Today, we’re working with our reader Kirsten.
Kirsten has several practical goals for the challenge. She needs a wardrobe with both casual and dressy elements in it, since her job combines both (she works in management at an oil refinery, and wants clothes that look professional and are practical in her unique workplace). She also wants to accommodate her transition into a new decade of her life, and the subtle changes to her body shape.
(click to enlarge)
THE BIG PICTURE:
The impression I get from this board is that of restrained boldness, or as I like to call it here, tamed fire. The dramatic color scheme of predominantly black and red brings to mind the interplay of Water and Fire, the two extremes that are both complimentary and contradictory all at once. The expressive passion represented by Fire is restrained, pulled back by the depth of Water. It’s a streamlined, deliberate, focused boldness.
- Kirsten favors simple yet high-impact color combinations. She seems to crave the comfort of simple, streamlined structure, yet wants to make sure that the colorful, dramatic aspect of her essence is represented also. Energetically, this is the interplay of water and fire I was talking about. Visually, this translates into often monochromatic or neutral outfits that use strong punches of color to add drama and interest. I actually like the word “punch,” here; there is an unexpected, “you didn’t know it was coming, did you,” element to it that I feel is appropriate.
- Kirsten wants to make sure that she can command respect in her management position, and intuitively, she is drawn to shapes and (especially) colors that are quite commanding, even a tad imposing.
- I enjoyed seeing the way Kirsten used natural elements on her board. A tree, a cat—stylized and simple, but again, touches of focused drama on an otherwise simple canvas. This is a good example of nature-inspired elements done in a more abstract, geometric way.
- Kirsten’s board revealed something else: her affinity (conscious or subconscious) for the 60’s mod influence. You can see the famous mod circles throughout her vision board, for example. I like the concept of using the modern British influence in her style, since it fits both the energy of her vision board and her physicality, which we will discuss below.
- Another aspect of the mod style is its inherent, tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Everyone had fun in the 60’s! Of course, mod style can be quite over- the-top, and this is where the restrained quality Kirsten demonstrated on her board can be so helpful. Using the mod influence with a light hand is great. It says “yes, I can be strong and professional, but I have a lighter side, too!” This helps make Kirsten’s style more relatable, and at the same time, adds a new dimension to it. Her jewelry especially is a great example of this approach.
Let’s take a detailed look at Kirsten’s vision board:
- Colors: contrasting combinations of red, white, and black, with some neutral colors added.
- Shapes: linear, narrowed, streamlined. Defined silhouettes combined with some relaxed shapes.
- Textures: mostly smooth; shiny; some tactile furs.
- Lines and prints: straight lines, small circles. Bold geometrics (lines).
- Details: strong but simple punches of drama using stylized, abstracted shapes. Prints are used sparingly.
Let’s see how Kirsten’s vision board relates to her physicality:
- Kirsten’s body is composed of lithe lines with an A-shape emphasis. I can see why she is attracted to clean, narrow, vertical lines, since they are in harmony with her body shape. There is strength and restrained boldness here, also, echoing similar qualities of her vision board.
- I can see how the trousers Kirsten chose for her vision board would work well for her shape: they skim the hip and fall in a loose, flattering way. The outerwear (jacket and coat) were also selected well (though I’d love to see that coat in a punchier, clear red or another strong color). A simple yet slightly edgy motorcycle jacket is a great wardrobe staple; it can pair well with trousers, jeans, or even A-line dresses and skirts (and the A-line shape is great for Kirsten). It can go from dressed up to dressed down in a second, something that is important for Kirsten’s lifestyle.
- I also love the idea of incorporating small circles and other mod details, like the buttons in the photo below. The shapes of these jackets would work well on Kirsten; I especially love the idea of a strong, dramatic collar paired with a color scarf. The look is chic, strong, and timeless; it also honors Kirsten’s body shape:
- The important thing is to keep the decorations to a minimum; think in terms of packing all the impact into one single, powerful punch. This is the key to Kirsten’s style, and a way to add visual interest to her wardrobe that is appropriate for both her age and her work environment. The idea of focused impact is great for her for two reasons: it helps convey the power in her look and takes the guesswork out of dressing by simplifying and streamlining her wardrobe.
- For Kirsten, it’s important to have well-fitting, comfortable basics in clean lines and good-quality fabrics. In her everyday life, she can keep things simple by having two uniforms: one, consisting of flattering wide-leg trousers in fabrics that have some weight yet are not stiff or heavy; and simple, slightly loose-fitting tops. It’s a good idea to have a jacket similar to the one in her style collage, as well as a blazer (either in a neutral, to be combined with colorful scarves, or in a strong color, to go over monochromatic tops and trousers). Her other, “dressier,” uniform could be an A-line dress or skirt paired with boots. To elevate these uniforms, Kirsten needs to remember what I will now call the Focused Impact Rule: adding a concentrated “punch” of drama to each outfit. It could be a color, a print, or an accessory; sometimes, it could even be makeup. It’s very important not to forget about this rule, because without it, Kirsten’s look will lack that interesting, bold element that it needs. Just because her boldness is restrained doesn’t make it any less spectacular.
- This approach can be used in both her work and casual wardrobes. Earlier, I referred to the importance of finding versatile items, like a simple yet bold jacket or blazer, and combining them with well-fitting basics. This is a good strategy to keep in mind when shopping. Same goes for shoes, boots and bags. With basics, pay the most attention to fit; with your “impact” items, look for your favorite colors, patterns, and textures. I would also suggest reserving most of the drama and visual interest for the top half of the body, while keeping the shapes on the bottom skimming, and using fabrics with both weight and softness.
Using this approach, Kirsten will be able to strike the right balance between simplicity and interest, as well as add boldness and authority to her work look and interest and fun to her casual wardrobe. I like the idea of consistency for Kirsten; the shapes of her clothes, be they work or weekend clothes, should be similar, while the fabrics could be different (dress trousers vs. jeans, for example). The “impact” items can be worn with both sets of clothes, making her dressing routine even easier.
For shopping, regular department stores carry a lot of the great basics that Kirsten needs. For special, interesting items, she can try ModCloth, Etsy, or vintage stores. Actually, department stores these days carry a lot of mod-inspired items; for example, JCPenney is currently promoting their line of mod dresses (although I would avoid dresses with a strong horizontal stripe across the hips, as it’s not flattering to Kirsten’s shape).
If I were to describe Kirsten’s style in a couple of words, I’d call it “focused impact,” or “tamed fire,” depending on how poetic I was feeling. Both describe the premise of her style: using tamed, honed power to deliver precise, deliberate dramatic impact, on top of a clean, streamlined background.