Do clothes make the man (or woman)?

How objective can you be about yourself?  I often ‘stand outside of myself’ and observe.  It’s something I really like to do and I can be very honest personalstylewith myself, about myself.  So, needless to say, I loved the WordPress Daily Prompt from January 8:  “Describe your personal style, however you’d like to interpret that — your clothing style, your communication style, your hair style, your eating style, anything.”

My ‘look’ has evolved and changed hundreds of times during my lifetime.  I’d be bored to tears if I always looked the same.  Wouldn’t you?

Apparently I was always determined to create my own style — even as far back as when I was a toddler.  My mother used to tell me she’d pick out an outfit and I’d shake my head “no”; and insist on looking in my closet myself.  Did I say I was not even 2 years old at the time???

Little monster, huh?

By the time I was 11 or 12 I was in my hippie-wanna-be phase.  All I wanted to wear were bell-bottom jeans and cords with mangy-looking sweaters and T-shirts.  My hair was long, of course.  And stick straight — only because I made my poor mother iron my natural curls away.  I’d lay my head on the ironing board, she’d cover my hair with a towel and she’d pass a hot iron back and forth over it.  It worked, believe it or not; and didn’t damage my hair.  This didn’t last too long, to my parents’ immense pleasure.  At 15 I was sophisticated beyond my years.  I wanted to be 30, was not attracted to boys even close to my own age and I was already scouring fashion magazines like Vogue and Bazaar.  I coveted stilettos — not that my mother would let me wear them — and only wanted to wear black.  Which, needless to say, wasn’t happening either.  Much to my disgust.

Art school found me clothed in bohemian chic.  Tight black turtlenecks, black tights and mini skirts (or tight pants or jeans) with high boots or clunky shoes.  Tons of bangles and rings on every finger.  Long dangly earrings.  Lots of fringe.  Black-rimmed eyes and pale, pale lipstick.  Actually I loved this look.  It was easy and very comfortable.  So no surprise it lasted through my first few jobs.

Years later, though, once I started working for the designer, Leo Chevalier, I became a real fashionista.  I would have had to, even if I hadn’t wanted to.  Obviously I had to wear his clothes.  No hardship, they were gorgeous.  Perfect hair and make-up every day.  Perfect nails.  They were my signature, actually.  Very long and blood red.  Blood red lipstick, to match.  Dressed to the teeth every day.  I was in the height of fashion, at all times.  My closet was overflowing with fabulous ensembles.

Much as I loved it, when I moved on I went through a totally anti-fashion period for about six months.  A rebellion, of sorts.  I wore nothing but baggy jumpsuits and sweat pants and flannel shirts and comfy running shoes.

Oy.

When that finally passed and I moved to Toronto I re-entered my bohemian chic phase, slightly updated.  I wore nothing but black, but occasionally spiced it up with brightly-coloured tights.  And heels were forsaken for flats.  My ankles, toes and metatarsal still hadn’t recovered from the stint in the fashion industry.  I only deviated briefly when I decided to dye my hair red.  Don’t ask.  But it’s when I discovered ‘colour’ — the brighter the better.  No one recognized me, including myself.

Oy.

It came and went relatively quickly and I went right back to my comfort zone.  Black.

Where I remain, to this day.

No more mini skirts, however.  Alas.  But now that I work from home I adjust my ‘look’ to what I’m doing.  I live in T-shirts and leggings, or jeans most days — unless I have a client meeting.  I’m ashamed to admit there are some days I stay in my jammies all day.  Gotta watch that with Skype and Face Time, of course.  Depending on who the client is, and how formal or casual they are, I wear everything from jeans (clean, nice ones) to skirts and sweaters or casual knit or jersey dresses to meetings.  Black, of course.  Occasionally grey.  In summer it’s linen and I do lighten the mood and choose white or beige, tan or taupe.

Still neutral.  Simple, well-tailored, classic.  Easy to wear and comfortable.  That’s a must.  From time to time I’m attracted to a higher-fashion look and I do have fun with accessories — earrings, rings, bracelets, shoes, boots, handbags, scarves and shawls.  And the odd fedora, here and there.

So what does my ‘style’ say about me?

Comfort is paramount.  Easy to take care of.  Easy to pack.  Flexible.  I don’t want to have to change three times a day just because I’m going from grocery shopping, to a meeting, to drinks or dinner.  I want clothes I can dress up or down quickly and simply.  And inexpensively.  I guess all the black means I don’t want to stand out.  I want to blend in.  Be invisible.  Don’t want anything so trendy it only lasts for one season.  I own my clothes, they don’t own me.  I am not a slave to fashion.  I’m not afraid to be different.  I’m not complicated, although I can be complex.   I have no desire to look like I just stepped out of a magazine, or like everyone else.  I’m not a conformist.

Which is pretty much my life philosophy, as well.

And you?

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29 thoughts on “Do clothes make the man (or woman)?

  1. I live in leggings and sweaters in winter… and often in the British summer… simple, comfortable… you can’t beat a dressing gown :-)… But I do like colour…I spent too long conforming and hiding in black… and I know red hair and orange jumpers don’t ‘go’… and i don’t care 🙂 I do like elegant shapes though and the simple detail of a good cut. It doesn’t need to be expensive…just something that works.

    On the other hand, the occasional opportunity to dress up is nice… and then.. yep.. I wear black. Though with red hair and heels I’ll wear if it kills me, I no longer hide 🙂

  2. I had a friend who from the earliest age- say infancy – cried everytime her mother dressed her in pink. Needless to say, she always hated pink and wouldn’t be caught dead in anything even close to it.

  3. I was into fashion in a huge way from the age of 14 to probably 40 and, like you, I went through a number of phases, including extreme bell bottoms during their revival in the early 1990s. I was a journalist working in the entertainment industry, so it was fine to be a bit “out there” with fashion. The exception was doing stories on a film set, when you wore black or blue jeans and simple T-shirt so as not to look pretentious. In Australia, our main TV awards are called The Logies (after the Scotsman John Logie Baird, who invented the first TV system shown publicly). Black tie for men and ball gowns for women was the expected dress; however, I always liked to be a bit different. I can remember one year wearing purple velvet flared pants and a tight black velvet cropped top with a long fringe. And the shoes—always high heeled, even for the beach. I am now paying the price and can only wear flatties most of the time. These days, I take Sophia Loren’s advice for work clothes and wear my own “uniform”. I have a small number of clothes that are in the “uniform” section. They are usually a pair of stretchy black pants, plus a black or patterned T-shirt or blouse and a few nice accessories. I have some amazingly light travel-style long-sleeved jackets that I add if necessary.

    • Yes, I am into uniforms myself. A long time ago when I still lived in Montreal I did some work, from time to time, for te fashion editor of the Montreal Gazette. I adored her and she taught me a hell of a lot. But she wrote the book on uniforms.

      She had about 8 copies of the same black dress. Round neck, long sleeves — just below the knee. It was literally a sack. She wore it every single day, some times belted very loosley, sometimes with a scarf, sometimes with a brooch, sometimes just the dress unadorned. It was in wool crepe. She wore black tights and black flats. The summer version was just crepe — no wool; and it was sleevless. Same black flats and sheer hose.

      It was fabulous!!!

  4. Loved this – great descriptions, I saw it all through your words!
    I too have had different ‘looks’ over the years – but mostly still my own since I’ve kept more or less the modest dress according to my religion, and I happen to love black!
    Heels are super evil – though we all have loved them from time to time or couldn’t resist the sale, the trend, the peer pressure.
    I would love nothing more than being that track suit mom – but alas, I think the office people might giggle (especially since I am the receptionist) not exactly the first way to greet someone professionally 😉

  5. I’ve always been a t-shirt and jeans kinda gal, with boots and a flannel shirt thrown in for good measure in cold weather. Growing up in a farming community it was pretty much the standard. I don’t wear makeup, and high heels and I don’t get along.

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  7. Luckily, in Mexico, and at my age, anything goes. I’d wear Levis, Crocs and an embroidered manta Mexican blouse every day if I could and actually, I do–unless they are all in the wash. As for the Crocs, (sandals, not clogs) my puppy ate my favorite pair. Luckily, I have a couple of spare pairs, albeit not in my favorite and recently digested color of black. But, it’s not all about me, is it? I enjoyed your post–a sort of autobiography of fashion that pretty much chronicled the years as well. http://judydykstrabrown.com/2015/08/04/fitting-in/

    • Thanks Judy. Lucky you to live in a warm climate all year. I could certainly get used to shorts and sandals every day 🙂

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