is softer than all that, but I like to collect things that have edge. And then I love looks that are both edgy & feminine, like a long chiffon pleated skirt with a leather biker jacket with lots of hardware; I DIE for that look. The juxtaposition is what I aim for, the balance between girly and masculine, or hard & soft. It’s not easy to achieve or pull-off; I’m not even sure I’ve tried it, but that is perfection in my opinion.
I mean, I think I understand my style, I think if I stick to a few designers I really love, I’ll be good. I think I know what shapes work well on my body, and the types of clothing that fits into my lifestyle & budget. And then, I get heart palpitations when I see anything with the tiger print by Kenzo. Or I smile when I see this gorgeous printed Mary Katrantzou dress. Then I think WTF?? Who am I? Why do I want to add these things to my cart RIGHT NOW, to hell with my personal style?
Browsing the Net-a-Porter sale this morning is what brought all of this up, the questions, the analysis…and I ended up concluding that if I had crazy money, I could have a few things that don’t necessarily fit into my “everyday” style, but that I love anyway. Things that I can have around for special occasions, or when I feel like wearing something crazy in a WAY out-there way (harem pants are “crazy” in an understated way, I think).
I would NEVER be able to save and spend money on those things because they wouldn’t meet my requirements for cost-per-wear, and ultimately, they don’t fit into my personal style. Am I stifling myself? Am I holding back because I’m afraid? I’m actually very stingy with my money, which is why I only ever purchase things I know will get a TON of wear, and fit seamlessly into my wardrobe. I do spend a lot of money on clothing/shoes/accessories, but only on things I will wear the second I get them. Do I love them? Yes, I do, but do they make my heart skip a beat like the tiger Kenzo print? Not always. It’s more of a practical love, a subdued love. Which if you know me, you know that’s how I am; I’m always tempering my excitement.
How can I stop doing that? Can I have print and some color and still live within my means? I don’t know. I really don’t think so. I just don’t WANT to spend my money on things I won’t wear all the time. As I said, if I had crazy money, meaning enough that I didn’t have to worry about spending a couple of thousand dollars a year on purely emotional purchases, then I could do it, but I don’t see that happening. And being the practical person that I am, I don’t think that would happen ANYWAY. Even when I receive a gift of money I use it on practical things.
Ultimately, yes, of course your personal style is dependent on your financial situation. I mean, I don’t know anyone who can shop with abandon, just buying things that catch their eye, or that they love, no matter the price. We all have to make decisions about what to buy based on our budget. It’s inevitable that unless you have crazy money (so much, you will never have to worry about anything) you have to make choices about what to spend your money on.
I/we could just stash away a few dollars here and there into a savings account until it really adds up, then take it shopping, but what would happen then? As I said before, I’m still not sure I’d be able to spend it on “fun” stuff; I’d probably just end up buying more basics, and practical wardrobe items. But maybe not. Perhaps I should try it. I can’t tell you how often in the last couple of weeks I’ve wished I had a savings account with a couple thousand dollars in it at my disposal to buy all the amazing sale items I’ve found. Maybe that’s telling me something…
What do you think? How do you balance buying basics and fun stuff? Do you have a personal style? Do you ever shop outside your own personal style? Have you ever created a savings account for sale shopping?
So you’re casual, slightly edgy with a dash of boho. 🙂 I think there are women out there who have a pretty distinct style, but then there are others who can be a mix of multiple ones. The percentage mix might be majority one thing, but there’s room for some other styles. I think I’m in the second camp too because although I think I’m into classic and casual pieces, I think things with fun or personality. I want to be a little more edgy, but when I look at what’s in my closet it doesn’t really match the ideal in my head. It makes me wonder if it can become apart of my style or am I vering away from what my “real” style is, if that makes any sense.
Anyway, I’ve heard that style can be an evolvement so while you think you have some of the answers, you are still in the process of getting a complete understanding of you and your personal style.
I’ve never created a savings account specifically for shopping but that might not be a bad idea. I am planning to start a Chanel handbag savings fund one of these days. So I know that money will definitely not go towards anything considered basic or pratical. Maybe when you start the fund you keep in mind that it’s for those impractical but fun, makes you smile, I’m treating myself kinds of purchases. And you are not allowed to use it towards t-shirts, James Perse or workout gear. 🙂
When I first read your post, my initial response was that no, I can dress in any style on any budget. But the more I thought about it, I realized it’s not that simple. I think that as my career and income have grown, my attitude to fashion has changed. I’ve become more sophisticated, more attune to quality. In order to earn more money, I’m very busy, and so I don’t have time to shop for the latest trends every season, so my wardrobe is now more timeless–more classic and pared-down both in terms of styles and colours. As I command more money from my clients, I want to dress the part, so I try to look more professional and sophisticated and put-together. I also like to have more expensive items to show that I take myself and my work seriously. Having said all this, while I can afford to buy some items of the very best quality and brands, I choose not to, because I’d rather spend my money on travelling, eating out, going to concerts and plays, etc. So, in order to pay for all these things, I shop second-hand. Thrift stores, consignment stores, garage sales. I get amazing stuff that way, so I can afford to play around with different styles. I’ve scored some mouthwatering designer stuff for mere pennies on the dollar. I’ve discovered great brands that way, and when I find I like something, I’m more inclined to shell out the money for those items new, because I’ve already tried them out virtually risk-free second-hand. I highly recommend second-hand shopping to everyone–even those who have the cash to buy new. It lets you try out new styles almost guilt-free. Grechen, have you found any second-hand sources in your new city?
As for what style I am now, I would say I’m “modern casual.” Very similar to your style, but a bit more tailored. I also veer into what I call “Euro-chic,” which are things like ballet slippers, fitted jackets, button-up shirts, pea coats, cashmere. I would call your style “modern American casual,” because of your penchant for James Perse and the laid-back California style. Does that hit the mark? 🙂
Grechen Reiter says
lol, you know me so well 🙂
I don’t know if I can identifying my personal style, I like to think it’s a mix of edgy and feminine (that the perfection I strive for too) but whether it actually is – I don’t know! Sometimes I love wearing simple boho items, sometimes I crave a really simple look – I just dress to suit my mood. Friends often point out items saying ‘that’s SO you’ but I don’t think I even know what that is. It’s funny to think that other people think they know what my style is when I find it so hard to label. One of my friends offered me a pair of her shoes as they were too small for her, she said she thought I would like them as they were very ‘me’ but I thought they were hideous! What does that say!? Clearly I see my style in a very different way to others!
The really funny thing about all this is that I’m a personal stylist; I spend my days helping others find and develop their own style, although thinking about it, I never pigeonhole someone as having a particular look, I just dress them in a way that reflects them. So maybe it’s okay that I can’t label my own style?
I’d love to be able to afford to have a few crazy items in my wardrobe for those times when I want to be all crazy like with my style but the reality is that like you I’m really careful with what I purchase, I try to buy items that will slot effortlessly in to my existing collection, that I know I’ll wear and that (hopefully) won’t date too quickly. I don’t think I’d properly thought about it until now, but you’re right; the items I do buy probably aren’t the things that make my heart skip a beat, they’re the things that are more practical than that. Interesting. You’ve got me thinking! Great post 🙂
Grechen Reiter says
i haven’t found a good designer consignment store here yet, but i’m sure there are quite a few good ones…i miss my place in Austin. for a while there, i was finding a lot of pretty great things!
i guess modern american casual fits, although i wonder what it is that makes it “american” exactly? besides the designers? what is the difference between american and european style? is american always just more casual?
**duh…just reading your comment again – and taking a second to think: american is definitely more slouchy/casual and european more put-together, but still in a very casual way. i think if i felt like i could, i’d be more euro-chic, and wear more “fitted” things like jackets/jeans/ballet flats (because I truly love that look), but for some reason, i’m still focused on covering up – literally DRAPING – my body. i did used to wear more jeans and ballet flats, but my style has shifted recently. i don’t know why really…
Grechen Reiter says
i also dress to suit my mood, which is why i have the HARDEST time packing for trips!! sometimes i want structured & simple and other times i want drapey and flowy…i think that is both the curse and the blessing of being so “into” style/fashion – that we actually care about what we’re wearing. we can’t just bring whatever and wear whatever we have with us. like rick owens’ said in that quote i posted from him, he’d hate to wear something and not feel like “him” all day if it’s the wrong thing. that is my fear….the problem is that “me” feels different on different days!!
(i do think it probably makes you a better personal stylist that you DON’T try to pigeonhole your clients – or yourself – into a look. you’re more open to trying new things and just finding what feels right at the moment)
I don’t think American style is always more casual than European, but I find that it typically is. I’ve been in the U.S. countless times (I grew up just a 45-minute drive from the U.S. border) and have been to Europe dozens of times, so this is just based on my own observations. I think the biggest indicator of American style is wearing running/athletic shoes. Until a few years ago when they started to be trendy, Europeans, in my experience, typically didn’t wear them. (It was one way to spot American tourists abroad.) Same for things like hoodies, yoga pants, sweatshirts. I realize these are all the trend now, but I found those things to be more of what I think of as American style. Your version is much chicer, of course! And I realize that using labels is not ideal, and I hope I haven’t offended you, but we need words to describe personal style as sort of a shorthand. Otherwise, we’d all have to share pictures of what we wear!
Notice I haven’t mentioned Canadian style, which I try to avoid. I don’t own a plain flannel shirt, for instance. 🙂
I meant “plaid” flannel shirt, not “plain”.
Grechen Reiter says
haha! yes, i noticed that you’re steering away from Canadian style- although plaid is in now, in a grungy way anyway… 😉
true what you say about american style abroad – you can spot an american tourist a mile away. that said, though, you can also spot a tourist from the UK (the men in man-pris and sleeveless tops…) and eastern europe (bling for days!!) …so interesting how style is “cultural” or at least geo-specific a lot of the time. since i don’t wear athletic shoes generally (haha. I say clearly as I’ve been wearing my nikes frequently lately! and my vince sneakers) i don’t wear them while traveling either, and certainly never yoga pants, etc., now sweatshirts…;) i think it’s all in how you wear and style the piece though, you know?
of course you didn’t offend me! i’m just interested in how people perceive different cultures and styles and the words we use to label them. i find the whole idea of personal style to be fascinating. and obviously, i would LOVE IT if you all shared pictures of your outfits!!!!!!
I don’t know where you are, and I really don’t know Texas geography, but my mom worked on a project in Dallas last year and used to thrift shop in her down time – her favorite was Collins Park Thrift in Arlington. Not designer consignment, but she found lots of cute stuff for me so I’m a fan 🙂
I’m definitely conservative and preppy but would like to be more European casual chic! At least as described by Laurel 😉
My husband and I have a savings account specifically for travel/vacations, so you can see where my priorities are. I don’t have an annual clothing budget either, and my costs are very moderate. I prefer to buy well made classics and then maybe something different or funky while traveling. Bonus points if I can thrift while traveling!
It’s so hard to define a personal style — yours seems relaxed but design-focused — things like draped sweaters, harem pants, interesting necklaces, shoes like those Clergeries. I think I like underdone, minimal classic looks but with scruff, but I can’t really figure out how to describe it, and I now wear classic dresses (a DvF wrap, a Narciso Rodriguez shift with sleeves in a wintry fabric – both bought on consignment) for a part-time gig. I would love to dress like Charlotte Gainsbourg or a messier Sofia Coppola if I could swing it but in some arenas it’s not really very appropriate for some day-to-day oblilgations.
The question of money is also very interesting — there are several thrift and consignment shops within blocks of my place, so it feels reasonable to me to find excellent stuff on the cheap, and I’ve had to just overall cut down on what I buy. But I’ve never had the discipline to save for a single, particular thing, and the thing I most want will never be on sale or consigned, probably – a Sofia Coppola for Vuitton duffle handbag. But it’s so expensive that I wonder if the price would ever make it a less-joyful acquisition, because I’d always feel foolish for having it, maybe? (If I could find an excellent bag that was like it, that would be one thing but I’ve seen it in person and don’t think Clare Vivier or Lotuff will scratch that itch.)
Pacnorwest Girl says
I do believe that the finances have a huge impact on my style. I spend a decent amount of time researching style to get ideas on what I might like and want to try. And what stands out to me is that I find what pieces I really like are constructed well, are made of quality material and the structure (or shape) is well developed. Clothing with these qualities are a little more expensive. All the advice I have found is to not necessarily to buy lots of clothes, but invest in those pieces that are classic and can move from season to season. I don’t have a huge clothing budget so I am always on the hunt for pieces that meet these three criteria and the price seems to make sense. I purchased a cream colored Signature Equipment silk shirt. Even on sale it was still a bit spendy but I wear it frequently. It always looks chic and the shape is so flattering. Spending a little more in this case really does justice to my personal style. Another example is vince clothing. I love the clothing line because the clothes are well made and the shapes are so flattering on my body. I’m a forty something with a not so little midsection. The vince shapes generally camouflage my tummy. I love the loose fitting tops with the fitted sleeves. I can wear the blouses over pencil skirts or skinny jeans and look awesome. With that said I also like the challenge of finding less expensive alternatives. A few months ago I tried on a pair of boyfriend jeans at The Loft. The particular style I tried on rivaled a pair of Current/Elliot’s I had at home. If I had a larger budget I would buy that lace Isabel Marant blouse that costs nearly $1000. I would buy those studded Valentino strappy heels.