Today I wanted to talk a bit about outfit inspiration. This was sparked by a recent post by Elly at the Magic Square foundation about how she liked outfit posts that were explicit about their inspiration and had a narrative behind them. It’s something I had actually been thinking about before and had intended to do a post on for a while.
I haven’t quite got my thoughts in order and possibly this may end up sounding a bit defensive, because this is really what this is about, my own feelings of inadequacy at not having very exciting outfit inspirations and basically not being able to articulate any reasoning at all.
And before we go on, I just wanted to clarify that I am talking about the actual putting together of outfits from a given (my) wardrobe, not the buying of clothes or the overall style. on the latter, I actually did a couple of posts way back in 2009 which were defining my style, and explaining why that style is my style, and most of that still holds. But when it comes to standing in front of the wardrobe and picking things to make an outfit, I can’t explain that.
The reason I actually thought about all of this in the first place was that I got the book ‘Style Yourself‘, a compilation of style bloggers (one of the best such books, but lets not get sidetracked), in which there are some double pages where one outfit’s inspiration is taken apart. And invariably they would cite some artist. And I didn’t really buy it. I mean, do people really wake up and go ‘today I will put together my interpretation of Toulouse-Lautrec in outfit form’? But maybe the do. I don’t though.
Here’s what I said over at Elly’s (not all in one comment, obviously)
About 99% of the time my thought process is nothing more than picking a random item, then mentally whizzing through my options or what to put with it until something seems right. I rarely ever articulate why I pick something more than that ‘I like it’. I mean, I can explain my penchant for bright colours and full skirts, but the actual combining of clothes I really can’t. If I was asked to be in a blogger book, I’m sure I could rustle up some post-rationalisation about Mondrian and femininity, but it would be just that.
My shopping is done with substantial thought, but the actual process of standing in front of the wardrobe is not so conscious. Even if I take a while to put something together, it’ll mainly be pulling things out and sticking them together until something works on a visceral level.
I couldn’t describe the decision in a way that is both interesting and not a lie. I feel a bit inadequate and boring in the face of people’s post-rationalisations (in the book) really. Something like ‘I wore this, and now I can see that maybe the reason I put it together like that and liked it was because I had seen this combination/colour/element before on this person/this painting/this film and that’s quite a cool source, no?’ is more truthful, but not nearly as interesting.
In the case of this outfit shown here, if I had to articulate it, the way I picked it was that I started with the trousers, cos they were in my basket of stuff that has been worn but isn’t dirty enough for washing yet, and I wanted to reduce that pile down. The trousers sit pretty low at the back so I wanted to add something long enough to cover my lower back/bum, which is where the tshirt dress comes from. That is quite low cut round the front and it was cold so I needed to cover up my chest and throat. I didn’t want to use a satin or silk scarf because the rest of the clothes are a little sporty and it would have looked odd, and it wasn’t cold enough for a warm scarf, so I ended up with the orange cotton cowl. I then added the cardigan because the peachy colour provides a bridge between the pale blue and the orange. Finally, the converses as a counterweight of bright colour to the cowl and because I don’t have many trainers/casual shoes.
But I actually didn’t think about it in that explicit a way, I just kind of pulled things out. I know my wardrobe pretty well, and have been playing with dressing and taking photos for many years so it’s all very second nature. Even this minimal explanation is a post rationalisation of sorts. And really, it’s not very interesting, is it?
I feel that a lot of explanations of how outfits come about I see on blogs are a version of this. The phrases ‘this needed some more detail, so I added XXX’ or ‘the weather was XXX, so I dressed for that’ come up a lot. And this kind of explanation I can take or leave. Which isn’t a criticism of the bloggers at all, as I say my thought processes are similar, and I know lots of people like to read that kind of stuff, and find it helpful in learning about their own style, but it’s hardly the narrative excitement Elly and Claire are talking about.
Right, I have no idea what my conclusion is so I’ll leave it here with the question:
Where does your outfit inspiration come from? I would be particularly interested in anyone that has ever built an outfit round a Monet or a Manet? If the inspiration is pretty mundane and functional like mine, do you still want to hear about it? Why/why not?
* tshirt dress – aa, dyed blue by me * cardie – new look * cords – charity shop * cowl – I made it * shoes – converse * coat – next *