Today, we’re working with our reader Jennifer.
(click to enlarge)
THE BIG PICTURE:
Jennifer’s vision board is quirky and colorful, but not overly ornate. Overall, the silhouettes are both classically feminine and slightly bohemian. It’s eclectic; the pieces are mostly united by an undercurrent of refined freedom, as opposed to the more traditional similarities and consistencies of shape. The predominant colors, teal and red, convey growth, passion for life, and a curious, open nature; the neutrals and tender pastels balance that exuberant element, making the sum total more practical and down to earth.
When I first looked at Jennifer’s vision board, I got a distinctly French vibe. French style is much more multi-faceted than people realize; it’s not all little black dresses, pearls and red lipstick (which of course can be lovely on the right woman). In Jennifer’s case, I was reminded of Paris; more specifically, Montmartre, the quarter famous for being a home to many generations of artists, rebels, and philosophers: In her email to me, Jennifer mentioned her fondness for the easy, relaxed Parisian chic, and it’s definitely a flavor that permeates her vision board. It’s that unique combination of youthful movement, so carefree and open, and a sense of classic tradition, a nod to good taste, “le bon goût”. We have a picture in mind of a young French woman who combines a simple, inexpensive draped dress from a department store with a vintage jacket, a treasure she found in a small boutique, or at a flea market. She will top the ensemble with a priceless silk Hermes scarf she inherited from her grandmother. In August, when all of France goes on vacation, she’ll pack a flowing maxi dress, flip flops, and a long string of genuine white pearls to bring along on her summer adventure. Just like this French girl, Jennifer’s vision board shows a style that is eclectic, easy, and fun-loving, but also rooted in tradition, with a fondness for elegance, charm and history.
This unique style, despite being so thoroughly Parisian in its essence, can be transplanted anywhere; sunny Southern California is the perfect place to put it into practice. After all, in both these places, people know how to enjoy life; how could they not, with the wonderful climate and the delicious wines at their disposal?
Freedom of movement seems to be essential to this style. It needs to be comfortable; but it’s the kind of comfort that is directly related to activity. Jennifer needs to move through life at her own pace, and she needs clothes that will support, not hinder, that movement.
The vintage influence is obvious in this vision board (especially in the jewelry and accessories, like the lovely cloche hat). It adds a touch of sweet wistfulness, romance, and a feeling of something precious. These pieces appeal both visually and emotionally. The sense of gentle whimsy contained in them reminded me of the lovely French movie Amélie:
This is a modern movie, and its heroine is a strong-willed, smart and extremely compassionate and imaginative young woman who spends most of her time helping others. And yet, despite its contemporary setting, the movie is shot in vintage, sepia-tinged tones, its colors slightly desaturated (and like Jennifer’s board, the movie often features a juxtaposition of softened teals and reds). This visual approach adds a touch of romantic whimsy to the proceedings. The story shows us how imagination can be used to bring magic to life in very real, tangible ways.
The free, easy and eclectic energy of Jennifer’s board is underlined by a solid touch of timeless elegance. It grounds Jennifer’s style, tying all the elements together and making them contemporary and relevant.
Let’s take a detailed look at Jennifer’s vision board:
- Colors: mostly softened, low to medium contrast; rich in reds, teals and neutrals.
- Shapes: unconstrained, comfortable, flowing; or formfitting, but not overly tailored.
- Textures: mostly smooth; some quilts; slight textures.
- Lines and prints: monochrome looks; ombre; bold, fun, nature and animal prints; vertical stripes.
- Details: vintage and nature-inspired jewelry and accessories, small to medium in size. Flowing, unrestricted lines; draping used on more fitted garments.
- Jennifer has a trim, well balanced figure, quite well proportioned. The more fitted silhouettes from her vision board should work very well on her. However, she should avoid excess bulk, too much fabric, or boxy silhouettes. For example, the striped blazer from her board is lovely, but to fit her better it would need to be more fitted at the waist. Medium-contrast or low-contrast stripes (cream and blue, or light grey and dark charcoal) are preferable to the high contrast of black and white.
- Proportions are also extremely important; I would suggest avoiding extreme lengths (too long, too short) and instead aiming for skirts hitting at the knee. The red t-shirt in her photo is hemmed at a good spot on her hip; I’d suggest that she buy jackets and cardigans that hit her at that spot, or a little above. Anything longer will disturb the proportions of her body.
- The more loosely-fitting tops from her vision board should look fine, as long as they are not baggy or too long. Excess in anything should be avoided.
- I think Jennifer can wear both the monochromatic looks, and the printed garments from her vision board very well. Here, moderation is key; I would avoid a boldly printed garment as an all-over look; it will look too busy and overwhelming. Prints that are more whimsical and bold are best confined to pieces of smaller sizes, like scarves. A monochromatic look with touches of print is especially good. The ombre effect is nice, especially in a medium or low contrast.
- In prints, like in garments, scale is extremely important. I would caution against large prints; instead, I would suggest going medium to slightly small, in both prints and accessories.
- The key to Jennifer’s style is learning the right combination of elements in her look. As I wrote above, the right balance is represented by a combination of energy and ease of movement; quirky / bohemian / vintage-inspired elements; and contemporary elegance. The simple, well fitting, streamlined garments can form the basis of her wardrobe. Here, I would suggest going for natural fabrics that feel good on the skin, wear well throughout the day and don’t restrict movement. (A good tip: if a garment looks wrinkled on the hanger in the store, imagine what it will look like once you’ve worn it for a day!). I would caution against excessive or busy trim, here; the grey dress from Jennifer’s vision board is a great example of a garment like this done right. Excess of any kind will overwhelm Jennifer’s frame; it will also leave no room for two other components of her style: elegance and quirky, vintage-inspired creativity. So, to complete the look of the grey dress, I would suggest selecting items from each of these two categories, for example: the Chanel quilted turquoise bag (elegant) and the adorable cat-face earrings (quirky) and turquoise bracelet (vintage).
- If you want a simple formula, then a combination of 50% easy / simple, 30% quirky / vintage and 20% elegant / refined sounds about right. Jennifer can tweak this formula to better fit her needs. The most important thing is understanding this ratio and making sure that every outfit incorporates all three influences. Sometimes, a garment can cover two at once; for example, the print skirt from her vision board is both easy / wearable and quirky / bohemian, with a great visual impact. This means that the rest of the outfit can be simple, clean, and elegant (and of course, I would advise that this skirt be to the knee, to honor Jennifer’s body proportions).
- With a style like this, Jennifer can have her pick of stores to shop in. As long as she follows the rules of proportion and scale, and goes for items that are clean and elegant as well as easy to wear, then the basis of her wardrobe should be easy to build. She can invest in some elegant pieces, like a chic bag or watch that she can wear with any outfit. She can then use the more bohemian, vintage, and creative elements of her wardrobe to mix and match different looks. By changing up those elements, she can create several looks using one simple garment as the base, thereby multiplying its use and wearabilty. Because of this, it’s a good idea to go for a large variety of smaller accessories, such as jewelry, scarves, gloves, hats, hair accessories, and so on.
If I were to describe Jennifer’s style in one short phrase, I’d call it easy, eclectic chic. If she continues to build a wardrobe of well-fitting, comfortably stylish basics and combining them with the quirky, vintage items and elegant accents, she will look as much at home strolling down the streets of Montmartre as she does in South Cali.