MANual of Style


Finding Your Own Style: Your Fashion Rules by Shreyas
21 January, 2010, 9:34 am
Filed under: Special | Tags: , , , ,

In the past few weeks, you’ve put down some important stuff in your style journal: thoughts about your shape and what silhouettes work for it, colors that look good on you, maybe some observations about clothes you already own and like, stores in your price range where you can get that stuff. Maybe you’ve picked out some people whose style you admire and would like to emulate.

Let’s start putting that knowledge together.

First, deconstruct your style icons so you can decide which aspects of what they’re doing work for you and which aspects don’t. (If you don’t have any style icons, flip through a few magazines and find some pictures you like.) You’re not looking for particular pieces when you’re doing this; you’re looking for ideas about color, cut, detail, accessories, and so on. Check out the case studies in the last post to see what I mean.

Color Palette

Especially in TV and movies, costume directors tend to create a very tight color palette for each character. This can work to your advantage if you’re just starting to branch out from a mostly monochrome wardrobe or just building a wardrobe from scratch; by simply lifting a color scheme from a character you are sure that the colors work well together, and there won’t be too many of them to handle.

If that’s not how you’re going about this, go over your list of colors that look good on you, and pick a few you like to be key colors for your new style. You’re not confined to these colors; just keep them in mind when you shop so you can buy things that relate to them.

Pattern and Texture

Choosing your textures and patterns is a more freewheeling choice; you’re not really restricted by “what works.” Just decide whether you want to be a bold pattern kind of guy or not. That choice goes hand in hand with texture: apart from houndstooth, most textured fabrics are solid-colored (or speckled like tweed), so if you do want to be wearing a lot of patterns you’re going to be restricted in the kind of textures you can wear.

If you do want to be a bold pattern kind of guy, every time you buy something you’ll want to check the pattern and see where the lines are leading.

Cut and Construction

Look at your notes on silhouette. Do you have a feature you want to focus on, or one you want to deflect attention from? This may be a place where what works for you will diverge from what works for your style icons: Daniel Meade tends to wear slim-cut suits I’d love to wear, but I know I’ve got more workouts ahead of me before I can pull that off, so instead I opt for Ianto’s bolder lapel choices and stay away from double-breasted jackets. Fortunately, all my style icons prefer really heavily constructed clothing, even in their casualwear (check out Michael Weatherly’s fantastic ochre jacket in my last post), and my silhouette really benefits from heavy construction.

Writing your own rules

Once you’ve thought about this stuff critically, it should be easy to come up with a few simple guidelines for what to buy when you’re constructing your wardrobe. When I refer to “fashion rules” from now on, I won’t be talking about crap like how you shouldn’t wear white shoes after labor day; instead, I’ll be referring to the rules you’re going to write for yourself, right now. Open up your style journal and write down 3-5 guidelines that will inform your style choices from now on. (Things like “Leather is cruel” are not rules, per se; if you have strong ethical obligations that inform your style, they’re just that: obligations and considerations. Note these as well, but they don’t count towards your rules! You have to have a certain number of strong aesthetic guidelines in order to construct a coherent style.)

Here are my rules for me, if you’re curious:

  • No bold patterns. (This has been really hard for me, as I’m a recovering pattern addict. But the patterns I loved were graphical and of-the-moment, and I want clothing that stays in style longer.)
  • Wear strong colors: no beige, no khaki. My neutrals are grays and desaturated blue denim. I look best in warm jewel tones.
  • Constructed silhouettes with broad shoulders and straight legs work best for me. No shapeless sweatshirts or tapered jeans.
  • Accessories are where I don’t have to worry about staying classic: Shiny, big metal pieces, leather, and of-the-moment stuff is perfectly okay.

It helps to think about the style of the places you shop, by the way. You’re a lot more likely to find that awesome bomber jacket at Fossil, whose leather goods are of nice quality and range in style from classic to steampunk, than at American Eagle.

How This Works in Application

So, one day I decided, “I want to dress more like Daniel Meade.” I started watching him more carefully, noticing what he was wearing. Elizabeth helpfully found me an interview where Eric Mabius said he likes to wear suits by Ozwald Boateng, who’s a Savile Row tailor, which clearly I can’t afford, but looking at his website shed some light on the style I was looking for. (Apparently Mabius likes playing Meade because he gets to wear all his favorite clothes in character.)

Daniel’s jewel-tone palette works well for me, so I stuck with that, although in practice I lean more heavily on dark reds and yellowy greens, and less on the character’s deep blue and dark brown. At one point I also had about five shirts in some shade of violet, which just happened because I look great in violet and I kept buying shirts to go with the same tie (Hey, I love that tie, okay?). The constructed silhouette also works for me; a few months ago I saw Daniel in a structured hoodie made of t-shirt fabric, and recently managed to find one in a great shade of crimson.

Every now and then I wander into H&M and spot some slim buttondown in a big, high-contrast floral print (which is, bluntly, their answer to the Hawaiian shirt) and say, “Hey awesome! I should wear that!” Then my style rules kick in, and I ask myself what my icons would look like wearing that shirt (pretty silly.) It goes back on the shelf. What I’m drawn to, on the hanger, isn’t always what looks good on me.

That’s it for today. I’d love to hear about your style rules (or style problems)! Next week we’re going to get into the details of the specific garments that make up your wardrobe.

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