Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist: Episode 5 – Trying to fix my style
This post is part of a series called Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist, telling in part my decluttering and minimalism journey, as someone who has always been interested and invested in expressing herself through outfits and accessories, and other related things I’ve learned through minimalism. A new episode is posted monthly. Read all posts in the series.
I missed posting this episode last month due to travelling. I’ve decided that I will do one of three things: this can continue until January 2020 (when the last episode will be posted), or I’ll post two episodes in the same month, or I’ll actually cut it down to 11. 😊 I’d planned the episodes out prior to introducing this series but I suspect there will be a slight change in some of it, as the events of the last few episodes are sort of still ongoing! As you know, a journey is a journey, it may not ever be really “finished”.
That said, let’s dive into this episode, about how I tried to fix my style.
Given the amount of Fashion Fridays I’ve posted and how long that’s been going on, it might surprise you to know that I was in a style rut at some point, unhappy with the way I dressed. You might think absolutely nothing is wrong with how I dress and might even admire it. But there have been times – and still are times – where I’m just not happy with it at all. This started shortly before I got married in 2017. But let’s go back a little.
I started going to the gym in 2014. Over the next couple of years I lost a lot of weight and I got smaller, so a lot of my clothes became too big for me and didn’t look flattering. I slowly began shopping for new clothes and found a few signature items I would wear time and time again. Tight leggings, blue ripped jeans and printed or bright shirts and tops formed the bulk of my wardrobe. I was mostly happy with these until – well, until I wasn’t.
My style and the way I dressed came out of defiance.
Since I was young, I did not like to follow trends. I liked to invent my style myself, try new things myself, and not really do what everyone else was doing. The style I had built for myself, up until the moment I got stuck – was defined solely by me.
I did not want to be like anyone else or follow what was “cool”. I was determined to invent my own “cool”. When I look back, I think I did it well. I remember some of my most famous outfits: a bright purple dress with skull-printed black tights and studded stiletto boots; a nerdy t-shirt over a long-sleeve with a denim skirt and ratted Converse sneakers; a delicate, slightly sheer top with a bell skirt and ankle boots. And then, of course, there was my endless slew of tube skirts paired with a top, any top, some kind of top, that – more often than not – wasn’t a t-shirt, and a blazer on top.
A dozen bangles and rings piled on top, and I was pretty much set to go. These outfits sound fantastic, even as I describe them now, even though my style has changed. But at the time, I’d gotten long bored of them.
I was itching for something different. I was changing, and I was growing out of my style, and things weren’t fitting me right.
I did what the internet told me to do.
The internet is a fabulous resource. That’s not to say it’s a good one, though. I searched the internet for inspiration on outfit combinations. I spent hours and hours on the internet. I concluded that what I was missing was “wardrobe basics”. I knew that I struggled with mixing and matching different items of clothing in my wardrobe, because a lot of the clothing I owned was patterned or not coloured in a neutral colour. Things were hard to mix and match because everything was a stand-out piece.
I was also bored of my clothes because they felt “safe”. I wanted to try something else. So I searched for things I wouldn’t normally wear, and how to wear them. I was looking at things I had seen on other people – in a way, I might have actually been looking at some trends.
The internet has a plethora of information on how to dress your body based on body shape and size. The fact that I’m saying this makes me furious already. A lot of that information focuses on hiding parts of your body that are bigger, hiding parts you don’t like, and an undertone of negativity. I found myself being told by the internet to never wear short skirts or shorts because I’m petite, and to wear high heels /all the time/ to appear taller. It was essentially encouraging me to continue disliking my body. I was slowly beginning to like my body, after struggling with positive body image as a teenager, and for years I’d loved wearing short skirts, but that was apparently a no-no?!
The same goes for colours. If you have ever followed any of my fashion posts, you know that I love wearing orange. I rock the colour sometimes, especially in certain shades of orange. But the internet will tell me that because I’m Asian, I must stick to the colours for a “Winter” skin tone palette, and I can’t wear orange. What a load of shit.
I experimented with new and different things.
So, I was struggling on the “basics” front. I struggled because I didn’t like “basics”. I was one to wear the brightest colours mixed with patterns. I wore unusual colours, sometimes, and I wore pieces that were interesting. Sometimes I wore them together. “Basics” just didn’t stick with my vibe. A white top seemed boring to me. Did I really have to own a chambray shirt?
Instead, I went for a chambray shirt that was long enough to be a dress. I chose a white top with speckles. So, uh, it basically wasn’t just a white top anymore. I picked out grey skinny jeans, because I didn’t own grey skinny jeans. I picked out a top with a grid print. And then a white sweater. All of these things were clothes I wouldn’t normally pick, but I wanted to have some fun.
I noticed that I loved bright colours. An orange off-the-shoulder top soon became my go-to, even though I had never really thought long and hard about orange before. I bought a bright blue puffy-sleeved top, which actually looked pretty damn good on me. Other things didn’t work out so well, but I tried them: black, high-waisted paperbag pants that I couldn’t for the life of me match with anything; chunky knit sweaters that for some reason were exceptionally tight around my wrist; a jade-green t-shirt that I thought would look spectacular on me but looked horrible; a wrap dress that I was convinced (by the internet) would be terrific for my body shape but looked like I was wearing a bedsheet.
As I began to lose weight from working out, I also began to gain muscle in places I hadn’t ever been big before. A wider back. Even bigger legs than I was used to having. My “jeans don’t fit me” problem, I realised, was because I was wearing straight jeans that weren’t stretchy enough, or that didn’t have a high enough rise so they were falling right off my bottom. Dresses I owned became too big on me, but tighter skirts would constantly ride up in a way that seriously began to bother me.
I tried on a lot of things in stores, and bought large bundles of clothing at once from online retailers, often returning 95% of the clothes in the process. I began to enjoy this process as I felt more comfortable with trying clothes on at home. When purchasing online, I found it a lot easier to look for clothes as opposed to rummaging through things in a store.
Looking back, I do believe that most of it worked out, and I learned a lot from my experience. I found out that I do love prints – but now I’m quite particular about them. After purchasing tonnes of printed tops in various colours, I now actually prefer things the other way around – I’d rather have prints on skirts, and have loud-coloured skirts. I suspect this might have to do with my body recomposition as a result of bodybuilding, and the fact that my shoulders are ever so much wider than my hips, and something doesn’t quite balance when I wear loud tops. Some things that initially worked out stopped being feasible after some time, too. For instance, although I favoured longer tops before, I struggle to wear them anymore because they make my legs and bottom look wider (I’ve gotten bigger in that area). You’ll find me in crop tops all too often these days, or at least wearing clothes that do a bit more to accentuate my waist.
I think experimentation can be highly worth it. It allows you to step outside your comfort zone and re-evaluate what you’re wearing and why it might not be working for you. Unfortunately, for me it came at a cost, because I was experimenting too much without putting a lot of thought into what I bought. I still found myself unhappy with my clothes.
Comfort is important.
I didn’t think a lot about comfort until I had done a lot of experimentation with clothes. I wanted clothes I could move in, easily. I soon began to dislike high heels because of the pain and how it didn’t seem worth it. I didn’t like skirts that didn’t stretch enough for me to cross my legs comfortably or even take the long strides I needed.
It was difficult for me to find jeans that fit me comfortably, so I stopped buying them for a while. In fact, I like the freedom that longer skirts bring. Not many people think about it, since there is a mentality that “skirts = flashing”, but with the right kind of skirt, it can be comfortable all the time.
I also found that comfort isn’t just about the clothes you wear, but about the undergarments as well. No one wants a bra that digs in or that you have to adjust. That’s a big reason why I don’t often like strapless clothing that can’t be worn without a bra. I would rather not have to fiddle with a bra, especially when I have a funnel-shaped ribcage and comfortable bras can be hard to find. In hot weather, a bra can be uncomfortable as well. Clothes with built-in padding come in handy, and bras without underwire feel more comfortable for some women as well, depending on how much support they need.
When you have a larger booty – as I’ve recently learned – it can be hard finding underwear that fits correctly. A lot of women don’t like visible panty lines, so seamless is always the way to go. But with a big booty and especially when it’s that time of the month, you don’t really want to be wearing a thong. There is leakproof period underwear you can buy (like the Knix ones here), but I personally find that wearing a regular cut brief is most comfortable. No need to pick wedgies! Also – the key with underpants for a bigger booty is to actually find underwear that covers and cups the bottom. I find that the boy-leg cut can work very well, and fabric that has some degree of stretch. Some curvy women will find that cheeky-cut underwear works well for them too.
An additional tip – I don’t know if other girls feel this way, but at that time of the month, it’s sometimes uncomfortable to wear fashionable skinny jeans and feel good about what’s going on down there. And that’s where I think a skirt is actually more comfortable.
I paid a lot of money for a course.
Styling and fashion courses were few and far between, but I sincerely began to wonder if something like that might help me with the issues I had with my wardrobe. So I forked out a lot of money on a course (with lifetime access) that would help me discover and nail my personal style. I took some time to think about it before I made the decision.
I spoke with the course creator and knew that the course was not specifically targeted at someone in my predicament, but I was convinced it would still be useful and I would learn from it, so I bit the bullet and decided to give it a shot. There was a money-back guarantee after 30 days if I thought it wasn’t my thing.
I found all the content very helpful and it motivated me. In all honesty, looking back, I don’t know if spending all that money was a wise decision at the time – mostly because it was a lot, and I knew I’d probably spend a lot more on new clothes. And I did. I spent hundreds of dollars on new clothes, experimenting with new things, but filling my wardrobe with supposed items that were “must-haves”, according to the internet and according to this course. I thought, sure, I’ve done my research, looked at many sources of information, and they are all saying the same thing, so they must be right. I repeated this process with a lot of clothing, returning the clothing I didn’t like, but something still didn’t sit right. I didn’t find myself fully satisfied.
Several months later, many dollars spent, Nick had said to me, “I don’t think you needed to buy that course. There was nothing wrong with the way you dressed.”
Now, he may be right, which made me feel a little in the pits about spending the money, but it was what I needed at the time to kick-start my inspiration and some key methods into place so that I could feel happy with my personal style – which I obviously wasn’t feeling at the time.
But I struggled as I went through the course, because all this time, minimalism was at the forefront of my mind. I had purged bags and bags of clothing. I had a small wardrobe when I moved into an apartment, and was so excited and motivated by the smaller space that I chose to fill up wisely with only clothes I loved. I had too many clothes, and yet, it seemed the solution was… to buy more?
I’d gotten it wrong.
Sometimes I feel like this process is ongoing, but this episode forms a summary of when it was at its peak. The things I learned from this process could make up an entire episode; they’re things I still keep in mind today, and at the same time I feel like I’m still, still learning.
It wasn’t too long before I realised that what the internet suggested, what people suggested, what influencers suggested, what this course suggested… all those things – I didn’t have to listen to them.
It was like I was being spoon-fed images, blog posts, videos, and other media telling me how to dress. I’d gotten it all wrong, except, I still didn’t realise it until much later.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist. Next episode I’ll be discussing more about what I learned from trying to fix my style, as well as what happened next…
🗒 There are 12 parts in this series, and one will be posted on the second Friday of every month until December.