Please enjoy this re-publication of my article on Personal Style, as this summer we are walking through the Ideal Life Exercises together each day on Instagram.
Remember when I bored you to tears with my unending discussion of Mise en Place?
All those thoughts, all two weeks (minus the articles Daisy and Poppy wrote) worth, came as a result of the last two years of doing my Ideal Life Exercises.
The question of “What should I wear today?” and the pronouncement of “I have nothing to wear!” were recurring twin factors that put Personal Style on my watchlist of Ideal Life themes.
In my Ideal Life:
- I am a person who never says “I have nothing to wear!”
- I am a person who knows what looks good on her.
- I am a person who loves what she owns.
- I am a person who isn’t embarrassed to admit I like to feel pretty
- I am a person who wears everything she owns.
- I am a person who always looks effortlessly put together.
- I am a person who has more good hair days than bad.
- I am a person who doesn’t just “look good for my age.”
- I am a person who knows what shoes to wear.
- I am a person who takes care of everything she owns.
- I am a person who can alter and tailor her clothes to make them fit.
Again, just a sampling of my I am a person who… statements, but ones that illustrate what I hope for in my Ideal Life.
What is working? and What is not working? usually can be summed up in whether or not I did my Mise en Place, and the state of my shoes.
The Eye and the Body
As you know, I have always loved pretty clothes. I have always had an eye for what I like.
However, what I like is not always flattering on me. As I decided to take the issue of Personal Style seriously, instead of pretending to be some kind of erudite aesthete who doesn’t care what she wears, I started to pay attention to what made me feel good. What made me feel pretty. I paid attention to what colors I liked and made me feel good.
I paid attention to my body and which parts of it I hated the least. (Eventually I had a come-to-Jesus moment about my body at the climax of my mid-life crisis. It was a painful climb, but wholly worth the mid-life crisis to be on this side of body positivity.)
I paid attention to what styles I thought were most flattering on me. I discovered that, while the idea of having real hips was completely brand new to me and something I had to make peace with once I had babies, it somehow made it look like I had waist. This was fun and also brand new to me. Styles that emphasized the waist made me feel good in my new body.
Flowy or boxy styles, things that used to be flattering on my previously undefined figure now made me look pregnant. These had to go or be refashioned so that the emphasized the right things.
Case in point:
This polka dot top was super cute, but it hit all the wrong notes. So I decided, rather than ditching it, I would turn it into a little wrap top that was flattering. (Oh yes, I have the photo receipts on this top. I will share them another time!)
As I mentioned in my high-horse account of the Minimalist’s Wardrobe, the wrap top and wrap dress have become my uniform. Once I realized that they were the singlemost flattering thing I could wear on my new and ever changing body (thanks to hormones and incessant snacking), I did everything I could to transform what I didn’t wear into something I would…starting right there.
Shoes shoes shoes shoes shoes
One of the areas that has always been a point of contention for me has been shoes. You may remember my Saga of the Elf Boots, or my first pair of expensive shoe that I wore immediately into fresh cement.
I can, without fail, put together a bangin’ outfit, and ruin it with the wrong shoes.
What I realize is that it is not my feet’s fault. The fault lies in the fact that I owned too many pairs of shoes. As I tried to rectify the problem, I thought that buying new shoes would be the solution. Then I had too many options. This became paralyzing. As with my boys, whose names I absolutely cannot get out correctly on the first try, I would systematically pick the wrong pair for an outfit.
And so I set out to wear out all my shoes. Give them all a shot. It’s amazing how long a pair of shoes that you genuinely don’t even like can last when you’ve set it in your mind that you want to wear it out. It’s inversely proportional to how long your favorite pair of shoes actually lasts. This is shoe math, my friends.
Don’t talk to me about “beauty.”
I literally hate this topic. I hate talking about it. I hate talking make up and hair and nails. Hate. It.
So I won’t, other to say that I don’t mess around in this front. I rarely ever try anything new and this is a-ok with me. I refuse to spend more than ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the evening on these things.
The only time in my adult life I have spent time thinking about these things was just after my miscarriage and I spent a week watching YouTube videos on hair braiding techniques. It was escapist pleasure. I have not watched one since. (I incidentally also got pretty good at braiding my own hair.)
Mid-2019 I finally figured out, at nearly 42 years old, how to do my hair so that I don’t have to think about it and it takes me literally 90 seconds before I go to bed.
These are insignificant things, I fully recognize it. They are not going to bring world peace or end hunger. But they are also paralyzing little details that can make or break how I feel about myself any given day.
Any small step I take towards mastering my own personal style is progress towards my Ideal Life.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who isn’t embarrassed to admit I like to feel pretty.