I spent the past several weeks in style inspiration mode looking for fashions both old and new that caught my eye and would guide me to the kinds of things I’d want to include in my dream wardrobe this time around. I followed the wardrobe building advice of Anuschka Rees in her book, The Curated Closet, where she suggests perusing through blogs, online magazines, print magazines, and fashion books, movies and TV shows, Pinterest, online lookbooks, and people watching. My task was to pull style inspiration from various sources and then make a list of all the “Things I Like” to include individual pieces, colors, silhouettes, specific materials, and styling techniques that were a theme throughout my findings. Next, I was to zoom out and take a birds eye view at all the things I liked, and remove the things that I just admired and keeping things on my list that I would only wear in real life. This leaves you with a list of items that I would actually include on my purchasing list when rebuilding my wardrobe.
Where I Pulled My Style Inspiration From.
One of the most fun places I love to pull inspiration from is in TV and film. I also screen shot outfits on my phone from Instagram and other images I find online and I send them to one folder on my desktop called Style Inspiration. I’m not going to share all the images, but I will highlight somethings that caught my eye.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a die-hard fan of the TV Show, Empire. Ever since Cookie Lyon landed on the silver screen, I immediately knew she was going to be a very big deal. I mean, Taraji P. Henson, hello. You know anything she touches turns to gold. Costume designer, Paolo Nieddu did an amazing job with all of the characters throughout these first five seasons, and it’s so hard to narrow down but this colorblock skirt suit by Moschino was definitely one of my favorites. I’ve been following Tamra Mellon on instagram for a while because of her impeccably designed shoes, but when I laid my eyes on these Bonfire Nappa heels, I immediately fell in love. These shoes just scream Wonder Woman to me.
Another dress that stopped me in my tracks was this one Li Bing Bing wore to Ralph Lauren’s 50th Anniversary Celebration event in New York during fashion week. The softness of the material and structure of the dress with her beautiful complexion and dark hair just speaks soft and strong to me. And I’m a huge fan of soft pink and chiffon material! I also dove into some Old Hollywood archives and pulled from Edith Head costume design and the dresses she made for Grace Kelly’s characters in Rear Window (1954) where she wore that iconic black and white dress and the blue layered chiffon dress in, To Catch A Thief (1955). I also loved Gemma Chan’s entrance soft rose pink cowl neck dress, in the Crazy Rich Asians 2018 film. Then, I pull from things like Pranamat’s Instagram account where they have a woman dressed in an oversized cozy sweater reading on the mat because reading, cozy and taking care of your health and that product in particular all speak to my lifestyle even though we have no idea where we can get that sweater. It reminds me of a dancer’s day off, which also represents a side of my personality. I also pulled inspiration from Elle Magazine when they covered Michelle Obama wearing Dior with a black leather corset and black lace ankle boots for her in-depth Oprah interview reflecting on marriage, her time in office, and her beloved memoir “Becoming”. Then, there was flipping through some classic favorite findings from Kate Spade, Niyamasol, Tocca, Eyes of Horos Cosmetics, and Montce Swim.
What To Do With Your Style Inspiration.
Once you have all of your style inspiration in one folder on your desktop, the next step is to find your common themes. For example, the Cookie Lyon colorblock suit spoke to my Jackie O style influence. The Tamra Mellon black boots played to my Wonder Woman archetype. The Maid In Manhattan pink chiffon dress that Jennifer Lopez wore to the charity dinner, and the Dolce & Gabbana white pant suit she tries on and meets Chris in, represents my resonance with a woman who comes from an inner city neighborhood and steps into her true potential, and just radiates. It encapsulates human potential to me. It’s the way she steps into the role of what she’s wearing that, as a stylist, shows exactly how clothing is a powerful catalyst for transformation.
The next step Anuschka Rees recommends is taking your “Things I Like” list to a huge department store and going on a style hunt to find the individual pieces, silhouettes, materials, overall vibe, and colors on your list and trying them on. Here are some shots below of me going for the individual item with the Kate Spade backpack. I tried to find the Pranamat sweater in the instagram shot in the second mint green sweater picture. The mint green blazer with black skinny jeans and strappy heels was my affordable version of a sexy chic business suit look that you can wear to happy hour with just a bra underneath. You can easily go from the office to happy hour in this outfit when you wear the whole ensemble to work with a black vest overtop of the sheer turtleneck, and then remove the vest for the evening if you’re feeling spicy. I tried on some soft floral prints in day dresses and office blouses because those are the particular items that I need in my wardrobe. So, I took the inspiration of the cowl neck dress from Crazy Rich Asians and found a different type of neckline and something more suitable for daytime. There are so many ways you can get a similar look and feel of an inspired outfit without it having to look exactly like the costume in the film, TV show, or magazine, etc.
I wanted to make sure I mention a few tips when you go shopping and experiment because you may not always love everything that you try on. It’s important to follow some of Anushka Rees’s tips for isolating the problem and finding something that works. Just because you don’t love it, doesn’t mean you’re completely off. Here’s some suggestions as to how you can tweak an outfit when it doesn’t fall into the “I immediately love it” category.
What To Do When You Hate What You Try On.
You’re always venturing out into unknown territory when you go into a department store and clothing stores with the intention to experiment with new looks and try things that you may not be used to wearing. Rees says, “whether it’s a color, silhouette, overall look, you can’t expect to get it right on the first try.” The first step you can take is to isolate the problem by figuring out what about the outfit you don’t like. Rees says, “chances are, the problem isn’t the overall idea, but the execution. Perhaps the cropped top is too long or not fitted enough to create the specific silhouette you are after. Maybe the construction of the skirt doesn’t fit the individual contours of your body. Perhaps the fabric is too thin and clingy. Maybe you just don’t like the color of the top or the zipper detailing on the skirt.” Anuschka Rees says, when this happens you have two options:
Option 1: Tone down the intensity.
The easiest way to incorporate some of the outfit into your look is to wear a smaller dose in a toned-down format. For example, if going full on rock chic isn’t your thing, you could try pairing it with regular basics. For example, see the photo above where I’m rocking a black leather jacket with a Kate Spade red and gold dress for a more balanced look that isn’t all rocker babe. Because I love black leather, but I don’t want to look like I’m riding a motorcycle, or have fallen out of the film, Terminator.
Some examples of toning down the intensity are, instead of a bold wing of eyeliner, use a subtle flick of eyeliner. Instead of a fuscia pink top, try a top in a softer pink shade, or something with pops of fuscia. Instead of all-lace dress maybe try something with a lace hemline. Instead of knee-high lace up boots, you can try lace-up ankle boots.
Option 2: Scrap the idea.
It’s okay to simply say nope, this isn’t for me. Not everything that works conceptually, will translate into outfits in real life. Some things you may love on other people, may not work on you. And that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you or your body, please know that, but it does mean that the color or cut of the item you’re trying on may just not feel like you or you just don’t love it on yourself. Don’t take it personally, and just move on to the next item.
Try This At Home.
Once you have experimented with your shopping list of “Things I Like”, go home and tweak it after you’ve tried thoseitems and silhouettes, colors and materials on, and add in things you didn’t know you would love, and edit the items you didn’t necessarily love on you. Anuschka Rees recommends going to a large department store or a mall where there are a lot of options in one place. Play with different things. For example, I would have never picked this dress out for myself, and I loved it on me. I like black, blue and gold. It it my everyday look, no, but it expanded my style palette. And I was surprised to find that I liked the style.