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How to Have Style

January 2nd, 2010

Thanks to the lovely Girl on a Bicycle (see link to her blog on right under “inspiration”) I picked up this book by Isaac Mizrahi at the library this morning. I’m only about 30 pages into it and feel like it is already helping me re-evaluate and refine my style.

As a sort of private exercise I went through all the photos I have posted since I began doing so in May last year and saying “yea” or “nay”

Wow.

A few hits, but so, so many misses.

Photographing yourself and posting in on your blog is like having a magic mirror — clarity at last. It helps me see what doesn’t work — so many things — and what does.

I can’t explain why I don’t see the same thing just looking in the mirror, but I really don’t.

I only see it in a photo.

As a result of this ongoing evaluation, I have discarded or sold many items.

For instance, my beloved velvet ballet slippers that every male in my world told me were hideous — gone with some additional input from readers.

It also revealed to me that my favorite (and only) black slacks were so tight they looked horrific and so I’ve delegated them to a drawer in the hopes that with a few pounds back off, they will once again look flattering.

Just looking back over the past two months, I realized I despise the way my rubber snow boots look with jeans tucked into them, so I’m either going to pull my jeans down over them or find something more attractive at some point.

Having this blog is self-indulgent in a way, I admit. But it has really helped me define my style and I hope it continues to do so.

I have had so much great input from readers and I really appreciate it. That has helped a ton.

Thanks for reading and please continue to give opinions if it strikes you to do so and please have a wonderful, healthy and happy new year.

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  1. January 2nd, 2010 at 15:27 | #1

    Happy New Year, Kristi!

    I agree. Somehow the camera picks up things the mirror doesn’t. Shirts I thought looked great were ugh and vice versa.

    I started an inspiration board shortly after reading this book last year. But I haven’t figured out exactly what it means yet????

  2. January 2nd, 2010 at 15:34 | #2

    I’m worried about the same thing — I’ll start the board but it won’t mean anything! I may do it anyway!

  3. January 2nd, 2010 at 15:34 | #3

    Also…

    I was searching through your blog for an old post the other day and came across several where you were wearing a red t. You looked amazing. I think a pop of red (in a scarf, sweater or even a beaded necklace or bracelet) is just what your winter wardrobe needs. Also, red looks great against those gray, midwestern skies.

    Go back and take a look. You’ll definitely see it…

  4. January 2nd, 2010 at 15:54 | #4

    Thanks. I do like some red in my wardrobe … I think I like it better in winter than summer though. I’m still reading the book and got to the part about the woman with SO MANY clothes and how Isaac suggests people create their own “lookbook” by photographing all their outfits and analyzing, which I guess is exactly what I was doing by looking back on this blog … fun.

  5. January 2nd, 2010 at 16:47 | #5

    I don’t know why but this topic fascinates me. Editing is a continuous process and something is learned each time we get rid of something. We learn why it didn’t work so that mistake is not made in the future. This is why I love finding all of these blogs that post on this topic because we can learn from each other. I know I’ve learned a lot from you since I found your blog. Thanks!

  6. Anne Marie
    January 2nd, 2010 at 17:50 | #6

    I teach a class on defining your personal style and the first project is to have magazines, scissors, glue stick and small poster board – give a time limit of 20 minutes – work fast!!- don’t think too much!!- and cut out any photo that you are drawn to – doesn’t have to be “outfits” – words, colors, just random things. Hopefully a stranger can look at you and pick out which poster is yours. I make my class put it away and after we finish the other lessons on style, color, fit, and image – we look at it again – Almost always you pull the colors and see a pattern that defines you. You instinctively know what works for you – we just clear the clutter of life and get back to it.(Works best in group and go fast!!) Don’t tell others the goal of the project – let kids do it to show what they want their life to be when they grow up – look back years later – usually pretty close.

  7. January 2nd, 2010 at 18:14 | #7

    Oh, I’m so glad that review was useful! There are so many useless style books out there–it was a treat to find a good one.

    I’ve been keeping a lookbook and inspiration board for about two years now, and what I’ve noticed is that it took a while before they were useful. I had to collect a bunch of images before I really noticed any patterns, and then suddenly, VOILA, my style seemed really obvious: oh yeah, THAT’S what all these images have in common! It was also helpful to go through a cycle of seasons this way, because my taste does change depending on the weather. Only after beginning my second full year of collecting images did I start to see what my choices had in common across the seasons. So, it may take a while, but have faith that you know what you like and will be able to see it eventually.

    Looking forward to reading more about your process!

  8. January 2nd, 2010 at 19:52 | #8

    When its snowy enough to put me in my snow boots I usually wear leggings with a long sweater, as jeans do look too “bunchy” when tucked into the boots.

  9. January 4th, 2010 at 10:39 | #9

    K.
    I agree about the pictures vs. mirror thing…one thing that helps me is to save my pictures in a wardrobe file with folders labeled “Good” and “Bad”…within the Good folder I have additional folders for each of my bottoms (i.e. “black skirt”, “grey slacks” etc..). Then I also have a favorites folder for those outfits that make me feel like the angels are singing “Gloria”…

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What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.