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Elements of Style #1 | Manolo for the Big Girl

Elements of Style #1

While I believe firmly that some people are simply born with tremendous amounts of style, those fashionable freaks are the exception, not the rule.

Most folks with any sort of chic at all take a heavily revisionist hand to their early sartorial development.

Case in point: legend has it, moments after emerging from my mother’s womb I took one look at the delivery room wallpaper, said “Mauve? Really?” and popped back in until I could be brought into this earth surrounded by more suitable wallcoverings, perhaps something in a William Morris print.

What I fail to mention is the time in 8th grade history when Mrs Cheeseman made me go to the bathroom to wash the purple lipstick off my face, or my middle school years which were heavily punctuated by Liza-with-a-Z quality rayon “big shirts” (the bane of the Big Girl of which I still have the horrors) and deeply ill-advised trapeze top/leggings sets, the most famous of which was a head-to-toe Holstein print bestowed upon me by my grandmother who, despite all evidence to the contrary, really did love me at the time.


(this is less than ideal)
The point is: It’s a process.

As with most processes, you’ll naturally want to tweak here and there, otherwise you’ll end up in a rut and before you know it you’ll be That Lady. The most obvious examples of That Lady is the middle-aged woman who wears her hair the same way she did in high school or the sweet old lady who could stun a yeti with her “signature perfume” which she’s been wearing since 1954, immune to the idea that her nose is dead to the scent.

I can’t tell you how many folks I talk to get frustrated with their own ruts.

They complain how “it” seems to come so easily to some people while they struggle along and can’t add something to their wardrobe without feeling like it’s a costume. They shove the piece they love in the back of the closet because they felt uncomfortable wearing it, or like it was wearing them and then these poor souls feel they’ve let themselves down, like they can’t wear Capital F Fashion and might as well go back to the jeans and t-shirts, because at least then they won’t look stupid.

It just breaks the heart.

Because here’s the thing: a sophisticated sense of style takes practice and getting mad at yourself for not being good at it right off the bat is just, well forgive my language, doofy.

For the next few days we’re going to talk about the process from inspiration to realization of incorporating elements into your personal style so it feels like a natural, easy extension instead of a gimmick or costume. This is valuable for absolute beginners as well as folks who already feel they’ve got a handle on advanced fashion but want to branch out.

Stay tuned, it should be fun.

10 Responses to “Elements of Style #1”

  1. Katie K November 3, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

    I can’t wait to read more Plumcake; I think this is a brilliant idea. I know I struggle with this. Just recently I bought a pair of fantastic gray riding boots and while I know they would look great with dresses and tights and tucked into jeans, I’ve never done that thus I worry I’ll look silly or I’ll stand out (in a bad way.) So I try them on with dresses and tights in the comfort of my own home and then change and go out in my regular bootcut jeans and sweaters. So, short comment long, I look forward to reading your advice.

  2. Plumcake November 3, 2009 at 7:04 pm #

    You know, I’m going to be talking about this later, but one of the essential things about making a transition feel comfortable is by wearing something in the way it suits you, not in the way it suits people in general. So perhaps your riding boots wouldn’t look good tucked into jeans (I only wear riding boots with breeches). Stay tuned!

  3. Rachel November 3, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    OMG, I totally need this! I cant wait for the lessons to start, thanks Plumcake!

  4. Kyra November 3, 2009 at 8:07 pm #

    It seems your first impression of the world is remarkably like Oscar Wilde’s last.

  5. Leigh November 3, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    Kyra, I was thinking the same thing…the bit about the wallpaper and all.

  6. Evie November 4, 2009 at 3:00 am #

    Considering that I own but have not yet worn a fabulous slouchy satin blazer that I bought because it made me feel like Tilda Swinton, I will be taking notes. I love me some statement jewelry, but statement *clothing* is a concept I’m still easing in to…

  7. Margo November 4, 2009 at 7:51 am #

    ‘Rayon “big shirts”’. Ooh, Proustian flashback time. That smarts.

  8. Vivian November 4, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    I’m looking forward to some advice on how to deal with those times when I’m feeling weak about working the “Fashion Moxie”. Moving to a smaller town has made me far more timid than I like about what I’ll wear.

  9. daisyj November 4, 2009 at 2:33 pm #

    Good lord. They sell sexy cow Halloween costumes?
    (Also, I too am looking forward to this series. I have come a long way in my style development, but I have a long way to go.)