Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Look At Personal Style, Minimalism, Modesty and The Trend Factor

A Look At Personal Style, Minimalism, Modesty and The Trend Factor

Hey Everyone,

In the last few months, I've gotten many requests to put together posts about trends, finding your personal style and how to be modest but stylish in a secular world. I'll also be answering your burning "why does she only wear little black pencil skirts?" question.

Please note that this is going to be a long piece, but I've finally written down some of my viewpoints on these topics. Disclaimer - these are some of my personal observations, and I'm not dissing on anyone or anything in particular. Please don't read into anything I have to say; if it were about you, I'd specify you by name ;)

 If this isn't your cup of coffee, feel free to skip!

First up, trends and personal style:

I love a good trend. The slides and mules from last season? - still going strong; a good bomber jacket? - truly a classic; floral everything? - a trend that keeps coming back every spring.

My personal problem with trends, looking like a fashion-lemming aside, is that they mess with a person's personal style, IF that personal style is underdeveloped.

To further explain what I mean by that, just think of some of the bloggers that show up on your feed regularly. They have excellent feeds, everything they own and purchase is new, on trend and generally expensive, but there's something lacklustre about their overall look. Sure they may be on trend, but is fashion just a buy and sell consumerism situation for them, or a way of genuine personal self expression?

Now think of your favourite blogger. They always look cool, have a definite personal spin on the current trends and always appear full of vibrance and a cool edge you just can't fake. Both of these bloggers are following trends, but it's how they do it that makes or breaks their appeal.

We all know the "as seen on me blogger" who's feed seems to be about purchasing whats hot in stores and selling the whole look on her (or his) feed. I call that the Hype Blogger. This blogger's look is solely trend based and is a reflection of what you see on a billboard or in a magazine and to be honest, that doesn't impress me much. Having all of the trendy, expensive items as soon as they come out isn't fashion forward, it's obnoxious; shopping at and wearing head-to-toe Zara is not fashion. You don't get to be a Leandra Medine or Olivia Palermo by buying the mannequin. (Not dissing Zara shoppers at all, I'm a Zara devotee myself <3 )

That being said, trends are really a good thing. We need trends if we want to further our styles and keep the fashion industry moving. Each trend lets us add or subtract aspects of our looks. For example, if you really liked bomber jackets, you can incorporate them into later looks, in later seasons. That trend may have helped you refine your personal style.


Developing a personal style is crucial to surviving trends with your individuality intact. How do you develop a personal style? for me and many others, It's been trial and error:

1.) Find what you DON'T like: The first step seems kind of counter intuitive, but isolating what you dislike in the regards to style and clothing is the first step to refining your look. Some examples of this are:

  •  Do you like heels more than flats? - Your footwear will determine a major part of your look. Being tall, I'm a flats and sneakers girl myself, but if you love a good heel, make it part of your aesthetic. 
  • Are you a minimalist or a maximalist - If neutral palettes make your heart flutter, than go for the minimalist looks. If crazy patterns and funky baubles are your thing, focus your energy on that. Just because minimal looks are in now, doesn't mean you have to drop what really interests you. Get those crazy earrings or that cool top, It's part of your style evolution. 
  • Do you like vintage or contemporary looks? - If you're crazy about vintage, don't try to buy ready made store looks. Focus of hunting for new pre-loved pieces to reinvent. 
  • Are you conservative or avant grade? if you're a conservative-dressing girl and thigh high boots with fishnets are trendy, you have to decide what to try. Don't do it if it makes you uncomfortable. 
Note: If you really want to try a tricky trend, always do so in moderation. You get  feel of how you like the trend and who knows, maybe you'll take on the full trend.

2.) Donate everything you don't REALLY love: Yes, I know that sounds really Marie Kondo of me, but you can't build your new look if your closet is in shambles. Have a good look at all the items you have (accessories included) and ask yourself:

  • How often do I wear it - If you keep it around because you might need it, get rid of it. If you haven't used it in 1 or 2 years, you're probably not going to miss it. 
  • Does is have sentimental value - A special pair of shoes or your wedding dress can stay if they hold an emotional significance for you.
  • Why do I want to keep it? - keeping that $300 Theory dress that is horribly unflattering on you just because it was expensive is not a good thing. Donate it and free up space for better pieces you'll enjoy wearing. Chalk that purchase up to a mistake and learn from it.  
  • Can I wear it with at least 3 outfits I already own? - If you're only keeping it to buy more items to match it with, you should probably let it go.
  • Do I Love LOVE It? -  On a scale of 1 - 10, how much do I really like it. Am I holding out until I can replace it with something better? 
  • Do I look good and feel good in it? - Try everything on and ask yourself honestly if you feel and look good in it. There may be nothing wrong with the item, but if you don't like the fabric or the way it sits on your body, get rid of it. Life is too short to wear and own anything that doesn't make you happy. Ex. Peplum - It looks great on some, it looks like maternity on me. 

3.) Start With The Basics: Now that you've cleared out some of the junk, you can look at what you already own. Start piecing together looks and see what's missing from your wardrobe. You can never go wrong with the basics and now you know what to shop for.

4.) Find A Style Icon: Find a muse (or multiple, actually) that has a style you like and get inspired by them. Watch the way they style their looks and adopt details you like, such as a creatively-tied bandana or button up blouse worn off the shoulder. Inspiration is great, but make sure you're not shamelessly copying someone else's style. There's a fine line between being inspired and being an unoriginal copycat.

5.) Find Your Comfort Zone: Trends aside, make sure you only own clothes, shoes and accessories you feel comfortable in. If you're not a heels girl, stick to flats; if you don't like midi dresses or striped shirts or denim, don't wear them. If vintage is not your thing, don't try the retro trends. (mom jean skirts, band tees and vintage Nike windbreakers anyone?) Personal style is about you, for you. You have to be comfortable, but not stagnant, in your look.

6.) Don't Fall For Hype or Fast Fashion: It's really easy to get sucked into buying new things when you're presented with them everyday, but make sure you're not falling for hype or things you don't need. There will always be cute tops at HM, that doesn't mean you need to get them unless it's a piece you need or a style you've wanted to try. Always make sure you're choosing clothes you really want, need and can style. There's nothing good about being a compulsive shopper, It's a financial drain and it distracts from using the pieces you already own. The same goes for designer pieces, only buy it if you really love it. Always ask yourself if you would still buy it if it wasn't designer. That way, you'll know if you value the piece or the name attached to it.

Also, if you rely on hype or fast fashions, you're bound to end up looking just like everyone else.

7.) Find Your Niche and Make It Your Own: As stated above, your personal style is about achieving a level of comfort with your look, but striving to elevate it at the same time. If you really like distressed denim, mules, striped tops, hoodies or bags, then collect them. Once you find something you like, it's a blank canvas to build a personal style on. Think Anna Wintour and her tweed suits, Karl Lagerfeld and the black and white and Iris Apfel and the colour red. It's not that these icons don't wander from their comfort zones, but they each have found a unique way of expressing themselves that is instantly recognizable and has in turn, become iconic.


Why The Little Black Pencil Skirts / A Personal Style Evolution : 

You wouldn't believe how often I get this question. First up:

- I own about 40 black pencil skirt in various materials, washes and lengths. It is NOT just one little black pencil skirt.
Of course I wash them after every wear. (Ya'll nasty if you think I'm going around with unwashed clothes every day.)
- No, it's NOT some weird religious thing. As most of you know, I'm an orthodox, Jewish, modest blogger. There is no religious requirement to wear pencil skirts (Clarifying because many of you seem to assume this). I cover my knees and elbows for Tzniut (modesty) along with thousands of others around the world. Heck, you wouldn't even know most of us are religious because we look (and are, tbh) "normal".
- In short, I wear them because I like them, but the long story is down below:

I haven't always worn pencil skirts. I was actually pretty into colour and bright floaty florals when I was younger, but a few years ago I just got tired of it. I tried to wear the cute skirts and colourful tops everyone else was wearing, but it felt draining and like a chore. I never wanted to look at my style like that. It always felt like I was parroting someone else's look.
I was surrounded by primarily maximalist people when I was a minimalist at heart. I also went to private school for a majority of my school career, until college, so the idea of a uniform is not restrictive to me, it's natural.

Black pencil skirt are just that for me, a uniform. I tried to mix it up and try other colours, dresses and skirt styles, but I always feel most comfortable in a pencil skirt and to be honest, I didn't even notice the shift.

A few reasons why I love them:
  • Universally flattering - they work on every body type and skim your problem areas.
  • Comfy - I am all for comfort. Heck, if it's not comfortable, I won't wear it. These skirts are comfy and stretchy, my version of your most comfy leggings. 
  • Always look put together -  you can wear them with a slouchy hoodie and sneakers and they still look feminine and kind of posh. Slouchy chic at it's finest. 
  • Don't show sweat or dirt - running when it's 30 degrees outside or spilled coffee down your front? the skirt won't show it (a total plus for us tangle-handed ones.)

So, why the name? :

I was out for lunch with a friend who she asked me how to style a little black pencil skirt. In her mind, it was a difficult task and a chore, exactly the way I felt about her style (loud prints, colour and lots of scuba material). I asked her why she asked me of all people and she said "You always wear them and seem to enjoy it. You're practically the little black pencil skirt." She wasn't kidding and that's how my blog got it's name. 

Over the years I stopped trying to recreate looks I wasn't happy with and started channelling my look in a new, minimal direction. I've always found grey to be one of my colours. I'd rather be in comfy sneakers and a cute sweatshirt than heels (Not like I need them at 5'9 anyway).
As for modesty, if you have to concentrate that much on merging your style with modesty, your style needs work. It's really not hard. You wear what you want, follow the trends you want and don't focus on it. The more you focus of what you perceive you "can't" wear, the harder it is to be creative with your style. For example, two years ago leather pants made a come back. Since I wear skirts, I obviously couldn't wear them the way they came out and had to be a little creative. I layered them under skirts and black dresses and at the time, that was a bit weird. Fast forward to the present, no-one bats an eye if you wear it like that. That is personal style and evolution.  

In short, my style and your style are basically the same. We all want to feel comfortable and beautiful. If it makes you happy, wear it. Change it, build on it. We've got loads of inspiration available now so lets make the most of it. Once you find your happy, your personal style will follow.  

- Jöelle 

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