A MODERN WOMAN’S GUIDE TO MODERNITY How to be a successful, well-rounded modern woman in today’s society – without losing your integrity and individuality – Part 4

Style

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Yves Saint Laurent said, “fashions fade, style is eternal”. Every single day we are bombarded with “what not to wear”, “what’s hot this season”, “what so-and-so is wearing” and encouraged to “spend, spend, spend”. The result is we end up with a closet full of clothes, most of which we don’t wear, don’t fit or just plain don’t like. The problem is, the world is telling us left, right and centre that “the crochet bikini is in fashion” or “wear skinny jeans, nobody wears flares anymore”, and stating that “orange is the new black” (pun unintended), and we, the proverbial sheep, lap it up. We go out, we buy that crochet bikini, we binge on Orange and we invest in expensive skinny jeans. Never once, do we consider how this fashion may look on our body shape, how it may fit into your closet, or just how goddamn awful said item is? Ever looked at photos of your 15-year-old self and wondered what made you think you looked good in those outfits? Just consider how you’ll feel looking back at what you’re wearing now. Cringe? Maybe rethink that outfit.

“Only buy clothes you plan to keep forever. It’s important to see trends for what they are: a game” Carine Roitfield. 

The most important thing you need to consider when it comes to style is the concept of “personal style”. You need to cultivate your own sense of self that can be channeled through clothing. The second most important thing you need to consider is dressing for your body shape. There is absolutely no point in wearing something that is the wrong cut for your shape. It won’t be flattering, therefore won’t be comfortable. When something is uncomfortable, it will not make you feel confident.

How to Cultivate Personal Style

  • Take from life – what do YOU do on a daily basis. If your life consists of riding horses, tidying up your 3 kids and occasionally going into town for coffee, then Italian leather stilettos and white jeans are probably not the best idea for you. Similarly, if you are a school teacher, you want a wardrobe that suitably fits your job description, but gives you a chance to dress up or down on weekends. It is all about figuring out what works best for your lifestyle.
  • Have a style icon (or two) – This has to be an icon, not an idol – for there is a great difference!! An icon is something that has meaning and devotion – whereas an idol has a power beyond what it actually is – something to be worshipped and emulated. You don’t want a style idol – consider those women who pay millions to look like Barbie – that is what idols create! Having an icon gives you inspiration and something to look towards when you’re stuck. For example, your style icons could be Scarlett Johansson and Marilyn Monroe – because you have similar body shapes and wish to emulate their classic style. However, you do not go the whole nine yards Dita Von Teese pinup girl look – this is about looking for style inspiration, not a costume.
  • Limit your colour palette – We all know people whose closet has no cohesion. They have every colour under the sun, from orange, to pink, to purple, to sparkly, black, red and everything in between. Getting dressed in the morning must be a nightmare. For the best personal style, select two or three main colours that look great on you – be it because they go with your hair, or eyes, or simply because you love them! Then mix it in with grey, black and white in order to balance it out. Everything in your closet should go with each other – if it doesn’t throw it out.
  • Buy quality pieces – Yes, that $12 top from Kmart is so tempting, but how will it fit into the rest of your closet? Will it fall apart after 4 washes? Is the fabric any good? It is best to make informed decisions when it comes to clothes, and spend the right amount on proper things, rather than have lots of cheap or lots of expensive pieces just for the hell of it.
  • Accessories are a girl’s best friend – I have always maintained that you should have signature accessories, things that you would never be seen without. No matter what outfit you’re wearing, you should never be without these accessories. I wear one greenstone hei matau from my partner, a silver watch, and my rings. For me, earrings and bracelets can change, but these things stay constant. Find your own signature accessories, and work them into your wardrobe so that you feel naked without them.

Clothing: The Basics

The best way to ensure that the personal style you are cultivating works for you in the long term is to make sure it fits well. This is one of the absolute most important rules. If something does not fit you properly, it will not look right. Wherever possible get fitted professionally, sales assistants know what they’re doing, and will be able to help find the right fits for you. You can also get things tailored to fit you better if you’re buying off the rack. Never. I repeat, NEVER, buy something with the intention of losing or gaining weight to fit into it. This is a seriously flawed tactic. If it does not fit you properly in the store when you try it on, and you say “well if I just lose 5 kilos here then it will fit”, walk away! There is a difference between tailoring something to be a better fit, like a blazer or jeans and buying the wrong size completely. This is very flawed judgement, yet a lot of women do it. Consider all these things when buying clothes.

Underwear

“Well nobody is going to see it”, “I’m not spending $65 on a bra” etc. We’ve all heard it (and likely said it) before. However, good underwear is the basis of a good outfit. If your underwear fits well and supports you, it will be the beginning of looking and feeling fantastic. If you’re wearing something too small, you’ll bulge out the sides, if you’re wearing something too big, then it will gape and bunch up. You don’t want that. There is nothing worse than a bra that does not fit properly. You may think you know what size you are – but it is estimated that 90% of women are wearing the wrong size bra! Set aside half of your clothing budget for good underwear. Go to a specialist lingerie shop and get fitted by a professional. I believed I was a 16B until I got fitted by a professional and found out I was a 16D – I had been wearing a bra two cup sizes too small for over 3 years! I cannot stress how important this fitting stage is – you will not regret it once you’ve done it. The only thing you will regret is not doing it sooner!

Every woman should have

  • A plain black t-shirt bra
  • A plain nude t-shirt bra
  • A strapless bra
  • A sports bra
  • A variety of sexy, fun or lacy sets that make you feel fabulous

And please, for the love of God, wash your lingerie and underwear (even your sports bras) in a washbag. It helps it to keep its shape and not get stuck around things in the washing machine.

The Wardrobe Essentials

  • 2 x pairs of indigo wash pure cotton jeans – in a cut that suits your shape. Every woman is different, therefore shapes will suit individual bodies. Straight leg is the most classic cut and will suit most people, so if unsure go for straight leg. Don’t stick with the trends – even if they tell you that bleach wash ripped boyfriend jeans are in – they will look outdated in 3 months – not to mention they probably won’t suit your shape.
  • 4 x crew neck pure cotton t-shirts – one white, one black, one grey and one Breton striped – these can be chucked on with anything for any occasion – an ultimate capsule piece
  • 1 x good winter jacket – in a shape that suits you – personally I believe that Trench Coats are the way to go. They’re the ultimate timeless piece and flatter any body shape. However, if a trench just isn’t for you, consider another well-tailored type. It should cost a bomb, but will last forever!
  • 1 x casual jacket – in denim or leather – this you can throw on over anything and it feels and looks comfortable. Again, go for indigo wash – not bleach or coloured. And if it is leather, make sure it is black. Can never go wrong with a classic.
  • AT LEAST 1x Little Black Dress – There is a little black dress for every woman – no matter your shape or size. It will become your ultimate go-to piece. Any occasion, any look, and style – your little black dress will be there waiting for you. You may even have several – variations on a style. But at the end of the day, this is a piece no woman should be without.
  • 2 x black skirts – these will take you from work to, night out in a heartbeat. They should fit well, and be the kind of cut that suits your shape. Some women look best in pencil skirts, whereas others may prefer an A-line shape. These shouldn’t be too short. Because regardless of your shape, short skirts scream “teenage girls at a school dance” not “sophisticated modern woman”.
  • 1 x pair of black pumps – the toe shouldn’t be too rounded or too pointed – it needs to roll with the seasons
  • 1 x pair of black ballet flats – same rules apply here as the black pumps.
  • 3 x cashmere cardigans – in black, white and grey with buttons up – can be used as layers or thrown on over something – completes an outfit all on its own.

What Not to Wear

  • Leggings as pants – unless you are on your way to, or back from a workout
  • Ugg boots – NO. They’re not classy, they’re not sexy, they’re not good. They’re slippers. A grown woman wearing Ugg boots out and about is just sad. Leave these for the 15-year-old girls in Starbucks with their Pumpkin spiced lattes.
  • Workout gear anywhere other than the gym
  • Anything that is too small – squashing yourself into something won’t make you sexier…
  • Matching track suits – are you Paris Hilton from 2003? Just don’t.
  • Anything with a slogan or symbol on it – unless you’re paid to advertise them don’t wear it
  • “Cute” costume style clothes – you don’t want to look like you’re wearing a costume unless you are actually wearing a costume!! Unless you are on your way to a dress up party, a professional Cosplayer or raising funds for charity, there is no reason to wear a costume type outfit out in public.
  • Double denim – I know it is back in fashion, but for how long? Do you really want to look back on yourself in 10 years and wonder why you wore double denim??

Make-Up and Hair

As we all are well aware, make-up and hairstyles are one of the most changing things in fashion. I am sure we all look back at the way our parents did their hair and make-up and wonder why on earth they thought that was acceptable! Mullets? Blue eyeliner? Why!!!!!????? There is a simple way to combat this.

  • Don’t follow fads – heavy lip liner, pink hair, smoky eye etc. are all fashions that come and go. The easiest way to make sure your look doesn’t date is to not follow these fashions.
  • Have your own makeup routine and look – Whether you love having heavy eyebrows, and light simple eye make-up, or winged eyeliner and red lipstick etc. pick a look and stick with it. That way you know exactly what you will wear every day. You can change it up for special occasions etc., but you should have a look that is decidedly “you”.
  • Don’t dye your hair unnatural colours – Pink, blue, green etc. might seem really cool when you first do it but rest assured, it will get very annoying very quickly. People won’t take you seriously. Stick to the natural colours for a classier timeless look.
  • Avoid “modern” hair – the perm was modern in 1982. Now, look at it. The shaved side of the head for women was in for a while in 2010. Now, look at it. All these things that are “modern” date so quickly.
  • Pick a hairstyle that suits you and roll with it for the next 30 years – Pick something that flatters your facial bone structure, the size of your forehead and the colour of your eyes. Pick something practical that will work when you’re sweaty at the gym, but also when you’re in a boardroom meeting. Classic styles include the bob with bangs, the pixie cut, the simple A-line shoulder cut and solid form long hair. None of these will date.

There is always the argument that you could ignore all the rules and do whatever the fuck you want… as Miranda Hart said “Do you like it? Do you care that others may not like it? Great then wear that then”.

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