Everyday Wardrobe: Defined Aesthetic

Here’s an interesting discussion. And its one that I truly have been struggling with ever since I started blogging back in 2007. Defining a specific style. That’s the crux of it right there. Since I’ve started returning my life to some sort of normal since getting back from the sewing events I was involved in for the past few months, I’ve really started to ponder what this means to me and if I want to fully embrace a defined aesthetic or not. Let me expound a little more on what I mean.

What do I mean by defined aesthetic or specific style? I mean dressing a certain way all the time, everyday. Incorporating all elements in my wardrobe to define a certain type of look. For example, when I think of bloggers who have a very defined aesthetic I think of Gertie and Casey. There are many more, but these two always pop into my head first because I’ve met them both in real life and because they really do wear the aesthetic they espouse on their blogs. They have an awesome wardrobe and they seem to wear and make those things that not only play into their vintage style and aesthetic but completely coincide with their personality. They are through and through vintage with a touch of a modern edge. I love it. I love seeing what they come up with next and I love that even though you expect a certain thing from them, they still surprise you by the ingenuity they have through their personal creative style. It’s very inspiring.

There are lots of defined aesthetics out there – a term that caught my eye from Already Pretty. These two articles in particular (here and here) were very interesting and I love seeing different sorts of defined aesthetics out there. Punk Rock, Goth, Ivy League Chic, Minimalism, etc….

I’ve decided that I’m much more of a dabbler. I do love vintage but I like taking a certain silhouette from a certain era here and there and making it more modern and a lot less costumey and stand out. I want to stand out, but not in that way. I like mixing and matching different styles and colors to create a colorful, yet classic and eclectic look. I have an affinity for prints and styles that are somewhat traditionally masculine – I’m mad for plaids of all sorts, I LOVE loafers and trousers and button up shirts. I totally dig Ivy League Chic styles but find that I don’t want to always look that part either. I like to try new things, but I also know that I’ve found a happier medium through which my personal style runs and I like to think that instead of having a defined outside aesthetic, I’ve created my own aesthetic that speaks to me personally.

I’ve been mulling over defined aesthetics for awhile now and thought it would be fun to hear what you have to say about this topic. I think for many, this type of dressing makes wardrobing – creating actual outfits – a ton easier. In fact, I would say that it makes it a lot easier. I find that when I decide that I want to take a Never Worn Garment (NWG) and create an outfit from it, its a lot easier to wardrobe with a certain defined style in mind however it does not mean that I want that same defined style for all outfits that come from this single garment. What do you think? Do ascribe to a defined aesthetic? Does it help you wardrobe your closet better or easier?

Let’s discuss!
Sunni

  • Meli - I always wished that I had a particular aesthetic; that would make getting dressed in the morning so much easier! However, I like too much of everything to be able to settle on something specific. I don’t want to limit myself to one type of style when there are so many cool things out there to wear!
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  • theperfectnose - Contemporary modern/minimalist. I tend towards things which are very menswear-y in structure and drape (or lack thereof). So I like things from the 60s and 70s.. I’m actually in the process of writing a post about this-need to get it all laid out in a coherent fashion..
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  • annette tirette - I prefer to define my clothing style as a cross between a confused wizard and a secretary, topped off with a badass coat. My mother says I can make anything look like I slept in it. I don’t really mind not having a consistent style, I rather like looking different according to my mood and dressing however I feel that day.

    That said, I recently noticed how I’ve sort of ventured from traditional vintage styles to a more relaxed approach at clothing. I’ll wear less heels and more flat boots and canvas sneakers, and the confused wizard seems to be taking over from the secretary.
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  • Stephanie - I’m experiencing the same issue. I don’t have a definitive style and as a dabbler I end up with some weird pieces that I end up hating months, if not weeks, later. Even a lot of the pieces I’ve sewn I don’t wear or like anymore.

    I know that I like jeans, tees and heels, so I’m building on that right now with knitted accessories. I’m sewing a few basic pieces (pencil skirt, tiny pocket tank) in bold prints that I think will get a lot of wear this spring.

    Finding a look is hard! I also admire those who figure it out and stick to it!ReplyCancel

  • SuzySewing - In some way, I wish I had a defined aesthetic. Like you mention, it would make planning my wardrobe and accessories so much easier. I like a bit of everything and anything, to be honest. I’m like that with home decor as well. I like modern furniture but also kitsch florals. I find decorating more of a hassle because all elements are on display in my home. With clothing I can just choose what aesthetic depending on my mood that day. There is also the aesthetics that I want to be and the one that I am most confortable with. I love high heels and skirts and would love to be confortable in them but the reality is nothing beats trousers and trainers. Since taking my pattern making course, and now a fashion design, I’ve been toying with some designs that merge these elements. Don’t know how successfully though!ReplyCancel

    • Sunni - I think we all come to a point of realization that even though we love high heels and skirts, we have to find a way to wear those certain styles on an everyday level for more than 1 hour at a time! Ha ha! This is how I feel anyway. I totally go for trousers and flats and that’s more what I’ve been working for since being on this “everyday wardrobe” rampage. I have to be able to find styles that work for my everyday life. It’s a little harder to pull off, I think, but I think once you start down that road, there’s almost no turning back. I’m sure you’re finding some great alternatives that create beautiful style whilst retaining a comfort factor. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.ReplyCancel

  • Tessa - I am a flibbertyjibbet (sp? but I doubt it matters). I wear my mood, and many times literally. For example, I cannot wear a bright color on a rainy day. As far as a specific aesthetic, I have been wearing vintage for almost 2 decades because I lived next to a thrift shop growing up. I still fall for trends, though. (Still not sold on the high-low skirts, but I have 2.) Some things are always going to be constant for me (dresses over pants, jewel tones over pastels) but I doubt I could put it into a specifically defined aesthetic.
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  • Bess - I would like to have a wardrobe with a defined aesthetic, but my personal preference for my defined aesthetic — I don’t know, “professional”, I guess you could call it? Suits, pencil skirts, buttoned blouses, that kind of thing — is not terribly comfortable. Currently, I work from home, and spend my working day in the recliner, working on my laptop. It’s not really conducive to wearing skirts, and I’m not going to sacrifice comfort for looking nice (for just myself). When I end up going back to work outside the home, I might wear more formal attire that fits more into my personal aesthetic preferences — but then again, considering that I’m likely to be working in a lab with heinous chemicals all around, maybe not.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni - Completely understand Bess! Though I do have to say that after a certain point, nothing beats getting dressed and feeling great on any day. There are definitely those days when all I want to do is wear pjs – and don’t think I don’t – but for most days, I like to be dressed and I really have been trying to find those things that work for my lifestyle. Everyone’s comfort level is different and I think finding the right mix of beauty and comfort is very much trial and error. But once you do find that, its great to take those elements to the next level! Best of luck in your wardrobing endeavors!ReplyCancel

  • Katherine - It’s funny, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently too. I think I have an accidental definite aesthetic/style. I’m very particular about colours I like, so I always buy clothes (or make clothes, now that I’m sewing regularly) within a certain palette – very saturated colours, paired with softer neutrals (though my idea of neutral is deep teal, and plaid tweed. . .). And adding to that, I always choose a certain kind of style – the modern twist silhouette? Things with slightly different shapes, with odd-ish angles, interesting cuts. And added to the fact that I never choose things that are totally “on-trend” as they say, I seem to have made a style for myself out of what I can find and what I make.

    So, I never seem to think about it cohesively, but I seem to have a style. Evidence being that my friends always talk about “Katie clothes” or “Katie would love this!”, and invariably it’s clothing I really do love. Maybe it’s from the art training I’ve had – I have a specific eye, and that translates into what I choose to wear and how I combine pieces.ReplyCancel

    • Sunni - I love the way you talk Katherine! Saturated colors paired with softer neutrals – check! I’ve seen that a little bit lately and have really been crushing on saturated colors with pastels. A very exciting and modern palette to work with!ReplyCancel

      • Katherine - I don’t know if you saw it, but Tasia (of Sewaholic) just had a similar topic – on what your “colour palette” is. I thought it was super-cool the synergy that happend in the sewing world yesterday :) ReplyCancel

  • Carolyn - I definitely have a style – Corporate Chic. Although it seems effortless now, it took some trial and error to come up with something that made me feel comfortable, yet professional for work. Developing a style takes some thought, some trial and error and some willingness to keep working at it as well as adapting it as trends and fashions come and go. As someone who sews a lot of wardrobes, you’re right that knowing what you will wear and how, makes it easier to sew them.
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    • Sunni - I love your Corporate Chic look too Carolyn! I also feel that its something that you’ve truly made your own too. Its so inspiring to see you work and make an entire wardrobe based around a certain theme, color or style. Love it!ReplyCancel

  • Sallie - This is such an interesting discussion! Sunni, I think you have a defined style. I think you described it pretty well up there (although I would say there is a touch of “English Gentleman” … maybe thats the plaid?) I think it can get confusing if your wardrobe doesn’t fall into one specific camp, such as “all-vintage-all-the-time” or “goth” or “preppy” etc… But I’m pretty sure most people fall into the category you’re describing – bits and pieces of different styles that they combine to make their own. And that’s truly individual, definitive style. I may wear t-shirts and jeans most days, but I bet my t-shirts and jeans are different than my neighbors, and different than yours. I think the most important thing is knowing what makes you feel comfortable, both mentally and physically (at least 85% of the time…) and curating your wardrobe around that. Also, never forget the power of your accessories and hair. I think there are few people, besides my husband, that see me with my hair down, and that’s just as much a part of my style as my love for drapey dresses and tops.

    Thanks for the great post!
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    • Sunni - Totally English Gentleman! I love “british inspired” looks and I have a serious soft spot for plaids. Every time I see one, it just sucks me in and in no time, I find myself at the cutting counter with plaid fabric in hand. You are so right about everyone having a different take on items like even jeans and t-shirts. That’s the awesome part too! Instead of falling one specific camp, its your own authentic take on several different aesthetics.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - My opinion…I tend to find the “defined aesthetic” as somewhat artificial construction. I can see it working for celebrities with professional stylists, people in the design industry, etc., but for “real” people, it is difficult to do and to pull off. That said, it may work for a few people, but for me, I would find the pre-defined style to be confining. I like variation in everything, and it’s important for me to adapt to different situations. I would also be concerned of the danger of, for example, latching onto a particular style that is (for lack of a better word) stale. Vintage, e.g., is a bit tricky to pull off after about age 30, and for me, its novelty has largely worn off anyway… So, I just appreciate it on someone else instead!ReplyCancel

    • Sunni - I love the way you’ve worded this Jen! Seriously! I’ve been feeling this exact same way for a bit. “Artificial construction,” “Stale,” “Confining.” What you’ve said really really rings true to me! I do enjoy seeing certain styles on others, but for me, I too, have to adapt to a wide variety of different situations and for awhile there, I really felt like I was trying to dress in a way that lends itself better to the idea of a costume. It felt artificial and stale on me. I feel much happier in styles that I can wear on an everyday level, that are classic and beautiful but don’t tend to make me look like I’m something that I’m not.ReplyCancel

      • Jen - Thanks–I was afraid that I was sounding a little negative, which I didn’t mean to do. It’s just something I’ve thought about myself, being “real” to myself. Self-editing can be a challenge.ReplyCancel

  • maddie - A defined aesthetic definitely makes dressing a lot easier on a day to day basis. I have yet to fully live by a defined aesthetic but as I get older and my life becomes more and more chaotic, my aesthetic is narrowing. When I was eighteen and didn’t have a care in the world, I was many aesthetic, punk, vintage, dainty, etc. Six years later and still dabble in different aesthetics but for the most part, I stay true to what works. It’s going to be interesting what the next coming years bring in terms of my aesthetic.
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  • crystalpleats - I always love when you pop up in my reader, Sunni! I like this conversation, too. I also like elements of too many different styles to fall all the way into one category. I wouldn’t really be comfortable being identified in just one category anyway, plus I really need the “everyday wardrobe” element to fit into my lifestyle. (I also like too many decorative styles and have too many different hobbies). I like what Suzy Sewing said above. This doesn’t really give me trouble in dressing, though. Somehow everything just comes together well for me. I don’t have to shop or sew with a plan. A new piece just always seems to fit. (My mom is always amazed how I can do that, and I”m not trying to brag at all). One strategy I nearly always use is to think like an artist does about colors when putting together an outfit with accessories. Well that wasn’t very concise, but hopefully conveys my approach to dressing and style.ReplyCancel

  • Tasha - Interesting discussion! And I guess it depends on how wide or narrow you want to consider a defined aesthetic! I tend to like certain styles, so in general I think I have a somewhat broadly-defined aesthetic. Primarily vintage, with an emphasis on casual and a bit of fun. I try not to ever take myself too seriously and I try not to feel/look like I’m wearing a costume.

    I’m struggling with trying to figure out what everyday clothes mean to me. What I want to see myself wearing — even if it’s just for me– and what I actually put on in the morning on days I’m working from home are sometimes two entirely different things. I spend a lot more time planning what I want my wardrobe to be than effectively making it happen, unfortunately!
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  • Tiffany W - I struggle with naming my aesthetic. However, I can walk into a store with my husband and he could say, “That looks like something you would wear.” He is right most of the time. Overall my wardrobe is feminine. I prefer skirts or sundresses over shorts. I wear high heels with my jeans and ruffled silk blouse. I preferred fitted tops or sweaters with feminine details. I work from home a few days a week. Yet, I still “dress up” to take my kids to school on those days. It is a really bad day to see me in just a sweatshirt and jeans. It seems boring to say my aesthetic is “classic” or “vintage”. Although, Audrey Hepburn is my style iconic that my clothes most closely resemble. I have been learning to sew to add more of the 40s, 50s and 60s feminine styles into my wardrobe. I find that I love clothes at Anthropologie, Shabby Apple, and Mod Cloth. Most importantly, I look great in those styles without looking old and I am 40. Their overall vintage styles are classic and timeless if the styling of hair and accessories are done current. I am not overly interested in my clothes making feel comfortable, relaxed, sporty, sexy, or hot. I want them to make me feel pretty and on special occasions, beautiful!ReplyCancel

  • Anna - I have a definitely colour palette that I wear – mustards, burnt orange, olives, almost any greens, cornflower blue, teal, yellow based reds, rust and neutrals – but putting an outfit together was something I struggled with. So, I recently engaged a stylist to help. We’ve been shopping in my wardrobe and can’t believe the great stuff I had, but just didn’t know how to put together. At the start having stylist felt like an extravagance, but the reality is the more I know what suits me, and I create a style, the less money I’ll waste on buying or making things that don’t suit me. My new dressing rules are to relax, unbutton, roll up my sleeves, shorten hems, get my legs out and what’s really hard for me, not to colour match. My palette all work together, so wear them all together (don’t be afraid to add a pop of colour). My stylist thinks styling is the ‘new’ personal trainer …something that used to only be accessible to the stars, but has become more mainstream.
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  • Nikki - I find myself defining a color palette for myself more than having a term for my style “aesthetic”. I definitely know what I like and find myself gravitating toward similar colors from season to season. As a sewer or thrifter of my pretty much my entire wardrobe, I think knowing my style is so important! Just because something is in style or on clearance, or seen on celebrities recently, doesn’t mean it’s me. So, I feel extremely confident in my style, but would be hard pressed to come up with a term for it. I also kinda think defining it with a phrase would make it harder to leave behind as styles change or as my personal tastes change.
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  • Sarah - I keep feeling like I must have a more defined aesthetic than I think I do, because my friends and coworkers are always saying things like “I saw a ___ the other day, and thought of you”, and are always refering to something that I would indeed love. After recently realizing that I didn’t actually wear much of what was in my wardrobe, I took a look at the styles that make me feel good about myself and how I’m presenting myself, and am trying to only make those, at least until I have enough to last me through to laundry day without resorting to things that make me feel blah halfway through.

    For me at least, the problem in defining a personal aesthetic came from how long it took me to realize there is a difference between appreciating the beauty of a style, and it being something that you want to wear yourself. I love 50s shirtdresses, but they don’t really go with the look I want to project at the moment, therefor any I make are going to languish in the closet, so why bother? There are a fair number of styles that I do like to wear parts of, but luckily they mostly share a common element that can be used to unite the look. My gothy lace tops go with my ruffled lolita skirts go with my victorian corsets/bustles go with my punk boots etc. . That, and sticking to a few colours that I know I love to wear and that work well together, is currently the saving grace in keeping a unifying theory in my presentation and closet.

    This makes it sound like I’m thinking about the whole thing much more than I am, however. Bottom line, if I put something on and it feels like “me”, it stays. If it doesn’t, to the reject closet it goes, until something about “me” changes, or I think of a way to salvage it. And along the way I’m getting better at picking patterns and fabric that I know I will love together.ReplyCancel

  • Liz - I am slowing re-defining my defined aesthetic due to my circumstances changing. I used to work in a corporate office 5 days a week so had mostly dark coloured professional clothing with a bit of a vintage feel although nothing too obvious so as to cause distress amongst the boring people I worked with! I now work from a home office, both my home and my bosses, so I can wear what I like. This has inspired a new passion for sewing as I can make what I want to wear as opposed to what is acceptable. I am slowly making a whole new wardrobe that is completely me. I think it could be defined as feminine and modern but with a vintage feel. My colour palatte seems to mostly be soft pinks and muted tones for summer and black and red for winter.
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  • Lene H - Delurking :-)
    Wow, what an interesting discussion.
    The thing, that really struck a chord with me, was the notion, that personal style is what makes you happy and comfortable in yourself. I find, that over the years my wardrobe has changed to reflect my bohemian/relaxed aesthetic – comfortable knits with interesting prints or from patchwork fabrics, chunky handknit sweaters where the textures add interest, large hair-ornaments and long necklaces. Pretty much anytning that is intersting in and of itself – yes, my husband sometimes think I resemble a christmas tree, and he reserves the right not to hold hands with me if I’m wearing ”stuff that was rejected in the 70′es due to being too ugly” – so no Werner Panton-prints for me :-) ReplyCancel

  • Suzy - I’ve always wanted to be the glamourous gal impeccably dressed and always stylish. But that’s just not a reality for me. Despite my efforts I always gravitate to the easiest items in my wardrobe. My efforts always end with a flop. However, I have discovered that although I love fashion, for me my aesthetic has to be practical. My wardrobe is built around what I gravitate toward and very item focused rather than outfits (because everything goes with jeans). I like to say that I’m too busy making others fabulous that I don’t have time to worry about myself.ReplyCancel

  • Ellen - When my Dad found an item of clothing he liked, he bought three or more of the same item. His style was defined by the effectiveness of a waistband and the length of a shirt tail. My Aunt wore the same brown polka dot dress to every special occasion. She was such a warm and brilliant woman that the dress was endearing, inspiring, and comforting.

    In my imagination I wear Sunny, Happy handmade clothes, and the people around me are similarly dressed, and I never feel like Becky-Home-Ecky. In reality my uniform is a handmade shirt, a cardigan, a denim skirt, tights and boots. Suitable for the woodpile and the grocery, but a cop-out too. Oh my, this sounds like a sad confession of unfulfilled fashion dreams from an otherwise happy woman.

    I should commit to what suits me, like my Dad and my Aunt, but I choose to conform instead because … I’m chicken?ReplyCancel

  • Annie Sharkey - For me my shape has defined my preferred style and a look through history will let you know where your style is fixed – I think there is a historical style to suit everyone. Though I would be mindful of not becoming a pastiche of a particular era. Its more a case of picking out the best aspects which enhance your plus points and keeping up with current trends with, for example, colour, the cut of a sleeve, jewellery, shoes etc. I have so gotton over being high fashion or trendy – its an age thing and I’ve been there with some howlers so I’ve paid my dues. The time this frees knowing that I wouldn’t suit a mini shift dress – much as I might love it – is very liberating. I think restraint like this naturally evolves into you developing your own defined “style”.

    Very enjoyable post!ReplyCancel

  • Gail Ann Thompson - Yes, a very enjoyable post!
    Every woman’s wardrobe will need to be re-visited and refined many times during her life. Suitable for the Sweet Young Thing, doesn’t wear very well on the Old Doll. It is my firm belief that it is beneficial to have ONLY the very highest quality and finest workmanship in our every day wardrobes. At night when lights are low, and wine has been poured, one can get away with poor quality, no one will notice. But, of course, you will know. In the end, each of us must be our self, it is important to be our very best selves.ReplyCancel

    • funnygrrl - Here here! Having recently turned 40 I constantly seem to ask “Can I still wear this?” I strive to be noticed for myself, who happens to have a cute outfit. Not a cute outfit covering who I am.
      And on some days neither me nor the outfit are cute. And that’s okay too!ReplyCancel

  • Seraphinalina - Well isn’t that food for thought.
    I don’t know that I really have a direct style. I’d feel out of place in the vintage inspired looks, I’m sure not goth or rocker. I guess I lean towards classic looks because I like simple lines, not so crazy prints (I have no idea how to match prints, I just feel rediculous if I try) and nothing that dwarfs my frame. I am short (which I like), but I don’t need to look shorter or dumpy so a more tailored look is what I generally like.
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