There's a pretty wonderful article in the September 2011 issue of Vanity Fair (above) about Consuelo Crespi and her twin sister Gloria Schiff. They were young American beauties who married well and lived a life of elegant privilege (Gloria is still alive). I remember them as being part of that beaut-pack in my mother's Vogue magazines of the 1950's - '60s. The piece is yet another example of lauding the gift of style without giving us a clue what that is. And it's true; style is tricky to define. It never follows a formula. It needs to appropriately reflect time and place. It mustn't be imitated or it isn't yours. It is observed by others, but if you have it you probably can't dissect it.
Everyone has style. Not everyone has "a style". The more you know about yourself, though, the clearer that style will become. Take the following quiz to see:
1) How many colors can you quickly name that make up most of your wardrobe?
2) What's the oldest thing in your wardrobe that you still wear, and how old is it?
3) Do you have new clothes hanging in your closet unworn as of now?
> If yes, how many pieces: 1-3? more than 4?
4) When a special occasion arises, which do you do first:
> Go to your closet to find something to wear?
> Go shopping?
5) What influences you most in your fashion choices?
> Television and movies
> People you know
> None of these
6) How often do you switch your handbag?
> With the season
> To coordinate with outfits
> When I'm in the mood for change
> Hardly ever
> What handbag?
7) Beside clothes which is the more important addition to your look?
8) All costs being the same would you rather purchase:
9) Do you find yourself continuously buying variations of the same thing (such as jeans)?
10) How would you describe your wardrobe:
> Mix and match
> Simple ensembles
> Catch as catch can
11) How often do you regret wearing what you'd chosen for the day?
> More than once a week
> Practically never
12) What period of history would you rather dress in other than today?
1) If you answered 1 - 3 colors you have a clear idea what looks good on you. If you answered 4 or more focus on what looks best and eliminate the rest to sharpen your style.
2) A good handbag can have a long life. T-shirts do not. Styles of most items change radically (proportion and fit) every three years (including eyeglasses). Even the best suit has to be turned out to pasture eventually. Good jewelry is timeless.
3) After a week you should know whether your purchase is something you need and/or still want. With the possible exception of things purchased out of season or for a special occasion, you should take the tags off and WEAR it.
4) Check out the fall-back special occasion items that should be there. Only then if you're not satisfied should you go shopping.
5) We are all influenced subliminally if not consciously by the world around us. It's best not to consciously channel one person's style or you will never find yours.
6) Most of us have great intentions and a collection of unused handbags.
7) Having nothing hair can make or break your look faster than no makeup. You know what I mean— hair that doesn't try.
8) If you have a well-thought wardrobe you can afford to have "fun" with accessories.
9) If jeans are your thing you may indeed need a whole wardrobe of them. But be honest if you are avoiding the big picture that is your wardrobe.
10) Your wardrobe style should match your life. "Mix and match" gives you the most variety in a work wardrobe, but there is nothing wrong with a few well-chosen dresses or other ensembles if variety is not primary.
11) You may not be giving yourself enough time to put things together. If you possibly can, try it on the night before, accesories included. Next day you'll have time-saved and a good outfit. At the other end, you may not be experimenting enough and are stuck in a rut.
12) Hopefully you chose an era that never dressed you. Rule of thumb: You cannot wear again, in the same way, anything you actually wore once in real time.