I’m a lady who grew up in a family of boys. I’m pretty good at things like analyzing what makes stylish people look cool, as well as finding fashion inspiration on the web. But this doesn’t help when it comes to looking dressy — very few What I Wore blogs cover looks for a wedding, or the symphony, or a bachelorette party, and most commuters are no help there, either. Where do I even start learning to be a girl?
I struggled with this question for a few reasons. One, while I think this is a — really — great point, there aren’t a lot of blogs really that focus on what to wear for certain occasions, especially of the type that ladies find themselves going to a lot of at a certain stage in life ( baby showers, bachelorettes, weddings, symphonies, nephew’s teeball etc), I didn’t know how far I personally wanted to go down the fashion blog route at this particular moment.
Not because I’m not interested but because I am — I’d love to deconstruct how to dress up a casual outfit for a bachelorette party, or share my thoughts on what coat to wear to the symphony (NOT your North Face fleece btw, even if it’s all you have and it doesn’t show cat/dog hair).
The other reason I had some trouble with this post is that I don’t know that I want to promote the idea that there’s only one way to “be a girl.” I mean, I GET it, it’s about a certain type of conformity to regularly accepted ideas about what femininity is about and how it’s expressed in fashion. And I am quite a bit girly-girl myself (evidence: just left the comment “those shoes are delish” on a Facebook photo). But still I’d like to think I could go to a bachelorette party and hang out with a woman wearing a Carhartt t-shirt, chain wallet and penny loafers and not give her the side eye — she’s every bit the woman I am, after all.
But I did want to answer the question — and in true Next Awesome style, here I am doing it several paragraphs in.
The key to a lot of the tips they give out in fashion mags and blogs is to understand that the general goal is to look as much as possible like a well proportioned lady shaped person. That is, thinner at the waist, wider on top and bottom, long thin neck and willowy arms and legs.
I can see how some of the advice can seem pretty inscrutable to the lay person — ” Wear x type necklace with y type neckline on your dress, as this will elongate your neck” What the heck? Why does my neck need to look any longer? Doesn’t it do its job at its current length?
But it’s just really all about proportions,appearances, and illusions, and, like I said earlier, conforming to an expected set of rules about what women are supposed to look like. If you’re tall, you’re advised to dress in a way that doesn’t call too much attention to it. If you’re short, you’re not meant to wear loud and busy prints, as they’ll “overwhelm” you. And pretty much no one is allowed to wear skirts that hit mid-calf, as that pretty much will make most of you look like your calves sit on top of your shoes, with no ankles to speak of. And that’s bad because willowy legs!
I actually think the websites of online stores are a great place to look for complete looks for different activities — cocktail parties, weddings, etc. Nordstrom is a good place to get started — lots of different looks at different price points. Even if you don’t buy from there you can get a sense of color, texture and length combinations that you might find useful for different occasions.
And of course I’d be remiss as a fashion oriented girly-girl if I didn’t recommend that you try out Pinterest to create some style boards and organize your thoughts by category/occasion - work, Girls Night Out, etc. Like anything you’re working on, developing your own style takes a lot of time and is an ever evolving process — lots of trial and error will necessarily be involved. Pinterest boards can help you play with your style and think about what you might be comfortable trying without going whole hog with purchases. You can get ideas from others as well.
Of course there are a lot of women who are daring enough to throw out these notions of “this is what a woman looks like” and have completely unique ideas about how to dress. And they still look fantastic and get compliments for their style and the artistry used to create it. Just know that this is sort of in the realm of advanced fashion. For some interesting examples of this advanced, AP Physics, teacher’s pet, maybe don’t try this at home type fashion, check out a blog like The Man Repeller.
For example, here’s a look the chick at The Man Repeller put together.
I’m telling you. Wear a helmet. Proceed with caution.