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Styling vs. Style

2012 May 7
by elizabeth_admin

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Barbara from Sewing on the Edge just wrote a great post about styling today.  Sorry for not commenting (I am not able to comment on blogspot blogs right now)!   I thought it was a great post in general, but specifically, I thought it was about me.  Not in the narcissistic “everything is about me” way.  No, no, no.  I mean more in the “guilty as charged” way.  To quote Barbara:

“But mainly I think we all go wrong trying to chase our style by thinking it’s a noun and not a verb.

Style isn’t what you buy or make or copy or find by following a prescription.

Really stylish people, the ones you want to be, don’t have style.

They are styling.”

I feel like hitting my forehead and yelling a big DUH!  I accessorize very rarely or just wear the same jewelry every day.  I have one suit with which I wear the same necklace every time.  I don’t have a large accessory collection, jewelry or otherwise.  I hardly ever wear belts (they never seem right on me).  I wear one purse a season and don’t change it often (doing so guarantees I forget my wallet).  I don’t wear scarves or brooches.  My accessories really are just my clothes themselves.

I have always felt stymied when accessorizing or styling outfits.  I tend to wear suits or dresses the same way every time.  Part of the reason is that I don’t think I’m good at accessorizing and the other part is, to put it bluntly, I can’t be bothered to think about it every day.  I think the second reason is impacted by the first reason though because it would take me a long time to think outside of my particular box and I don’t want to spend that time.  Especially when you wake up late (again), and you have to get yourself and the little boy who lives with you ready every day. 

How do you teach a 43 yr old dog new tricks? 

Speaking of accessorizing and age, I have just started wearing flats every day.  I haven’t been able to find any good heels the last 2 years.  They are either too painful to wear or don’t fit right and fall off my feet.  Sometimes both.  I can’t figure out why either.  It’s the same with buying shoes on-line or in the store.  They feel fine in the store, but then I bring them home and they are other brand new torture devices or fly off my feet as I walk.  WHAT IS UP WITH THAT???  Why only now in my 42nd and 43rd years of living do I have this problem?  I don’t understand.  So, the last week or so, I have been wearing the same black flats every day.  And I have to say that even though I look as if I have “given up,” I am so comfortable.  I don’t have to calculate just how far I have to walk anywhere and thusly how bloody my feet will be or if I will lose a shoe on the way.  I just walk. 

But here’s the rub…  Have I just given up?  Do I look like a woman of a certain age that just doesn’t give a damn anymore?  I see my skirt-suited reflection in the glass walls around me and notice my flat-shoed self and think, “Man, that just does not look good, but boy, am I comfortable.” 

Is it just a case of not being used to this kind of look?  Is there a way to make flats with skirt suits look good? 

Or have I just really given up?

Do you style yourself?  And if so, do you do it every day?  Is it a reflex to you?  Or do you have to work at it?

And last question, I promise, are you a flats or a heels only kind of person?


30 Responses leave one →
  1. Holle E permalink
    May 7, 2012


    I read Barbara’s post this morning as well. It was a great post and got me thinking about my accessorizing. I only started “accessorizing” a short while ago and found it does make a huge difference in my outfits.

    I really wanted to comment, though, and tell you about my “flats vs heels” epiphany. I have the same issue with heels that you do and only just accepted that I’m just not a heels kind of girl. And, no, wearing the same flats everyday doesn’t mean you’ve “given up”. It just means you’re starting your flats collection. The summer is a great time to start that because they have such cute, inexpensive flat sandals out there. So, don’t give up.

  2. Meg permalink
    May 7, 2012

    I just tried a new (to me) shoe brand on Saturday and I was like, eureka!, these are soooo comfortable. AGL, avail at Nordstrom. Italian, stylish and you could live in them, that’s how good they feel. With the stairs here at work and running up and down them, I really need comfortable shoes. But they can’t look like old-lady shoes.

  3. May 7, 2012

    Styling is a problem for me as well. I have a lot of over-the-top costume jewelry (um, skater here – it has to be BIG and SPARKLY), but these are things I wouldn’t wear in real life. So I don’t have a lot of accessories, or I feel weird wearing them, so I don’t usually do so. My sister is a wiz at styling – she has a large collection of accessories, shoes, bags – she always looks like she puts in the effort.

    As for shoes, I too am a fan of the flats. I always have a problem finding heels that fit and (recently) the trend to ridiculously high heels has made them impossible to walk in. I have a fair number of flats, but honestly spend way too much time in sneakers and athletic shoes. This is something I will have to work on as well.

  4. May 7, 2012

    I have no patience for styling which includes hair styling. It’s kind of sad, I really admire other women who make an effort! Regarding jewelry, scarves, bags I even have a bit of choice, but it’s too easy to grab the same thing every day! (I do rotate scarves according to the colors of the day, but no fancy tying or such.) Something I’ve never regretted is wearing comfortable, non-stylish shoes. I’ve always had “problem feet” and walked a lot. I see beautiful heels as works of art, but there’s no way I’d subject myself to that kind of pain. In that sense, I gave up at age, um, 16 or so.

  5. May 7, 2012

    This post really resonates with me as I looked in my wardrobe this last week and realised that a) I have very little in there and b) I have almost no accessories at all.

    I think it has to be a gradual process. I received a stack of bracelets for Mother’s Day and am slowly getting used to wearing them. I’m thinking of picking up a couple of inexpensive belts in neutral colours to ease myself into them. I wear flats because I’m running around all over the place with the kids, but I do have heels for going out. They tend to last a long time. Flats, I just buy cute and inexpensive and wear them to death.

    It’s a work in progress. But I’m 46 this year…so you’re ahead me on this one. 😉

  6. May 7, 2012

    I think sometimes it is good to change the question and make it fit the answer.

    In other words, I don’t tend to accessorize very much, so I have decided that I am good at being minimalist. See how that works? ha ha.

    And regarding the flat shoes, I also need to wear flats or wedges with buckles or I won’t make it through the day unharmed. So, I just force my outfits to work with that. And I have to go look at AGL shoes. I am always on the hunt for shoes that can pass for stylish.
    I like Ecco, Ziera and Arcopedico and last year I found a pair of Clarks that were comfortable.

  7. May 7, 2012

    Great post!

    I pick out my clothes for the next day on the day before just because I’d be really late to work/wherever I’m going the next day if I don’t.

    It’s only recently that I figured out that style is very important (if not more important) than what I’m sewing. Style-wise since I’ve given up head-to-toe vintage, I like unexpected monochromatic textures together, and a lot of black mixed with white/silver/grey. Distressed black jeans, something in leather, interesting silver jewelry, leather cuffs, stripes, mixing patterns in the same color family. I always make sure whatever jewelry I have on is real or vintage (since I have a nickel allergy), and if I don’t have enough of the proper jewelry to wear with what I’m wearing I just go without. I know this isn’t mentioned since it’s not visual, but perfume is really important to me to feel polished.

    All in all I dress for myself as a projection of who I want to be and who I want to present myself as. That and it has to be comfortable and practical. I saw these girls on Saturday night changing out of their 5 inch stiletto heels into flats while trashed, and it wasn’t attractive at all.

    Oh and I’m more of a flats or wedge heels (which to me are just like flats) person. I have to walk everywhere so I don’t want to have to lug around a pair of heels and a huge handbag, it’s very constraining.

    You have to find out what works for you, what you feel comfortable in, and what suits your lifestyle, and I don’t think it’s “too late” to start re-inventing yourself fashion-wise if you choose to.

  8. Rachel permalink
    May 7, 2012

    I always feel staged when I accessorize – probably because I don’t do enough of it – but I think some people just carry it off better than others. Personally I love to see original clothes simply styled – and have admired you for this on this blog! On shoes wedges are the way I go – I’ve never been able to do delicate heels. Fly London are super comfortable and still allow me to run around after the kids.

  9. May 7, 2012

    I’ve been wearing flat, or nearly flat shoes for a long time now. I only just turned 40, so I gave up early on. At the moment, my naturally curly hair is turning grey at an alarming rate. It’s hard to make look nice in this damp, cool English weather. Hard to straighten, frzzy when curly, etc. I often wonder if just cutting it really short and letting it go grey would actually be better. My girl friends tell me that really would be giving up! Then again, I may not look like I’ve given up, but perhaps I look like I am loosing the battle and don’t know when to quit, lol!
    I always think you look great in your pictures. Your sheath dresses are always so chic and well fitted, and YOUR curly looks great!

    • May 7, 2012

      Karin – I don`t think allowing your hair to turn grey is giving up – I see it as not giving in! to society`s obsession with staying youthful – I think it is so sad to see previously beautiful women ( actresses etc I suppose I am really talking about ) succumb to so much surgery , botox etc and just end up looking like freaks.

  10. Karen Mulkey permalink
    May 7, 2012

    I, too, loved Barbara’s post today. I love to sew and accessorize but it takes organization. All my jewelry is in jewelry trays (not boxes) put in a large tupperware-type tub for easy daily access, scarves are on hangers and belts are on a hook. My clothes which are arranged by type and color are in the same closet with the accessories. I’m not a morning person so everything has to be in the same place. I “experiment” on the weekends with different combinations.

    Look at Erica B’s blog. She is a super stylist as well as sewist and comes up with the neatest color combos.

    I’ve always loved scarves and they are on trend so I suggest you purchase a couple in colors that compliment your coloring and experiment with them to start. I prefer long scarves over square ones and in silk or rayon because I live in a warm climate.

    You love color blocking so I know you have great color sense and can bring your styling up a few notches quite easily!

    Karen in Houston

  11. May 7, 2012

    Not everyone’s style has to involve a ton of accessories. I wear the same jewelry most days, and I almost always wear flats, but I think I still look like myself. I used to wear heels more often, but I have to walk so much that it isn’t practical except for special occasions. I did go back through and shorten my dresses from just below to just above the knees, as I think that’s a better height with flats for me. You can do the same thing with pants, though I confess that I won’t wear wide leg pants with flats. I certainly don’t think flats mean you’ve given up – if I lived where you do there is no way I would wear heels (or at least I would only wear them once I arrived!)

  12. Karen Mulkey permalink
    May 7, 2012

    Forgot to mention my take on shoes. I love how elegant wearing high heels can finish an outfit but, unfortunately due to a knee replacement and foot surgeries, I can’t wear them anymore so I’ve invested in a collection of cute flats. I am resigned to wearing flats but refuse to wear normal ugly athletic shoes and wear rubber sole mary janes to walk the dog and at the gym.

  13. May 7, 2012

    I live in “old ladies” shoes, sensible, flat with great arch support and plenty of room for my high arches and wide feet. I cannot abide being uncomfortable. I have always been that way though – I walk a lot – it’s my main form of exercise, so there’s no way I am going to do that in pain.

    There is a NZ brand of shoes called “Ziera” which are designed for people who need to be comfortable. Of course they are fairly unfashionable but their winter boots are usually much more stylish and supremely comforatable.

    Accessories provide a focal point for the eye, something to rest upon, but the best accessory of all is a warm and open hearted attitude. No scarf or piece of jewellery can ever finish an outfit that is worn with a scowl.

    • elizabeth_admin permalink*
      May 7, 2012

      Mary Nanna, how did you know I scowl a lot. 😉

  14. May 7, 2012

    We’re about the same age, and like you I have given up my heels. They are just not comfortable for me any more – not that they were every terribly comfortable – and I have sent all my “ouchy” shoes to the op shop. So my flats collection is building. I do still have some shoes that are a little higher – maybe two inch heels, but usually in conjunction with a small platform – but they are Naot shoes, which are known for their comfort. Life is too short to have sore feet.
    And with other accessorising – early this year I began taking a “daily outfit” photo and it has really helped me to lift my game with what I wear! I’m mixing and matching a lot more, using scarves, and breaking out some of the jewellery I own but don’t often wear.
    My style is evolving all the time and I hope that it continues to do so.

  15. May 7, 2012

    I think there are very defined lines that divide seeking comfort, finding your own style and giving up. It might look the same to some, but we know for certain which is which. Style is a very relative, personal term. One woman’s style is another woman’s nightmare. I don’t care what the magazines are telling me style is… I seek what I consider MY style. And I get to determine precisely what that is.

  16. May 7, 2012

    For me there is no question – well fitting flats ( that don`t look old lady ) . Sure high heels look good ( until I see a close up shot on some blogs showing squashed up toes ) but bunions and hammer toes in the long run definitely do not look good .
    Seeking one`s style is a life long quest I`m afraid ( at least for this 45 year old !)

  17. May 8, 2012

    Janine I think I’ve seen the same squashed feet in beautiful shoes… yuk. Anyway I AM a certain age and being a student now, I am flats all the way. When I have to wear heels (like a wedding this Saturday) I struggle. I have a bad neck injury from 20 years ago and that really limits me too.
    I am simply not stylish or styling, and often it is because I cannot bother. I find it easier to look smarter in winter even though I much much much prefer summer (I didn’t want to say hate winter).
    In the long run I don’t bother if I don’t have to … that will all have to change when I get a job in 12 months or so! But comfort still must rule.

  18. May 8, 2012

    I love looking at heels, but I wear flats most of the time 🙂

  19. Burke permalink
    May 8, 2012

    I’ve been on a flats kick for some time but I find that slightly shorter skirts help offset the look. And I’m very routine with what I pair with what, I have a few jewelry pieces that I wear the most, etc. I think, though, that simplicity can be “styling” in and of itself. And I cringe everytime I see a well-dressed lady hunching, in pain, unable to walk in her heels. It ruins posture and poise. So, I just buy really cool and interesting flats – they exist, I promise!

  20. May 8, 2012

    I had a style revolution approximately 6 years ago, after a heavy breakup. It’s funny – before that I wore simple clothes, almost no prints, no shirts, only flats and I had 3 purses.
    I needed something to occupy my mind after the breakup and the first thing I did the morning after the incident – I bought a pair of heeled shoes! And so it began.
    I’ve realized that styling is a process – it requires a certain amount of knowledge on what suits you (for example, I love belts, but the skinny ones are more flattering on my body than the wide ones), and it requires time to accumulate all the accessories in the right colors. But it’s a lot of fun, and makes your clothes always look new and different (and I love NEW and DIFFERENT :)).
    I wear both flats and high heels and I don’t think style excludes commodity. You’ve got to feel comfortable in your clothes, otherwise you won’t look stylish, but like you’re suffering a lot of pain :).
    Oh and BTW, I really like the way you dress yourself 🙂

  21. May 8, 2012

    Well, I usually opt out on the point of accesoirising.
    The only jewelry I wear are one or two large rings (silver with semi-precious stone) and I buy a new one if one gets seriously damaged, which usually takes a couple of years. The new ones often are from the same line of design as the ones I’m replacing but they’re never the same. I make most of my own bags and usually carry the same one for years (even though I may have a couple of good ones at any given time). I only wear scarves to fill up the neckline of a coat, not indoors for style.
    Also, I rarely wear make-up and I can’t deal with fussy hair-do’s.
    I do, however, wear heels. I like fairly high ones, about 9 cm is pretty normal for my shoes and I guess I’m used to them hurting the first few times I wear them.

    And you know what? I’m fine with it. Some people can really put together great outfits with lots of accesoiries, without looking fussy, trashy or overdressed, I’m not one of those. I do my styling by designing, drafting and sewing clothes which are uniquely suited to me. To my body shape and to my personality.

  22. May 8, 2012

    This rang every single bell in my head. I do not accessorize, or have a selection of belts and purses to pull an outfit together (what is that anyway?), and I basically live in jeans and converse. The only heels I’ve had recently were from a shop called Jigsaw, and I stood up in them for fifteen minutes before I decided to buy them…

    But. You make unique items of clothing (and one day, when I unearth my sewing machine again, I might too). You have your own style. It just doesn’t involve the same things as everyone else, or even your younger self. Style should evolve with the person, and with lifestyle, and with current obsessions. My current obsession is not losing sight of my son on his scooter in the park, and boy, do I need those converse for that…

  23. May 8, 2012

    I don’t think you should feel pressured to wear accessories in the pursuit of style. Some of us are minimalist and that is a style too! Accessories round my arms or round my neck or hanging from my ears just aren’t very me, I prefer the garment to be the accent. Accessories can extend the number of looks of a simple outfit, but why wear a simple outfit in the first place? I think that is why I make my own clothes!

  24. May 9, 2012

    Giving up at 43? Ha! Try 28! Or younger when I think about it. I own a bunch of heels that I almost never wear because I can’t walk without pain at the end of the day. My most worn (make that worn out) pair of shoes are my basic black ballet flats, which I still get compliments on. I wear them to work with my knee length skirts and pants, on the weekends with my jeans. And I’d say the majority of the younger girls at the office are all in flats too (albeit in shorter skirts). As for styling, I wear the same necklace and ring everyday because they’re very special to me. I suppose I could learn to accessorise and “style” better if I wanted, but honestly I just can’t be bothered. My brain tends to veer naturally towards thoughts about other things, and I’ve accepted that’s ok.

  25. May 9, 2012

    My love of clothing extends to accessories, so I try to make each outfit a little different (but there are definitely some things I always wear together).

    I have never in my life been a regular wearer of heels, and now wear them only for weddings and other fancy occasions. If that means giving up, well, try to catch me as I walk briskly for miles in my Danskos!

  26. thesewingmiserablist permalink
    May 10, 2012

    I’m not sure whether what you’re describing as styling, is in fact accessorising. Maybe I don’t get it, but to me some items of clothing need no embellishment. I love the simplicity of just a beautiful outfit, alone, with nothing to take your eye away from the it. I must admit I’m also pretty lazy too, and just can’t be bothered most of the time. Also belts, scarves and jewellery just draw emphasis to the parts of my body which aren’t the most attractive, so I don’t really use them much.

    I love flat shoes now too. I’m 49 and used to wear heels lots, but with a change of jobs and comfort coming higher up my agenda it’s low or no heels all the way. I still do wear them on special occasions though but both my teenage daughters eschew high heels, and I’m so glad they do. I have a particular aversion to those cheap ballet flats with no or little support to the foot. They must put a great strain on the arches, so it’s not just about height but also construction

  27. May 11, 2012

    I think one should dress to suit oneself! I wear the same jewellery all the time, and very seldom change it. I very rarely can be bothered with makeup. And I have a summer bag and a winter bag, and I’m pretty satisfied with those two. As far as heels vs flats go, I like both! I do have a love affair with shoes… 🙂 Which I choose depends on everything else I am wearing. I think shoes are a very important component of the whole outfit.
    So I guess I “accessorise” with my shoes, but not much else!
    (Thanks so much for the lovely comment on my dyed skirt! 🙂 )

  28. May 12, 2012

    I hit 40 and my feet just started to HURT. I walk at least a mile or 2 per day on Manhattan streets – I see women in heels and just don’t get it! I’m not the most stylish person – I will say that – but I’ve mitigated the flat issue by buying very cool (flat heel) boots that hit upper mid – calf which look great with slightly above the knee skirts. The outfit looks intentional (not ‘her feet hurt’). Perhaps you can try that? Bloomies has a great selection. Good luck.

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