BY YUWA VOSPER
Styling. It is a technique that eludes many people. Everyone knows someone who has said, “I just can never put an outfit together,” or “I would never think to wear that together.” For some, the technique of styling is difficult. While working in retail when I was an undergraduate, I have seen many women walk into a boutique and break down. I can see it in their wide-eyed deer in the headlights look. The first sentence out of their mouths is, “There are just too many options.” How can we reduce this fear? Even more, how can we get the most use out of our wardrobe options? This is where styling becomes a factor.
What is Styling?
I define styling as the strategic and creative arrangement of clothing on the body to convey a message. It is all about how you wear it, not the brand or the price. Recently, I had the opportunity to work as the stylist and choreographer for the Women Impacting Style in Engineering, WISE, Dinner and Style show for the College of Engineering at Louisiana State University. As stylist, it was my responsibility to assist 10 models in choosing business and casual ensembles suited for professionals. For some models, choosing their ensemble was fun and easy but others it was tedious and torturous. This caused me to reflect back about styling as a technique that one must learn. Anyone can do it. Styling is not advanced calculus. All a person needs is a few simple tools and tips.
Always start with the foundation. The foundation is a garment or accessory you want to center around your ensemble. It can be a bold necklace, structured jacket, or your favorite jeans. This is the foundation that will help you build your wardrobe. It can also help you filter out the clutter of clothing in your closet and get to what will enhance the ensemble.
So, what if you don’t have a foundation garment? Then, start with the items in your wardrobe that you find yourself wearing repeatedly. What in the closet do you like to wear the most? In my wardrobe, Piko tops are my uniform. I wear one almost every day. I build ensembles around these tops. What pairs well with this item? What will enhance this garment? These are questions that I ask myself. You always need one piece to start the building process.
The Building Blocks
The building blocks should come easy once you have chosen the foundation garment or accessory. With a foundation garment, you already have an idea of what can be paired with it. Using the Piko top again as an example, I know what will complement these shirts. On one occasion, I wanted to wear my white Piko top with something other then jeans or leggings. I searched my closet to find something different.
When looking for style inspiration for something different, fashion bloggers are a great source along with street style photos and fashion magazines. Also, keeping an inspiration lookbook can help you determine your style. If you are constantly saving bohemian styles or preppy styles, it can be easy to notice a pattern to your styling preferences.
My something different was a maxi skirt. However, the shirt was rather long and its billowing fullness created an unbalanced silhouette with the length of the maxi skirt. Searching more, I spotted my white pashmina scarf with black polka dots and decided to make it my finishing touch, or the punctuation of my ensemble.
The Je Ne Sais Quoi
My favorite scholar Roland Barthes calls it the ‘je ne sais quoi’ or as he terms it the next-to-nothing. It is the stylish quality that just cannot be articulated. So, what is it that makes the outfit stylish? Well, it is the detail and how you wear it. Remember nothing is a ‘statement’. It may be the focal point of an outfit or the conversation starter but that one item does not communicate alone.
As stated earlier, I knew my white Piko top length did not look fashionable paired with my black maxi. I didn’t just throw it back in my closet and give up. Instead, I made it my own by arranging and manipulating the white top into a nice silhouette. I placed a black tank under it so that I could fold the white top over and into the tank. This resulted in creating a billowing cropped top that was perfectly in balance with the maxi skirt. Paired with my polka dot pashmina, it created a fashionable ensemble with an unexpected twist.
With these basic tools, anyone can have style. It is obtainable. Style is essentially about wearing your clothing with class and confidence. Remember, it is not about the brand or the price but how you wear the clothing.