This is the second entry in our style makeover series. These makeovers are based on the style vision boards created and submitted to us by the readers who participated in our Make It Real! Style Makeover Challenge.
The subject of today’s makeover is our reader Carrie.
Carrie is a style devotee who is already quite proficient in the subject of color analysis and various style systems. In her own words, “In the course of the style challenge I’ve realized my passionate interest in clothing as personal expression goes back to toddlerhood. We know who we are very early, before we succumb to outside influence or start to overthink matters.”
Carrie didn’t tell me about a specific practical purpose for her style search (career transition, life change, etc); rather, my feeling is that her reasons for participating in the challenge were more focused on self-expression, identity, and reconnecting with what she holds dear.
THE BIG PICTURE:
I think that Carrie’s vision board combines seemingly disparate influences in a rather harmonious way. While at first we get a sense of graceful timelessness, looking closer we realize that there is both stillness and movement; simplicity and intricacy; past and present.
Carrie’s vision board shows a deep connection, and understanding, of the concept of “time.” If this woman said to me, “A time for everything, and everything in its time,” I would accept her words as truth, because I would sense that she knew what she was talking about.
The colors of the vision board support this impression. There is both translucent lightness and depth (again, seeming opposites, combined). There is an interesting balance between cooler, muted colors, and earthy colors. The former convey softness and a wistful quality; the latter speak of an elemental connection to earth and nature.
Carrie’s vision board is so restful to the eye that an untrained observer may not realize that there are many layers behind the peaceful surface. Let’s peel them back, one by one.
- The closer I looked at Carrie’s board the more meaning I saw. Not just the meaning behind each individual item, but the importance of meaning itself to the board’s creator. Reflection was part of every choice she made. I feel here a desire to nurture and protect things that are precious to her, not just because of their grace and beauty but because of what they mean. Every item tells a story, and the woman who loves them wants to make sure that story will be told.
- Simplicity is also a big part of Carrie’s vision. But as I said before, simplicity comes in many disguises, and understanding just what kind of simplicity we’re dealing with is essential to understanding Carrie’s style. Some of you may look at her vision board, see the simple, unadorned garments sharing space with rich, textured prints and faceted jewels, and ask what does it all mean? How do they go together? The simplicity we see here isn’t that of someone who doesn’t want to be bothered with details (there is ample evidence to the contrary on this board). Nor is it the kind of simplicity born out of a desire for propriety or even refinement, for their own sake (though Carrie’s vision board is obviously tasteful). The woman who created this board wears simplicity as a second skin, not as an excuse, or a restriction, or a sign of timidity; but because it feels right. How to reconcile this inherent simplicity with the love of textures, prints, and cherished, antique objects? It’s easy once we understand that Carrie’s simplicity and ease exist precisely so that she can be what we may call poetically “a guardian of time”: a treasurer of important, precious, meaningful things. This connection to time creates an expression that is both still and flowing; it’s unhurried and certain yet gentle.
- Here’s another layer to Carrie’s vision board: her love of curves. The gentle, often diagonal, curves are everywhere; even the jewelry is slightly rounded. The curve conveys graceful movement, and echoes the ebb and flow of tides. In Carrie’s case, it reminds me of the Fibonacci spiral, a shape that can be found in nature and many works of art:
Here we can see how Carrie’s love of the curve adds another layer to what we’ve already seen: graceful simplicity combined with organic, timeless, treasured richness. The sense of balance that permeates her vision board is the same kind of balance we see in nature: the steady assurance of the never-ending cycle of life.
Carrie’s challenge, in many ways, was about understanding the nature of her inherent need for simplicity, and reconciling that need with her love of nature, antiques, and intricate, precious, meaningful things. Once we realize that simplicity was given her not to restrict but to provide a canvas, a framework for the things she treasures so much, it becomes easier to understand how to translate this realization into practical style choices.
Let’s distill what we just saw on Carrie’s board into specific details:
- Colors: a combination of cool and muted colors with some deeper, earthy tones; some touches of light translucency.
- Shapes: gentle curve in clothing shapes and prints. Clothes skim the body, draping softly. A strong preference for the diagonal, with occasional symmetrical touches.
- Textures: mixed and varied. While shapes are kept simple, the textures create varying degrees of richness. Tapestries, intricate weaves, multi-faceted stones.
- Lines and prints: softly rounded curves, rounded squares. Antique, Jacobean florals; nature- and water-inspired prints.
- Details: rich and intricate, yet delicate and graceful.
Let’s meet Carrie in person and see how her vision relates to her physicality:
Carrie has a really lovely shape: well proportioned, balanced; a slender hourglass. Both her face and body have an ageless, timeless quality: you could see her just as easily on a Renaissance portrait as you would in a modern-day photo.
- It’s clear that Carrie has a keen eye and a very good intuitive grasp of what looks good on her. I can easily see her in most of the items on her vision board. In terms of shape, I think the items that are fitted close to the body (like the lilac dress and the light-gray suit or the textured jacket) are most winning on her, as opposed to the items that have a more loose fit. Part of it is the desire to show off the graceful curve of her waist (something that is important not just visually, but also energetically, because it reflects her affinity for the things represented by that shape). Part of it is that Carrie’s bone structure is quite delicate and would be overwhelmed in anything voluminous.
- Despite Carrie’s balanced appearance, I don’t believe that symmetry, specifically, is of the highest importance for her. Indeed, on her vision board, even the symmetrically cut items have texture that makes them look less studied and more vibrant. I think that the diagonal curve and slight draping (echoing organic shapes) will look amazing on her, both highlighting and echoing her natural shape. In Carrie’s case, I feel that symmetry relates specifically to balance, which is an important part of her look.
- Carrie selected many rounded squares for her jewelry, which is an excellent intuitive choice as the shape echoes the shape of her face so well. If you observe Carrie’s facial and body geometry, you will see this shape repeated several times: her face, her shoulders, her hips. And while her skin is smooth, her hair has wave and texture. The jewelry that Carrie chose, especially the watch and the pair of earrings closest to it, demonstrates this combination of rounded smoothness and intricate detail very well. I can see her wearing these items very successfully.
- I’ve mentioned balance before, and I will mention it again. Balance is very important to someone with Carrie’s style; indeed, it’s essential to anyone who needs to combine simplicity and richness. Going forward, it’s important to remember that both sides of Carrie’s expression need to be present in her style. Unlike Jenny, whom I advised to look for individual items that combine the simplicity and the drama she craves, my advice to Carrie is to combine items of opposite qualities in a balanced way, for example: a simple, rounded v-neck sheath with a richly textured shawl, graceful antique earrings, and simple, elegant pumps. My guess is that often, Carrie looks for items that inherently combine simplicity and richness. It’s extremely difficult to find items like that, so often someone in Carrie’s position settles for one: either simplicity, or rich texture all over. On someone like Carrie, this would look unbalanced and incomplete. For her, it’s important to stop looking for balance outside of herself, and to remember that she is the unifying, balancing element that brings disparate influences together. In fact, Carrie’s ability to layer things both simple and complex in terms of style, echoes the endless, layered, meaningful quality of her energy.
- Keeping in mind what I said above, I think it’s completely possible for Carrie to wear the rich textures and the multi-faceted, intricate accessories we see on her vision board. In fact, these elements provide the feeling of drama that will elevate Carrie’s look. In her case, drama equals richness. The key is to remember to keep all shapes and textures natural, organic and in harmony with the lines of her face and body. It’s also important not to avoid these items for fear of looking busy or inappropriate. Layering and combining them with more understated items will ensure that the overall look will always be tasteful.
- In terms of shopping, I think it’s a good idea for Carrie to have a two-pronged strategy. First, she needs to make sure that her basics are well-cut in simple, body-flattering shapes, from quality fabrics. The quality is important here because it needs to be worthy of the richer, more textured and intricate items. Basics made from cheaper fabrics that don’t fit well will create a visual dissonance when combined with the more expensive things, and the overall look will suffer. Second, with her quality basics in place, she can spend some time searching for items (like jackets, accessories, shoes and jewelry) that have the antique, organic influences that she loves.
- Companies like Ann Taylor, White House Black Market, and Banana Republic all make good quality, affordable basics. I think it’s a great idea for Carrie to visit estate sales and vintage or second-hand shops for her jewelry and accessories. Online, sites like 1928 Company provide affordable alternatives. It’s also worth it to check out fabric shops for beautiful fabrics that can be used for custom-made items.
- One way of keeping the antique prints and textures looking contemporary is using them in unexpected ways. This is akin to creating contemporary antiques: someone with Carrie’s timeless touch can do this very well. For example, she can find (or order a custom-made) silk printed scarf with a print reminiscent of her beloved Jacobian florals. Recreated in a more abstract way, on a lighter fabric, the print will look both contemporary and timeless. Carrie can also find (or order) a wallet using the fabric she adores, even if the colors of the fabric don’t suit her body coloring. While she won’t wear it directly on her body, she will still get to see and use it every day and make it part of her style, without having to compromise on fabric or color.
The key to Carrie’s style is combining her sense of simplicity with her love of rich, organic, and intricate textures and prints. Whenever she feels she is leaning too far in one direction, she can remind herself of her innate ability to layer and balance both in a way that is graceful and timeless. If I were to describe her style in two words, I would use “cherished grace”. The same thoughtful and reflective approach that served her so well in creating her vision board, will be instrumental in creating a style that will do her justice.