I wrote a post recently on finding my style. It's one of my most read posts ever. You can find it here.
Clearly there are many of us confused by the many pronged fork of fashion faux pas.
I've now read three books by so called Style Advisors, and the first thing that struck me was that in each, they tell you on the first page, to be yourself. Then they spend the next 359 pages, telling you what not to wear. And what you should wear. And how precisely to NOT be yourself.
The book I just finished said that we should all be wearing socks with our sandals. They're joking, right? Please tell me they are. What the blazes?? Last time I wore socks with my sandals, I was five years old, and even then I took the socks off as soon as I was out of Nannas sight. Even at the age of five, I somehow knew that it was just wrong.
We're also advised to wear anything we like from our boyfriends closet. I don't have a boyfriend, I'm pretty sure my husband would have something to say if I did. And if I raided my husbands closet, I'd be wearing three quarter shorts, surf shirts and in a pinch, flannelette shirts. NOT very stylish. He can't help it. He's Australian, and grew up water skiing and surfing. Poor bloke. They also mentioned that if the boyfriend/husbands jeans were too big, that even we curvier ladies could just cinch them in with a belt. I can tell you right here and now, that this is a very bad idea. And the thing is, that I'm pretty sure I've seen some ladies around my neighbourhood who've taken this piece of advice to heart. See. Scary in the wrong hands.
We're told not to wear black or white in one book, unless it's the LBD (little black dress to the uninitiated) because black is so draining and nobody looks good in white, not even brides. We're assured however, that neutrals are always tasteful, in another fashion forward treatise.
While we're at it, let's talk about the LBD. I don't wear dresses. I have two dresses in my wardrobe. One I bought just last week, and it may very well be the first dress in ten years that suits me. Like me, it doesn't have a waist, so I think we'll be good friends. I'm thinking of buying five more so we can be friends forever. The other is my wedding dress, which I keep for sentimental reasons. Other than that, my LBD is not an LBD. It's LBP or Long Black Pants. And before we go any further, I'm not talking about anything ending in '-egging', like 'jegging', or 'legging'. Skinny pants, especially black ones, look good on me. So do white ones, which I love in Summer. Skinny pants are perhaps the only thing that looks good on me these days. Although the song that chants 'the only thing that looks good on me...is you' springs to mind should Johnny Depp and I ever meet face to face. That unlikely event aside, I have long legs for a short person and skinny pants suit me well. I wear them with floaty shirts and the occasional trim tshirt that is forgiving over my flab.
We're told to mix prints like tartan and Liberty florals in this one, and heaven forbid, warned to never commit such style blasphemy in a conflicting tome. I think that one is the same one that said French women don't care about nice nails. Lies, people, all lies.
But of course you don't have to take any of this on board, because you're always remembering to 'be yourself' and 'find your own style' and 'be unique'.
The book I just finished said that to be truly stylish we should look a bit dishevelled and that this was the secret to looking French. Hmmm. I think only the French can get away with that one. Where I live, there's a fine line between dishevelled, and couldn't be bothered combing my hair or showering today.
I'm actually quite disillusioned with the whole Style Bible idea to be honest.
I viewed some pics of a gathering of a bunch of supposedly stylish people a while back, one of them the author of a Style Bible, and well, yeah, they did look a bit dishevelled actually. But not in what I thought was a good way. They all looked like they were wearing art. Or their lounge cover. One or the other, or sometimes both at the same time. One lady looked like she had worn the hat box instead of the hat. I gather that this is probably entirely crafted and intentional, but whatever happened to the idea that we should see you in the clothing, not the clothing on you. I get it, but I don't. Not in the context of my life. And how does looking like you're wearing furnishings, make you stylish??? I'm clearly a heathen.
And I'm sorry, but some of the people dishing out this advice, just don't look the way I want to look. I've given up on a couple of style blogs, because I got tired of the gushing comments telling them how fabulous they looked in very unlovely things. Is it some perverse female thing to tell someone they look fabulous, when they look truly hideous? Actually, scratch that question. I know it is. I really just wanted to be honest and say 'no, that looks awful'. There was one time when a couple of people did say that with varying degrees of diplomacy, so it's not just me. And all the while these probably quite lovely people, are putting themselves out there, ostensibly trying to help the rest of us hapless style-clueless folk, and I'm sitting here wondering why I wasted my hard earned dosh on their book, because the sum total of what I gained from their advice is simple darned confusion.
I'm not reading or listening to them any more. The only person I might listen to, having seen her at the age of at least 65, getting up close with Ewan McGregor in the film, Deception (and more power to her), is Charlotte Rampling. She looked fab when she was young, seen above at the top of my post, and she looks fab now, at 67 years of age...seen below.
I like her simple understated-ness in both photos. That's my idea of 'dishevelled but stylish'. She's more covered up here, but from what I see, she hasn't deviated much from a fundamental elegant look. I'm not tall and slender like her, but I think I can manage elegant and understated.
If I want to be arty, I'll go Boho arty, like my other style idol, Stevie Nicks, as she was back in the day. That woman knew how to do curly hair and frou-frou without looking like a Nanna and not a Nepalese tote bag in sight....
I think the people writing these books are having a gigantic lend of us, as the Aussie saying goes. Sandals with socks, ugly plastic necklaces, Nepalese tote bags, Winter pullovers under strappy summer dresses, acrylic rings...I left them all behind when I was 12. Well the socks and sandals thing, you know how that ended. I'm ignoring the lot of them.
I'll keep wearing black and white, and to hell with it making me look washed out. I like it and I can wear all my other stuff, like scarves and jewels with it and not worry about looking like I walked out the door without checking myself in the mirror, which I truly think is what some of these style queens do. That's my opinion, and like others, I'm entitled to it. But then again, I'm not making a living out of flogging my opinion as solid gold style know-how. Because you see, that's all these things are...somebody's opinion. Someone who doesn't know you, doesn't understand your life, or your climate or your budget, telling you, who they don't know from a bar of soap, how to dress. It's so silly. These things, I've decided, are actually written for people who are already 'stylish' and who can probably, in their suburb, get away with lurex socks and high heeled sandals, and Nepalese tote bags. Alas where I live, that's likely to elicit pointing and stares.
Some home truths for me.
The one single piece of useful advice I found, was to look at photos where you're happy with your outfit and build from there. So I did that.
Here I am with my naturally curly 'going grey' hair and my specs, wearing black and hoop earrings and lots of silver a la Stevie, at my nieces 21st birthday earlier this year...
...and here's me, no specs, with my totally silver, straightened hair, wearing white and pearls, more like a Charlotte understated-ness, at home.
Not much between them really is there. But I'm comfortable and happy in both photos. I like my plain necklines because I love my scarves, and necklaces. I like bare wrists because I have a beautiful collection of bracelets and rings, real ones, not acrylic ones, that my husband has gifted me over the years, and I don't want my clothing competing with them. I like my skinny pants and my fabulous Lanvin ballet flats and pearl emerald brogues. I like my hair long and flowing and think it's actually my best feature, so I'm not covering it with berets and hat boxes and other silliness. I like Chanels advice to look in the mirror and remove one thing before leaving the house. That's stood me in good stead.
So maybe that's me. Good old plain Jane, in black or white featuring a plain neckline and skinny pants, long floaty or plain unadorned shirts, ballet flats or brogues on my feet, with pearls or silver and a fab ring or bracelet, but never both together.
With that settled in my mind, I think Charlotte Ramplings 'understated' is probably the right way to move forward.
From now on though, I'll try to be less plain Jane, throwing in a touch more Stevie from time to time, whilst sticking to my black and white, pearls and silver.
And that I think, is the most valuable piece of style advice that I've heard in a long time.
Maybe I'll share more of Understated Me another day. Stay tuned.
One thing's for sure though. You won't see any advice here from ME, on how YOU should dress.
That's a journey for you to make.