Help me edge towards my aspirational style! : Long

Hello, YLF friends -

A year or so ago I posted a thread requesting assistance from our own Mrs. Eccentric (Steph) to help me refine my style.

Steph suggests picking ONE beloved outfit and trying to distill its key elements as a way of moving toward a more consistent and coherent personal style that rates high on what Jayne calls the "happiness quotient." I was very taken with her idea and wanted to put it into practice!

I have a history of buying mostly boring basics. This is partly because I genuinely LIKE classic clothes, and partly because I'm practical and historically have been on a tight budget. But it's also partly because I was too scared to buy anything else. How on earth would I wear it?

With Steph's help, Angie's, and yours, I figured out that I was aiming toward something that I then called an "artistic professional" style. And I also learned the importance of the "third" piece in lending the slightly more dramatic element to my core classics. Bingo! I instantly felt a whole lot better. http://dashingeccentric.blogsp.....-case.html

Last year, this formula worked pretty well for me. I bought a few fun, distinctive, and functional jackets last winter and wore the heck out of them, along with my basic jeans and skirts. I bought some nifty footwear for the first time in …decades! (And saw how much it added value to my life.) My wardrobe might not have been perfect, but I certainly felt better in my clothes than I have felt in many, many years. My outfits felt more like true expressions of who I am, and I enjoyed my clothes much more.

But. (And you knew it would come to this, right?) I am now at a crossroads. I need a style refresher. Because in my heart of hearts I know that I haven't yet achieved what I was originally aiming towards. I've reached an approximation, but ONLY an approximation. And now I need help to move further.

Angie's blog post the other day about mixing fashion-forward pieces and classics was especially pertinent to me. Because lately I've recognized that what I REALLY want, what I've wanted all along, is to figure out a way to add an element of the…I don't know…avant-garde? Definitely more fashion forward and modern.

I don't really even know the words for it. Nor do I really know the designers who make it. Linking through Femme d'un certain age I find this blogger who wears a lot of Rick Owens. I can't afford Rick Owens. But you know…I like the simplicity. The interesting structure and drape.

I am wanting now to shout out to our own IronKurtain who could be a great inspiration to me. And I know, I know, IK - Eileen Fisher!! But. Eileen tends to be a bit softer and "floatier." Plus, Angie has warned me that her stuff will swamp me, as a rule. And this, in general, is a problem of the general style for me. It overwhelms my small frame.

Also...what I don't like - and what seems to be the issue with all such designers and lines? Too. Much. Black.

WHY do they all design in black only??? I don't want to crowd my closet with unflattering clothes that may meet my "cool" quotient but look like hell on me.

My next problem would be how on earth could I create a cohesive look together with the retro elements I also enjoy, if I am drawn to this kind of style? I'm feeling sartorially confused! How do I mix my retro funky whimsical Fluevogs or Docs with something like this?

What I would love from you, if you can help:

Designers and lines of clothing or bloggers I might look at for inspiration.

Any other ideas you might have about this. Including the idea that I am nuts and should just leave well enough alone.

Oh - and here's a new rubric for you: Sophisticated, urban, simple, arty (but not boho), novel. Susan.

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • JR replied 8 years ago

    I hear you about Eileen Fisher and too much black. I love her stuff, but it cries out for a little more joy. If I had the money, I would buy her clothes but mix them with more colour, more prints, some wacky jewelry...

    I wish I could help you more but I know that I am myself heading more to a uniform of essential basics, mostly in black and white, finding the silhouettes that suit me best, occasionally swapping out for a bright top (or pants) or a print, and looking to that all-important third layer to add the touches of individuality and quirkiness and fun and whatever I want to add that day.

    Although my build and colouring is different from yours, I think my tastes are quite similar, so I will be watching you as you find your way, because I think I will be able to learn a lot from you. Maybe sometimes I will be able to cast a glint of light on your road too.

  • Astrid replied 8 years ago

    I love this kind of thread. Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions when it comes to blogs or designers.

    I agree about the black. I often have this problem and I don't even search for modern clothes! But I agree that it's still much more common with this kind of style. Neutrals in general. So if you don't like the black I surmise it's the cuts and drape that you like. How about generating a retro/funky/artistic/dramatic vibe with the fabrics, color and pattern? Paired with some classics. Say classic booties, modern cut trousers over a edgy structured top and a classic blazer in a retro pattern and funky color combination? Something like that.

    And I'm not sure if you do, but do you sew? I only know the basics myself and never found the time to do more than a few alterations, but I want to learn it properly one day. It might be worth investing some time into learning it, if you have the time and want to go for it. You could then use your own favourite colors and patterns to create some of these modern cut items.

  • fieldmouse replied 8 years ago

    All Saints do a lot of drapey, Rick Owensy pieces, and although they do use a lot of black, they also have grey and taupe shades. (And they're not sized large, so fit shouldn't be a problem.)

  • replied 8 years ago

    Suz ~ I'm sorry I'm not going to be a lot of help with designers.
    To be honest, I found my style by simply buying what I love and somehow making it all work together. I didn't have a formula. There were a few style inspirations for me, so I just took bits and pieces from each one to incorporate into my own look. I don't see anyone else wearing what I wear, or wearing it in the same way. Mind you, I have made quite a few mistakes along the way, and every time it was because I was trying to copy someone else's just doesn't work! I think once you REALLY know what makes your heart sing you just go with it. I suggest you not be afraid to put the unexpected together to make your own signature can you really do wrong when a style truly reflects you? ;)

  • catgirl replied 8 years ago

    Hmm, Rick Owens, Alexander Wang, Helmut Lang, some Allsaints, and a few others spring to mind. I'm trying to head in this direction too, though without the artisan part. More simple androgynous edge somehow. I have to run but I definitely have some ideas for you...

  • celia replied 8 years ago

    I love this kind of posts but usually am no help whatsoever, sorry about that in advance.
    Black does seem to be associated to some types/styles of clothes, maybe because wearing black has the same kind of rebelian as artists have to view and portrait the world in a certain way.But art, and artists, although in our imagination tend to segregate them into the the black dramatic group or the earthy boho one , does not have to be perceived as either one.
    For example Art Noveau doesn't fall into either one of those. In my (very uninformed I may say) opinion is arty, soft, retro.
    I have been wanting to add some artsy(not boho, not edgy) quality to my wardrobe and am just sharing.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thanks for the suggestions so far! Astrid, I don't sew, alas. But maybe I could do what Vix does and find someone else to sew for me! If I knew what I wanted, that is...

    Elle, you are right about All Saints. It is difficult for me to get because there is no store anywhere even remotely near me. I find their sizing extremely unpredictable, so ordering online is very risky (because I live in Canada and will pay exorbitant customs and duty in addition to shipping costs both ways if it doesn't work out.) But at least I can look there for ideas.

    Shabby, it sounds as if you are very confident in your own style. That is wonderful and I am sure it comes across to others! I will try to incorporate some of your spirit. I do think, however, that if one likes a sort of funky, bohemian look it is much easier to mix style elements. If you're going for simple yet striking sophistication it is very easy to mess up the image.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Una, I will look forward to your ideas. Thank you!

    I don't want "artisan" either. To me that sounds a bit boho. And while I like boho on others, I really do not like it for or on me. I say arty when I really probably mean a bit of drama or edge.

    Celia, thank you - i think your distinctions are interesting and I also think you are right about art nouveau.

  • rachylou replied 8 years ago

    I can totally see you in architectural, avant garde things, Suz.

    How about a web search on "indie clothing designers" and "local clothing designers" and "indie faires"? I like to do that from time to time, because I like avant garde-y things too.

  • cciele replied 8 years ago

    You are not nuts and I like your rubric Suz - swapping "dramatic" for "arty" :). I think it fits your style and goals.

    Check out the line Heather by Bordeaux -- modern, drapey, simple:

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thanks, rachylou! And thanks for the great link, cciele. Do you have any of their clothes?

  • Inge replied 8 years ago

    First of all: you're not crazy at all, Suz!-) It's exciting to read that you are ready to take the next step in your style journey.

    While reading your post, this came to mind (more key words and loose thoughts than a coherent story, I'm afraid):

    - Alexander Wang, All Saints, Helmut Lang, Vince, Rag & Bone, Rachel Comey...

    - Websites: Shopbop,,
    Also: COS, a more affordable chain of stores, they often have very simple styles with a bit of a designer feel.
    and Filippa K:

    - Androgyny, structure, minimalism, architectural elements, abstract prints, avant-garde, clean lines with a few simple stunning details, statement bottoms (e.g. Angie's yellow plaid pants, jodhpur jeans - there's no need at all to limit yourself to black or dark colours only if you like to mix it up).

    - Really try to familiarize yourself with the designers you like, analyze their trademark style, pinpoint what it is that speaks to you, and then try to look for those elements everywhere you shop. E.g. I noticed that the blogger you like recently wrote about metal belts. As it happens I saw that Mango has some very similar styles, more affordable, right now:

    - Other style inspirations: perhaps Kate Lanphear: she's very rock 'n' roll with a good deal of androgyny thrown into the mix.

    - Search Pinterest for key words such as "androgyny" / "drape" / the name of designers you like etc. You're bound to come across street style pics of people who share your style preferences. You'll also find lots of links there to Etsy shops and indie designers who have unique styles on offer.

    Looking forward to following your style adventures!

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Inge, thank you!! This is a mine of information to go absorb. Now I feel as if I have some direction.

    I think I really want something in between. I don't want a whole-hog avant-garde kind of look; it's just too much for me. But I want touches of that mixed with classics in some cohesive way.

    Some of the stuff is all TOO drapey. I never want to lose that structure, the architecture. So it's a question of figuring out a balance. Oh, and FINDING the non-black items, LOL!

  • catgirl replied 8 years ago

    Okay, so check out BCBG.

    For example, this top:

    I know you want to avoid drapey, but I think there is edgy drape and boho drape. My MMK jacket from the NAS is drapey, but feels edgy to me:

    As worn here:

    Are you okay with hi-lo hems? A bit of waist surrender? Those styles have edge too, IMHO. And of course, I think the ultimate edge-factor is footwear - shoes and boots that ramp it up.

  • cciele replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I do have a few pieces from them and am looking forward to getting more. Heather uses a really nice quality jersey with great drape. Here's my t-shirt maxi from Heather

    and a tank top + midi tube skirt:

    (I need to get a photo of the back of the top -- the hem cuts up in the back)

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Una, thank you! You're right - there are different kinds of drape. And I'm definitely okay with some! In fact, I LOVE some. I just need to add a structured piece to the mix if I have a drapey one. And I can't go too oversize or know all about that.

    Your Michael Kors jacket is FAB. Love it. And I like the BCGB stuff, too...I can go shopping there in Toronto. I am totally okay with some waist surrender and with high-low hems. Esp. on tops. Not as crazy about the hi-low hem on a skirt, but I do love asymmetrical anything. Neckline, hemline, you name it, asymmetry is my middle name.

    Cathy, I can see the quality of the jersey even in the pics. The drape on those is lovely! No wonder you enjoy wearing them. I will definitely look for this label.

  • cinnamon fern replied 8 years ago

    I have nothing helpful to say, Suz. But I really identify with your post. I love this sort of minimalist drama, but I can't see how to achieve it on myself (ie with my budge, my body, my life ...)

  • rachylou replied 8 years ago

    It occurs to me that you might have to work a little harder at seeing past provided context. There are a lot of shops that sell cool, architectural clothing but the shop itself is not so cool. I can think of more than a few shops that I've taken awhile to go into because their vision was boho the clown, or crunchy, or scrunchy (that's when arty pants old ladies turn not ironing into a style), or japonesque, or '80s industrial, or... you know those shops run by ladies who think their sister is great with the home perm kit and she's not? Anyways, those shops can have great things. Esp. the disaster perm ladies. It's weird how that can go together. Hair blindness.

  • catgirl replied 8 years ago

    let's narrow things down. Can you post some links to specific items that draw you?

    I found this:

  • Astrid replied 8 years ago

    I completely forgot about COS, I only remembered it when Inge linked to it. I think they fit very well into your description. I have a look in the store from time to time, but most of it doesn't fit me right - I think it could work much better on your shape! Although I'm not sure if they exist in your neck of the woods. Maybe you'll have to visit. :)

  • carol3012 replied 8 years ago

    Can't help on the designer hunt, but you look really great on your blog. Somehow your new style of dress makes you look more like..what I picture you to be from your responses, if that makes any sense lol.

    But is there anyway you can somehow bridge your styles together with accessories that would drive you toward that image you aspire by? The pictures here seem to scream you, simply because of the prints, the patterns, the details and the overall silhouette that you create from the clothes. So I guess, one of the elements that you're trying to get a hold of, is probably from altering one of those things. Simplest and probably easiest way to ease it in from what I've been researching is through the minute details, accessories, and details. I did notice most of the basic pieces you were wearing were in classic cuts, so maybe some rouching or a nip or a tuck there in a cut of clothing would make a world of difference in how you look or how you feel in it.

    Then again, I'm just rambling again :) But I just hope what I ramble about may be a tid bit inspiring.

  • Angie replied 8 years ago

    Such great suggestions and links on this thread, ladies :)

    I will add a few things:

    1. Suz, you are *so cute*. Your humble, earnest, sincere and motivated attitude is sublime. Wrap it all up with your eloquence and it's endearing. I want to hug you :)

    2. I would steer clear of too much black.

    3. We are inspired by ALL YLF'ers by about a billion percent. As they reference back to *your specific style aspirations* Suz, may I suggest that you keep a close eye on Jean, Diana, Krishnidoux, Marley, Harmonica and Random Thoughts for arty outfit inspiration (although their colour palettes are a little different). Sveta and Sarah for a combination of the classics and trends with a very small and functional wardrobe. Inge for her love of simple statements AND she shares your colour palette. Jonesy for drama and slouch. Shannon for the perfect mix of retro and classic. MaryK and Kari for colour mixing inspiration.

    4. Start collecting outfit inspiration on Pinterest. Keep on looking at it. Apply it.

    I hope that makes sense.

    I also want to put in a punt for Theory :)

  • Angie replied 8 years ago

    And here's some no dilly-dallying about hands-on advice:

    You need a few avant-garde pieces to change the landscape of your wardrobe. Invest in them, mix them in with the classics, and add in the accessories to lift your style quotient even further. Over time you will build a collection of these pieces and they become part of your signature look.

  • Scarlet replied 8 years ago

    If you are ever in Europe, please check out COS (same company as H&M) because they do the very architectural look I think you are describing for reasonable prices AND IN COLORS. Also Zara has this kind of thing sometimes.

    COS website:

  • Jamie replied 8 years ago

    Great thread, Suz! I don't have anything to add to all this great advice, but I'm following closely because after Angie's earlier post this week, I, too, feel like I can better define where I want my style to go - mixing classics with modern/edgy/avant garde pieces. I feel like I'm not there yet, but learning from you, Angie, and others is helping me figure it out.

  • catgirl replied 8 years ago

    Suz, Angie is, as always, so right. My Theory jacket alone has changed the landscape of my closet. It solves just about every question that begins with "What goes over this....?" Some pieces have transformative powers to make the rest of your clothes sit up and pay attention!

  • Ornella replied 8 years ago

    Oh my, oh my... Suz, you've tapped into so many of my own current style conundrums! Not so much in terms of style direction, but in my case in terms of style position... if it makes any sense... the bottom line being, you've expressed many things that have been on my mind, yet I had no idea how to capture them in sensible flow of thoughts so I can even start working on them.

    I'm off to think about this one now that I know what to think about!

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thank you all again, so much! You are all so great.

    Angie, that is JUST the advice I was looking for. My mind had gone to Theory, too. I am not sure if they are a good fit for me, but I THINK they are. I tried on a Theory jacket at Winners once in Toronto (we don't get the designer level stuff in Kingston) and the fit seemed good. I didn't buy, I think because the colour wasn't good. But I can look in a non-discount store for more options. I am more than willing to invest in a few really good pieces. That is, in fact, exactly what I would like to do.

    I think a jacket is a no-brainer, since I love jackets and find them really easy to wear. But what other pieces would be great? Would bottoms or tops be best? Of course now I am regretting last year's winter coats. Much as I love them (and I DO!) they aren't exactly the right style direction...though it is hard to find a winter coat that IS!

    My "steampunk" skirt was a total turned out to be way too "fussy" for my style. It is going to consignment. So I am wary of experimental bottoms as a result. But SO loved the Rag and Bone trousers you posted.

    Rachylou, you are right. I know that hunting is important because sometimes the best pieces can show up in the most unlikely spots.

    Inge, Astrid, and Scalet, you are so right that COS looks like a good bet. I don't think we have it in Canada, but I am going to England in the spring so maybe can do some shopping there.

    Jamie, I think we may be style sisters so I will be watching you closely.

    Ornella, there is much in your own style that resonates very deeply with me. I think the simplicity (and also often the colours) speak to me.

    Una - I am glad to hear about the Theory jacket really making a difference for you. And I will try to find inspirational pics. I do have Pinterest but haven't been using it. I will do as you have suggested, Angie, and start. Thank you all !

  • Zapotee replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I am not the best person to provide commentary on style evolution posts, since I'm actually unable to describe or formulate my own style, style evolution or lack thereof. I wish I had something constructive to say. I guess I wanted to chime in to say that being able to formulate one's goals is half the battle. I'm sure you'll get there :)

  • Gaylene replied 8 years ago

    I can so relate to this post, Suz. You've almost perfectly expressed my feelings last year when I looked at my (partially) re-built wardrobe and had an identity crisis. While I could articulate what I didn't like (boho, overly drapey EF, girly...), I couldn't figure what words would describe my style. I envied the ladies on the forum who seemed to know the words to describe their style and the places they liked to shop.

    When I pulled out the wardrobe items that gave me the greatest "happiness quotient" (Jayne, so very grateful for that phrase!), it was easier to figure out what they didn't represent rather than what they did. But I figured that, knowing what I didn't like, was at least a start. I could walk by items that were very casual, overly loose fitting, girly, boho and so on. I guess you can say I found what I liked by learning what I didn't like.

    I also tried to go into different types of shops, especially independent ones, just to try stuff on, especially things that were quite different than what I currently had in my wardrobe. Some were truly dreadful, many made me feel like an idiot, but, every now and again, I'd find something that made me go "hmm, not bad". And, occasionally, an item even came home with me. I found it was easier to experiment in B&M stores than in online or thrift shops. And the young sales staff had such a good time "dressing an older lady"; it must have provided them with some good stories!

    Instead of using two or three words, it's easier for me to think of my insights as wardrobe principles:

    I want a smaller, functional wardrobe that consists of clothes that I can put on and then forget about while I get on with my day. I don't like to fuss to get something to look right.

    I'm OK with wearing the same outfit over and over again if it looks good on me and fits the situation. I do care about my image and won't deliberately choose unflattering looks.

    I like items that are a bit unusual or interesting (love those Fluevog's), but they have to work with more basic items to make me feel comfortable. I'm a minimalist, not a maximalist.

    More expensive clothing tends to suit me better-- the colors and cuts are more flattering. I set a high standard for an inexpensive item, instead of thinking "oh, it doesn't matter if it's not that great because it's only a few dollars".

    I like wearing clothing that makes me look like a grown-up. (Thank you, Angie, for that one!) For me, age-appropriate means if it looks cute and trendy on a 20-year-old, it probably means I ought to give it a pass. I'd give it my Parisian test--"Would I feel comfortable wearing it in Paris?" or my newer Karen test-- "Would Karen wear this?"

    I'll choose texture over color to make an outfit interesting. While I love MaryK's fierce use of color, I'm happier to stick to neutrals for most of my wardrobe. But she has taught me that, especially in my casual wardrobe, it's color that can make an outfit sing. So this summer, I wore my cobalt skirt with an orange top and a turquoise cros-body bag--and loved it. But, for most of the year, I'll stick to texture with color and pattern in low doses.

    I could go on, but you probably get the drift. Maybe you're at the point where you can just sit down and articulate your wardrobe principles? For me, it worked.

  • Mo replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I just skimmed the posts, but can relate in that I like that somewhat architectural, avant garge look but can't afford it either. Nor do I put it into action in my own wardrobe much, although I admire it.
    Sounds funny, but Simply Vera Wang (a cheaper line for Kohl's and the like) has this kind of slant and it's way more affordable than Rick Owens or even Allsaints. She does color, too. I agree with BCBG as another alternative.

    too soft?

  • Transcona Shannon replied 8 years ago

    Suz - I'm afraid I don't have any concrete advice to give you but wanted to let you know I think this is a very exciting moment in your style. You're looking to really hone in on it and I know when you get the mix you're looking for, it's gonna ROCK!

    I like the idea of Theory or Helmut Lang for your edgier, avant-garde pieces. There's still some structure there which you (and I for that matter) enjoy but interesting details, edges and draping that could really take your classic pieces and boost them up a notch. I would love to see you add some blood red or cobalt blue here or there as well.

    I'm going to be watching this thread and look forward to seeing where you go...

  • Scarlet replied 8 years ago

    Ah, I should have read first--I see Inge already came through with one of her super helpful researched responses :)

  • nancylee replied 8 years ago

    This is a fab thread, Suz. As usual, you've articulated your problem/conundrum beautifully, making it easy for everyone to respond in specific and thoughtful ways.
    There are so many great words of advice here. I've read each response and learned something from each one.

    So much of what you're struggling with applies to many of us, it seems. Myself included. The advice (given by Angie and others) to add a few stand-out pieces to your wardrobe and let them lead the way in your style evolution is worth following. I'm aiming for a more "arty," modern, grown-up look as well and have been helped immensely by a few items that are helping me evolve stylistically. Specifically:

    *Vince Camuto Hannah sandal
    *Vince Camuto midi tube skirt
    *Wyatt sleeveless drape top

    I'm wearing all three items together in Photo #1, but I've also worn each item separately in lots of different outfits over the past three months (see the Wyatt top with flats and black pants in #2)...and the result is the feeling that I'm moving toward the look I want.

    Una's advice about investing in a Theory jacket is worth heeding. I did this last year and have found it to be a timeless and super useful piece that always works.

    As for the preponderance of black out there, maybe you'll have some luck finding some other options since colors like burgundy, deep teal, and ink blue are so popular this season.

    I'm so with you on this journey. I totally get everything you're struggling with and toward. :)

  • KikiG replied 8 years ago

    This has been a very enlightening thread!

    Suz, do you play on team accessory? If you wear earrings, or if you like scarves or necklaces, you could boost up a nicely fitting, classic outfit with some interesting and arty accessories, while you work toward your long term plan of including pieces of clothing with sculptural lines.

  • Jem replied 8 years ago

    I don't have any advice to add, but wish you luck in your style journey. I'm so impressed at those who can articulate their "style". I have no idea what mine is or how to get one. :-) I do think Pinterest is a great idea, though. It's like an online bulletin board where you can pin up all of those fab outfits you just love. Then, maybe you can see a trend or where you want to go with your style.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Thank you all so much - you are all so very helpful! I am feeling much more hopeful and practically prepared for this new style transition.

    Zap, Shannon - I so appreciate your cheering! You both look amazing every time I see you so your words carry weight! Same for you, Jem!

    Mo - I do sense that you are tending in this direction as well. We don't have Kohl's in Canada but I liked that sweater you linked to. And I do get to the US sometimes, so I can certainly check it out. Would like to try something from the line on for fit before ordering online.

    Nancy, I have had my eye on your three pieces ever since you bought them and have had the skirt in my shopping cart numerous times! I am going to pull the trigger on one of those for sure. What colour do you think would be smart? I am thinking ink blue is practical for me but I might like the pink or the cobalt, too.

    Gaylene, you have articulated EXACTLY what I wanted to say. I mean it...exactly. The only alteration I would make is to say that I probably like a bit more colour (especially, as you note, for spring/summer) BUT I think the more colour the item has, perhaps the more simple the lines should be for me to feel okay in it. That is just a little theory I am playing with right this minute. Hmmmm. THANK YOU for putting your principles into words!

    Kiki, I do wear scarves, etc. in the winter time and can certainly use them for pops of colour, etc. But more and more I am finding that approach a little bit "fussy" for my taste. I would like to wear simpler clothing that nevertheless is very interesting.

    Thank you, again, for all your help. Onwards!

  • Ginkgo replied 8 years ago

    Suz, what about adding the Report Marks booties in blue? They would go beautifully with black or gray and would add some edge to your classic/basic pieces, and you can take your time to find the designer clothing that appeals to you.

  • annagybe replied 8 years ago

    For cheaper than Helmut Lang and Theory try Kenneth Cole

  • Mona replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I can't help you here as you know I am just starting very slowly to take the first steps towards fashion. But this thread is going to be a big inspiration for me in future.

  • Janet replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I'm only popping in briefly, but wanted to chime in as I'm feeling some similar pulls. Some of my clothing is feeling too fussy to me these days, and I find myself refining things more. I totally understand some of your remarks about "arty" (I want to look creative but not with that stereotypical crazy poncho art teacher style), and the disappointment you had with that skirt. I made some similar missteps, where items were *different* and that appealed to me, but a more streamlined version of *different* is appealing to me now. And I don't want to dress in black every day, as much as I admire Stephanie/Style Odyssey (the pic you posted). I'm weighing all these things with my "rock and roll sophisticate" style I'm working on cultivating, and i'm not sure where it will all end up, but I know it's changing and I'm actually kind of excited about it.

    I'm wearing fewer accessories at a time and gravitating toward cleaner looks but with some edge. Maybe part of it is seasonal, and I'll layer with abandon as the weather cools, but I'm definitely feeling like my style evolution is still very much on the move.

    I'm laughing at all the mentions of Theory -- my first Theory jacket was like a gateway drug! I now have a couple of tops, a pair of skinnies, and four Theory jackets!

    I'll be looking forward to following your journey. :-)

  • Vicki replied 8 years ago

    Suz, you really did your introspective soul-searching and I think you are so in touch with yourself, whether you feel you are or not! I love your rubric and while I can't offer any websites or designers at the moment, I just want to say that I so admire your style and have copied you in the past. So, I am going to observe from the corner and hope I learn through you! ETA: I am so saving this thread for all its useful and wise information. Did Una say what color her Theory jacket is? The links provided by everyone look so promising.

  • April replied 8 years ago

    Suz, scroll through some of these Helmut Lang items and see if they appeal:

    I can imagine them being paired with funky shoes and classic basics.

    ETA: I forgot to mention that these items are priced in the nosebleed range, so use the photos inspirationally. I'm pretty sure things with the same vibe can be found at lower price points.

  • Parsley replied 8 years ago

    You've done a great job articulating what you're trying to accomplish, and I think that's half the battle. I don't have much to add to the excellent advice here, but I will be following closely, because I, too, would like to inject some drama and bold touches into my wardrobe while avoiding the all-black trap.
    Thanks for blazing the trail!

  • Tina replied 8 years ago

    No advice, just a fellow Canadian commiserating with the troubles associated with ordering from the US:( Some other stores to try, the Bay sometimes has a variety of brands and they have good sales. The Laura store is also worth checking, it is hit and miss I find but they do have good quality clothing. Small boutiques and upscale consignment stores often have clothing not found in larger shops. Good luck!!

  • sarah replied 8 years ago

    Suz, once I have a better internet connection, I am DEFINITELY coming back to this thread for further reading. It's a gold mine. Thanks for starting it! I don't have any wisdom to add, but am so inspired by your earnest and optimistic introspection!

    more later...

  • replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I love this soul-searching thread of yours! You are such an articulate and thoughtful writer. Can't wait to see where your style journey takes you!

  • fern replied 8 years ago

    Lilith? No idea where to buy in US or Canada, but the stuff I see on Ebay is so striking.
    I think certain pieces would bridge with the retro part of your style (although some are way too lagenlook, and it may run large?)

  • Sveta replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I can relate too because I feel that I am constantly going through a style evolution for the last 2 years. I think you are doing much better than me though because I cannot even articulate what I like and what my rubric or style is :-(
    I cannot help you on the designer angle as I am pretty illiterate on that topic. As for the edgier and more architectural pieces I can tell you what I do. I am drawn to more interesting coats, jackets and footwear. I usually keep my bottoms and tops more or less simple so they are easier to layer. I found this works for me. It does not mean I don't make exceptions (jumbo polka dot skirt anyone?) but this is what happens 80% of the time. This way I can keep my wardrobe relatively small and be able to mix and match almost everything in it.
    Thank you for sharing your style musings with us: i is very educational and thought provoking!

  • Mama Susie replied 8 years ago

    Oh wow Suz... I love your thread. I'm not in the same position as you because I am just restarting from scratch on my style journey but I have the same type of style questions that you've asked here. Mainly how to add more of a avant garde edge to my wardrobe without staying all black... or not feeling like myself. I love avant garde/urban pieces (Angie's post on mixing fashion forward pieces with classics was fantastic and both outfits were amazing in my eyes) but I also really love vintage (specifically 70s). How to marry all the style looks I love? Wow I will definitely be following your style journey closely. I can't wait to see how you incorporate these types of pieces into your wardrobe.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    April, those prices really did give ma a moment's pause! Yikes. I am willing to invest..but not able to invest on quite THAT level. But inspiration is inspiration! Thank you!

    And thanks again to everyone else who has chimed in here. I hope I have not forgotten too many people in the shuffle.

    Sveta, that is a great strategy. I actually took back a bat sleeve top that Angie gave the nod on last year precisely for that reason. I felt it wouldn't play nicely with the other things because I couldn't easily layer over or under it. I think perhaps in summer more dramatic tops are easier to work with because you don't need to or even want to layer (at least I don't, with no air conditioning in my life). Perhaps that is something I am missing this summer, for that reason. My tops are very simple and that is good, but in fall/winter I have interesting jackets to layer over them.....

  • Vix replied 8 years ago

    Hi Suz --

    You said:

    >My next problem would be how on earth could I create a cohesive look together with the retro elements I also enjoy, if I am drawn to this kind of style? I'm feeling sartorially confused! How do I mix my retro funky whimsical Fluevogs or Docs with something like this?


    >Any other ideas you might have about this. Including the idea that I am nuts and should just leave well enough alone.

    Woman, I am going with "you are nuts and should just leave well enough alone" because I think your current style is very close to where you say you want to be!

    Now of course I don't mean stop everything etc. ;)

    In fact I think you are just having trouble *finding* what you want -- wish I could help more with that -- and maybe you just need to play around with current items and see which ones combine into outfits that feel "right" and which ones are missing something (but your task is to ID the something).

    Does that make sense?

    I think about the fancy Banff outfit you wore with the borrowed jacket, which was very sleek and feminine and dramatic because it was sophisticated. You felt good in that, yes? And then I have vaguer recollections of more casual (but not "sporty" styles) involving jeans and jackets and boots and booties -- anything missing there?

    When you have your 90-100% outfits identified you'll be able to see where there's overlap in the rubric and where things clump. Maybe you'll see you like A + B or B + D, but never A + D. And you may have a core style with minor styles as satellites around that core.

    BTW, I admit in reading your OP I thought of Nancylee's new pieces...seems like they would integrate nicely into your current wardrobe. Hang in there and as others have said, look look look. And don't settle for black. ;) It's tedious, but you will get there!

  • Sheila replied 8 years ago

    Suz, don't know if you have ever browsed through this site for inspiration...some pretty interesting stuff!


  • rae replied 8 years ago

    OK, I'm soooo late to the party, and I think most of what I might have suggested has been covered- Helmut Lang did a smattering of color recently. Bordeaux (sold at Antrho) as well as Heather by Bordeaux. Ooh, I was also entranced by a lot a saw from Max Studio the other day not ALL of it, but some pieces struck me as a little Helmut Lang-ish:

    Hm, maybe also Karen Millen? Modern cuts and uses a good amt. of color:

    Or Ted Baker?

  • CocoLion replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I believe the Helmut Lang/Rick Owens/Alexander Wang style you see yourself gravitating towards is actually trending and will trickle down (hopefully quickly) to lower retail price points soon. Just look at how asymmetrical clothing has taken off. Keep an eye out at Zara and H&M if you just want to experiment. Or, as Angie suggests, invest in a few pieces if you know you are ready to go there. There is a ton of stuff at Zara following the embellishment and ladylike direction but there are also pieces in the aforementioned style.

    Eek everything's black that I've linked to. I think black can work if worn with white, cream, & other colors. I love black, it might not love me but I am going to try to make it work this a/w even if I fail.

    Another thought -- I don't feel it's necessary, for myself at least, to stick to a definitive style or to even develop a style rubric. I want to remain constantly open to change and to evolve my style or to devolve it if I need a break from fashion.

  • Inge replied 8 years ago

    Hi Suz,

    I'm quickly logging in to second (third) Angie and Una's comments about Theory. It's a terrific brand with very good quality fabrics, sleek cuts and strong, simple lines. Once you have tried on one of their blazers you immediately feel and see the difference in fit (and in how you feel wearing their stuff:-) I was amazed by that.

    Also: I think I forgot to mention
    They sell Theory and many other higher end brands at reduced prices. Some are still expensive, but check the website regularly, there are good deals to be found there.

  • April replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I'm going to suggest keeping an eye on Neiman Marcus Last Call for things like Helmut Lang pieces. They deeply discount, and then they often take an additional percentage off during sales.

    A word of caution, however: go in with a strong idea of what you're looking for. Otherwise, it's too easy to get swayed by the discounts.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    You are all so amazing! Thank you so much for your encouragement and your thoughts. I am checking out the links like mad...thanks to all for suggestions!!

    Sheila, a special shout-out to you because I do LOVE least some of it....but alas. I shopped there and even when I weighed more, there was almost nothing in the store that fit. I am too small for the clothes. ;-( Still, the next time I am in Ottawa I will check it out again. There is always a small chance that something will work.

    Fern, I will continue to check Lilith. I really like your word "lagenlook." I am not completely sure what it means but I think I get the gist! I saw some Lilith pieces on a different site and they weren't at all like the beautiful skirt you linked to...more hippie-ish, boho.

    Inge, I will definitely check out Theory. I am sure it is available in Toronto at Holt's and probably elsewhere, too.

    Vix....I think you are offering real wisdom here. I have been considering exactly what you suggest. I have been thinking...what if, out of my own closet, what is currently there...I tried to put together one small capsule that made outfits that all feel "right." I could then extrapolate from there. What IS it that makes these outfits feel right?

    It's not ALWAYS a dramatic, avant-garde kind of cut. You are absolutely right that some of my jeans outfits, very simple - jeans, a good (but fairly classic) jacket, a simple top, even a T - and boots or booties - are my absolute faves. I will feel perfectly perfectly happy in such an outift. What is it about ONE jeans and jacket outfit that feels perfect while another one does not? This is the question I need to answer for myself.

  • Mochi replied 8 years ago

    Oh, I'm glad Inge mentioned yoox. I was just about to recommend you spend some time perusing that site. Here's just one coat I saw on there that I fell in love would look GREAT on you! (Or something like it--it's been a long time since it was listed for sale and I added the pic to my style file)

    Keep updating us on this. I find it very relatable. It's maybe not so hard to improve to a level of general acceptability, but to fine-tune to attain toward a vague ideal is the challenge.

    (ETA the designer is Balmain)

  • nancylee replied 8 years ago

    Suz, I've found my ink blue VC midi skirt to be a really useful neutral this summer. I'd say go for that color for starters.

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    Gorgeous coat, Mochi! And I'm about to take a look at Yoox. Nancy, I'm definitely going for the ink blue but I am also wondering about another colour. I am pretty confident I will love the style. I wore these tube-like midi skirts many years ago with great joy. I love the stretch, the comfort, combined with the modesty, yet the hint of sexiness.

  • shevia replied 8 years ago

    Great thread! I know I am late but I have thoroughly enjoyed this thread and am very excited to see where you go with this Suz. My suggestion is to comb the consignment stores in your area and wherever else you go. I also am very drawn to interesting items and/or avant garde shapes and/or pricey brands and I satisfy myself by doing this or eventually breaking down and buying on ebay.

    My other suggestion is focus on shoes, bags and jackets for your splurges (even if they aren't financial splurges). I am in camp shoes transform everything, but a great bag and amazing jacket is way up there too!

  • MNsara replied 8 years ago

    This thread is riveting! Thank you, Suz, for asking these questions! The collective wisdom, insight, and advice is SO awesome!

    Your journey really resonates with me, and I'll stay closely tuned to this thread and closely watch your 'progress' ;-) (Hope that doesn't sound stalkerish!) I'm gleaning what I can . . .

    I'm finding I really agree with what Vix had to say about avant garde maybe not necessarily being the real goal. I LOVED your Banff outfit you put together with the booties, jeans, black(!) jacket, etc No avant garde pieces, but one strongly chic outfit.

    You just asked, "What is it about ONE jeans and jacket outfit that feels perfect while another one does not? This is the question I need to answer for myself." Once again, you've articulated it beautifully :-)

    Anyway, carry on! I'll be watching and learning! and cheering you on ;-)

    P.S. What part of last year's coat purchases do you consider a 'mistake'? I thought you looked totally fab in them! You might just want to add in another more architecural coat this year to round out the choices . . . ?

  • Joy replied 8 years ago

    Suz, your post also resonates with me. After thinking about my closet with Angie's editing and review tips, I've decided that I need to up my game and spend more for a few really wonderful pieces. After weight loss and replacing everything with thrift store stuff, it's time to edit. San has been so wonderfully kind to send me some gorgeous quality pieces from her closet. Wearing them has made me realize how much different I feel in better clothing.
    What has worked well in the past for me is to build a few columns of color with fitted basics to which I can add an interesting or arty jacket or other third piece and now would also be aware of footwear and bag, and maybe scarf or jewelry.
    You have fabulous style that always inspires me, especially as we are nearly body twins. I have trouble getting the scale right is difficult with those architectural pieces but love them. I'll be following your journey with great interest.

  • Debbie replied 8 years ago

    I just saw this and I am so glad I did. There is so much useful information here. Thank you for bring up this issue. Pinerest has helped me narrow things Down a bit.

  • tarzy replied 8 years ago

    How are you feeling about all of this now?

    I like what Vix said, because sometimes I feel with our style journeys we're a bit like Dorothy wanting to run away and then learning that everything she needed was in her own back yard. On the other hand, perhaps you really do need to leave your current look behind - have you thought about what's the cause of your dissatisfaction? I think the emotional part of all of this is just as important as the style part. (Why yes, I have been catching up on old episodes of "What Not to Wear.") Shopping for an imaginary life, shopping for an imaginary personality, stuffing our closets with junk clothes ... sometimes it's not just about the shopping part.

    Instead of trying to change your entire wardrobe, how about coming up with one outfit in this new look you'd like to try. Put your energy into finding one outfit, and then wear it. Maybe you'll have an transcendental moment and you'll never be able to go back to jeans and a button-down. Or maybe you'll think, "Um, what was I thinking?" I think paying attention to the details and recreating an outfit is also a good way to learn what makes the style you're coveting work.

    I do understand the desire to take stock. I'm going through that as well, and I know it's not easy. It really is a journey!

  • Suz replied 8 years ago

    I'm so glad if my personal style musings have resonated with others. Thank you, again, for all your input and thoughts. I am taking it all in stock.

    Tara, you're right - I absolutely don't want to throw out the entire contents of my closet! I'm very happy with many items in there. Many work well as items, in outfits, and in capsules, as per Angie's suggestions. And even if I want to start moving in another direction, it doesn't mean I want to leave my current style preferences behind. On the contrary! I want to take them with me somehow...if I can. My dilemma is how to meld or marry these varying personas. I know I'm not all one and not all the other. And yet they seem almost opposed.

    But I think you're right. Maybe assembling even ONE outfit of the type I am admiring (or simply trying it on in a store, for that matter!) would give me needed information.

    More and more I am wondering if it is not just a kind of minimalism that deeply appeals. Weird, because my house decor is not minimalist. And I suspect my wardrobe will never be TRULY minimalist, either. I am too attracted to humour, whimsy, and well...colour...for that. Hmmm. Off to ponder some more. And to "pin."

    Okay. Putting this thread to sleep to allow room for more!

  • replied 8 years ago

    Please don't feel the need to respond, as you've put this thread to bed, but I wanted to throw out *asymmetry* and see if that would satisfy the *arty* category at all. I'll never forget what you said in one of your early threads here about not wanting to look like the stereotypical arty writer in jangling silver bracelets and paisley shawls--that cracked me up! There are so many different ways to do arty that are non-black and not too voluminous or fussy.

    MNSara hit the nail on the head talking about your dressy Banff outfit. It was not really arty but strongly chic. *Sharply chic" looks really well on you, when there is no hint of daintiness or twee. I also love that you added "novel" to your rubric. Love the play on words, it's perfect for you.

    If it makes you feel any better, the change of seasons is enough to make me want to rip my hair out. I feel a stirring in my my style....and I'll read someone's post, or a book, and want to go throw out half of my closet. Then the next day I'll read something completely different and want to keep all that stuff, but throw out the *other* half of my closet. I'm SO confused. And sometimes that make me happy are not good for me or my style. *le sigh* Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. We all benefit from them. Now. Onwards and upwards! :)

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