For those who know me well, or even see me in passing, they know I love fashion.
It all started when I was a geeky middle schooler and watched America’s Next Top Model with my cousins. The first time I watched I was hooked. Not because I wanted to shed my glasses and braces combo to look beautiful like the models on the show, but because I admired and appreciated the artistry, creativity, and skill that went into the garments and photo shoots. Let’s not forget about the sassy hosts/judges Tyra Banks, Miss J, Jay Manuel, and André Leon Talley.
America’s Next Top Model pushed me into the fashion publishing world. With the winner’s grand prize as a spread in Seventeen magazine (courtesy of Ann Shoket, guest judge and Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen at the time) I wanted to follow the models into the publishing world. I subscribed to Seventeen and started to follow fashion on the regular. I loved it and craved to wear the clothes the models wore in the magazine, but I didn’t have the confidence necessary to rock the looks in high school. As someone who viewed herself as incredibly shy and didn’t want any attention drawn to her, I didn’t want to wear anything other than a pair of skinny jeans and an Aeropostale-branded shirt that nearly every other teenage girl owned at the time.
Somewhere in late high school, I found a shroud of confidence — which just so happened to coincide with the boom of Pinterest. I went wild pinning what I liked. I shopped for the styles I wanted to try in stores like H&M and Charlotte Russe. I spent every night browsing the site for ideas for my next-day look. As time went on, people started to notice me, and I began to get a lot of compliments on my fashion choices. Though it was uncomfortable at first, I slowly gained the confidence I needed to tell myself that it was okay to have a moment or two in the spotlight.
My way of thinking about fashion in high school partially revolved around dressing for myself. But to be honest, it was more so about “trying to be the pretty, cool girl who’s no longer shy about anything so look at me now.” I realize now that it wasn’t the best way to approach fashion — because you should always dress for yourself, not for other people.
But I didn’t learn that until college.
I came into a moment where I didn’t care what other people thought of me. Along with that came a life-changing career opportunity that fell into my lap as a sophomore and forced me to put myself out there and be more confident than ever before in my life. I rocked it — both career-wise and style-wise. Through it all, I became more experimental, though I did wear some questionable outfits that I will never wear again.
Regardless, the last four years of my life have been a complete blur. Junior and senior years of college were a grind to get through. Launching into the adult world hasn’t been easy either and planning a long-distance wedding took up a lot of my spare time as well. I admit I wasn’t as in-tune to the fashion world like I wanted to be, but recently that’s changed.
Now that my life has calmed down a bit, I realized just how much I missed fashion — and how many new avenues I had to take it all in. With all the spare time I had on my hands (which I haven’t had since freshman year of college), I soaked up fashion in so many more ways than ever before.
- I watched fashion-house documentaries on Netflix like “House of Z” (about Zac Posen), “Dior and I” (about fashion house Christian Dior) and “Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards” (about Manolo Blahnik). “Inside British Vogue” is next on my list.
- I followed fashion magazines on social media. This tweet from Vogue France caught my eye recently.
- I enjoyed watching feel-good shows like “Queer Eye” on Netflix and Safiya Nygaard and Simply Nailogical on YouTube.
- I read books like “The Devil Wear Prada,” (yes, I’ve seen the movie ten times and haven’t read the book!) “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” and “The Way She Wears It: The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Revealing Your Personal Style.”
I’ve had a lot of fun getting back into the fashion groove of things. Yes, Safiya Nygaard and Simply Nailogical aren’t precisely “fashion-focused.” But I enjoy the humor they have in their videos like Safiya’s knack for creating videos out of unwearable pieces in I Wore 9-Foot-Long Extendo Jeans For A Day and Simply Nailogical’s goofiness in I Was A Human Sock For A Day (I Tried Following A Safiya Nygaard Video). “Queer Eye” is my latest fashion show obsession, and I can’t wait for the day when I go to the mall with friends and go all “Queer Eye” on them. I want to make Tan proud.
For the record, I was french tucking my shirts long before it became a thing on the show.
But what honestly spoke to me was reading “The Way She Wears It.” For the past four years, I felt like I was running on autopilot with my fashion choices. I knew what worked and I rarely deviated from my standard formula. I also hadn’t purchased too many new items for myself since I was on a college and wedding budget. “The Way She Wears It” challenged me to be more reflective about my fashion choices — as well as my personality — and encouraged me to push the envelope.
The book is broken up into six parts: a general overview of how to use the book, how to tackle your basics, and a section dedicated to each season of the year. So far, this book has been immensely helpful to me. I’ve been more daring with my style choices, more thoughtful with my purchases (I shop online first, make a favorites list, then shop in the store), I’m more comfortable with my choices, and I’ve been using items in my closet in ways they’ve never been used before. The following are the six key takeaways I gained from this style guide.
Time to Declutter
One of the first things I did after cracking open this book was cracking open my closet.
I naturally get rid of clutter I don’t use, and I’m especially mindful of things I don’t wear. So going through my closet was relatively easy for me. I tossed a few things I’ve owned since high school and my early college years into a pile ready for recycling at H&M. (They give you a 15% off coupon for each bag of clothes you donate!) As a married woman two years out of college with a decent salary, it was time to get rid of some of my old pieces. No longer my style? Overworn? Too small/too large? Goodbye.
Rethink Your Wardrobe
A scarf is a scarf, and a headband is a headband, right? Not exactly! Garments and accessories can be worn in more than one way if you’re creative with it. I’ve tried wrapping headbands and necklaces around my wrist to turn them into bracelets. I’ve also worn a skirt over a dress to create a whole new outfit. This book told me to study my closet, and after doing so, I discovered I could use a scarf as a belt and a clip-in hair bow as a bow tie.
With some imaginative thinking, you can expand your wardrobe without having to purchase anything new.
Stock Up on Basics
Over the years I’ve acquired a decent number of camisoles, given a lot of the clothes I owned required one unless I wanted to show my bra to the world. I’ve also collected a small handful of cardigans so I could wear my warm-weather clothes year-round; though I didn’t think about t-shirts.
This book expanded upon everything you could do with a simple t-shirt: wear them with jeans for a laid-back look, wear them with pencil skirts for a work-to-happy-hour outfit, or wear them to lounge around the house on a Sunday. I (meaning my husband) owned a few men’s white t-shirts that I accidentally shrunk, but they weren’t quite good enough. So I popped on over to H&M with my 15% off coupon in hand and bought five Divided t-shirts for $4.99 each in different colors.
Take Note of Patterns
Before I decluttered my closet, I was prompted to take note of any patterns that emerged in my wardrobe. What did I see? A lot of blue. It’s not my favorite color, nor is it the color I think I look the best wearing. So why did I have so much of that color? Here’s where my introspective psychology minor sets in — it’s color psychology. Blue often evokes a sense of trustworthiness, strength, and dependability, which is pretty darn accurate to what I’m actually like in real life.
I also noticed most of my closet was composed of neutral colors. I had a lot of button-up shirts and cardigans, and a few patterned tops and pants. What wasn’t in my wardrobe, or should I say, what had a smaller presence? Loud prints and items in orange, purple, yellow, and red — which I found odd because wine red is my favorite color.
Here’s where I was assigned some homework to nail down my style.
- Assignment #1: Spend an hour on Pinterest saving any look you like without overthinking it.
- Assignment #2: Turn to fashion publications and tear out outfits that speak to you.
I created my Pinterest board and spent time browsing through three years’ worth of Marie Claire magazines. I spent hours working on my mini assignments, and I probably tore out 50 pages’ worth of ads. But it was all worth it because more patterns were emerging and I was one step closer to nailing down my signature style.
Finding a Style
It was time for my therapy check-in. Throughout the book, there are “check-in style” prompts to help the readers reflect on how their feeling during their fashion journey and what they’ve discovered. This question was a big one for me:
Q: What’s one thing you are beginning to understand about your personal style?
A: It’s Parisian with a bit of an edge. I like a lot of neutral clothing with clean lines, but I dress it up with a bit of color by using accessories or makeup. I also tend to mix dressier pieces with casual pieces, so I look sophisticated but not straight-laced. I’m willing to wear my glasses instead of contacts not because I was too tired in the morning, but because it compliments my “I’m feeling sexy, but I’m also intelligent” look.
Everything started to make sense. This revelation explains why I have a closet full of neutrals, why I don’t have too many patterned tops in loud colors, why I’ve owned so many ballet flats over the years, and why I very rarely wear sweats or yoga pants to work! And to think I was out of my comfort zone when I purchased a beret from New York & Company a few weeks ago…
Though I’ve had confidence before in my style, I am even more confident now that I’ve been challenged to find my signature look and have had the opportunity to reflect on my choices. Here’s another check-in question:
Q: What are you enjoying learning about yourself during this process?
A: I’m not afraid to stand out. I used to be a bit apprehensive about my clothing choices, especially at work because most people wear leggings, tees, sweats, and jeans. I didn’t want to stand out TOO much. But I’m having fun with it, and I’m dressing for myself, not for others.
Though I’ve only made it through the “Fall” section of the book, I’m seriously enjoying myself. It has forced me to stop, think, and reflect on my choices, my personality, and why I do things the way I do. Not just in fashion, but in my personal life as well. And let me tell you, reflecting is something I struggle to do in all aspects of my life. Regardless, I appreciate more things in life. I’m thinking more carefully about my choices, I’m trying to move at a slower pace, and I feel more confident than I’ve ever felt before. My name is Alexandra Lashner and this is the way I wear it.