13 August 2007

10 ways to finding a style that's "you"

in a world such as ours, where outward appearances count, can we really afford to be living like slobs, hoping that people will see through all that, and look straight through to our inner beauty? as much as we wish that people will stop being so materialistic, the fact is, that appearances do matter, whether we like it or not. how we portray ourselves is important, much more important than some of us would like to admit.

first impressions are crucial. just ask yourself this:
have you ever looked at a person, made a face, and said, "oh god, what in the world was he/she thinking when he/she left the house this morning? yuck! " and have you ever caught a glimpse of someone's disgusting yellow-almost-brown teeth, got a shock, and could not concentrate for the rest of the conversation, because all you could think of was the person's teeth?

i know i have. i'm sure we all have. after all, we're human. and we judge. that's what humans do. judge.

i'm not saying that you can't dress down on days when you're too lazy, or if you're just going out to grab a coffee. but then you might also run into the hottest man alive when all you've got on is ugly underwear and sweatpants and unruly eyebrows and even worse hair. and then what?

"inner beauty may be more important, but exterior beauty has immediate impact." - daniel goh, editor of style magazine

my advice to you, just like how i spent an hour lecturing my friend the other day when i met her with dirt under her nails, is to find your own personal style, and to groom yourself well. it only takes a small little detail to turn someone off.

i believe that you can never overdress. i believe in finding what works for you and working it to the limit. i believe in having your own style, a look that is uniquely you. i believe in living life to the fullest. i believe in living according to your heart, whether you are angry, sad, or happy. i believe in love. i believe in accessories. i believe that confidence is the ultimate accessory.
"style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." - gore vidal

(of course, if you're intent on being a dirt-under-fingernails, sloppy kind of person, then be the best dirt-under-fingernails kinda person you can be!! even if that sounds super gross.)

you might be wondering why i say 'have your own style' instead of something like, 'be fashionable'? because, honey, fads fade and trends come and go, but your style, something unique to you and only you, remains in people's memories forever. i'm all for buying a new, trendy belt or pair of shoes, but honestly, i get them cheap and never pay much for those, unless they are something that i feel really suits my style. after all, why spend thousands on something, when it'll only be oh-so-last-season in less than 6 months? as you pay for it in hard-earned cash, as you whip out your card and sign your name, designers all over the world have already come up with something new in their atelier.

need more convincing?
here are some quotes that i've gathered over the years, and have pasted into my scrapbooks. i think they speak louder than i ever could.

"fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." - oscar wilde
"'style' is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma." - john fairchild
"the difference between style and fashion is quality." - giorgio armani
"fashion is what you adopt when you don't know who you are." - quentin crisp
"fashion is made to become unfashionable." - coco chanel
"create your own visual style. let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others." - orson welles
"style is the perfection of a point of view." - richard eberhart
"style is the dress of thoughts" - lord chesterfield
"fashions fade, style is eternal." - yves saint laurent

that friend of mine wasn't convinced. she refused to be. she told me that she wasn't interested in fashion, and that it had absolutely nothing to do with her. she works in a bank, wears shirts and suits all day, but cannot imagine spending more than 10 minutes getting ready each morning!!! i was flabbergasted!

so i searched through my quote book for it and emailed her these:

"people think that fashion is all frivolity and done by people who can't do proper jobs," says writer, adrian gill, "but issie (the amazing isabella blow) understood that it is very, very serious business in terms of civilization and culture. it's the one piece of culture that every single person in the world participates in. not everybody reads poetry or listens to music, but every single person in the world gets up in the morning and puts on something, and whether you like it or not, that's a statement about who you are."

"fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."
- coco chanel

i totally agree!! so unless you're like goldie hawn and russell crowe (who apparently parade around their house naked), i suggest you start looking into what sort of image you're portraying through your dressing.

you don't need to wear something spectacular everyday. you don't need to be decked out in the most expensive brands. but you do need a look that is you and uniquely you, because our style is something that reflects us, and that, darling, never goes out of style.


1. personal grooming is basic
clothes are one thing, but before you put them on, you've gotta remember that personal cleanliness, hair, and teeth, are probably the most basic things that say a lot about you!! this is a very important issue that i feel cannot be emphasized enough. do something about your teeth if they are stained and yellow. if you have body odour, proper baths and a good deodorant might be all you need. and please, don't pile on the perfume too much! no one wants to smell you before they even see you! spend time each day grooming yourself. animals probably spend the bulk of their day doing so, so a little time a day isn't gonna kill you.

personal grooming is also about having some manners and class . always say your "thank you"s. learn how to say "sorry". show respect to others. live by example. do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

2. get to know your body
take your time, and get to know your body and its shape. learn what clothing silhouettes, shapes and patterns look good with it. make a list of what you like about your body, and what you don't. then look for fabrics and cuts that will hide what you hate, and emphasize what you love. no one's perfect, and even celebrities hate many things about themselves. why else do you think plastic surgeons are so bloody rich? however, with more knowledge and through experimenting, you'll soon learn what looks good on you.

3. keep a scrapbook
i have like 8 of these books, compiled over the years, filled with pictures and magazine cut-outs. i tear and stick pictures of men, women, and even children. it doesn't matter whether i like their particular sense of style, or whether i think that it will look good on me. what matters is that it looks good on them, and that they look comfortable in their clothes. i feel that somehow, their clothes almost tell a story about them. so i cut them out, and compile them in books that i can refer to. i especially love it when someone comes up with a new way of wearing something; a piece of clothing paired with another, or an accessory, that i've never thought of using before. i also cut out pieces of clothing items that i love.

of course, to do this, you'd need some good magazines. vogue is always good. so's elle, although i dislike many american magazines because there's more ads than content. i also love mostly japanese fashion. my favorite is this magazine called soen. it is japan's first fashion magazine, and was started by my former school, bunka. all hail bunka!! woohoo!! soen's the best. it's different from the runway stuff that you see in vogue. it has the best of japanese designers and it's all about being unique. i subscribe to it and read it like an addict. other japanese magazines i love are fudge, zipper and cutie. i also buy kera sometimes, although it's more of a goth, lolita magazine, because a friend of mine is their model and boy does she have style. i also adore magazines like street, fruits and tune. all 3 showcases the best of tokyo's, and sometimes the world's, most gorgeous street fashion.

4. keep a style bible... or at least a "pictures" folder on your computer
other than scrapbooks, keep photos of yourself. i take photos of myself and my friends really often. i carry a camera everywhere! i do recommend taking lots and lots. it's always good! not only can you keep them for memories' sakes, and look back on them 10, 20 years from now and smile at the good times you've had, keeping a photo diary also helps you look back on previous clothing coordination. looking back on what you've worn, you'll learn a lot about what you look great in, and what you look not-so-brilliant in. you'll be able to tell that that shirt goes with that skirt, or that top should never be worn with that pants again. photos also tell you how you REALLY look to others, which is kinda different from what a mirror reflects back at you. also, do you go crazy like me sometimes, when you've taken at least 10 outfits out from your closet, your room's a total mess, and you're running late but you're screaming, "i have nothing to wear!"? having a style bible means that you could flip back and refer to it on those mornings when you absolutely CANNOT think of what to put on.

i also take photos of my friends and with my friends. like i said, you can look back and smile on them later. it's a great nostalgic feeling and photos help bring back memories when your brain fails you. sometimes when i see my friends in really great clothes, i get them to model for me so i can take their photos too. likewise, when i see people with great style on the street, i sometimes go up to them and ask if i can take their picture. i keep all this in my style bible, just in case i want to refer to it one day. looking at people with so much style is very inspirational!!

one other thing i do is, i get a photo taken in one of those photo booths, everytime i get a new haircut/color, and every birthday. i've been doing it forever.
it's just a boring, smile-at-the-camera kind of photo, but it helps me keep track and document all my previous hair styles. i cut my hair every month, and change my hairstyle and color every other month. some hair styles made me look super fat, some made me look like a rock star, and some made me feel good about myself, so doing that helps me to look back and learn about myself. i also flip through it for ideas, whenever i want to change my hair style. that's why you'll never hear me go, "i hate my hair!"

ok i DO say it sometimes, but it's only when my cut has grown out (my hair grows really fast) or my color has faded and i'm dying to get it fixed.

5. if you're uncomfortable in your clothes, trash it
there's nothing more i hate than seeing someone all dressed-up, someone who should be looking like the center of attention, but keeps wiggling and even scratching at themselves all day, just because what they forced themselves to put on doesn't fit, or itches or whatever. they only look stupid!! i once met a girl who wouldn't sit down to have tea, because her dress was too tight and it might split. i thought that was the dumbest shit i'd ever heard.

gilda radner once said "i base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch." if you don't feel good in what you're wearing, people will be able to see that, and they will be able to see that what you're wearing, just isn't "you".

6. find a trademark, something signature you
all of us are different, and what you might dislike about yourself, could be what makes you memorable. think cindy crawford's mole. many people i know hate their moles, but look how far she's come with it!! and what about jennifer lopez? i think she definitely works that ass. (and mine's probably just as huge. hah!) whether you like their "assets" or not, they are good examples of how it makes them memorable. it can also be a particular accessory, like a person who is never without his sunglasses. there is this great tv personality in japan called tamori-san, and he is never, ever, without his shades. when people in japan think tamori, they think sunglasses! having a trademark helps people remember you.

an unusual choice in clothing can also be your signature style. like this amazing cartoon artist from japan called kazuo umezu, who only wears red and white stripes. everything in his house is red and white stripes. or this friend of mine, seri, who wears polka-dots everyday. a unique trademark that you like, can become your signature style.

7. remember: colors, textures and layering

experiment with colors, textures and layering. for example, if you're like me and you like black (i wear all black on some days), use those 3 rules to help make your outfit more interesting. adding a focal point with colors can really do something for you. like a bright red corsage on an otherwise boring black suit. or a chunky, interesting necklace on a little black dress. or a pink ribbon functioning as a belt, wrapped around a long black t-shirt. or even a really funky pin in your hair. if you'd rather just stick to black and only black, try different textures to add depth, like black satin with something tweed. or simplest yet, dress up with some super shiny enamel pumps. layering can also be very exciting. layering is a skill that comes with practice! i have a friend in japan who's so bloody good at it, she can wear like 5 layers even in summer. i aspire to be like her one day; after all, she's the only one i know who can mix checks with stripes with polka-dots and still look amazing. i also love layering black with greys, or greys with whites, or whites, beiges and browns.

exploring colors also means that you should really try colors other than what you are ALWAYS in. i know people who wear black and refuse to wear anything else, because they say it makes them look fat. to people like that, i'd say "throw out all previous rule books you might have secretly written in your head." if you feel you're not the type to go with loud colors, then at least try out browns, greys, blues and whites. you don't have to wear something psychedelic all of a sudden - after all, sudden changes will only make friends and family think you've gone mad. make small changes at a time (try the "focal point with color' trick!), until you've gotten used to it, and experiment again from there!

8. don't be afraid to experiment!! but more importantly, remain true to yourself.
try to experiment with different looks, while staying true to yourself. while you shouldn't pretend to be what you're not, including aspects of different styles can really broaden your everyday wardrobe. my look is more grunge and punk, but i'd try anything and everything. however, i usually add something to the outfit that is still very "me", so that i don't lose my personality out there. like i'd wear something rather ethnic and traditional, but add a leather, studded belt to the outfit. or i'd be all dressed up in a lady-like dress, but add some edge to it with a black crystal-encrusted skull ring. you don't have to spend big bucks on a look that you aren't sure off yet. just try going to a thrift shop for cheaper options, or better yet, borrow from your friends. i have some friends who have rather different tastes compared to mine, so i sometimes borrow outfits from them just to explore other options. for example, i'm sure you've always been told to stay away from white because it apparently makes you look bigger, but one day, i decided to borrow an outfit from a friend who is always decked out, top to toe, in white, and always looks amazing. i surprised myself when i put it on and decided from that day onwards, to buy more white clothes!

don't be afraid of making mistakes, everyone makes them and you can burn all photos and other evidences later! making mistakes will help you to learn more about yourself, and in time, this will also help you create your own unique style!

however, while trying out different looks is a good thing, remember this: never, ever, sacrifice who you are for the sake of fashion!! there's no bigger turn-off than someone who's decked out in branded clothes and screaming logos, just because they want the world to know they can afford it, and nothing more pitiful than a person who must buy that new dior bag, just because all her friends have already gotten it.

9. smile and be confident
a great smile and self-confidence, are two accessories you can count on to go with any outfit. they never go out of style. the world's most expensive label would look like crap on you, if you slouch your back, look down at your feet and won't look at someone in the eye. on the other hand, i know people who wear the cheapest clothes and look like a million bucks. be confident about yourself. i believe that unless you love yourself, it'll be hard for anyone to really love you. (because even though you have people loving you, when you hate yourself, you don't see that.)

you only look stupid if you feel stupid, so stand tall, push your shoulders back, and smile. feeling good about who you are is what's most important.

take it from coco chanel. the lady said "i don't do fashion. i am fashion."


10. above all, have fun!!
because what's the point of living, if you aren't having a good time?

psst!!! for pictures of gorgeous people, check out wardrobe remix.

update: excuse me? a day after i posted this article, i found this on the daily mail. according to them, beautiful people earn more than their ugly workmates. after reading this, i feel that if you work hard at your job and also at how you look, i think it's a win-win situation all around!