In recent weeks I’ve experienced the unadulterated joy of helping a friend declutter her wardrobe. This is not sarcasm; I’m one of those people who loves to declutter so much that I get pleasure-by-proxy in helping someone else. During the decluttering process we had several conversations about style as we narrowed down the things that were a solid 10/10 and really hit that style sweet spot.
My friend, let’s call her K, hasn’t been to House of Colour, isn’t familiar with Kibbe or David Zyla’s work. She doesn’t have the same shared references and terminology when it comes to clothing personalities, and this has made me see style archetypes in a different way. How useful are they when you’re talking to a new client who isn’t familiar with those systems? How accessible are they? And so, I found myself talking about style in a different way. Initially, I found myself trying to guess where my friend would sit (was she a Romantic? Ingenue? a Natural?) and in the end I gave up. I wasn’t defeated, but I realised trying to solve that puzzle just then wasn’t helping me, either. Instead, I found myself using words we both understood.
Feminine, but not overtly sexy. Pretty, but not prim. Comfortable, natural, but not preppy or bohemian. Cute, but not too kooky.
And suddenly things started to make sense. After our call ended, I found myself hopping onto Pinterest and creating a style board using the information I’d gleaned. K is someone who needs waist definition. An empire line isn’t flattering, nor is a high neckline. Comfort is essential. She’s Zooey Deschanel from New Girl, not Penelope Cruz in Casino Royale. Pointelle, broderie anglaise, vintage styles, these all work. Medium-to-large scale patterns, accessories etc, but not oversized or extra large. Soft lines and round shapes are better than sharp, angular lines because she herself is not sharp or angular. Probably, on reflection, a Romantic Ingenue after all.
I had a similar realisation when I was shopping for my wedding dress. The women in the bridal shops didn’t understand clothing archetypes, so instead I had to try and describe what I wanted in a different way. ‘Elegant bohemian’ was the best I could come up with, and it did help. I was steered towards the more understated, pretty dresses and away from the mermaid fishtails and plunging necklines. Phew.
When it comes to discussions around style, I always enjoy the fancy dress analogy. The question I love to ask clients is: who would you dress as if you were going to a fancy dress party and you knew your crush would be there? What instinctively do you think would look good? A fairy princess? Pirate? Sexy nurse? Some character from an 80s film? Arwen from Lord of the Rings? Snow White? I can see, looking back at old photos of myself, that I chose to dress as a fairy at one fancy dress party I attended (which, coincidentally, my crush was also attending…) I chose that outfit for a reason, and I didn’t feel self-conscious in it. It was my Facebook profile picture for a while, too. It’s telling, isn’t it, what one sets their social media profile picture to.
At the end of our session together, sat beside a huge pile of clothes for the charity shop and satisfied by the new space in her wardrobe, K said to me:
“I am so relieved I don’t have to try to be someone else.”
And really, truly, that is the essence of it.
Want help with your wardrobe? Let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org. I would absolutely ~love~ to help 🙂