Today, we’re working with our reader Tiara.
Tiara’s reason for participating in our style challenge was, in her own words, “To further hone in on my own personal style, making better use of the things I already own and gaining clarity on what is best to let go.” Tiara sees style as a growing, ever-evolving experience, and uses it as a means to help her express herself to the world.
(click to enlarge)
THE BIG PICTURE:
What a gorgeous board this is. Vivid, vibrant, sensual, strong, confident. Fearless. She doesn’t apologize for her femininity or her complexity, and doesn’t wish to compromise on what the world gets to see. At the same time, the statement isn’t jarring; the images envelope and pull you in; there is grace and softness in that strength that is compelling.
The colors echo this statement. We see a lot of fiery reds and purples; the feng shui element of Fire (passionate, expressive, bold) is also added through the use of animal prints and body conscious silhouettes. The greens and blues add the vibrant, growth-oriented energy of Wood. They are active, go-getter colors. Finally, touches of deep, dark Water and some warm Earth tones add substance, balance, and earthy mystery.
As I looked at the flowing lines combined with strong silhouettes and bold, exotic detail, I had the image in my head of a sensual warrior priestess, a woman who balances sacred spirituality and earthy femininity with fearless confidence and the knowledge that she is equal to the men of this world. She knows how to use her appeal wisely and approaches life from a position of strength. She does not ask permission to be herself; she just is, and she revels in that simple act of being.
None of the images here are static; they convey a feeling of energetic movement. The draping is flowing but not carefully so; the folds of fabric remind me of a precipitous waterfall. The necklines are plunging; the diagonal lines and pointed angles in the black shoes and the golden-blue earrings evoke the blades of beautifully honed swords. On one of the images, a woman in a fiery red, yellow, and purple dress that’s flowing and billowing around her looks as if she’s engaged in a ritual warrior dance; she is full of color and beauty, but there is a lethal mastery in her movements also.
Looking at Tiara’s board, I was greatly reminded of the famous Mata Hari. She was a self-made woman, a talented dancer and a spy. She said about herself, “I am a woman who enjoys herself very much; sometimes I lose, sometimes I win.” She loved and lived her life to the fullest. She distinguished herself from the dancers and courtesans of her era by incorporating the esoteric ideas and the exotic sensuality of the East into her dance. Tiara’s deft use of exotic and ornate touches in her ideal style reminded me of this.
Mata Hari famously said, “The dance is a poem of which each movement is a world.” I think these words sum up Tiara’s ideal style very well: a sensuous, fearless dance, in which every movement, no matter how small, is filled with purpose and poetic meaning. Mata Hari understood the flavor of her unique femininity well, and she wasn’t afraid to show it to the world, or to use it to make a statement. Tiara’s vision board shows the same kind of promise.
The less ornate and monochromatic (yet still dramatic and bold) elements of Tiara’s board supplement and support her exotic, sensuous expression. Looking closely, you’ll see that her vision is quite wearable, although this is obviously a woman who prefers to be over-, not under-dressed. This mentality is not derived from her circumstances, but rather from her personality. Tiara’s position at this stage in her life involves taking care of her household and the people and animals who inhabit it. So, it’s obvious that comfort and freedom of movement are essential to her. But, instead of taking on the mainstream idea of what “comfortable” is, and donning casual, sporty clothes and sneakers, she will put on a colorful, flowing maxi dress and metallic flip flops, or a pair of softly draped pants. These are just as comfortable but comfortable on her own terms, in a way that supports her expression. This is a great example that shows us that no matter our current function in life, that function does not determine our essence. Our function only shapes the practical solutions for our expression in a way that is supportive, not limiting.
Let’s take a practical inventory of Tiara’s vision board:
- Colors: predominantly vibrant, strong and warm, with some deep and earthy tones.
- Shapes: lush, curved, rounded; sometimes narrowed. Deep, diagonal draping; body-conscious silhouettes that caress but not restrict.
- Textures: mostly smooth with some sheen, since shapes and prints provide the lion’s share of the statement. Texture’s main purpose here is not to provide visual interest, but to offer tactile enjoyment.
- Lines and prints: curves, rounded geometrics. Deep V angles. Animal and nature-inspired prints that are dramatic. Bold, colorful and somewhat blended prints (not harsh or sharply defined). Monochromatic items need to include draping and / texture or sheen to offset the lack of print.
- Details: mostly bold and lush, with some rounded, flowing intricacy.
Let’s finally meet Tiara and see how her vision board supports her physicality:
- I just loved seeing the lush, vibrant print in the background – it seemed so congruent with the woman in front of it, somehow. As you can see, Tiara’s shape is a curvy combination of a high-hip hourglass, and a T shape with a strong shoulder line and narrower hips. This kind of body cannot abide fussiness, or plain severity. There is a strength here that needs to be respected. At the same time, anything heavy or restricting will make her look boxy. There is a flowing, sinuous line to her body and hair that needs to be considered, also.
- With this in mind, we can see how many of the items on her board can be worn by her, either straight up or with some modifications. The draping, flowing garments are no-brainers, here (but make sure that the fabric isn’t flimsy or cheap). Wrap waists in particular are extremely winning, since they showcase her bust and waist, and offer the draping effect that is so good on her. The trousers on her board are perfect for her, in those light colors. The long, dramatic, sweeping sleeves may not be practical for every day, but they can be modified and shortened. The key is not to use fabrics that are too bulky, unyielding, or too flimsy. They should also have some stretch to them, to hug her curves better.
- The more tailored items are a bit trickier. Unfortunately, many designers these days don’t seem to realize that a lot of women have busts. So, finding a coat or a blouse that has enough fabric in that area can be quite challenging. This is where it’s a good idea to find a trusted tailor in your area. Often, you may need to buy a size up that fits in the chest but is loose in the waist, and have the waist taken in. This is where fabric is also important; try going for softer wool / cashmere blends in coats and jackets, as opposed to thick tweeds.
- A great way to mimic the dramatic statement of a super tailored garment, without endangering your curves, is to use the tailored details of that garment in a fabric that suits you. For example, Tiara can look for items with high, sharp collars and wide cuffs, but in “her” kind of fabric. Wide cuff bracelets can mimic a blouse cuff; a deep, narrow V neck creates a statement similar to a high collar.
- An continuous, flowing, unbroken line looks great on Tiara; this is why dresses will always be her best default option. With dresses, she needn’t worry about proportion as much. With separates, she as to be more mindful of that; as she has a short waist, she needs to balance the hems of her tops perfectly at her low hip, careful not to make them too long.
- Tiara wrote to me that she would love to live in heels if she could, but it’s not possible for her at the moment. Both the shoes and the boots she chose have pointed toes; the boots are also lace-up (an effect that is repeated in the gorgeous black corset on her vision board). The lace-up effect is “in” this fall, and it’s a look that seems to never go out of fashion. She can find boots (or booties) that are similar, with a lower heel, making sure that the toes aren’t blunt or heavy-looking. Same with other footwear: look for substance but don’t go too plain or sporty. Suede and soft, supple leather are your best choices for footwear fabric. For warm seasons especially, I’d recommend going with a vibrant color, a light neutral or a metallic, as opposed to brown or black.
- With a strong, expressive vision like Tiara’s, it’s important to remember to balance it with more streamlined items (judging from her vision board, she seems to be aware of this, already). While Tiara can (and should) incorporate a lot of visual interest in her look, a pulled-back, careful touch will elevate her style and make it modern and sophisticated. In the trinity of shape / texture / detail, she can pick two, but not all three (unlike some women who need to stick to just one). For example, if she chooses a garment in a fabric that is both draped (shape) and printed (detail), she should avoid too much texture. If she chooses a textured, boldly colored fabric, it’s best to keep the shape streamlined. It’s important to remember, however: streamlined, in her case, doesn’t mean understated. Even the simplest lines are slightly exaggerated, taken beyond the basics into a more dramatic realm.
If I were to describe Tiara’s style in two words, I’d call it fearless mystique. The key to making Tiara’s style cohesive and realistic lies in creating the right balance between her expressive, bold side, and streamlined touches. The same way Mata Hari brought her exotic, sensuous dance to the Western world all those years ago, Tiara can embrace the exotic sensuality in her style, and make it look effortless, modern and timeless.