Friday, 20 March 2015

Step 6: Your Style

It's a long while since my last post, partly due to illness (I had flu-like symptoms and no energy) and partly due to going on holiday to Madrid for my DH's birthday then to London to celebrate Mother's Day with my children. Normal service is now resumed!

Continuing with my 7 Steps to Style series, where I am talking about Imogen Lamport's 7 Steps to Style system, we've now reached Lesson 6: What's Your Style? This step was particularly useful for me as it covered what patterns and prints suit me best and helped me understand why some prints look good on me while others are unflattering. I was aware that large, bold patterns aren't good on petites, but I didn't realise how facial features also influence which patterns suit you the best. I have combination features (a mix of curves and straight lines), which helps explain why the shirt below doesn't do anything for me as the lines are all straight.

Another element to consider when choosing patterns is your personal contrast level. In my case it is high however the contrast shown above is medium, which is another reason why the shirt isn't flattering. Imogen also talks about the density of prints - in general terms, denser prints are more slimming - negative space, which can draw attention to areas of your body that you may not want to highlight and focal points, which have a similar effect to negative space. The outfit below flatters me a lot more than the one above as it includes curves as well as straight lines, plus the colour is better on me.

Having reached this far, I had a very clear picture of what styles, colours and shapes suited me, also taking my style personality and lifestyle into consideration.  I was ready to shop, however at this stage I was being encouraged by Imogen to shop my wardrobe. The idea is to create as many outfits as possible from your existing clothes, ensuring that they flatter you and are appropriate for your lifestyle, while looking for any obvious gaps that you will need to fill with new purchases. As part of this exercise, take a note of what you want more of and less of. 

The next step is to build up one or more wardrobe capsules. I have written several posts about wardrobe capsules (search for capsule using the box at the top) however I like Imogen's brief definition: "a capsule wardrobe is a collection of around 10-15 garments that all work with each other, so you can mix and match them, and you will create 30+ outfits easily."   That will give you a different outfit for every day of the month, which sounds good to me, but note the important words "that all work with each other". Imogen suggests that you choose 2 jackets/cardigans, 4 skirts/trousers and 6 tops, which should work no matter what your lifestyle and style personality are. You should include 1 or 2 neutrals plus 2 to 4 colours that harmonise with each other. You may want to create capsules for different aspects of your life such as work, home and going out. Another good idea is to create accessories capsules based around different colours (that go well with the clothes in your wardrobe capsules) and different aspects of your life.

Now is the time to write out your shopping list: favourite items that need replacing; garments to make your capsules work; wardrobe gaps identified in Step 5 and any accessories needed. Don't forget though that there are seven steps, so wait until you've read my next post before going on a spending spree!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Step 5: Your Wardrobe

If you've read my post about Project 333 and feel inspired to have a go yourself, step 5 in the 7 Steps to Style system will be very helpful.

You will need to allow a couple of hours (depending on whether you already have a pared down wardrobe or whether it flows into other areas of your home like mine does!) and if you have a discerning and tactful friend to help you, that will be a bonus.

Of course, if you've been taking part in the 7 Steps to Style challenge, you will have your style recipe to refer to, as well as your lifestyle charts. You will also know what styles flatter your body shape and your best colours. This should make it easier when going through your wardrobe and sorting your clothes into piles. Imogen suggests the piles should be: clothes that you wear regularly; clothes that you either don't wear or haven't worn in the last couple of years; clothes that you haven't worn for a while and maybe only wear a couple of times a year. You might want to add a pile for clothes that you know should definitely be thrown out, either because they don't flatter you or because they are way past their best.

You now need to try on your clothes to decide whether you will keep them, making sure when you do so that you look good in them and that they are appropriate for your lifestyle. Did you last wear that suit when you were working in a formal office environment? Was that over five years ago? In which case, it's probably one to donate rather than to keep. Do you have several different black t-shirts, jumpers, cardigans and dresses but no longer wear any of them as black looks too harsh on you? They too should be discarded.

I have discovered over the last couple of years, as I have learnt more about what suits me and have started cutting back on my wardrobe, that I am wearing the majority of my clothes on a regular basis. I still have occasional lapses and impulse buy when the sales are on - and guess what? Most of the clothes that I hardly wear have been impulse buys.

Going through my wardrobe when I was creating the capsule of 33 items of clothing for my Winter 33, I realised that fifteen of the items were recent purchases or Christmas gifts, including those that I chose for myself with money my DH gave me. That's hardly surprising, as taking part in 7 Steps to Style has shown me which styles suit my H shape body and which colours flatter me the most. My recent purchases haven't been impulse buys: they have been informed purchases using knowledge gained through 7 Steps.

This photo shows me wearing today's outfit, which I'm happy to say the other members of the 7 Steps to Style facebook group approved of. The cardigan is what Imogen refers to as a "hero piece", as it's clearly the centre of attention. My necklace, top, trousers and shoes are all neutrals so they don't detract from my cardigan, and I chose brown as it is one of the colours in the cardigan.

When going through my wardrobe in January, there were a couple of items that I hesitated over. One was a red jumper that I decided to include in my Winter 33, however I doubt if it will make the cut next year as I've had it for a long time. The other was a pair of boot-cut jeans that are slightly faded: I'm going to see if I can dye them first and, if that's not successful, they will definitely have to go.

While going through your wardrobe you should be able to reduce it by rejecting those clothes that don't flatter you, aren't suitable for your current lifestyle, no longer fit you or frankly are beyond help. You may put some to one side to be revamped - in my case it was the boot-cut jeans and a cashmere cardigan that needs altering - or, if the clothes are in a good condition but no longer suit you, you could consider selling them on e-bay or take them to a charity shop/thrift store. My clothes go to the recycling bins to help a Spanish social action group "Proyecto Abraham".

Hopefully by the time you've gone through this process you will still have enough clothes to make a viable wardrobe. If not, take a note of clothes that have proven their worth but need replacing or any obvious gaps in your wardrobe. Don't go shopping yet though, as the next two steps are just as important!

Postscript: I sent some photos to Imogen showing different sections of my Enigmatic swatch, and she has replied advising me which colours she feels should be my signature colours. Here they are - what do you think?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Project 333 following 7 Steps to Style

This is where I start using the lessons learnt through following Imogen's 7 Steps to Style system to create my latest wardrobe for Project 333.

For any newcomers, Project 333 refers to creating a wardrobe of 33 items of clothing to cover three months.  Here is my Winter 33, which is from the beginning of January (I know, I'm a bit late!) to the end of March.
Winter outerwear, including my new mulberry coat

Signature colours are ones that relate to your personal colouring and therefore flatter you the most. In my case the neutrals are dark brown (the colour of my hair) and grey (I have some grey in my eyes, and the odd pesky grey hair appears amidst the brown ones from time to time). I am also including navy, as the rim round my pupils is navy and I already have several navy garments in my wardrobe.

Here are some of my favourite colours (rather than neutrals) from the Enigmatic swatch. I'm hoping in time to cut the number down from sixteen (yes 16!) to just a few signature colours. However judging by the colours in my capsule wardrobe above, there will have to be at least one red, teal, green and purple in there. I know that some of the tops in my existing wardrobe are a bit cool, however I can't afford to replace them all at once. What I can do is add scarves and necklaces in my Enigmatic colours until I can phase them out. I will also use accessories to provide high value contrast where needed.

My style is casual chic and it is winter, which can be surprisingly cold in Spain, so I decided not to include any skirts in this capsule. The 33 items above include a pair of dark grey trousers, navy jeans, dark brown jeggings, aubergine leggings and black jeans.  Yes, I know that black wasn't mentioned in my signature neutrals above, but I can't afford to replace them at the moment and at least they won't be near my face, so they should be fine when worn with my new tops.

Six cardigans may prove to be excessive, but I do like to wear layers at this time of the year and I decided to make keeping warm one of my priorities.  If I find that I'm not wearing them all then I may replace one or two with another long-sleeved top. Four of the tops are short-sleeved, so they will definitely need to be worn with a cardigan until the weather improves. You may notice that, although they are different colours, the style is the same for all four of them. The v-neck is flattering for those of us who have rectangular or H shaped bodies, plus it also helps petites look taller. The cross over effect and ruching helps to disguise my lack of a waist, which has to be a bonus. Three of the tops (coral, brown and teal) go really well with my swatch too.

One of the lessons that I learnt doing the 7 Steps was that creating a column of colour makes me look taller and slimmer. How wonderful is that? My navy cardigan will go with the navy jeans, the grey cardigan is just right with my grey trousers and as for the multi-coloured patterned cardigan, there's some dark brown in it, so today I'm wearing it with my brown jeggings. In all of these examples the column is on the outside, however I could wear my green cardigan over the brown top and jeggings, in which case the column would be on the inside. The other members of the 7 Steps group approved of the outfit below, including Imogen, so it seems as if I'm going in the right direction. The aubergine cardigan is shown in the fifth picture tied at the waist, but I think I prefer it loose as it has a lengthening effect.

Because you are working with a more limited wardrobe when doing Project 333, it is advisable to choose items of clothing that will mix and match with each other to create as many outfits as possible. Of course you can do this by choosing mainly neutrals, but my style recipe is "Parisian Casual Chic with a Dash of Colour and a little bit Quirky". Yes I've changed it yet again, however you'll notice that the word colour is still there, justifying the number of different colours in my winter capsule.

The advantage of working with a colour palette is that all the colours work together, so how many potential outfits can I make from my Winter 33? I'm going to ignore the aubergine leggings, as they are mainly for when I do Tai Chi or hiking, though I can also wear them under the two tunics shown above in the sixth picture.  There are four other pairs of trousers and jeans, which can be worn with any of the seventeen tops.  Grab your calculator and work this one out: yes, that makes 68 different outfits, not including the two tunics. As the teal tunic is almost knee length I can actually wear it as a dress too, with thick tights.

I nearly forgot the cardigans, Remember that I said the navy one makes a column of colour with my navy jeans and the grey one works well with my grey trousers? If I add a cardigan to any of those 68 outfits it will create even more variations. Did you think that a wardrobe of 33 items of clothing wouldn't provide you with enough options? Hopefully I have convinced you otherwise. If you follow the link above and read the rules for Project 333, you'll notice that I've bent the rules slightly and not included shoes and other accessories,  Hopefully Courtney won't pop over to Spain to check my wardrobe!

If you've been reading my posts about the 7 Steps to Style system, don't worry, I'll be back with the final three steps very soon. The next step ties in very neatly with Project 333 too: Step 5 Your Wardrobe.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Step 4: Your Lifestyle

At first glance, this appears to be one of the most straightforward and easiest steps in Imogen's 7 Steps to Style system . We need to consider our lifestyle when buying clothes and only buy those clothes that are appropriate for this lifestyle.  Well we all do that already, don't we? I'm sure you've never been tempted by the sales to buy unsuitable clothes that hang unworn in your wardrobe, have you? I'm fairly good in that respect as I always wear the clothes that I buy, however in some cases I admit that I don't wear them very often. Sadly, I do have some shoes that I hardly wear but that's due to my over-sensitive feet - and yes, I do walk around in the shoe shop in shoes before I purchase them, but it still doesn't guarantee they'll be comfortable for walking any great distance. At least I have some lovely shoes for when I'm at home and decide to look a bit dressier!

In my case I no longer work - unless you count blogging? - so my wardrobe should contain mainly casual, leisure time clothing, which it does.  Having said that, my current winter wardrobe is hanging up in my half of the wardrobe in our bedroom and it fits my lifestyle perfectly. I can't be too smug though as I also have some other clothes hanging up in the wardrobe in the guest bedroom. The reason they are there isn't just lack of space, it's because they are mainly dresses and smarter clothes that I don't wear on a regular basis.  Yes, I have to put my hand up and admit they don't really fit my everyday lifestyle, however they do get worn occasionally so I still need them.

Take the dress in the photo above, for example, which I wore on holiday in June last year. On reflection the bright pink wrap is probably a bit too bright and not my best pink. however if I choose a new one using my Enigmatic swatch, the dress can be worn on holiday this year too or for going out in the evening during the summer months. Once it is past its best I will then find a replacement that is in one of my most flattering colours and that suits my body shape, but I will shop more knowledgeably having taken part in the 7 Steps to Style.

Before we moved to Spain I made certain assumptions about our lifestyle, and culled my wardrobe accordingly. I assumed that nearly 100% of my wardrobe should consist of casual clothes and left most of my smarter clothes behind as well as many winter clothes. I didn't know that there would be so many events here in Jumilla that require dressier outfits and I also didn't realise how cold it can get in Spain during the winter months. The lesson here is never to make assumptions!

Imogen encourages us in this step to evaluate our lifestyle and work out how much of our week is spent at work, relaxing at home, going out with friends, shopping etc. After that it becomes interesting as we go through our wardrobe identifying which category our clothes come under and compare that with our lifestyle percentages. The crucial question is: do the two match each other?

While doing this, it is also useful to consider our style personality.  Going through my own clothes, it is obvious that the majority of the clothes hanging up in the wardrobe in our bedroom are casual styles, which is to be expected, and most of the ones in the wardrobe in the guest room are smart casual or special occasion styles. When I went through Imogen's wardrobe/lifestyle categories my percentages were 50% smart casual, 45% casual, 5% special occasions and miscellaneous. No real surprises there, though I think my smart casual clothes are more dominant than they used to be before I become so interested in style. Looking at my style personality, which at the moment is "Parisian Casual Chic with a Dash of Colour and Femininity", I can see that much of my wardrobe reflects this as well as being appropriate for my current lifestyle. It is also obvious how much I love colour when you look at the many different colours hanging up there, so perhaps that should read "with a large Dash of Colour"?

One of the many interesting exercises in this step is to pick out four or five of your favourite items that you regularly wear and think about why that is. What is it about them that you love? How do you feel when wearing them and how do you look in them? These can give you extra clues to your style personality and I also think that this knowledge will help you when shopping in future. I have a pair of black shoes that I love wearing because they are comfortable, but also because I feel they are a bit quirky, so maybe I need to add quirky to my style recipe?

I'm just over half-way through the 7 Steps to Style system now and I'm beginning to see how it is all coming together. I'm hoping that by the end of this year I'll be so stylish that friends whom I haven't seen for a while will hardly recognise me!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Step 3: Your Colours

For me this was the most enlightening step and the most exciting, which won't surprise my regular readers who know how much I love colour.

There are 18 colour palettes in Imogen's 7 Steps to Style system, using three criteria for choosing your best palette: how warm or cool you are; whether you're lighter or darker; how bright or soft you are. If you'd like to take a peek at all the palettes, click on this link to go to my Pinterest board. This is a long way from my original experience of colour analysis with only four seasonal palettes, where many colours in your palette didn't suit you because, for example, they were too bright or too light.

The easiest choice was between light and dark, as my hair and eyes are both dark. I tend to wear a lot of bright colours, so when Imogen said my colouring was softer rather than brighter it was obvious that many of my tops aren't really flattering me. The main shock though was to be told that my colouring was on the warm side instead of cool. Looks like another change to my wardrobe is coming up!

This was the colour swatch that I received: I'm an Enigmatic, meaning my colouring is deep, soft and warm.

I was pleased to see that there were plenty of blues, greens, reds and purples in my swatch though yellow and orange don't feature much in my existing wardrobe and I'm not sure that I'll be rushing out to buy those colours. Unfortunately many of the blues, greens and purples in my wardrobe aren't warm enough for me, so I'll need to gradually replace them.

The picture below shows the group of outfits that Imogen created for Enigmatics.

This is where things get interesting. When only looking at colour I liked most of these outfits, however I know now that many of the styles wouldn't flatter me or don't work for my style personality. I'm starting to look at the whole picture and not just choosing clothes based on the colours or styles that appeal to me. Shapes, styles and colours are equally important, plus of course value and colour contrasts as described in my post last year.

Imogen also tells us how to identify our signature colours, which are based on our individual colouring.  It's obvious that dark brown will flatter me as that's my hair colour, but I now understand that blues are also good if you have brown hair or eyes, however in my case it has to be a warm blue rather than a cool one. If you have definite blue or green in your eyes you can either match them or wear complementary colours. Other good colours to choose for your signature colours are your skin and lip colours.

As ever there are a myriad of very helpful posts on Imogen's blog, covering topics such as: how to work with your contrast; what is a neutral; the undertones of colours; what are clashing colours? and understanding basic colour terminology. Read them all and you'll become a colour expert too!

I've found the comments of other members in the 7 Steps to Style facebook group very helpful when trying to work out my signature colours and appreciated their advice when I've tried out different outfits.  I'll talk a bit more about what colours I'm favouring when I describe my latest capsule wardrobe for Project 333, but my original plan to limit myself to two neutrals and two accent colours has been abandoned. The other 7 Steppers are encouraging me to include all the colours I love, which is the advantage of having a colour palette.  All my Enigmatic colours go together - look again at my colour swatch above - isn't that wonderful?!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Step 2: Your Body Shape

When I was younger and slimmer, I didn't have to worry too much about how clothes fit me. True I was shorter than average (just under 5'2") but in the days of mini-skirts that wasn't exactly a problem. Nowadays though, apart from the lack of petite clothes where I live in Spain, I have to contend with my waist problem or, more accurately, the absence of any waist. I am a couple of dress sizes bigger than I was in my twenties, unless I find a particularly loose and baggy style that doesn't exactly flatter me.  I'm sure that many over 60s reading this will be nodding in agreement. Finding clothes that fit well isn't easy anymore and it's time to be realistic.  Step 2 - your body shape - proved to be a particularly useful step in Imogen's 7 Steps to Style system.

I already knew that I was a rectangle from the House of Colour style session with Fiona. My shoulders and hips are a similar width and I don't have a defined waist, which in Imogen's terminology means that I'm a straight H shape. The picture below shows styles that suit straight shapes and those that are better for curved shapes.
I  have to confess that over the  years I have tended to look for colours that I loved and not thought about whether the styles suited my body shape. Another picture from Imogen  is shown below, giving an idea of flattering dresses for different body shapes.
I'm quite proud of the fact that I had already worked out for myself that empire line dresses are a good shape for those of us who don't  have a waist to flaunt - maybe I've learnt something since I started writing this blog! If you're not sure what body shape you are, there is a lot of helpful information on the Inside out style blog and of course in step 2 of the 7 steps to style system.

Being vertically challenged, I have instinctively tried to create a column of colour in an effort to look taller and slimmer. You can create a column by wearing a cardigan or jacket that matches your bottom half with a contrasting top, which is what I have tended to do in the past. Alternatively - and this is the most flattering way for those of us who don't want to draw attention to our tummies - we can wear darker tops that match our skirts or trousers, with a lighter cardigan or jacket over it.

There are so many other aspects to consider, such as the shape of your face and whether your features are straight, curved or a combination. My face is oblong, which means that I'm better with short hair and a style that has width rather than height. I have combination features so this should be reflected in the accessories that I use. Is your body well proportioned or are you short-waisted or long-waisted? Are your legs short or are you a lucky long-legged model-like creature? You can guess which category I fall into.

Whoever said getting dressed was easy - and there are more steps to come!

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Step 1: Style Personality

First impressions - whether we like it or not - are very important in both work and social situations. How often  have you looked at someone when you first met them and thought: "She looks very confident." or maybe "He seems a bit sloppy."? Come on, be honest!  Of course once you get to know someone really well you may change your mind, but wouldn't it be helpful if the way someone dressed totally expressed their personality?

The first step of Imogen Lamport's 7 Steps to Style system will help you to identify your style personality, which in her system can be a combination of styles and not simply the usual Classic, Dramatic, Romantic and other categories.

Growing up I was very much a tomboy, so when I did the House of Colour style assessment in January last year I wasn't surprised to be told I'm a Natural Gamine. The 7 Steps to Style system has 7 personality types: classic, relaxed, dramatic, creative, rebellious, feminine and elegant chic, but the permutations are endless. I wasn't too surprised to score highly for relaxed followed by elegant chic (I try to be chic even if I don't always succeed!), as that is close to Natural Gamine, however both classic and feminine came next, and I didn't expect that.  It goes to prove that many of us are much more complicated than we realise and it's why one style personality is unlikely to suit everyone.

The above styles are very close to the type of clothes residing in my wardrobe, so the assessment by my House of Colour stylist Fiona was pretty accurate. However it didn't necessarily cover the other elements of my style personality, which I have discovered while doing Imogen's course.

My original style recipe, which I concocted with the help  of others in the 7 Steps to Style facebook group, was "Casual Chic with a dash of Colour and Drama". As with all recipes, it's sometimes good to add other ingredients or swap some for those that suit your taste better. I've decided that I'd like to add some elegance to my wardrobe or be even more ambitious and change my style to "Parisian Casual Chic with a dash  of Colour and Femininity". I  know that colour is very important to me and I will cover that in another post.

If you are unable to invest in the 7 Steps to Style system, you can of course try to define your style personality on your own. There are numerous on-line style personality quizzes, though most are limited in what they can tell you. You may prefer to create a Pinterest board of styles that you love and that you feel would suit you, then analyse them to see if you can come up with your unique style recipe. Look in your wardrobe to find which of your clothes make you feel happy, and decide what elements they have in common.  In my case, not surprisingly, colour is an important element. Once you have a good idea of your own style personality, you can use it as one of the criteria when buying new clothes and accessories. Remember though that this is only step one - there are six more to come!