the roots of personal style

Annette and I were talking about our individual fashion styles yesterday, and she pointed out how often what’s on the inside doesn’t match the outside, particularly as we age and have to deal with lifestyle, finances, and our actual physical bodies.

Our conversation was a thunderbolt* of self-realization. I definitely don’t dress as I see myself internally, and I mostly blame that on my wallet and my body. There are certainly outfits that in concept are stylistically what I’d like to project, but I know my physical shape gets in the way of the final product.  For the most part I see myself as an American classic/preppy from the early 80’s with a dash of 90’s indie rock girl and some Mad Men-era structured/housewife looks thrown in. I do have elements of those influences in my wardrobe, but I mostly take the easy way out and shop at Target and TJ Maxx and assorted fat girl stores and wear what fits and what’s inexpensive and doesn’t resemble a caftan. I suppose it’s about not addressing my weight and at the same time just being lazy. Honestly, at this point I’m more interested in hiding flaws than anything.

Anyway, we were bantering back and forth about style ideals, and I started thinking about what influenced me when I was younger and what has stuck with me to this day.  This topic definitely can’t be covered in just one entry, but here’s my initial foray into the subject of my style.

In the very early 1980s Blair Warner was definitely a style icon for me. I'm sure the Facts of Life is partially responsible for some of my continued heartbreak that my Catholic school didn't require uniforms. Also, I'd totally wear that turtleneck sweater and blazer combo today. Those colors, too.

In the very early 1980s Blair Warner was definitely a style icon for me. I'm sure the Facts of Life is partially responsible for some of my continued heartbreak that my Catholic school didn't require uniforms. Also, I'd totally wear that turtleneck sweater and blazer combo today. Those colors, too.

Fashion Plates were a huge part of my childhood. I was no doubt heavily influenced by the very Ralph Lauren/Calvin Klein/American Classic options availabe in the early '80s version.

Fashion Plates were a huge part of my childhood. I was no doubt heavily influenced by the very Ralph Lauren/Calvin Klein/American Classic options availabe in the early '80s version.

Um, I still own this book, and you can bet your sweet ass the minute I can comfortably squeeze into some cords with ducks embroidered on them I'm wearing them 24/7. I'm pretty confident this book is the sole reason I took tennis lessons.

Um, I still own this book, and you can bet your sweet ass the minute I can comfortably squeeze into some cords with ducks embroidered on them I'm wearing them 24/7. I'm pretty confident this book is the sole reason I took tennis lessons.

I still remember my first Izod Lacoste (hand-me-down) polo. It was kelly green. Thanks to Ebay I have a few vintage versions of the classic shirt, before the corporate divorce. Nothing says fresh to me like this alligator.

I still remember my first Izod Lacoste (hand-me-down) polo - I think I got it in 4th grade. It was Kelly green. Thanks to EBay I have a few vintage versions of the classic shirt, from before the corporate divorce. Nothing says fresh to me like this alligator.

And speaking of influences, how about John Hughs and his movies? He totally screwed up my idea of what teen life was supposed to be like, not to mention boys. Ah, Jake Ryan. My team dream of an all-American boy. And Jason wonders why I'm always chasing him around with sweater vests.

And speaking of influences, how about John Hughes and his movies? He totally screwed up my idea of what teen life was supposed to be like, not to mention boys. Ah, Jake Ryan. My team dream of an all-American love interest. And Jason wonders why I'm always chasing him around with sweater vests.

Seventeen part of the beginning of my love for all things magazine related. I actually remember pouring over this issue before starting 7th grade, making clothing wish lists. Later in high school I did have a kilt (LL Bean, maybe?). If it fit I'd still wear it today. So much of my high school fashion sense can be captured in this image - clean cut, conservative clothes.

Seventeen is part of the beginning of my love for all things magazine related. I actually remember pouring over this issue before starting 7th grade, making clothing wish lists. Later in high school I did have a kilt (LL Bean, maybe?). If it fit I'd still wear it today. So much of my high school fashion sense can be captured in this image - clean cut, conservative clothes.

This image is a great description of my taste later in high school, into college, and even now. First off, I am a cardigan FREAK. Also, thanks to Annette black tights became an obsession that has carried through to this day. As I moved into college and my own sense of self, I definitely took on a more stark way of dressing, yet it still holds true to the clean lines and classic textures of my earlier choices. On a side note, I have to give a huge amount of credit to Sassy magazine for who I am today. Living in Iowa in the 1990s, there weren't a lot of influences for teen girls outside of the mainstream media. Sassly brought a whole lotta new into my world, and I am so thankful.

This picture of Juliana Hatfield is a great description of my taste later in high school, into college, and even now - both in clothes and in music. First off, I am a cardigan FREAK. Also, thanks to Annette, black tights became an obsession that has carried through to this day. As I moved into college and my own sense of self, I definitely took on a more stark way of dressing, yet it still holds true to the clean lines and classic textures of my earlier choices. On a side note, I have to give a huge amount of credit to Sassy magazine for who I am today. Living in Iowa in the 1990s, there weren't a lot of influences for teen girls outside of the mainstream media. Sassy brought a whole lotta new into my world, and I am so thankful. PS I still love those shoes.

It’s definitely important to consider ideas of beauty versus ideas of actual style. As I aged I began to study other women not just for what they looked like and what they wore but also for how they carried themselves. Style became more about a sense of feeling and how the pieces were put together, as opposed to the labels and the colors and the trends for that season. Some looks and feelings are timeless, and I realized I wanted to incorporate that timelessness into my wardrobe.

Ali MacGraw was certainly a huge style icon of the 1970s. Today I'm still in love with her scarf and beret combo, and I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

Ali MacGraw was certainly a huge style sensation the 1970s. Today I'm still in love with her scarf and beret combo, and I'd wear it in a heartbeat.

I don't need to tell you that Sophia Lauren is beyond an icon. For me she is the perfect blend of European and American classic fashion, with a flair all her own.

I don't need to tell you that Sophia Lauren is beyond an icon. For me she is the perfect blend of European and American classic fashion, with a flair all her own.

Another European influence, Catherine Deneuve has a stunning sense of self that comes through in her sartorial choices at every stage of her life. Sure, she's French, but it's more than that. It's j'ne sais quoi - intangible.

Another European influence, Catherine Deneuve has a stunning sense of self that comes through in her sartorial choices at every stage of her life. Sure, she's French, but it's more than that. It's je ne sais quoi - intangible.

This post has opened an internal floodgate and I know I’ll be visiting this subject again and again – I’ve barely scratched the surface. I suppose one of the elements of personal style is that it does fluctuate, and what influences one on any given day can vary drastically. I’m very interested to hear what influences you, and who your style icons are. And do you see yourself differently on the inside than the outside?

*What the hell is a thunderbolt? I think I meant lightning bolt or thunderclap. Or something like that.

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5 thoughts on “the roots of personal style

  1. Awesome post! Please revisit this again, I love plumbing the depths of your personal sense of style. I think it’s so right on how you say that your style choices are really a blend of your creative soul and the realities of your wallet and body. I’ve never really thought about it that way, but that’s exactly how I have felt about my own “style” for years. I draw a lot of inspiration from male movie stars of the 50s and 60s. Montgomery Clift, Paul Newman… always in american classic, preppy clothes, with lots of long and clean lines. I think we have a lot in common in that regard. Although black tights don’t work well for me 🙂

    • Thank you! You know, we watched The Hustler last weekend and I was continually struck by Paul Newman’s elegance. Not to mention his face. He really knew how to pull himself together.

  2. I see my personal contribution was not mentioned, thankfully! Often, we are what we can afford. I have revolved around what clothes make me comfortable.

  3. I SO had fashion plates growing up. I didn’t even remember until I saw your post! Wow, do I ever love finding things from the past. Thanks!

  4. Joe is SO a sweater vest guy, and I kinda pick on him for that. I love thinking of you chasing Jason with a vest. I also remembered that Preppy handbook, only once I saw a picture of it. You go girl, I’m reading all these posts in reverse chronology, and loving them. Oh, and one more thing, I didn’t even find the thunderbolt thing strange, aren’t English majors supposed to recognize things like that? (I know, college was a long time ago). Wait, one more thing, I do remember your tights and cardigan style. xoxoxo

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