Thursday, March 31, 2016

Style as a Skill, and the Perennial Money vs. Time Decision

When I was a kid, I had a vision of what I would be like when I grew up. I always had a job of some sort. What, exactly, I thought I'd be doing would change, but I always had a career. I also had a nice home, which was stylish, yet comfy. And also tidy. This last bit is funny, because to say my room was messy as a child is an understatement of monumental proportions. But when I imagined what I'd be like as a grown up, my house was clean. Interestingly, the house of my imagination consisted of a dining room and living room. I can still almost see what I thought those would look like, but can't recall thinking about the other rooms at all.

I also imagined that I myself would be stylish and put together. Not super fashionable- that has never really appealed to me. But I would have a sense of style, and I would be confident in it.

I have actually achieved all of what I imagined, except that last part. My home is stylish enough for me. It is sometimes less tidy than I'd like, but it is tidy enough, and the recent addition has made it much, much easier to keep the living room at a level of tidiness that doesn't make me antsy. Basically, the kids' toys have been relegated to the new open space behind the sofa, so they don't bother me.

But my own sense of style? It has gone missing. I think maybe I had one when I was a younger adult, but perhaps what I actually had was a young and more fit body that looked decent in whatever clothes I decided to wear, and so the fact that I didn't have much of a sense of style wasn't really an issue. Back then, though, I didn't have the sort of home I imagined, so I wasn't living the life 12 year old me imagined then, either.

I've recently had an epiphany on the style front. I've realized that if this is something I want, I'm going to have to invest either some time or money in developing this skill. Just thinking that at some point in the future I'll magically develop a sense of style is silly.  That's not how skills work.

I had been thinking of a sense of style as a trait, like eye color, but that makes no sense. Anything that involves cognition can be improved upon... so either I should work on that or I should decide I don't care about this skill. Afterall, 12 year old me was not necessarily right about what adult me should be like.

However, I think I'd be happier if I liked my clothes more. So I guess 12 year old me wins this one.

Now the question is: will I invest time or money? If I'm going the money route. I think I need something more than the Nordstrom personal shopper provides. I need someone to come look at my closet, talk to me, and figure out (1) what sort of clothes I will wear, (2)  what sort of clothes I should wear, and (3) where those two things intersect. Once I'm confident in that, I'm happy to buy high end clothes, because I know they'll get worn and make me feel good when I wear them.

If I go the time route, I need to spend a lot of time shopping until I figure out (1), (2), and (3) on my own.

I don't enjoy shopping that much, so I'd rather go the money route, but I'm having a hard time convincing myself to spend the kind of money I think this would cost.

So I'm at an impasse. I'll let you know when I resolve it.

Have you ever had a "hey, that's a skill not a trait and I should work on learning it if I want to be better at that" sort of epiphany? 

Where would you come in on the money vs. time decision?


  1. I've always enjoyed fashion but also probably had a bit of being young and fit so most things looked good. Developing style is different and I ruthlessly konmari'd my closet and got rid of everything ill fitting/unflattering/in a color or pattern not part of my core colors (white, black, grey, navy, blue, stripes). I am still working on pulling my style together but I am getting there.

    Not exactly the same thing, but I have been very aware of wearing items of clothing that my younger self "never" would have worn.

    I have more money than time & I recently did Trunk club. It was amazing & while it will take several rounds to get a completely updated wardrobe, it was also fun and easy so I certainly will be doing again. You might try that before getting a more involved personal shopper.

    Do you have a good friend who can spend a couple hours with you going through your closet? I am all about the uniform - I figured out what tops are most flattering for me, I have 4 for work & for play I did the same. I have multiples in the same color/style and it works for me.

    What is you favorite outfit? What do you like to wear for a job interview? A date? thinking about that might help you answer 1 & 2. Good luck & keep us posted.

  2. I really really miss grunge. *sigh*

    I wish I could loan you my personal shopper friend. Her mom lives in San Diego, but she's been spending her summers up North instead of in SD. :( Every time someone compliments my outfit, it's something she picked out.

    As I've probably said before, I completely and totally go the personal shopping buddy (I pay her for lunch and last time her dinner too) route once every 2 years or so. We blitz from like 10am to 6pm and completely replace my summer or winter wardrobe in one fell swoop.

    I'm also very much about the uniform. (Though you probably saw me wearing one of my math or anime t-shirts which I do when I'm not business casual... no wait, when I was in SD I was probably wearing conference gear, but that was probably during my ann taylor matching sweater set time. Now I have patterned Loft shells with longer ann taylor cardigans, courtesy of my friend.)

  3. Anonymous7:27 PM

    I'm going through the style finding process too. However, the money option is not really available to me, so I'm left with the time one. I'm following the steps suggested here: I have to say the biggest surprise was that it involved less shopping than I thought. So far I'm finding that it's mostly data collection and analysis, which is a much more pleasurable process for me. I also like the blog because it's very adamantly against hard and fast rules. It doesn't feel like learning a bunch of criteria, it's more like learning to recognize what works for the individual person. (btw, I'm not affiliated with them or anything, I just thought I'd share something I found useful)

  4. What I like about skill v trait is that it also takes away some of the blame (and shame). I look a mess, but it's not inherent to me and my lack of femininity.

    That being said, I am struggling with this appearance issue. I actually can often get the clothes reasonably together, but the hair is a world unto itself. And I think being not-thin means that there's a very short distance from not-polished to completely-uncredible.

  5. I like the blog, Inside out Style by Imogen

    On my Goodreads read shelf, you'll find my recommended style books.

    If you don't have a stylish friend to trade skills with, hire someone for a consultation.

    1. I second this blog! She has great quizzes and wealth of information. I've also found a few other style bloggers to follow and get ideas from and that helps too. It's just trying to find someone with similar shape etc.. That can be a challenge.

  6. The only thing I've been happy in more recently is dresses from mod cloth and bravissimo (second is a uk company) but I spend most of my days in ill fitting jeans and t-shirts so I'm probably not a great person to advise!

    1. Anonymous10:09 AM

      The mod cloth business model gives me pause. I can't even stand to look at their ads. Also Style We. Eww.

    2. @Grace Peng - I'd love to know what about the mod cloth business model bugs you. I like their clothes, but I don't want to support a squicky business.

  7. I've been working on the same thing lately! The two things that have most helped me are the Color Seasons ideas from the 80's (I'm an Autumn. I really do prefer autumnal colors and look horrible in navy.), and the website You enter height, weight, and body measurements and get recommendations for what works for your figure. For instance, I should not ever wear peasant blouses, even if they're popular right now. I need to stick with fitted shirts.

  8. Yup, while I always enjoyed clothes/fashion, I never really developed a "style" and just looked good (or so I thought, anyways) in everything because I was thin & young. Now things are more challenging and I am also trying to develop more of a "uniform" because I don't want to stand in my closet for 20 minutes figuring out what to wear. The first step is absolutely to get rid of more than half of what I own. Even if it "fits" and is "fine" if it isn't in the right color scheme or I can't really picture myself wearing it to work or on a typical weekend (with the exception of a few special occasion items).
    Then I think I'll do the trunk club thing, or some online shopping and be super picky about what I keep.

  9. Have you tried the Bento Box yet ( Somehow that would work better for putting together a work-wardrobe for myself than TrunkClub/StitchFix but that may be a personal preference. Also you seem to be looking for a more personal style rather than a uniform for work. I just thought I would mention it in case you don't know their services...I am so jealous that I cannot order from them as they only ship within the case you have tried it already, I would love to read your review.

    1. More on the Bento Box:

      I haven't tried it, but it sounds very promising.

  10. I like developing a sense of style but hate shopping so I do most of my shopping online. I think the first step is to collect images/photos of outfits you like and feel would look good on you. I do this via Pinterest and soon noticed a trend in my preferences. You can also follow people whose style you admire and get ideas. I just think style has to develop organically, over time, and spending money all at once will result in disappointing purchases. It's also definitely cheaper to spread out your purchases.

  11. I pretty much understand my style. Mostly I'm tired of my clothes because I've been wearing them since I came back from maternity leave in 2010.

    I like the Trunk Club idea; it seems like Stitch Fix but with more consistency and time allotted. I have the feeling it's out of my price range, though.

  12. Anonymous10:11 AM

  13. I 100% believe it's a skill. I have never known, really, what "works" best on my body or what colors are flattering, because I was never interested enough in that part of the process to work very much on better results. My biggest progress was in learning that clothes that are too big, but don't come in smaller sizes, can be tailored, but the skills stop there.

    I borrow style suggestions / outfits modeled by petite style bloggers but don't mimic since my life and comfort levels are not in line with theirs.

    Money vs time? Maybe half and half? The frugalite in me doesn't WANT to spend much money which sometimes means I fall into the old habit of cheaping out and not getting the thing I like best and is most comfortable because it's too expensive.

    We need the N&M shopping buddy :)

  14. Though from comments you've made (@wandsci), I think you *do* have a personal style. You like eshataki, you like pockets, you like skirts, etc. You probably could sit down with one of those webpages and think hard and figure out what you want to buy more of yourself. Then, if you have time, get tailoring.

    Like even without my shopping buddy, I know I have Spring coloring and look best in pastels and blues and wine colors. I know that I prefer to de-emphasize my thighs and emphasize my waist. I know I prefer loose clothing to tight clothing. I know that I want my clothing to mix and match and I like solids more than prints and I very much like uniforms. (Though shopping buddy has gotten me to loosen up on this a bit-- one item of various outfits can be a print.) I hate having to shave and prefer things that cover my legs or underarms (though shopping buddy has gotten me to combine shells with cardigans, but since these are more for dress-up than for every day, I generally shave before wearing). And so on. (And I know that I'm fine wearing jeans and old oversized t-shirts when I don't have to see anybody professional!) I need suits 1x/week and business casual 4x/week. I need fall-weight stuff for winter and summer-weight stuff the rest of the year.

  15. Thanks for all the tips and ideas, everyone! I'll check them all out this weekend.

  16. I spent way too much time on this blog:

    Honestly, part of my problem right now re: style is that even if I come up with a "stylish" outfit to wear to work, it's always so cold that I just wear my jacket over my clothes all day anyway. Also - footwear - since I only wear minimalist-style stuff - and shoes make such a big difference in making outfits more fashionable. I'm just looking at it as a work in progress as I continue to find pieces that I really like and that "work."

  17. You might remember that I hired a stylist a few years back. I enjoyed the experience and it certainly taught me how to put outfits together. It was pricey in the beginning, but now I can use what she taught me on my own.

    I do suggest getting someone who will take your personality and preferences in mind though, not just someone who will tell you what's generically in style right now (as that won't help you much in 3-5 years).


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