Tuesday, March 15, 2016

the basics of style

I often find myself in situations where people ask me why I spend so much of my life surrounded by the past.  Why do I dress in vintage clothing?  Why do I set my hair nearly every night?  Why do I spend countless hours researching novelty prints, various silhouettes, and hat styles?  Why do I only buy vintage clothing?


Now I know it sounds simple, but I feel my most comfortable in vintage styles, I love my hair when it spent the night in pin curls, and vintage clothing is simply better quality than most of the clothing produced today.  There's just something special about taking the time to curate a wardrobe and knowing that behind every piece is a long history and a long list of women who have loved it as much as you do now.

colours: Vintage Knitting Crochet Needlework Patterns Dazespast:

It's all about attention to detail.  It's about the silhouette.  It's about the colors, and the textures, and the accessories.  And it's also about the journey - you can't walk into any old store and find a new addition to your wardrobe.  It takes time, and patience, and trial and error to find your style.

 1940's couple: August Vogue 1949 Eve is wearing a natural gray Persian lamb jacket and white lambskin gloves. Photo by Frances McLaughlin-Gill.:

And it also takes a new attitude.  In a world where casual is king, it takes gumption to be the most dressed up person in the room.  Expect stares.  Expect comments.  And expect the all-to-common "wow, you're dressed up" remark.  But more than that, you have to be confident in your own ability to wear the clothes, instead of letting the clothes wear you.  You have to be comfortable in your own skin.

 Elegant ladies (1961): A tribute to Kodachrome Film - The Photography Blog:

I always think of my grandparents - both exceptionally well-dressed - who always gave me pieces of advice, whether or not they knew they were doing it.  When she was grocery shopping, entertaining grandchildren, or cooking for Thanksgiving, even when she was in the hospital, my grandmother always wore lipstick.  The same shade, the same brand, for my entire childhood.  She kept a small box in the bathroom with lipstick, powder, and a small bottle of perfume.  She kept her nail polish in the fridge because she swore it lengthened its life.  Her hair was always done, even when she could no longer do it herself.  She didn't do it to impress anyone, she didn't do it to please society - she did it for herself. 

My grandfather was always meticulously dressed.  He was a man who owned approximately 14,000 blue button down shirts because they were his favorite.  A man whose closet was better stocked and more organized than a Prada warehouse.  And a man who could rock a bathrobe and slippers just as much as he could rock a tweed suit.  He taught me that one doesn't always need to be daring in one's appearance.  Sometimes the basics are simply the best.

Now, I don't keep my nail polish in the fridge, and I have a really hard time sticking to the basics, and therefor my grandparents are probably both wagging a finger at me right now, but these lessons can be adapted to fit your own lifestyle.  Welcome to my three rules of style.  These are by no means strict, and are open to interpretation, but when I'm having trouble coming up with a new outfit or find myself feeling gross no matter what I'm wearing, here are the rules I fall back on:

1.  Don't overestimate simplicity.  A fitted black skirt, a white blouse, and black ballet flats. Black and white stripes.  Black cigarette pants.  You don't always need to be loud to be stylish.

2.  Find your length.  Also known as, Mini Skirts Aren't for Everyone.  As someone who owns five miniskirts, I clearly have both a problem abiding by rules, and getting rid of clothing, but I also know that I look best in mid-length skirts that hit three inches below the knee.  This knowledge comes from years of wearing super short skirts in ballet class that barely grazed the derriere (over tights and a leotard, and point shoes), and another number of years wearing maxi skirts in the summertime so I wouldn't have to shave my legs. One was too short, one was too long, and one was just right.

3. Dress by the silhouette.  When you begin to think what you want to wear, instead of thinking about colors, patterns, and particular styles, think about your ideal silhouette.  What shape do you want to wear?  If someone took a high contrast photograph of you, so that everything was split into light and dark, what would your silhouette look like?  Once you know what shape you want to achieve, then you can work from there.

 "Ok Mabel, Ethel....I got the pistol in my pocket....you guys go in first then I'll follow with the whole "This Is a stick up" routine. The bank won't know what hit 'em." Stated Francene.:

And the most important rule?  Life is too short to wear boring clothes, and too long to hate what you wear.  So build up from the basics, and never be afraid to be the most dressed up person in the room.



  1. Superbly said. I nodded my head off like mad through this whole wonderful, highly relatable post, especially when you said that you feel most comfortable in vintage. The same rings very true for me as well (though, to be fair, I'm also super at home in goth fashions) and I feel genuienly strange and out of place (not to mention less confident) when I wear most modern styles. On the extremely rare occasions (usually coming to and from hospital stays) when I do (wear modern styles), I feel like surely everyone must be watching me and wondering why I don't have my usual vintage garb on. Logically, I know that such is not the case, but because that (vintage) is my daily wardrobe, I feel as out of place in modern styles as if you were to put a 21st century fashionista in a 40s ensemble.

    I really enjoyed this post and getting to know you better, sweet dear. Here's to always dressing in a way that brings us joy and for having the confidence to do so no matter what others might (narrow mindedly, in many cases) think or say about our wardrobe choices.

    Huge hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

    1. Oh Jessica, thank you so much! You are so incredibly sweet. And I can relate - I'm a nanny and spend my workdays in leggings and t-shirts, but I always feel SO out place! When I get home it's vintage ballgowns and high heels for the rest of the day - haha! I'm so glad to have bonded with you and with so many of my vintage sisters around the world :)