As I mentioned in “What to Wear, or How I Learned to Love My Hips“, for me, enlightenment comes quickly – with revelations. And then change usually follows; first a change in thought process, then in behavior. Just now, I had a monumental realization that my personal style is ‘practical’ and driven exclusively by purpose & need. It was the combination of observing a girl outside in a cute outfit, a strapless just-below-the-knee dress over leggings that hit mid-thigh, and having just finished The Fountainhead for the third time and in the process of reading for the sixth time Atlas Shrugged.
My first thought when I saw the girl was why? Why the leggings? Why not just the dress? What purpose do the leggings serve, besides adding a layer to her outfit and a small measure of ‘cute-ness.’ Anyway, it’s damn hot outside – I wear dresses so I don’t have to cover my legs when it’s hot, doesn’t that defeat the purpose when you cover them with leggings? I know, leggings are a HUGE trend now, and in all honesty, I like them – on other people. If worn correctly, they are cute, and can transform an otherwise basic outfit into something interesting. But, as I just figured out, that is not my style.
While I can appreciate the look on other people, wearing leggings under a long-ish dress is similar to wearing a scarf with an outfit of tank top and shorts. Or jeans, a heavy sweater or coat, with flip-flops. WHAT IS THE POINT? That is indeed a rhetorical question; I know the point. To look cool, or cute, or trendy – or just ‘different’ in some small way (while actually looking just the same as everyone else). Don’t even get me started on boots with shorts.
I simply cannot do it. I dress for the weather outside, for my own comfort, and based on whatever activity I’m planning on engaging in. I wear scarves in the winter, when I need to warm my neck. I will never wear flip-flops when it’s cold out, nor will I wear shorts with a long sleeve shirt or hoodie – I just can’t. And that is why I get frustrated sometimes and feel like my style is ‘lacking’ in comparison with some women I observe, or young hollywood, such as they are thrown in my face in every fashion magazine.
But that is in a moment of weakness. I am confident in my style, and now I know why it truly fits me. Everything serves a purpose, including clothing, and my aesthetic is ‘practical’ chic and pared down style. This is why my closet is filled with solid colored pieces, to layer when I need to, and wear alone when I don’t. I always try to find basic pieces that are not plain or boring – that have some kind of detail, either in fit or ornamentation, that make them special, but that I don’t have to accessorize.
I find myself relating in this way to Howard Roark’s buildings and Dominique Francon’s way of dress: every corner or hinge or shingle or piece of fabric serves a singular, necessary purpose. By careful description, you get a sense that Ayn Rand’s main female characters, Dominique and Dagney, have a very sharp and practical sense of style, yet carry themselves with such grace and dignity as to make their confidence and ‘hard’ beauty the center of their outfits, not their suits.
I am not comparing myself to either of these women (and indeed Ayn Rand as I have seen how she dressed), as I have not yet reached that level in my personal growth. As I move along in my thirties, however, I realize that I have become much more confident and comfortable in my body and therefore, wish to showcase it in the best way possible. That includes not only the clothes that I wear, but the manner in which I carry myself – standing straight, with head up and held high.
I have always believed that confidence & poise make the outfit, and it is how you carry yourself that makes the difference, not the designer you wear. That is of course true, no matter what your personal style. I admire any woman who has confidence in her ability to do whatever she chooses and has the personal style to support that.
So, in the process of walking the dog, I learned how my personal style both supports and follows from my belief that everything has a purpose- and that ‘Why?’ or ‘What For?’ are the most important questions. As I continue on my ‘fashion’ journey, I do so with a deeper understanding of why I choose the pieces I do, how I wear them, and what they say about me.