Saturday, May 1, 2010

Desperately Seeking Fashion Advice

First, a brief look at my fashion history:

When I was in middle school, I got up every day and put together an outfit, something I thought was cute and stylish and looked good on me. Then I did my makeup, carefully balancing the fact that I wanted to look like I was wearing make-up because it's cool to wear make-up in middle school, but I didn't want to look overmade; it was a balancing act. Then, I did my hair. Because it was the early 90's, this involved a very hot curling iron and bangs. Sometimes, there were hot rollers.

Then, one day, I was wearing one of my absolute favorite outfits. There was a bright turquoise ankle length skirt and a bright yellow t-shirt and a bright red button down and a string of red chunky beads. Uber cool. Except. Except, the "cool" girls didn't think so. On this particular day, they were making fun of my outfit and I said, haughtily, "This is the style in New York and Paris." Because, you know, when in doubt, lie, lie, lie. "You're not in New York or Paris," one of the girls (somewhat sensibly) pointed out. "You're in Kentucky and what's in style here is looking like everyone else."

Although I was never one to just try desperately to look like everyone else, that hit me where it hurt. It was undoubtedly the last time I wore that outfit. I parsed out the pieces to other, less outstanding outfits and tried a little harder to blend in. That is, until high school, at which point, I gave up entirely. It was a slow process. It started with the makeup. Gone. Then the curling iron. Gone. Finally the carefully planned outfit. Gone.

By the time I started driving, my morning routine was something like this. Wake up. Dig through the pile of clothes in quest for something mostly clean and not entirely clashing. Run out the door. Munch pop-tarts and brush my hair while driving to school. Take the scrunchie back off my gear shift and put around my wrist in case I needed to put my hair up at some point. That was it. The entire beauty routine.

In college, I managed the addition of pajamas that I could wear to class.

Then, the conundrum:

The point of this history is to let you know an important fact. I was born without that gene. That gene that most girls have that makes them read fashion magazines and create fashion icons and have a desire to keep up with current trends and wear, to some degree, what everyone else is wearing. I would much prefer to just wear what I want.

Now, here I am. A functioning adult. I don't wear make-up. I sometimes brush my hair at work. My only hair bobby is not a barrette or a scrunchie or a banana clip, but sunglasses. I have clothes, some of them are nice. I have more dress pants than jeans, I suppose that's a good thing. The problem is that I'm not sure that I like any of it. There are a few outfits that I feel I look nice in. Some that I think are my color. Some that are comfortable. But, I don't know if there are any that are "me." I have decided, a long, long time ago, that I just want to dress the way I want to dress and to hell with what Cosmo says I should wear. The only problem is that I have no idea what I like.

I watch a lot of What Not to Wear. I have learned a bit of what I shouldn't wear. I need pants that fall straight from my hips, jeans with a medium waist. Layers. Etc, etc. But, I still don't know what I like. The other night, when we were watching, they asked the person to choose a style icon. An actress or singer or even character whose style they liked.

Then, a few days later, I found this. I guess I get it. There are celebrities whose clothes I always like. Stevie Nicks comes to mind. I was always partial to Tara from Buffy. That's all I've got. And frankly, I think that I'd look like an idiot in their clothes.

On What Not to Wear, they ensure me every Saturday night, that olive green is a neutral. And you can wear anything with it. So today, I put on dark olive green capris and a red t-shirt and walked around feeling like a Christmas tree all day.

I don't know what to do with myself. With my wardrobe. With my hair. I haven't had a haircut I liked in ten years. I never wear make-up and when I try, I feel like a look a little ridiculous. The Husband confirms that when he tells me that he doesn't like it when I wear make-up, because I don't look like me.

I watch What Not to Wear because I want them to teach me what I should do about this. I used to read fashion magazines, hoping to get a handle on what's in and what's out. At the end of the day, though, I still try on practically everything in the store. I still hate most of the clothes that I walk out with. I still don't know what color eye shadow I should wear. Or what color lipstick won't make me look like a well-fed vampire. I don't know how to wear my hair, or how short to cut it or if I should straighten it.

And I don't know how to learn.

Finally, the Request:

I am smart enough to not ask you all to tell me how to dress. In the first place, you don't all know me. You don't know my body or what looks good on me. There's that lovely picture of me over there, but it's been there so long before it's so much prettier than I normally am that I can't replace it. Ever, possibly.

But what I can ask you is what connection you have to the fashion world. Do you take your cues from fashion icons, and if so, who? Do you read the magazines? Do you watch the shows? Do you obsess or do you just throw on what you like? If you just wear what you like, how do you keep out of a rut? Most importantly, how do people, you, anyone you know, manage to look fabulous and effortless at the same time?


Mrs. Allroro said...

I think it takes money. Not buttloads, but the commitment to spend it on clothes. Unless your body is a prototype. Mine isn't.

My sister looks fabulous all the time, but she buys clothes. I have two coworkers who always look fabulous, but they spend money on clothes. I think that's the key. Or at least, I think that's the main thing I'm missing.

Or maybe it's secondary. My sister's house also looks fabulous all the time. She has good taste. I don't think I have that sense of things that go.

I would say it takes sacrificing not wanting to not look like everybody else, too, because other people could wear my sister's clothes or live in her house and it would look just as good on them. But that's not true of my coworker, so that's not it. I think it's the good taste thing.

My coworker wears lots of rainbows and plaid and she wears the same jewelry every day, but it always looks great. I think it's because she has great taste and spends money on clothes.

All of these people I'm mentioning are also beautiful, but they all three have different body types, so I don't think the body type matters. I think you are beautiful, too, so you don't have to worry about that.

And I do love your profile pic! But I also think you looked great in your Easter pic. But who doesn't look great on Easter? :-)

And you were fabulous in high school.

I am a little torn about knowing what I like. I used to love rainbows and plaid until my body started changing, and then I started trying to pull attention away from certain areas. I've been wearing a lot of black, just because I keep buying black things because I think they go with everything(except brights, I learned on Oprah), and it turns out whenever I look at myself in the mirror and I'm wearing a black top, I do not like my coloring in it. It's a battle. I'm kind of in your boat.

Jamie Roberts said...

i still wear my baggie shirts and blue jeans...most of my shirts come from the men's dept or from some online store. i live in scrubs because i feel like i'm at work all the time...i'm lucky, i get to wear pajamas to work basically. on the rare occasion that i dress up, i have ONE pair of dress pants and a few shirts. usually the kind that are gathered under the boob and of course have to cover my butt. someday i may realize that the big clothes just make me look bigger, but i'm comfy and i don't care what they think. if they don't like the way i look, then don't look at me. haha the thing i used to get uptight about was my hair. until recently, i had it long, almost to my waist and would color it very often to get rid of the gray. i've now decided to stay away from hair color and cut it shorter to get rid of the damaged hair. i still get picky about my hair, but i either straighten it, or pull it back when wet so it's curly. my daughter is the exact opposite of me. she could create outfits out of a walmart bag if she wanted to. i can't match two white socks. anything she decides to wear looks like something out of a tween magazine. but i think the key to any of these is confidence. i have always admired my mom and her sense of style. she has always been a bigger woman, yet she will wear a shirt that fits with leggings or whatever they are called and she looks beautiful. because she's confident in herself and her sense of style. my daughter knows that her 'creations' are beautiful and she will jokingly say "i make this look good" so i guess it isn't what they are wearing in paris or new york or in a cow pasture, it's HOW they wear it.

love ya girl!!

ps..i always thought you were beautiful and i still do. i have known you for so long and i'm so proud of you :) i've admired your style for years and used to wish that i could be as poised as you.

Suze said...

I saw you a few months ago and you are still so pretty. Prettier in real life than that profile pic, indeed! You never needed make-up. In high school I always envied your skin (you zitless wonder, you)

I'm pretty hopeless with fashion, too. When I "work" it's with other musicians who usually schlepp around in jeans or sweats, so it doesn't much matter what I wear. Singers are different, though. They usually look nice because they have to be vain to be successful (I don't really mean that as a criticism, just pointing it out.)

Ann's right. It takes money. And time spent shopping. I used to think life was too short to care about fashion, but now that I'm over 30 I care a little more, but I don't know what I like, either.

Suze said...

P.S. I could never dress like the First Lady, but I love LOVE her style. The other day I found a blog completely devoted to her clothes:

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

I, too, have always thought you were beautiful. I always thought your skin was so luminescent. I would have killed in high school to have the confidence you had. Me, I hid behind tons of makeup and weird hair.

I don't dress the same way I did in high school. I LOVE what I wore in high school, but my body can't quite carry that kind of stuff off anymore. But I do still keep that "vibe". Hippie-style peasant tops, black leather boots, empire-waisted shirts that make my bosom look bursting and hide my spare tire, long skirts, retro looks, vintage/retro shoes, these are all things that I have in my wardrobe. But mostly I wear jeans and polos to work. But I don't wear make up much anymore. And my idea of fixing my hair is to put mousse in it when I get out of the shower, run my fingers through it, and go (yes, it's crazy short again). I don't know particularly what's in style at the moment. I just know what I like. And I hit the thrift and vintage stores for a lot of my stuff.

And as far as makeup goes, if you do want to indulge in some primping, neutral browns look good on everyone, stay away from shimmery eye shadow, and black/brown mascara is the most flattering for all skin tones. A rule of thumb for lipstick is to choose a shade close to the color of the inside of your lips. Neutral mauves and browny-reds look the most natural and flattering for most skin types. Burt's Bees has some nice tinted lip balm in nice natural shades. Check out the shades "fig" and "cocoa". There's also a nice mauvey-pink color that I can't think of the name of right now. Mineral make-up is awesome for sheer coverage that doesn't feel like it's clogging your face up. It also looks the most natural, like you don't have any makeup on at all, but enhances everything. If your cheeks are naturally rosy, skip the blush. You won't need it. If you choose to make your eyes really dramatic, go easy on the lips. If you choose to make your lips look really dramatic, go easy on your eyes.

Hope this helps and I will now stop hijacking your blog for Jenn's Fashion 101. :-)

Mrs. Allroro said...

I think the most important things to look for when you do spend money on clothes are fit and quality. Because if it fits, it'll look good on you. If it's good quality, it'll look good on you longer.

And as for makeup, I say get out your favorite things and sit in front of the mirror and just do one thing at a time. If any of those one things makes a positive difference, then that's the thing you can go to when you want to step it up a bit. For one person I know, it was brown eyeliner. For me, it's mascara. Even my husband agrees that i look better with mascara. (I have blond eyelashes. Weird, I know.) For my fabulous coworker, it's blush and lipstick. (She's fair.) For you, I don't know what it would be, because you have such beautiful coloring and skin. I would say maybe some gloss? And some people say that having your eyebrows professionally waxed (Or tweezed or threaded) makes all the difference in the world. Oprah said people thought she'd had an eyelift after she had hers done. I know two gorgeous girls at work who have their brows done, and it really is dramatically beautiful. (And they say that after you've had it done, you can just maintain it.)

Kate said...

Do you take your cues from fashion icons, and if so, who? Not all the time, but I am inspired by the style in the old movies from the 40s and 50s that I watch, and as a teenager I used to obsess over the styles in my dad's high school yearbook from 1969. I also loved the long skirts in jr high - I still love the bohemian/hippie look, but I need more structure in my clothing, so I use boho accessories.

Do you read the magazines? No. They just make me feel bad about myself. And I don't follow tons of trends. But I do love catalog shopping.

Do you watch the shows? Just WNTW.

Do you obsess or do you just throw on what you like? I mostly wear what I like. I tend to buy classic, basic pieces that I know will be in style 3 years from now. I used to be really cheap about my basics, but when the quality is crappy, my body looks crappy. So now I invest a little more, and I do A LOT of buying on eBay, once I find a designer whose quality/size chart is consistent. That's my base layer. Then I add accessories, which I score for cheap at Target, at Kohl's, eBay, Etsy, etc. I have a sick collection of big-a** earrings and handbags and shoes - those are usually my go-to accessories. I just buy what looks fun, what pleases me to look at. I figure that now that we're adults, most of us are too preoccupied with our own style concerns to analyze my choice of gold and turquoise earrings with copper shoes and a purple handbag.

If you just wear what you like, how do you keep out of a rut? It happens. I try to buy a few new pieces each season and then I'll buy a few trendy items if I can find them for cheap. I am just not a fan of devoting a ton of money to following InStyle's newest trends.

Most importantly, how do people, you, anyone you know, manage to look fabulous and effortless at the same time? I try to buy things that make me feel good when I wear them. It can be a huge challenge. But once I know that I have some good reliable clothes, I experiment. Then once I find a look/outfit that works, I emulate that outfit. And sometime's it's dumb luck. And other times I don't look fabulous AT ALL.

As for hair and makeup... I have had some hot messes in regards to my hair. I'm working on that. I learned my makeup technique from an out-of-print book called "Becoming a Beauty Queen'. Feel free to laugh. I learned how to do eyeshadow contouring that way - so cheesy. If you're looking to add polish without a face full o' spackle, go to the nearest Clinique counter. They have the least makeup-y base makeup, and it might be passe, but I love their stuff. Their glass and naturally glossy mascara are awesome. Buy a lash curler. Most days I just wear a little concealer on my nose, a sweep of powder, blush, Rosebud salve on my lips, and mascara.

Kate said...

Also, if you can wear black... black! Lots of black! My sister always looks chic and effortless, and she wears cute jeans with black tops and fun shoes. Super super easy!

Tessa said...

Who needs that lady with the gray streak in her hair when you know, quite personally, a local style icon? Ummm...a one Miss Kristy Collins is all you need. That girl looks absolutely perfect at all times. Now, she has that body type where she can put on just about anything and it will hang properly (lucky hoochie), but none the less, she always looks as though she just walked out of a magazine. Sometimes it's Vogue, other times it's Seventeen and I have even seen her look like a Woman's Day model - the uber housewife look. But no matter the mag, she always looks great. I do know that she only bargain shops so I don't feel like she spends an obnoxious amount of money on her clothes, but she devotes some time to it. Having said that, it is easier for someone of her stature to find clothes in many places and not be annoyed with the way something hangs or fits, thus cutting down on her overall shopping time.

So, I agree with Mrs. Alloro when she says that you have to put a little money into it. I have the same issues, girl. I hate shopping b/c I feel like nothing ever, ever, EVER fits me like I thought that it would. So, I just don't shop very often and then my clothes look worn out. Oh well. It is a process I'm not fond of, but it is what it is.

If I had to pick a style icon, I would go with someone like Jennifer Aniston. She is always dressed nicely, but never overdone, ya know? Just right. She tends to wear a lot of black and mostly solids, very little prints. But, my money is still on Kristy. That girl knows what she's doin'!!

P.S. I always think you look nice. Don't be so hard on yourself. You ROCK!! Love ya lots.