I don’t get out much these days. Since the pandemic I’ve been working from home most of the time and I spend much of my life in pyjamas or “lounge wear”. It’s no coincidence, then, that my desire to put together an outfit has grown given I rarely have an opportunity to wear “something nice” (you could argue I should be making these opportunities for myself, but I appear to have become a hermit since the pandemic – anyone else?)
I think this outfit (below) would work for both a Natural Ingénue and an Ingénue Natural. With a few tweaks, it could work for a Natural Romantic; just add some statement jewellery and some chunkier, sexier boots.
I often have an overwhelming impulse to put an outfit together. Sometimes, to satisfy this urge (and so as not to end up ordering a million items that I will almost certainly return, fussy Ingénue that I am) I create something akin to a Polyvore collage (remember that site?) which does help scratch the itch somewhat.
This would be a good outfit for the summer if you are someone who doesn’t like having bare legs (like me – is this an Ingénue thing, I wonder?) The suede riding boots are gorgeous but I’ve found that pretty sandals (I have some similar to these) paired with the navy leggings work just as well and keep you cool in all but the hottest weather.
Dress: the dress is from Apricot and currently only £20 (more sizes on Next for £10 more). I own this myself and it’s lovely. Perfect for a Deep Summer and would also work for Winters as the navy is very dark. The seam under the bust is a little on the high side (especially if you are big of bust), but luckily that’s not very noticeable. The belt works well to give some waist definition (which most Ingénues will need). The pattern is just perfection.
This morning, I told my friends about a new pair of trainers I’d treated myself to. My innocuous comment resulted in this blog post when my friend admitted she hates her trainers. “The ones I have are bright pink,” she told me. “I know it’s vanity really, but I just hate pink.” She went on to say: “I feel conscious of them the whole time. I don’t need that much headspace taken up by my shoes!”
There’s little worse than feeling self-conscious or irritated by what you’re wearing. When I did my style experiment back in 2015, I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. I felt so self-conscious and uncomfortable the entire day that I couldn’t fully concentrate on my job.
In order to focus, to do the work that matters to us, we need to be comfortable. In a physical sense, yes (I hark on about comfort a lot when helping clients declutter) but also comfort in our own skin. And that includes paying attention to what we wear.
As someone who sees the value in personal style, I will debate anyone who says that caring about how we look is pure vanity. Besides, why can’t we admire an outfit or our make-up in the same way we’d admire art or a pleasingly cohesive design? The way we dress is a perfectly valid and creative way of expressing ourselves. It gives us confidence. It’s a silent way of communicating with the world. It’s how we tell people who we are before we get the opportunity to speak. And, historically, women haven’t always been given that opportunity.
Besides, who are these people accusing others of vanity? We have long been shamed for caring too much about our appearance, or for caring too little. All with the intention of keeping us small.
“She doesn’t make an effort.” “She’s high maintenance.” I don’t often swear on this blog, but I’ll make an exception today: it’s all bollocks. And let’s not forget that what’s considered attractive changes. The only way we can ‘win’ is to dress for ourselves.
I think the word ‘vanity’ is thrown about carelessly by those wanting to undermine others. But there’s nothing vain about wanting to feel comfortable and confident in your own skin so you can get on with the vital business of tearing down the patriarchy.
Helping other people declutter their wardrobes is the gift that keeps on giving. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know I’m not joking.
Every time I help someone, I learn something new. Sometimes it’s another insight into their personal style, their lifestyle (and how that informs the way they dress), or about style archetypes in general.
Earlier this month, a close friend contacted me to ask for help. She was avoiding putting the laundry away, she told me, because her clothes wouldn’t fit in her wardrobe anymore. Over several hours, with ruthless efficiency and the easy banter that comes from knowing someone for so long, we assessed every item of clothing she owned. I wrote down a list of her ‘gaps’ (things she needs to buy) and a list of her favourite brands.
Watching my friend try on mini skirts that used to be wardrobe staples, we both concluded that the skirts now simply looked too short. In the same way someone looks at odds when they aren’t dressing for their personal style, this realisation had nothing to do with age or size. The mini skirts were just… not quite right. I was fascinated by this, having seen her wear these items with aplomb for years. But, undoubtedly, something had changed. Afterwards, I sent her a list of items I thought would fill her gaps, taking into account the style discoveries we’d made during the decluttering process.
This friend’s decluttering inspired me to do some of my own. I’m someone who reviews their own clothes every 3-6 months, but after helping my friend I realised I’d been holding onto things that no longer served me, too.
I got rid of an entire bin bag of clothes, unheard of for me. I realised I’d been hanging onto things, waiting to resume my old (pre-pandemic) life. But upon assessing each item of clothing, I realised I was holding onto things for the wrong reasons. Some items were simply past their best. Some I’d had for so long they now looked dated. And, without exception, all of these things no longer fit me.
I kept some items that are too small for me right now, and hopefully these will fit again when I start eating more mindfully and moving my body. Like many, I’ve gained weight during the pandemic. And, like many, my lifestyle has changed. I work from home primarily now, my dress and leggings ‘uniform’ replaced by comfortable jogging bottoms and t-shirts (I might push the boat out and wear a snood if I’m on a video call that day).
Whilst trying on outfits I realised, with a heavy heart, that somewhere along the line I’d stopped looking in the mirror. No longer wearing my minimal make-up each day, I’d not really had any need to. But this wasn’t the only reason. I knew, if I was being honest with myself, that it was also related to the weight gain.
You can glean so much by looking at a face. We can assess health, we can assess mood, we can tell whether we’re looking after ourselves (or not). With this in mind, imagine being friends with someone but never looking at their face. Wouldn’t that be bizarre? We wouldn’t expect to do this and for it to be okay. In fact, in doing so we’d be ignoring our friends. I realised that, in no small way, I’d been ignoring myself.
After nearly two years of pyjamas and jogging bottoms, I have every faith I can find my way back to myself. Perhaps this is hubris. I will be forty this year; I refuse to ‘dress my age’, to be ruled by a fear of appearing ‘mutton dressed as lamb’. But, as helping my friend so brilliantly illustrated, I also have to accept that personal style does evolve within our archetype. Some clothes do date, and some styles can look ‘off’ after years of looking right. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay, in fact; it’s an opportunity to try something new. So with that said, I’m off to order some velvet dungarees and a lace blouse to see if that’s a look I can pull off. We shall see… Wish me luck 😉
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.”
I’ll start with this disclaimer: I could never have guessed my own clothing personality. When I went to House of Colour and got told I was a Natural Ingénue, I could have fainted. In fact, I went around asking friends and family afterwards whether I looked ‘innocent’ (a common trait shared amongst ingénues, I was told). They thought this was hilarious; every single one of them laughed and said, “Yes!” The verdict was unanimous. Something so obvious to others, and yet, I hadn’t been able to see it in myself.
I do find it easier to guess the clothing personalities of others, though, especially if they have a consistent style. I’ve been pondering some of the ‘tells’ that I look for, and thought I’d compile a list for my lovely readers.
Ingénue – pretty and delicate are key words here. You might find them wearing broderie anglaise, pointelle, lace, fine knits, subtle sparkle. It’s all about the pretty detail. Ingénues tend to have a youthful, young, pretty look about them regardless of age and this is the key thing I look for. I find an ingénue can look plain in normal, work-appropriate clothes. But match the clothes to the clothing personality and watch them transform.
Romantic – these are the sexy, mature, feminine women who can often be seen rocking a fabulous pair of heels. Polished and unlikely to be seen without makeup (but a Natural Romantic, or a Romantic Natural might well feel differently). Romantics love a bit of sparkle and can really pull of ruffles, ruching and fancy jewellery without those things looking busy or distracting. Velvet and pearls look gorgeous on them. Wavy or curly hair is better than straight. These people exude a natural glamour. Soft, rounded shapes flatter them.
Classic – I think of Classics as ‘proper grown-ups’. A Classic Romantic friend of mine has looked ‘grown-up’ since she was a teenager. Another Classic friend of mine said she felt she was born 35 and was delighted to hit her 30s and 40s. This isn’t to say these people look ‘old’, not at all. Just mature, grown-up, polished. These are people who look totally at home in a beautifully tailored suit. Traditional, elegant, unfussy, simple, timeless. Their understated classic clothes would look boring on another clothing personality. Remove fuss and detail and the more a Classic will shine. (These are not the I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-and-look-amazing types – that’d be a Natural!)
Gamine – dead giveaways are those that look good in dungarees, shorts and Converse trainers. Gamine is a youthful, ‘tom boy’ look and those with this clothing personality can really rock a quirky accessory. They often look better with short hair (think: pixie cut). Much like the Ingénue, a Gamine has a young or childlike quality about them regardless of their age. Think boyish, mischievous (even rebellious) and playful.
Natural – these are the people who roll out of bed, run a hand through their hair and look stunning. A Natural looks most at home in a casual, easy look. In fact, they can look strange and uncomfortable when forced to dress up for a more formal occasion. Heavy makeup, even in the right colours, looks off. Anything formal or tailored doesn’t quite sit right. High heels look awkward. These are handsome, friendly-looking individuals who look best in relaxed, unpretentious clothing. Textured fabrics look particularly good on Naturals – think suede, corduroy, leather, chunky knits. And they look especially good in scarves, and clothes with movement.
Dramatic – the word that springs to mind is ‘angular’. They wear straighter, hard-edged lines. This might be evident in clothing or in accessories, or even spiky hair. They tend towards the larger scale, for added drama. Strong personalities, they’re often drawn towards the theatrical and they’re not afraid of attracting attention. Hair and make-up is often polished, to complete the edgy look. They don’t shy away from dramatic textures, such as a high sheen PVC handbag or leather trousers. The look is powerful, intense, avant-garde.
Ethereal – interestingly, not a clothing personality that House of Colour acknowledge. Ethereals have an other-worldly, dreamlike look about them. Think moonlight, the hazy mist of early morning, the view of the clouds you might see when you’re in an aeroplane. It’s not a classically sexy look (like the Romantic). They might look a bit like a pixie or an elf. Someone with the Ethereal clothing personality type could dress up as a fairy or other mystical creature and look surprisingly convincing. They are often drawn towards the celestial; perhaps they’re wearing a star-patterned scarf, or a moon pendant.
As I’ve said before, most people are a mix of at least two clothing personalities. After much deliberation of my own clothing personality, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m an Ethereal Ingénue Natural (word order apparently matters here – the word that comes last is your primary clothing personality). I’m quite broad and I need plenty of movement and freedom in my clothes, so I think Natural is my primary clothing personality. The Ingénue is very important, though – I look plain without it. I need pretty details, dresses, a little bit of jewellery. But I like to ‘toughen up’ the look with boots, a big coat, a sturdy (but elegant) bag. I’m happiest with how I look when I manage to balance the Natural and the Ingénue. The Ingénue softens the Natural (for example, I tend to avoid animal print, jeans, and anything too chunky) and the Natural takes the edge of the Ingénue, which would be too OTT pretty / dainty otherwise (and as a result I avoid anything too fitted, high necklines and any item of clothing that requires I have a waist). The Ethereal comes in as a third element. I’ve been told more than once I look like an elf!
As an aside, some systems don’t differentiate between Ingénue and Romantic, and I think that’s a mistake. When you see a Romantic beside an Ingénue, you really understand the difference. Both are very feminine but one looks mature, sexy, an adult, the other youthful, innocent, pretty.
Got a topic you’d like to see me cover? Drop me a line in the comments below 🙂
I popped up to London recently to drape a client who wanted to know her colours in order to build a capsule wardrobe (for those interested, she turned out to be a Deep/Dark Winter – I’ve been draping a few of those lately!). Her questions about capsule wardrobes got me thinking: there’s so much advice online, and so much I don’t agree with 😉 Here’s my two pennies.
Be wary of prescriptive lists of ‘must haves’
Firstly, the lists online that say you need two blouses, a pair of court shoes, two pairs of jeans etc are, in my humble opinion, of very little use. Sometimes they serve as inspiration, but in my experience they’re too individual to be useful, and they often assume a certain kind of office-based lifestyle. What could you do instead?
Make an ‘occasion’ list
In the course of a year, what occasions will you need to dress for? My list includes: weddings, horse riding, work, swimming, yoga, meals/drinks out, sleeping and exercising. Sometimes they overlap – I often do yoga in my PJs!
Let discomfort be your guide
Physical discomfort can be a useful indicator of items you’re missing. Shoulder aching because your bag is too heavy? Then you probably need a smaller, lighter one. Feeling cold? Perhaps now’s the time to invest in a jumper.
It can also be useful to take note of what you’re wearing a lot, the items that you rush through the wash to wear again. Would you benefit from having another? If you’re stressed when it’s in the dirty laundry basket, then the answer is probably yes!
If making a list of items for your capsule wardrobe feels too overwhelming, start by picking just ONE item you think you need. And remember that building a capsule wardrobe is a process – you can keep revising it until it works for you. You don’t have to buy it all at once, and you definitely don’t have to get it right first time.
Allow yourself to fall in love
It’s so easy, when thinking about a capsule wardrobe, to get caught up in the practical – is it comfortable? fit for purpose? will it go with everything else I own? My advice here is this: allow yourself to fall in love. Trust me – those items you love will be your workhorses. As I said to a client recently: if you want to dress like an off-duty Bellatrix Lestrange, then do!
If you’re struggling to feel the love amid the overwhelm, I’d recommend using Pinterest to make a board of anything that appeals to you. As you pin things you’re drawn to, you’ll start to see a common aesthetic.
Get a colour analysis
As a colour analyst, of course I’d say this. But if you’re serious about building a capsule wardrobe, your clothes are going to have to work extra hard for you. Firstly, they all need to co-ordinate (if you’re buying clothes in your palette, they will) and secondly, you want to make sure that the few items you have look great on you. Knowing your palette makes shopping SO much easier and quicker, because you can immediately discount the colours that aren’t yours.
I’ve been a fan of Marian Keyes for the longest time, since the days of Watermelon and Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married. I recently read her latest book, The Break, and was struck by the main character Amy’s love of fashion. Throughout the book, references were made to the kinds of makeup and clothes that the character felt suited her (very consistent with someone who was a Winter, I couldn’t help but notice) and there was even a reference to colour analysis.
With this in mind, I looked up Marian Keyes on YouTube and this is what I found. Take a look at this stunning creature:
Clearly a Winter like her character, Amy. Her hair colour makes her skin look so clear and smooth (clearly, this lady has some make-up game, too). I would be shocked if Marian hadn’t had her colours done (if only I could ask her!)
This was the interview I watched. Take a look at her house, too, and Marian’s top. The dark hair really suits her, and those eyes! The remarkable pale grey/blue/green of a Bright Winter.
I suspect the interviewer (Sam Baker) is an Autumn. She’s much more muted than Marian, and her hair looks to be a muted russet. I bet she’d look great in an antique teal or a dark olive (I always get such Autumn envy whenever I think about the palette).
Having done a bit of Instagram stalking, I am convinced Marian is a Romantic of some description. She loves her fabulous shoes and her animal prints; there’s a brilliant pic of her in a leopard print dress (all Winter colours).
Both Marian and her character Amy love the Serbian artist Dusanka Petrovic, another ‘Winter clue’. Take a look at the really bright, cool colours:
I enjoyed the book all the more for its references to colour and fashion. I wasn’t at all surprised to discover that both Marian and her character Amy were Winters.
If you’re on the market for a really compelling and at times quite gritty book about marriage, relationships and families, then I can highly recommend The Break 🙂
Marian confirmed on Twitter that she has had her colours done and that she’s a Winter!!!!!!!!!! (My day is made!!!!!!)
Apologies for the title – I trust you’ve heard of the dance move “big fish, little fish, cardboard box”? Sorry not-sorry about that 😉
As an ingénue, I don’t want or need bust emphasis. Whilst shopping online today I was thinking about bust size and how it influences the styles that flatter us (or not). Here are my thoughts on what works and what doesn’t, depending on whether you’re small or large of bust.
What works: high necklines, a yoke*, detail above the bust, halter necks if shoulders aren’t too wide, long necklaces, polo necks, chokers.
Avoid: Low v-necks and any neckline that is too low.
What works: lower necklines (scoop, v-neck), boat neck (works for medium-sized busts), detail below the bust, e.g. empire band or belt, avoid too much bulk at the bust e.g. ruffles. Romantics might be able to get away with the latter.
Avoid: Long necklaces that straddle one asset (if you catch my drift) – necklaces that rest above the bust, as opposed to on the bust, are better. A large bust, when not dressed well, can give the impression of you being heavier than you are. Pepperberry, if you’ve never heard of them, make clothes for the big of bust.
Sheer tops can make higher necklines more wearable for bigger busts, I find.
Several months ago now I visited Bravissimo in Norwich and it was somewhat life-changing. I was certain I was wearing the right size bra. Turns out I was wearing a band size too big and a cup size too small. The right bra can take years off you and completely change your silhouette, as I discovered. I can’t recommend a visit strongly enough. If your outfit is fabulous but your bra isn’t you can be sure it’ll sabotage your look; I’m not being overly dramatic here. Alas, I digress… There seems to be a lot of high necklines in the shops at the moment, which means I’m struggling. I can see that the slim models look better in these necklines, but I do not.
The above are, of course, only my observations – do you agree? What do you find works for you?
* yoke = a part of a garment that fits over the shoulders and to which the main part of the garment is attached.