For the past several years, my personal style could have been expressed as, "What does Eddie Bauer have on sale?" Or L.L. Bean. Or Lands' End. Mom jeans, tees, no-iron buttondown shirts. Whatever A-line or straight calf-length skirt was on sale when the last one wore out. On my feet, Merrels or whatever black leather flats looked most interesting when the last pair wore out.
What do I like? What could influence a personal style? I tried ambling around the web, looking for and at pictures of clothes that speak to me, trying to find clues. And I found a few. I seem to like:
This is one of those "I know it when I see it" things, but it's often about seams--seams that do something unexpected, or inspire the response, "Clever!"
I want to show you examples, which is where I run into the problem with (1) blogging about fashion while (2) being obsessive-compulsive about copyright. I don't dare actually include the images. And there just aren't enough clothes on Wikimedia Commons. Ah, well--I link.
First to a gorgeous and distinctly clever dress worn by Mad Men's Christina Hendricks. Look at the tailoring traversing all those curves, with no excess fabric, no artless gathers, nothing cute. That's architecture.
Then there's the similarly clever gingham dress worn by Elisabeth Moss, again tracing every curve perfectly. I can't help thinking that in the fifties, there'd be better pattern matching at the seams, demonstrating even more jaw-dropping workmanship. But isn't it glorious all the same?
What else am I drawn to?
Remember, when someone complains that a particular perfume smells like, say, a tire fire sniffed through a handful of mildewed mint leaves, my response is, "Ooh! Where can I get a sample?" My response to clothes runs along the same lines. I rarely have the courage to wear the truly weird, but I love it all the same, and the longer I look, the more my taste for weird grows.
Designer runway shows are always weird, I suppose. This one, Dior, 2011, particularly appeals to me. I can easily imagine these clothes being worn in Oz.
This glamour-steampunk look is also weird. Rich and detailed and surreal and combining so many inspirations in one.
And so is this one, in a crisper, calmer way; it's really just the hat that tumbles it into Weird. I'd like it even better if the cuffs and peplum were pleated instead of ruffles. Better architecture, see?
As I was sitting here trying to think of likely sources of Weird, I thought of NCIS's Abby, here in one of her calmer looks, with its own steampunk vibe.
Are you seeing the next pattern along with me?
That is, travel through time and space and fictional worlds. Clothes that are spot-on-in-fashion right now don't usually make me happy; I like a gesture toward another place or time. I think that this is partly perpetual rebellion against memories of the junior-high expectation of to-the-letter fashion compliance, and partly joy in drawing from a wider history of inspiration.
My examples above are from the Sixties, steampunk/Victorian, and Oz--OK, OK, I called it Oz, but can you disagree with me? And then there are these Cylons in big hats. Of course, don't forget Downton Abbey. And Downton Abbey Meets Vogue. Wow.
I'll keep looking. I'll be back.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.