My style journey so far and a pivot for 2023
I’ve been wanting to write about style more, especially since it’s been quite a while since I’ve done an outfit/Stylesheet post. I enjoyed that format, but I actually want to write about style more generally, so rather than having any kind of “series” or even pigeonholing my blog into any category, I’m just going to write and title my blog posts in a way that makes sense.
I thought now would be a terrific time to write about my style journey over the past few years in the most unbiased way possible. I tried to structure this as a series in the past, titled “Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist”, but that actually felt too restrictive, and—after all—a journey doesn’t really “end” per se, so whatever I had set out to write for that series felt like it was always changing.
I think I’ve really nailed my style and preferences of what I like to wear, particularly if I consider what I’ve worn over the past two years or so, compared to the time before 2020. There are some principles I sort of live by, and by now I have a pretty good idea of what I like and dislike, but I still give myself room to experiment. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love to express myself through the clothes I choose to wear, and I make really considered decisions about the clothes I buy and the outfits I put together.
A small wardrobe
I’m a minimalist, and I don’t love to own a lot of stuff, but it did take me a while to figure out how my clothes fit into my life. I used to be a shopaholic and buy so many clothes to the point it was embarrassing, and some people (who don’t know me very well) continue to remember me as a shopping addict rather than the serial outfit repeater that I am. I used to obsess over the number of clothes I owned, and although I still keep a wardrobe inventory in a spreadsheet because I find it handy, I now focus on how much I love the clothes and how often I am wearing them.
When I make purchases, I try to think about how much wear I can get out of the clothes. I want to wear them frequently, almost on a daily basis, so “occasion wear” is very limited in my wardrobe. Or if I do purchase “fancy” clothes, I wear them on regular days and I don’t really care about what people think.
Functionality and practicality
Thinking about my lifestyle has been very important in my clothing choices. I work from home most of the time, and when I go out, I love to walk. I enjoy walking as exercise, leisure, and as a mode of transport. But I want to be comfortable. So I choose clothes that I can move easily in, and shoes that I can walk in for long periods of time. My previous choices revolved around wearing high heels to look taller, and dresses that were easy to wear. The overall ensembles were not entirely practical or comfortable though, and as my style changed, I stopped wearing these items of clothing.
The definition of comfort is often misunderstood and often associated with sweatpants and activewear. I don’t mind these items of clothing and some people have these elements as part of their style—but my style isn’t that casual, and I don’t quite feel like myself in those items of clothing, so I’ve worked towards a style that is still practical and comfortable but that I feel represents me.
Some examples of clothing choices I made and stick to include:
- I often wear slightly loose but tailored shorts, as they are comfortable in warmer weather but can be worn with tights when cooler. They’re great to walk in and I don’t get too hot, and the right style can look really polished (which I like).
- I avoid tight and short skirts that restrict movement or make me concerned about flashing my underwear. I don’t love long skirts and only own one long skirt, so I restrict my skirt purchases in general.
- I’ve stopped buying shoes that are too pointed in the toe. Not only have I stopped wearing high heels, but I’ve been trying to take better care of my feet, so shoes that have more room for the toes are important to me.
- I avoid fabrics that irritate my skin, clothes that feel too tight, or clothes that restrict movement. I want to be able to move freely. I avoid clothes that I have to constantly adjust, so this means some tops with off-the-shoulder style, or even some tight clothes that don’t sit right.
Better fabrics and better quality construction
I try very hard to avoid buying from fast fashion brands. I don’t want to support companies that continue to rapidly produce massive amounts of clothing and take a toll on the environment. The quality of these garments tends to be pretty poor as well. I understand this is the only thing that some people can afford, and I used to be in that group too. But after spending money on better quality brands that are a little more expensive, I’ve noticed that my clothes are more durable and last longer. I genuinely feel like they’re worth the money I’m paying.
Even though I can afford clothing that’s higher quality, I still try to consider my purchases. $100 for a piece of clothing is a lot, even if you can afford it. So I want to be certain that I really love what I’m buying. I’ve been in that situation of being able to afford better quality clothing, but not knowing what my style was yet—or worse, wanting to experiment with something new—and I spent my money very inefficiently. For this reason, I really consider what I’m buying and I explore other avenues if I feel like my choices are directed more towards something experimental. I don’t rule out fast fashion completely as it can be a good option for something I’m uncertain about, or something I don’t plan to wear or use for very long, but I also consider buying second-hand online or in second-hand shops.
As I become more aware of fabrics that are bad for the environment, or not healthy to be wearing all the time, I try to avoid those fabrics where I can. I used to really like polyester as a fabric for clothes that I didn’t want to crinkle, like blazers and skirts. I also valued the use of polyester in knitted tops because it provided good stretch retention. Over time I’ve found synthetic fabrics to be a bit more irritating on my skin, so I’ve tried to go for more natural fibres like wool and organic cotton because it generally feels more comfortable as well.
Describing my style
Some words I’d use to describe my style now include “bold”, “quirky”, and “neat”. These three descriptors really come together to describe my style as a whole, rather than individually. “Bold” describes the sorts of prints and colours I like to wear. Although I tend to stick to cool-toned colours and prints, mostly reds, blues, and black-and-white prints, they exude bold combinations or looks overall. I feel most like myself when my outfits are loud. Softer looks and even softer fabrics don’t suit me well and I feel awkward. “Quirky” describes a couple of things including the way my style leans a bit youthful—retro 80s, 90s, bohemian-inspired but not completely so—but not necessarily childish or like I am wearing a costume. I like wearing crop tops, sneakers, and lots of colour. It also encompasses my love for contrasting colours and prints in an unexpected way, and juxtaposing things that others might consider daring or unusual. “Neat” describes the lines and shapes I gravitate towards, which are usually close-fitting, and include well tailored garments with crisp outlines. Overall I like my outfits to follow a pretty neat outline, so the construction of garments I wear are mostly structured rather than loose or flowing.
Some staple items in my wardrobe are tailored shorts, patterned tights, cropped tops, sleeveless tops, graphic tees, sneakers with animal print, ankle boots, asymmetrical styled skirts, and close-fitting long sleeve tops. Some accessories/makeup I like include big bold earrings, enamel pins, neck scarves, bold coloured lipstick, and funky socks.
I have also noticed I have three different “looks”:
- somewhere in between
I think it’s useful to identify these looks because it sort of keeps me grounded, and keeps me enjoying my wardrobe and the combinations of clothes I can wear. I have become quite dedicated to getting a photo of my outfit every day, even if I don’t like it. It encourages me to think about what I could improve on in the outfits I don’t like, or why I don’t like certain elements, and what outfits I do like.
Where I want to take my style next
The past couple of years of experimentation have given me a better idea of what I like to wear and what I don’t like to wear. I think it’s time to stop “experimenting” so much and go “back to basics” a bit. My long-standing goals with my wardrobe are:
- Make it easier to get dressed by generally reducing options.
- Make sure that my clothes are as interchangeable and as versatile as possible.
- Avoid the hesitation I feel when I choose an outfit, which often stems from realising that the outfit is not the most comfortable, or something about it makes me feel uncomfortable.
The last point has been a bit of a struggle for me, especially as my body changes with my powerlifting routine and gaining muscle. My clothes sometimes become tighter within a matter of years as I grow out of them. I tend to like clothes that are close-fitted but not tight, but having clothes with a slightly relaxed (but not too relaxed) fit can help. I take note of what I think when it comes to clothes like jeans or tight shorts that don’t have a lot of stretch—some days, I just don’t want to bother with them.
Listening to emo music again and revelling in nostalgia makes me want to adjust my style to lean more grunge/emo. I miss dressing with that kind of grungy edge. I’d say it still influences my style now, but I want it to have more of an influence. I would still use the word “bold” to describe my style, but other words and phrases I might use would be “cool”, “edgy”, and yet “simple”—in terms of the clothes and their lines/silhouettes, nothing complex or fussy.
I’m not about to go all out and buy new clothes, as I want to do this in the most sustainable way possible. There are a couple of things I can do:
- Accessorise with enamel pins, wearing them on my jackets or clothes. Switch them out for variety.
- Accessorise with square scarves more—I wear them around my neck, but I can also wear them on my arm, wrist, or bag.
- Change out shoelaces in shoes for ones with patterns, like checkered patterns or dark glitter.
- Wear patterned stockings more, such as with an all-black outfit, to create a point of difference.
- Narrow my colour palette to reduce the amount of bright colours I have, and wear dark and deep colours more often.
I’m most keen on narrowing my colour palette going forward, especially as I’ve spent the past couple of years buying a lot of bright colours. I love bright colours but it can be tricky to match them with each other. Even if I have dark coloured bottoms—like black shorts, for example—and a variety of different brightly coloured tops, there are occasions I want to wear bottoms in a bright colour, and I end up not liking the look of the brightly coloured tops with those bright bottoms.
I want to use bright colours a bit more in accessorising, and that usually means I don’t want such bright colour in my clothes. I am not the kind of person who enjoys an all-bright ensemble. I am planning to limit myself to a palette that includes black, white, royal blue (or bright blue), dark red or burgundy, navy, and dark green—or maybe not even that many. I look and feel good wearing those colours, and when they are part of prints and patterns. I won’t necessarily get rid of clothes that I own unless they already don’t fit, but it’s what I will keep in mind going forward: a simplified colour palette.
Incidentally, I spent the last week-and-a-half wearing the same blue skirt every day, because I just got a new tattoo on my leg and had to avoid tight clothing. Not only was it appropriate for my situation, but it was easy to wear with a different t-shirt every day, and I really didn’t mind, because I like the skirt a lot (especially the colour).
There are some other thoughts I want to share about my style as I make changes. I don’t think they will necessarily be as detailed as this post. There might be a few scattered thoughts about different things that may not specifically relate back to my style, but might be thoughts about style in general. Thank you for reading about my journey! I’m keen to share more.