Even though I’m about to give you some cranky-ass tips about style, I’d like to get meta for a moment. I’m writing a relatively short article on style, and as you can see from my other posts, I’m really into creativity and style myself. Even though I am critical of some media, I’m not raining on my fellow BlogHers! I would like to add my voice to a popular topic, but with a different twist.
You can’t roam too far on the internet without running into loads of advice on “style” aimed at women. This makes me curious. And suspicious. What is this advice really telling us? Are we really being encouraged to harness our own creativity, or are we being steered toward a sanitized, corporately approved vision of ‘female” creativity and style?
When I have those moments of suspicion towards things I’m reading online, one thing I do is to look for a bunch of similar articles, put them side by side, and look for patterns that may suggest something to me. I’ve noticed that lot of style advice “argues in the positive”, meaning it suggests things such as actions, resources, or even products you can acquire to better define your style.
Normally I’d be all over that, being pretty practical. If I’m floundering, and you offer to help me with advice, you gotta give me something! So this positive approach is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not necessarily evidence of eeeeevil marketers in a backroom somewhere, scheming to dupe women out of their hard earned money.
Except when it is. Sometimes, you don’t need to add anything. Creativity and style have to come from you first. You have to know yourself well enough to at least trust your own tastes.
So let’s make perform an experiment. Let’s argue from the negative. Let’s see what style inspiration is like when you remove stuff first, instead of acquiring:
Stop reading Fashion Magazines
This is probably my most sour tip, so get ready. If I can don my tinfoil hat for a moment, I would like to say that fashion magazines exist only to make women insecure, nervous, and eager to buy The Shiny New Thing that’s out to Fix Our Shit. Out with that!
Clearly, I’m not against objects, beauty, or pleasure. I like décor and clothing. But I don’t like the subtext in many printed mags. We’ve all seen “love your body” articles next to diet tips, or overly photoshopped models.
A steady diet of that can’t be good for you. How can you hear your own preferences, or feel your own creative impulses when you’re drowned out by carefully crafted ad campaigns?
Stop comparing yourself to celebrities or anyone else
It should stand to reason that in order to discover your own style, your own sense of “I am friggin’ awesome”, that you should not give into Comparison Quicksand.
This is a toughie – it’s easy to start up that engine and hold yourself up to an ideal and decimate your looks, abilities, and more. I confess I still struggle with this, and I expect I always will on some level.
That being said, allow me to opine: life is far too short to spend a moment beating yourself up for not being like X model or Y neighbor. If you are doing that, you cannot listen to your own preferences and develop your own style.
Ignore advertisements, while you’re at it
Oh yeah. All those commercials and sidebars and brochures that are all eager to inform you what this season’s must-have color/accessory/home decoration are. Out they go. They are there to sell you more things, not help you develop your thing.
Keep only what you use, like, or find beautiful
This one can be surprisingly hard to do, and I know from experience. Yeah, yeah, another personal moment is coming. For years I held onto clothing that I disliked, cuts and fabrics that didn’t flatter me, nothing that reflected the style I wanted to project.
Why did I have these garments? I had lost some weight, but I hadn’t accepted that, emotionally, so I was still in the “oh just cover it all up” mode.
Eventually, I let them go and donated them to a local charity. The first time was a little scary! But after I realized how much room that left in my closet, and how much better I felt, I made closet purges a routine part of my life.
If it doesn’t fit your body as it is, or if it doesn’t fit your style, free it up for someone else. This will also make space in your closet to make (judicious) new purchases that fit you better, literally and figuratively.
Shop less. Far less. Please.
I just said shopping, didn’t I? Actually I said “judicious shopping”! I like a bargain and a good find as much as the next person. But let’s be honest, who has enough money to burn to replace a wardrobe for each season or to redecorate a room for each trend? Does anyone even do that?
One good way to stoke the fires of creativity is to give yourself some restrictions. If you are not awash in stuff, it will be easier to decide what looks or items you value. From there you can clearly develop your style, without having your own voice compete with endless trends.
Defining – and most importantly living – your style can take some time. And there’s nothing wrong with that! It’s ok to experiment, just be sure you don’t take on more baggage than you can handle at any given time. As with all life endeavors, a little planning and a lot of honesty can take you very far!
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