My StyleJune 11, 2023 by savannah
Style is about making your body into art. It’s about facilitating a feeling, a desired experience you’d like to have in the day. It’s about feeling great in your own skin. It’s about taking the truth of who you are and translating it to the things that cover your body. And it can even be about signaling to others who you are for the chance of a more informed connection.
Life can be perfectly wonderful and fulfilling without style. It’s not a requirement, nor does it make you a better person. But playing with the art of putting clothes on our bodies is fun in the same way that creating anything beautiful is fun. There’s so much richness in the medium of clothes. They weave the story we’re telling about ourselves with the embodied experience of feeling materials touch our body all day. I love style so much and I thought sharing a bit about my style could be a gorgeous way to tell you about who I am.
My Style Visualized
The last few months I’ve been having a love affair with my closet. I’ve bought a few simple thrifted pieces, I’ve gotten rid of a ton of things that I just don’t wear, and I’ve started mending and tailoring the clothes with issues. I’ve color coordinated all of my hanging clothes into a rainbow to allow my brain more space to consider what colors go well together (it’s also very visually pleasing). I’ve made a more mindful practice of getting dressed in the morning. As this love affair is reaching a crescendo, I wanted to define my style with a figma board.
This board gives you a rough look at some foundational types of beauty that I love wearing. Some of the pictures are of the actual clothes I own and some are from Pinterest. There’s a wide variety of styles that I enjoy — things like Spy and Grandma and European Countryside. Best to just look at the board as it’s all there. After doing this it’s now more clear to me why I like what I like and why I don’t like what I don’t like. I love styles that have a few adjectives in common, adjectives that I’d describe myself as too: soft and confident, adventurous and cozy, bold and creative, clear and dynamic. Style can be an extension of one’s nature. To clothe oneself in more of oneself.
Standards I Have for My Closet
I love standards. Like boundaries, they help me get clear about how I want to honor myself, what experiences I want to have and what experiences I do not want to have. They help me choose more for myself and make my life better. Over the years I’ve learned which clothes I feel my best in and this list helps explain why that’s so. There have been many moments where I’ll feel less than great in something and I’m trying to learn from those moments and continue to build out this list. As time goes on I’m seeing that if something doesn’t fit these requirements, I just wont wear it and then it has zero utility for me.
- Comfortable & Covering: The thing has to not be constricting to my movement. Nothing itchy or pokey or too tight. I need to be able to walk around, sit down, bend over comfortably and without concern that I’m going to flash someone, rip my clothing, or have fabric pull into my skin. Ideally the clothes can hold up when if I spontaneously decide to climb a tree or start dancing or want to stretch. I want my clothes to enable me to be an independent variable in my life, not beholden to what’s appropriate in my environment.
- Beautiful to Me: If the garment fits into any of the buckets I’ve laid out in the figma board, and it’s in colors that I love, there’s a good chance I’ll find it beautiful. Here’s an example. I have a muted forrest green puffer jacket that I got for free at a clothing swap. It fit and was good in terms of practical utility. But I can already tell that I’m going to pass it on to someone else because I love bright, highly saturated colors especially for sporty, outdoor wear and muted colors make me feel drab. And wouldn’t you know, I do feel drab in it and I’m just not interested in feeling anything less than in love with what I’m wearing.
- Doesn’t Wrinkle Easily: Certain fabrics (often sold in fast fashion stores) wrinkle and look shabby instantly after washing them or wearing them. I’ve probably used an iron 20 times in my life. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Sometimes for a very special satin evening gown, but on the whole definitely no. Also the way you care for garment out of the washing machine makes a big difference here (hanging it on a hanger to dry is a great approach). Basically, I strive to own low-maintenance clothes so I can spend my time on more important things.
- Celebrates My Form: There are so many zones of my body that I find beautiful. Do the clothes I’m wearing highlight the visual beauty that I am? Do they emphasize a detail I find glorious? Do the pants I’m wearing cover the length of me and celebrate how tall I am? Does the shirt I’m wearing celebrate how long my arms are? Would the color of this garment flatter the underlying colors in my skin tone? Does this color orange celebrate the golden orange that the sun picks up in my hair? Does this color of pink draw out the natural blush in my skin and lips? These sorts of questions get at the heart of accentuating my unique beauty.
I want to call out that clothes that “celebrate my form” is a distinct idea from clothes that “make me look skinny, like a model, like a conventional idea of what is considered beautiful by the fashion/beauty industry.” I don’t think the latter needs to be the goal anymore. What is considered beautiful by mass media standards is a moving target by design. If you’re never content with how you look then you feel the need to change how you look and buying something can help you do that. Insecurity is great for business. In the marketing world this is called “manufacturing a need” or really just manufacturing insecurity. For example, imagine telling people to buy this anti-aging cream instead of us just revering the beauty of a well lived life on someone’s face. These narratives of lack are repulsive to me when I have the presence of mind to see them for what they are.
I had a therapy session a little while ago where I got to unpack some of the conditioning I went through as a teenager around what it means to be beautiful and desirable in our culture. I had believed that being skinny was what would get me the love I desperately desired growing up. And it’s not true. By the end of the session I had uncovered that I wanted my body to take up more space actually. I wanted to embody the fullness of form that I could be. Instead of contracting in to be smaller, I wanted to be longer and larger and take up more space than ever before. Ha!
Beauty is incredibly subjective. Interestingly enough, I find the people who are more concerned with health (again not just aspirationally trying to be thin) and who have chosen to see their own beauty (regardless of what opinions the outside world may have) tend to have a certain je ne sais quoi. Something that you often don’t find in “perfect” fashion model (who almost certainly thinks A LOT about their appearance as it’s directly tied to their livelihood and status). Alternatively, there are people who don’t seem to care about the concept of being outwardly beautiful. They’re more invested in their work, their passions, designing a beautiful life for themself, personal growth, inner peace, living in alignment with their values, so on and so on. To me aliveness equals a very human form of beauty. The way someone moves can be beautiful. Their actions, the way they speak, the shine in their eyes as they speak about what they love, how you feel when you’re with them. The beauty of a person is not bound to appearances. The beauty of their aliveness animates them in everything they do.
How Clothes Support Feeling
I learned a wonderful practice from one of my favorite youtubers, Hannah Louise Poston. Her videos focus on how to get creative in your closet without needing to buy more clothes. In this video she explains a better way to get dressed in the morning.
- Understand the practical needs of your outfit for today. If it’s gonna rain, you’ll need a raincoat. If it’s super hot, you’ll need to account for that. If you’re going to an american funeral, you’ll probably need to wear all black. The utility of clothing is non-negotiable because we want to enable ourselves to be very comfortable throughout the day.
- Ask yourself: How do I want to feel today? (So good!) I’ve been asking myself this question almost every morning for the last month or so and it’s been so beautiful to tune in and uncover how I can love myself through clothes that day. If I want to feel cool and breezy, I’ll put on loose fitting clothing made of light materials. If I want to feel cozy and protected (maybe I’m menstruating that day), then I’ll wear a snuggly sweater under a structured, oversized blazer and soft pants. This isn’t a rational process so much as a sensory process. I look out at my closet and let my body feel into what would elicit the most nourishing experience today now that I mentally know how I want to feel.
I also love that this process centers my present moment feeling state rather than some idea I have about how I want to look or who I want to be or how I want others to perceive me. I’m moving from authenticity and that feels right. There’s consistency of expression between me and my clothes.
All in all, clothes are just another form of art we get to make everyday if we chose to. Most days I have fun with it and wear whatever I like. Sometimes I’m just going for a run and I’ve only chose clothes that work for running with no thought to artfulness at all. None of this is serious. Just a fun game we get to play if we want.
So I’m curious…how will you make art of yourself today?