Given that I’m writing about developing a Confident Personal Style, you might be forgiven for thinking that the following sentence is a bit surprising.
For a professional and stylish wardrobe, everyone should start with a Modern Classic style at its heart. I can think of no exceptions to this rule.
This is not because I want everyone to look the same. In fact quite the opposite. Modern Classic should be really quite directional, and you can build your personal style through considered accessorising.
If you’re wondering what modern classic means, here is a quick description. It is a basic shape, similar to what may have been around for some time (the classic) but re-cut in a modern and more directional way to incorporate the elements of today’s fashion – be it the shoulder shape or width, the fastening of the garment or its length – without the extreme styling of major design houses that are really best worn just for catwalks.
The reason to start with modern classics is that anything that is too directional – the kind of fashion-driven, arresting garments with which magazines can easily make arty photos – will cause two problems.
The first is that, if you wear clothes that make a statement, it is the clothes, not you, that will stand out. People won’t look at you and see a successful person; you’ll just be the one that wears those noisy clothes (they may like them, they may not – either way you’ll be marked out by your clothes rather than by yourself).
Elsa Schiaparelli, one of the most influential designers of the interwar years in the last century once wrote: “If a woman walks in and people say what a wonderful dress, she’s badly dressed. If they say there’s a beautiful woman, you know she’s well dressed.” I quote this regularly because understanding it really is the foundation of developing your own style.
Second, you will almost certainly get fed up with anything too directional much faster than you will with a modern classic which you can personalise in lots of different ways. If you do need a few more avant garde pieces, go for cheaper ones, so it’ll be less of a financial wrench to discard it when you don’t want to look at it any more. (It often doesn’t take long.)
One of the biggest problems is that the press need to be really experienced to know how to make artistic pictures out of clothes that are wearable in everyday situations. The result is that they rarely make the effort to seek out modern classic garments that are a bit directional – what I like to call edgy.
This means that you won’t see many edgy modern classics on the pages of the fashion press and you need to seek them out in shops which do have the experience, resources and inclination to find them.
Next week: posture
Excuse #2: I don’t have the time
Each week, I’m seeking to address an excuse that sits on our shoulders like a demon making developing a confident personal style harder than it should be. Do let me have your ‘excuses’ and I’ll have a go at debunking them for you. Last week, I suggested that you should not feel guilty. This week, why making time will save you time.
Caring about your looks can easily be relegated to low priority, especially if you have a job to do, a home to run and a husband and family to feed and clothe. You feel guilty about spending time – personal shopping time – when there seem to be so many other important things to do.
It’s true that trying to add to a badly managed wardrobe can be very time consuming. It is often difficult to find an appropriate item to add fit with an overly large and haphazard collection of clothes – clothes often bought on impulse or in the sales. And you’re inevitably feeling stressed out when you’re racing around trying to find it when you need it. That’s why you need to take a different approach.
In business you operate most effectively by taking time to consider action rather than by charging in and behaving rashly. Your wardrobe can be run on similar lines with similar results. Invest some time in developing your personal style, building your capsule wardrobe, finding those shops that consistently provide the clothes and advice you need – and you’ll find that time becomes much less of an issue. As in business, a successful wardrobe is the result of careful planning.