How to Find Your Personal Style

There is such a huge difference between personal style and fashion. There's even a pretty big gap between style itself and fashion. But that's even broader and tougher to explain. (Although I have tried before, here, here, here, and here, and I will, undoubtedly try again.) Personal style is a powerful tool: it's your first impression, or rather, other's first impressions of you. If you have strong personal style, there should be less any I have nothing to wear situations. Fashion is what they sell you and style is what you make of it. And although that can sound rather simple, there is actually a lot of work and training that goes into styling. Personal style as representative of yourself as your name, which is to say, it is what you make of it. And why not make it the most you can? 


Step One: Find Your Aesthetic
I know that's a word that's been thrown around a lot lately, but I am a strong believer in aesthetic. The dictionary definition is a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement. Put simply, your aesthetic is your character. It's who you are, who you want to be, and how you wish to show yourself to others. Setting an aesthetic for yourself to follow is almost like setting rules for yourself. But you shouldn't think of it as something constricting, because if it's hard to follow, it's not for you. Your aesthetic is not set in stone; it should change and adapt as you do. An important part of having personal style is keeping it personal and true to yourself. And no, aesthetic does not just mean wearing the same outfit everywhere. That's lazy. Style is putting in the effort to achieve a look, whether that look is effortless or takes three hours.  


Step Two: Be Open and Be Aware
Never turn your nose up to anything, but also know when something just isn't for you. Don't just shop for clothes in the obvious places (shopping malls & stores), but instead venture out to little curious places (thrift shops, Goodwill stores, and garage sales) and be open for exploration. Build a collection of characteristically "you" pieces. You should be able to describe your aesthetic with a single photo of your wardrobe. A person with a true sense of style should be able to find something anywhere. Never buy a complete look off a mannequin or display. That's somebody else's styling at work. Your style shouldn't be what stores serve you, it should be a creation completely your own. Be aware of other's aesthetics and style, but be even more aware of your own. A display in a store may be flawless in aesthetic, but don't let that trick you into thinking it's your own.


Step Three: Stick to It
This is the step that really defines your personal style. You could have a great eye for style in individual outfits, but if you can't string them together to create a cohesive lifestyle, you really don't have personal style. Like I said before, sticking to your style shouldn't mean restricting yourself, it's more knowing yourself in your purest sartorial form. Be able to differentiate style itself and personal style. Know when something looks good, and when something is for you.

If you practice these steps in your own way, you should achieve personal style.



Style icons and tips below!

Jane Birkin, although English, is the classic epitome of French, cool-girl style.


Caroline de Maigret is the modern epitome of French, cool-girl style.


Yes, fictional characters can be style icons, but no, that does not make them stylish. Well, the actors can play them in a way that matches their sartorial style, or their costume directors can create a wardrobe that matches their style, but that is still the work of either an actor or designer, not the character.


While it is okay to take personal style inspiration from a historical period or a character, or both, be sure to make it your own and not mirror or obsess over a picture.


This is Jeanne Dumas, a rising French style icon to keep your eye on. 



The reason that half of the examples of personal style I used were French is because they have an aura and eye that seemingly naturally plays to their advantage. French woman seem a bit more indifferent when it comes to other's opinions on their style, especially when compared to average American women. While the French might wake up with messy hair and leave the house, Americans will work two hours on their hair to make it seem effortless. 

The other half of personal style champions I chose were, indeed, American. While Americans are subjected to the judgement of others, American values and teachings make for very strong characters and people. Americans have a certain "stick it to them" -ness that makes them proud, of many and anythings, and, in some cases, their style. Even if they may not be totally confident, they will be sure to promote confidence, which is key to any type of style.




All images via Pinterest or Instagram.


WWD: The Full Package

With a pretty face on the outside and hard facts and analyses on the inside, the new weekly WWD is the full package. When I received the first copy, I was skeptical of this new format - it looked more like a glossy magazine than a weekly newspaper. And while I do love a good glossy, I didn't want it to be at the expense of a serious fashion business report. But my worries were quickly put away when I flipped Alexander Wang's face aside and opened the magazine. In no way did WWD become lighter on content and put all efforts into pleasant visuals in order to attract a broader audience. The only thing that has changed is the shape of it; all the same great content (and more, now) is still there. The layout is, indeed, easier on the eye, so it could attract more people to become interested in the business side of fashion. Plus, with the magazine-newspaper looking more photogenic, people will be more willing to share on social media, publicizing WWD even further. The only cons I see to this change is the loss of tradition. The daily, WWD print newspaper may be dead, but it was reborn in a better form.


Photo via WWD Instagram. Who wouldn't want a picture of such a pretty cover? The matte, beautiful cover fulfills the vanity part of the perfect package, while analyses, facts, and stories on everything in fashion fill the inside.

It's a Zoo! Welcome to the Fashion Industry

I know the fashion industry always appreciates a little aura of mystery, but the utter disorder as of late is simply ridiculous. It seems like every designer and fashion brand has their own preference of doing things, from runway shows to scheduling, to content, with almost no commonality. Brands should be distinct by having features that set them apart, but they should also create clothes that fall into a select field, or if they don't, they shouldn't be allowed to classify as so.

For example, one of the most confusing problem in fashion is the clashing schedule. The time periods for fall/winter and spring/summer collections are clear enough because the shows happen during fashion weeks, but it's the less publicized collections, pre-fall and pre-spring/cruise/resort collections, whose schedules are vague. Even the proper term for these collections is unclear. Pretty much everyone uses pre-fall, but I've seen pre-spring, cruise, and resort all be used for the same collection. It's not that much of a confusion, but it would be nice if we could all follow the same fashion dictionary.

Since there aren't designated slots for pre-fall and resort shows to occur, like fashion week, brands have a free rein of sorts to get collections out. Designers aren't pressured by a specific deadline and members of the industry don't have to buzz around like maniacs from show to show. In theory, this should work perfectly, but in reality we end up with runway shows either too spread out or too close together. For example, Céline showed their pre-fall collection at the very beginning of May, but other designers showed their's from November to January. A better example of messy scheduling in the fashion industry is the whole bundle of pre-spring/cruise/resort collections (more like visual presentations) that happened about two weeks ago. When all these spectacular shows with great coverage and clothes all happen within the span of a few days, it's hard to differentiate between them. (I'm looking at you, Chanel and Louis Vuitton.) This is confusing not only for the simple outsider like myself (or maybe little more than outsider), but mostly for those deeply involved in fashion, including consumers.

Also from first-hand experience, it's hard to judge, critic, and compare collections when you can't classify them. When the schedule lines are blurred and it becomes unclear when certain pieces should show, it can even confuse designers, I imagine. It's hard to know what to show and what to look for when every collection is different, yet labelled with the same classification. In Colin McDowell's most recent column for Business of Fashion, he proposed a global council for fashion to organize "the industry's lack of international coordination," and put in regulations to end the confusion. If this was put into action, it would benefit not only those exclusively working in fashion, but all of us affected by it, which is to say anyone who wears clothes.


A look from Céline pre-fall 2015, which showed in early May, set apart from its counterparts who showed from November to January. Photo via Style.com.


What the Balmain x H&M Collection Means for the Future of Fashion

Earlier this week, Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing announced a collaboration between Balmain and H&M through his Instagram account, during the Billboard Awards in Las Vegas. This collection is both the result and start of a movement. The concept of high fashion brands for high street stores is not a new one. There seems to be a new high-low collection every season; from Lagerfeld to Wang, it's reasonable to say every major high fashion brand will have its spotlight in everyday retail. But what sets the Balmain collaboration apart is its publicity. Never before has social media played such a major role in a designer collaboration. 

Social media has been making high fashion and celebrities ever more accessible to the everyday person, and the fact that Rousteing announced this major event through Instagram signifies social media's influence even more. Thanks to this new accessibility to the exclusive world of fame and fashion, the boundaries between the insiders and the outsiders are subsiding. The social hierarchies are diminishing. Things are changing and this time is a true renaissance in its own respect. Both ends of the spectrum are leveling out; the top is being brought down, but the bottom is rising towards the realm of the top, both sides ending up in a gray area somewhere in the middle, somewhere between famous and not.

For fashion houses, social media can act as a savior of sorts. I hate to say it, but before Rousteing, Balmain was just another Parisian fashion house - beautiful but not exactly distinguished. Olivier Rousteing brought a young spirit back to Balmain, a youth that can only be brought from one of its kind. Balmain, at least in design, has been thriving under Rousteing, and this has to be partly due to his distinctive use of social media. This shows designers, and the world, that brands can be turned around and, indeed, saved, all (or at least mostly) thanks to social media. 

Because of Olivier Rousteing's hashtag abundance history, it was not surprising that this collaboration has its own custom tag: #HMBalmaination. The Balmain "army" is a term and tag Rousteing has used before for campaigns and shows, but the idea now is that the small, elite army will be turned into a nation. Balmain will become available to practically everyone (there's about 2,472 H&M stores worldwide), a huge step from the regular, small circle of elite. This hashtag allows average people to join in on what they've only witnessed from the social media accounts of their favorite celebrities. With the influence of social media, one can truly can create a nation.


WWD Recreates the Antwerp Six

In WWD's first weekly newspaper, the first of their move away from daily papers, they introduced the WWD Six, a group of six designers who "have what it takes to be next-generation megapowers" WWD also credited a characteristic to each of them; Alexander Wang is the energizer, Chitose Abe is the enigma, The Row (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen) are the quiet ones, Christopher Kane is the stargazer, Proenza Schouler (Jack McCollough and Larzaro Hernandez) are the originals, and J.W. Anderson is the thinker. WWD never fails to report the truth, these designers are everything they say to be and more. There are plenty of talented designers out there. To quote the article itself, "brilliant talent is not enough to guarantee success. Nor is having a cool head for business." No, it takes much more to have influence on society. You, of course, have to have the design and business talent, but you also need to understand your audience on a personal level. You have to know who they are and what they want and also why they want it. You have to give them clothes that they recognize with but are also fresh and new at the same time. That's a lot to balance, and these 6 designers have definitely got it figured out. 

But this brilliant bunch reminded me of a similarly talented group, 30 years earlier. The Antwerp Six was a group of 6 six designers who graduated from Antwerp's Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the early 80's. The group consisted of Walter van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Marina Yee, with Martin Margiela as a sort of 7th member. These designers were highly influential of the fashion scene at the time and caused Antwerp to breakthrough and become a major fashion location. These designers are all accomplished in their own respects and each have their own well-defined style, despite coming from a city with such a distinct style. 

WWD was obviously channelling the Antwerp Six when they put together their own WWD Six. Both groups are evidently talented and influential, and have that special something to set them apart and turn them into modern classics.





Chitose Abe.

Proenza Schouler.

The Row.

Christopher Kane.

Alexander Wang.

J.W. Anderson.

Always Pack a Party Dress

If you've been following my blog for a while now, you'd know that all I've ever wanted to be in life is Amanda Brooks. (Or maybe Hamish Bowles, or maybe a beautiful combination of both.) I've been through the reasons why Amanda Brooks is a perfect, English Countryside Goddess, so I won't go through all that again, but I do have an important message to share concerning my walking, talking, horse-riding life goal. 

She's done it again: written a Bible for style enthusiasts to avidly cling on to every word. Style is, indeed, eternal, and therefore books written on the subject are, too. As if I Love Your Style wasn't enough, the perfection-in-human-form herself has blessed us with a new classic to grace our coffee tables and book shelves. Always Pack A Party Dress comes out this Tuesday, and I am prepared to drive, or at least beg my parents to drive, to Barnes & Noble at the nearest opportunity to read it, and then I will wait to actually buy it over the summer using my birthday money. (Other 13-year-olds save up for clothes or makeup or movies and I save up for coffee table books. In my defense, my collection will stay with me forever but they will, inevitably, grow out of theirs.)


I haven't actually read the book, but based off both Amanda's book and blog, I just know it'll be perfect. She is an under-publicized secret icon. Her personal style is sturdier than most, and her journey of developing her style provides for an interesting read.
She posted a few of the pages on her Instagram account, which only increase my intrigue. These posts work quite well with her usual English countryside shots of horses and fields.

 
J.Crew's Jenna Lyons included Always Pack A Party Dress in her pickings. If Jenna says it's good, it's good.

Chanel: Inconsistent or Changing for a New Audience?

If we ignore all tradition and history, Chanel's clothes have been adequate in aesthetic design and characteristics as of late. Lagerfeld has been consistent in his positive, fun designs and has created a legend of sorts around his fantastical runway shows. But, alas, Chanel is, well, Chanel, and we cannot ignore the history of possibly the most famous fashion house; the brand whose name is almost interchangeable with high fashion itself. 

If we judge Chanel rightfully along with its history, the brand is going through a new era, to say the least. Lagerfeld's designs look one part Chanel and two Dr. Seuss; a collection of clownish and exaggeratedly themed clothes with vague hints back to Chanel — tattered, candy colored tweeds or blinged out interlocking c's. I've got nothing wrong with this aesthetic, but when you attach it a house with such heavy history like Chanel, it just doesn't make sense. I would hate to see Chanel stuck in the past, but when you contradict it with a different reputation, is the character really even moving forward? 

The clothes are most definitely worthy, just not of the Chanel name. Chanel should be evolving, but there are modern ways to achieve the elegance and sophistication of the past and bring it to the present. And the excuse of times are changing and the consumers are too won't cut it, either. There will always be an audience for the chic and sophisticated, no matter the culture of the era

Mr. Lagerfeld's most recent collection for Chanel, resort 2016, was fun, if not even comical. A classical Chanel foundation is obviously evident, but Mr. Lagerfeld stayed true to the brand in the material sense instead of the spirit conveyed. In other words, you can tell that he based it off of the "real" Chanel, but all the graceful auras are missing. It's Chanel, but only technically. I'm afraid that the old Chanel, the Chanel I haven't lived to see, will be forgotten and thought of only in a legendary sense, and replaced by this new Chanel, the only Chanel I've ever known. 

This is the new classic Chanel, this is the new legend. The old tones may be gone, but the prestige is not; Chanel will forever fit the times, even if that means disfiguring the heritage.




From the Runway to the Red Carpet, Something Is Lost in Transition

While runway collections are meaningful and true to the brands that show them, the designs walking the red carpets seem to be little more than "pretty dresses." Red carpet fashion doesn't show the character and depth of the brands they represent. A runway show is a concentrated version of a designer and all they stand for, so I wouldn't expect any single piece from a collection to be perfectly concrete in character, but for runway fashion to be as generic as it is seems almost wrong. It's wrong that one of the main ways these creations are used doesn't show their meaning. And I know at the word "generic" someone will point me to Rihanna's egg dress but completely ignore the 50 billion gowns that don't look like they belong to any one designer and certainly don't belong to any statement or idea. Red carpet fashion doesn't have to tell complete stories like runway shows or ad campaigns but it should convey a certain aspect from that collection; they should be more than "nice looking."

I would never guess this is a Givenchy dress. Never. It's beautiful on Beyoncé, but it's just not Givenchy.

Louis Vuitton?

I think Meryl Streep looked amazing in this Dolce & Gabbana dress. She managed to express Dolce without looking like an overly Italian goddess (I'm looking at you, Tabitha Simmons.)

Jennifer Lawrence looks excellent as always, but this just doesn't say Dior, or more specifically, what Dior has been conveying in recent collections. 

I despised the Chanel collection from which this piece is from, but I loved this look on its own.

I think I read this is Alexander Wang, but nothing about this look would help me remember that.

Some Old Guy Died...



...And now I get to search through and take photos of his possessions. Well, that's not the exact circumstances. It could very well be a dead old lady. They don't even have to be dead, they could just be someone who happened to part with a selected number of their belongings, specifically clothes, for any which reason. Fantasies aside, the fact of the matter is that I went thrifting. But the thrifting I'm writing about today wasn't just my usual trip to Goodwill.

In my post looking back on April, I reviewed, briefly, a mini vacation I took for a weekend in Florida. I was there for a competition, and although I wasn't successful in that, I was successful in my windowing shopping and thrifting. The consignment shops in West Palm Beach are endless and perfect for a high fashion appreciator like myself. One could easily spend hours sifting through the racks until the ever-watchful management kicks you out, which was exactly what I did.



Because the items were donated, a whole set of matching things in the same size would often be found. Like these matching Etro shirts.

My heart actually skipped a beat when I saw these Alexander McQueen loafers. They were men's and they were huge but they were perfect. I wish I got a better photo of them but I'm sure you can just imagine.


At this one consignment shop, there were about 5 pairs of Stubbs & Wootton slippers, all in the same size. (This led me to inference that some old guy had died and an uninterested, contemporary next of kin had donated them here. Hence the title of this post.) I found so much joy in going through these even though I couldn't possibly buy them for myself. They had a distinct Hamish vibe.






As an appreciator of clothes and style, I'm not necessarily looking for personal clothes. I look for statement pieces, character pieces, but not much I'd wear myself.  That's where my separation of having an eye for style and seeing only personal style comes in handy. I can seek out and acknowledge beautiful fashion even if it's not for me, an invaluable and practiced skill.



The Symbolism of the Met Gala

The annual Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Met Gala is unarguably the biggest and most publicized party of the year. It's one of a kind, although it's one of many events that make us commoners inwardly viciously living through our social media (or rather, the social media of others). But it's not just a party. The Met Gala isn't just a fun night for celebrities and cool people to socialize. It's a strategically planned symbol of the times. Pop culture at its most concentrated. If you're at the Met Gala, congratulations, you've made it. You've made it among the most influential people in pop culture, whether you're an icon or the one who decides the icons. No, the Met Gala doesn't discriminate against neither the performers or the critics, but its only rule is that you must have some sort of impact on pop culture. Unless, of course, you're willing to pay the $25,000 for a ticket.


The type of smile that can only come from a dermatologist...

I was also in pajamas during the Met Gala, although mine weren't nearly as photogenic.

Am I the only one who can only think of Eddie Redmayne as Marius from Les Miserables?


Absolutely love this look.



The Artist is Absent & Other Fashion Documentaries

We are currently living the heyday for fashion films. 2014 Saw not one, but two films on the legendary Yves Saint Laurent (appropriately titled, Yves Saint Laurent and Saint Laurent), a man undoubtedly worthy of more than one and even two films. Just this past month, a documentary of yet another Dior creative director, Raf Simmons this time, came out (Dior and I). Iris Apfel's rather colorful documentary just hit theaters also. This rise in fashion films and, especially, documentaries means fashion is becoming more approachable. Fashion is moving away from its exclusive bubble and coming into plain view for all the world to discover.

With all the buzz on John Galliano and Maison Margiela, it was only expected that a documentary on the topic would be coming out anytime now. But I was not expecting a 12 minute long YouTube documentary. I was a bit skeptical of the quality of it (how much can you really pack into 12 minutes?), but, I have to say, that 12 minutes was more inspiring than some other, full length, productions. It goes into great depth about the ghost of a designer, Martin Margiela; from his early days all the way up to his disappearance and every deconstructed beauty in between. This mini documentary also covers what set him apart from other designers, especially during the 80s, the prime time for the supermodel craze. Although the artist himself is, indeed, absent, and never appears in the film, Martin Margiela shines through his work and the words of those who worked alongside him and knew him best. The Artist Is Absent definitely holds its place among the top fashion films, despite its duration, or lack thereof.




If It Ain't Broke...

Innovation. Innovation is striving to make things better, in any way, shape, or form. But if it's already the best, is there really any need for innovation? That seems to be the thinking of the old, heritage designers. In a recent interview with Business of Fashion, acclaimed fashion critic Cathy Horyn said that with the traditional high fashion brands, such as Armani, there's never going to be any particular newness because there's no need. It's hard to judge and review collections from them because there's just not much to be said. If any aspect was good in the collection, it's probably something that's been well done for the past 10 years, and if anything needed work, needless to say no changes will be made. 

In my opinion, this applies most to Valentino. A Valentino show will always be beautiful, it always follows the same aesthetic and the same general feeling. Because of that, the house of Valentino is trustworthy and reliable, but it's not exciting (unless they pull a marketing stunt like they did this past season.) 

When there's many collections to cover and one must be choosey during fashion week, it's pretty safe to eliminate a brand like Valentino because you've probably said everything in a past review. No point in repeating yourself. It's a familiar predictability that's not going to change because it works. And I don't mean to pick on Valentino; there's plenty of others out there. One of the things I look for when I'm reviewing a collection is reliability and consistency within both the collection and the brand. This means a general common theme, but too often are designers either stick to the same thing or differentiate too much. It's all about finding the balance, but once you've found your style, you know how the saying goes: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 






April in Review

Is April really over? Is it actually May? Can I finally pack my coats and jackets in storage for next year? As much as I can't believe it, the answer is yes to all of those sickeningly cliché rhetorical questions. April was a lovely month for my precious Plaid Is My Favourite Colour, a rather concentrated, but nonetheless lovely month. I say 'concentrated' because I only published 10 posts, but I'm very pleased with all of them. This month was a true exhibit of quality being greater than quantity.

The beginning of April was a bit tough concerning writing material, considering I was coming off of a fashion month-and-a-half of never ending stories and ideas from New York, London, Paris, and Milan and used to not looking far for inspiration. But it was a smooth transition away from runway reviews, my opinions on clothes and collections, and on to my pure opinions and thoughts on the happenings of the fashion world. 

Although the purpose of this blog is to distract and transport myself from my personal life, I started April out with a lifestyle post on why I refer to fashion as my distraction rather than a passion

This rant was followed by another lifestyle post on spring cleaning, a desperate effort to write about something current (a tough time in my fashion month recovery.). 

Then I brought September fashion week back to show the relationship between the clothes on the runway and on the racks. They're much closer than people tend to think. 

After that, on the subject of trends, I moved on to an old reliable for spring fashion: florals. Who doesn't love a good floral for spring? Designers love them, possibly because that could mean less design and innovation on their part.

Then, I scorned Moschino a bit for filling the airhead, bubbly reputation of fashion, in Living up to the name of filling the stereotype? Sorry Jeremy, but Barbie isn't amusing me.

After that, I went into depth about a recent trip to Goodwill, but it wasn't your grandma's clothes on the racks, it was pieces straight from the Net-a-Portêr warehouse. A real-life dream at first, it quickly became disappointing. 

Fresh off having my say on the cheap designer clothes, I questioned whether the weight and power of a label is really necessary. As any good journalist, I looked at the reasons for and against, and unlike many good journalists, I couldn't choose a side. 

Then I had a bit of fun on 1stdibs window shopping for vintage couture and pretending to be Hamish Bowles. I don't think that one needs much of an explanation.

Almost near the end, I was getting so very tired of hearing about the new Apple smartwatch, I decided to state my thoughts on why tech will never make it in fashion. Ever. Or at least while tech companies are trying.

Lastly, my most recent and favorite post of this month, was about John Galliano's interview at the British Vogue Festival. I provide insights and opinions, but if you don't read my post I really just urge you to watch the video. I promise you that you won't regret it and it'll make you see his past collection for Margiela in a different light. 

Oh, and in the course of this post and this month's posts, I didn't bring up my little vacation. I went to Florida last weekend for a NATIONAL horse show. I didn't do so well, but I had a blast poking around consignment shops and snapping these photogenic palm trees.