I’ve mentioned in the last couple of posts that I’ve started working through the exercises in Anushka Rees’ The Curated Closet as part of an ongoing mission to figure out what my style really is. It’s something that’s become more and more important to me since I started making my own clothing. When putting that kind of time investment (and a financial one too, sometimes) into making something, it’s really disappointing if it doesn’t feel “me” once I’ve finished. My hit rate has been getting better, but I’m still only at about 50% so I have a fair way to go.
When I was younger getting dressed was easy. I chose a subculture and bought the clothes that fit. First I was an indie kid, then a hippie, then a crusty (yeah, not the best look), then I got more into dance culture and dressed accordingly. When I started teaching I bought clothes that typified librarian chic: A-line tweedy skirts with tight but covered-up tops and cardigans.
Then I had a kid and everything changed. My body size changed, and for a few years I dressed mainly in hand-me-downs from my mum and sister who had both lost weight. I wasn’t all that fussed at the time as I had enough on my plate bringing up a kid with Downs, but eventually I started to look around me and wonder why I looked such a dog’s dinner compared to other women. Why were some stylish and others not? Was it simply something they were born with?
So I started thinking more about clothing, and learnt how to make my own. I was initially drawn to retro style party dresses, but of course I couldn’t really work that 50s pin-up vibe into my everyday wardrobe. It was a high maintenance look that was just for occasional dressing up, and I was okay with that. What I needed was a wardrobe suitable for being a mum and working from home. Comfy, practical clothing, but that suited me perfectly. The search was on…
Over the years I’ve tried many ways of figuring out my style. I read numerous books (Trinny and Susanna and Gok Wan were prime offenders) that gave me lists of clothes I had to own, or styles that would suit my body shape (somewhere between hourglass and pear, apparently) I had a Colour Me Beautiful colour consultation, where I found out I suited soft, cool and deep colours, and I even paid for the Dressing Your Truth online consultation where I found out I was a Type 4 (bold).
However, none of this really helped. Sure, there were some good bits of advice in amongst all of it, but I still wasn’t one hundred percent convinced I was dressing my best. Perhaps that’s because the one place I hadn’t really looked was my own preferences…
More recently I’ve been drawn to the idea of capsule wardrobes and have been trying to let go of any clothes that don’t bring me joy (yep, thanks, KonMari!), but although my pared down wardrobe made me feel much happier, I still struggled to put good outfits together with what I had. I needed to build my wardrobe up again, but where to start?
Finally, I took the plunge and bought a copy of The Curated Closet. Weird it took me so long as I’ve been reading Anushka’s blog, Into Mind, for years and always had the idea I would buy a copy someday. Well, that day came. I read it through, felt excited, then started to do the exercises. Documenting my outfits for two weeks revealed I was in a bit of a rut and wearing the same few items in pretty constant rotation.
Then came the exercise I was most looking forward to: gathering inspirational images. Rees encourages you to devote a solid few hours to this, allowing yourself to go down rabbit holes to find things that really speak to you. I was expecting to come up with some variation on current trends with lots of neutral and muted colours along with flowing silhouettes. And there’s a bit of that, but what I kept coming back to were two of my old faves: librarian chic and rockabilly/pin-up. Two looks I’d thought were too tricky to pull off as a busy mum. But then I realised there were more accessible ways of making it work, and blending the two styles (three if you count the whole maxi skirt thing I have going on) could create something new. Something I’ve decided to call… wait for it:
Off-Duty Rockabilly Librarian
Yep, that about sums it up. It’s a low maintenance version of 50s glam mixed with more contemporary geek chic, and it’s geared towards everyday outfits I’ll find easy to wear. The colours are strong, with plenty of black, navy, cherry red and purple. And the patterns are bold stripes, polka dots, plaid and leopard print. Silhouettes are fitted, waistlines are high, skirts are long, trousers are cropped. Here’s the mood board:
I’m so pleased I’ve taken the time to really think about what I genuinely like and feel good in. It’s already helping me with planning sewing projects. I realised I have a whole book full of suitable patterns: Gertie Sews Vintage Casual, and I’ve now made two of them. I’ve also realised that I have a fair few items already that will work with this style. And I’m now working through the exercises to help plan what I need to fill in the gaps.
This is even going to help me clear out some of the clutter in my loft. I can see now why certain items of clothing and stash fabrics just aren’t inspiring me, and it’s time to let them find new owners.
Yep, I can see the way forward. I’m already putting together outfits that feel more “me” and people are noticing. I feel confident and a bit sassy, channelling my inner Rizzo (been watching a lot of Grease lately as I’m going to see a local production next month).
Now, excuse me. I’m off to watch Grease again while tracking down some leopard print jersey and sewing myself a red, polka dot headscarf!