Today we are discussing the vision board submitted by our reader Cora.
In Cora’s own words: “The main reason I’m doing this style challenge is that I’m turning 30 soon and I’d like to look like a grown-up for then. I just remembered this Margaret Atwood quote: “Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” So my goal is to have a disguise that works. I am an art teacher, maybe an artist too, and I don’t need to wear suit dresses to work but I’d like to find me a comfortable “uniform” of walking shoes and clothes that I can freely move in while still looking put-together.”
(click to enlarge)
THE BIG PICTURE:
Cora’s board combines an intricate, Art Nouveau-inspired influence with a feeling of fresh simplicity. Despite the elaborate, artistic detail, it doesn’t feel complicated or overwhelming; instead, the overall look look is clean and uncluttered. A lot of this is due to the neutral, light color base. The freshness of lights and metallics is tempered by deep, watery blues. Red and pink inject excitement and sensuality.
When I receive a submission, I always look at the vision board first, without reading the submitter’s comments or self-description. This way, I am as unbiased and open as possible. The first association I had upon looking at Cora’s board was with the paintings of the Art Nouveau period; and even more so, the works of fairy-tale book illustrators, like Virginia Frances Sterrett and Warwick Goble, as well as some contemporary artists.
So, when I later read that Cora is an artist who freely admits that her connection to her childhood and her youthful spirit influenced her vision board, I knew that there was truth to my initial impression. There is definitely an enchanting, fairy tale-like component to her vision. I speak of fairy tales as they were originally conceived: stories that reflected the hopes, fears and passions of the people who created them; archetypal representations of humanity’s thoughts and emotions. Like fairy tales that hid unexpected depth beneath their seemingly innocent façades, the airy freshness of Cora’s vision board disguises a natural, unaffected wisdom. The combination of the two is both beguiling and restful to the eye.
Cora’s vision board is fresh and youthfully pure in its essence, and delicately intricate in detail. The shapes of her garments are well fitted but not clingy; nor are they bulky or overly draped. There is something airy about them, as if she expects to take flight at any moment and doesn’t wish to be restricted or confined. When I looked at the shapes of her clothing, I felt my breath relax and flow freely; it was a lovely feeling.
The intricate, delicate details of the embellishments and accessories that grace Cora’s board support the airy feel of it. Despite the intricacy, there is no showmanship or dramatic complexity here. Every choice Cora made feels unselfconscious.
Youthful and child-like are good words to use here, but I must explain them since I know they often carry meaning that I do not intend to use in this case. When I speak of the purity of line and the child-like innocence of Cora’s vision board, I don’t mean to belittle or over-simplify her vision. Instead, I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite writers, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In his most famous work, “The Little Prince”, he says, “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” This phrase captures the feel of Cora’s vision board perfectly. She is a grown woman with an adult life and adult responsibilities, but what makes her different is that she remembers what it’s like to gaze at the world with both wonderment and clarity that we all naturally possess as children, but often lose as we grow up. I imagine it’s a quality that is instrumental to her art, and to her ability to relate to her students. It’s a quality that will also be instrumental in her journey to create her signature style.
Let’s take a practical inventory of Cora’s vision board:
- Colors: light neutrals; medium to deep blues; reds.
- Shapes: close to the body, but not clinging or restrictive.
- Textures: fabrics with a natural finish and light to medium texture; natural fabrics (cotton, linen). Highly textured accessories.
- Lines and prints: rounded shapes; circles. Clothes in monochromatic fabrics; visual complexity is provided by accessories and detailing.
- Details: small to medium in size; intricate; whimsical, slightly vintage.
Let’s see how Cora’s vision board relates to her physicality:
- Cora’s shape is gently curvy and compact, with her legs being longer in proportion to her torso. She appears to be a softly defined hourglass with a slight A-shape tendency.
- I think that the dresses on Cora’s vision board are very well chosen for her body. The blue smocked V-neck dress is lovely, and (with a chic cardigan, for example) would be a great everyday dress for her. The red dress is a good example of going glamorous while also staying youthful. This is partly due to the shape and length of the garment, as well as the detailing around the bust.
- For Cora, it’s a good idea to add more detailing and visual interest at the top of her body. The details should be small to medium in size; they can be intricate, but always delicate, not bold, lavish or excessively ornate. The right scale needs to be observed, and the delicacy will ensure that it will be Cora wearing the accessories and embellishments, and not the other way around.
- Because of the curvy trimness and compactness of her body, I would highly advise against anything bulky or stiff. Light and light-to-medium weight fabrics are best here. Natural fabrics are great, as long as they’re not stiff (linen can be that way, so make sure you go for higher-quality stuff that is always softer and finer than the coarse linens). Velvet is a fantastic fabric for jackets and blazers; it’s soft, and a much better alternative than the unyielding tweed, for example. It also works much better with the overall feel of Cora’s style; heavy, stiff fabrics are too harsh and aging on her. A cashmere cardigan is a fantastic alternative.
- I think Cora was made for dresses and skirts; a softly draped, flowing skirt, or a pencil-shaped skirt (as long as the fabric isn’t too stiff and the fit isn’t tight), hitting at the knee, would look great on her. But trousers are good too. I’ll be honest, I don’t love jeans on Cora. I think they are too stiff on her curves and too utilitarian for her style. Since she is curvier on the bottom half of her body, it’s best to use draping, flowing fabrics here (trousers included), and save the touches of structure for her upper half.
- Choosing the right shoes is important for Cora; she likes to move freely and be comfortable. When we strive for comfort, it’s easy for us to fall back on the basics (t-shirt, jeans, sneakers), but thankfully, there are plenty of wonderful alternatives to sneakers these days; alternatives that are dressy yet comfortable. Flats immediately come to mind. Flats in a variety of shapes and finishes, with feminine and intricate detail, in many different colors. Some shoes are considered flats but have a small heel (up to 1″). Wedges are also great and comfortable. For evening, a kitten heel is nice; kitten-heeled suede or satin boots coupled with a pretty dress and accessories make a great evening outfit. The bootie trend is great for Cora, too; booties look lovely with skirts and dresses, and under trousers. I would suggest opting for suede if buying footwear of darker colors; it has a dressier feel to it that is more compatible with the vintage, artistic style that Cora likes.
- In terms of jewelry, I would suggest that Cora keep the scale to small / medium. Nothing too bold, but nothing tiny or bare, either. Nothing too small or minimal. Because her jewelry is delicate, I can see her being able to wear it on several parts of her body simultaneously, like earrings, pendant and bracelet, or ring. It’s as if her jewelry is telling a continuous story, starting from her face, all the way down to her fingers.
Cora’s current goal is to transition herself and her style into a more mature phase of her life. The main challenge in a situation like this is to make that transition without losing what makes Cora and her style so unique: her fresh, youthful signature and creative flair. Many women are naturally vivacious and young at heart, despite their age. They often feel the pressure to “grow up”, “be serious” and conform to what society deems as appropriate for someone “their age”. But, when put in “mature and serious” clothes, these women lose all their spark. To mature your style the right way, I suggest the following steps:
- Embrace your youthfulness and whimsical quality for the wonderful gifts that they are. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed of them, and don’t hold them back; instead, accept them as key to your appeal, and use them to their best advantage.
- Never stifle your creativity; let it flow, and balance it with moderation and taste. It’s pretty clear that Cora knows when to pull back; she has a naturally light touch. But to give it a more concrete definition, here is a good strategy. Start with the garment you like to wear; let’s say a simple, well fitting dress. Decide where you want your accents to be that day. If you feel like it’s a big jewelry day, keep your shoes simple (neutral color and minimal embellishments), and put on your favorite jewelry. If the garment your’e wearing is already accented (bows, ruffles, etc), put on earrings and play with your choice of shoes. Overall, pick quality items and fabrics, and always pay attention to fit; doing this will give your style elegance and a sense of age-appropriateness.
- Remember that in your case, minimal, bare and stark are not good. For you, it’s better to go a bit too complicated, than to downplay things too much. Never go too simple, casual or sporty (this may work on other naturally youthful women though; my own mother is a great example). Learn the many different ways to add a youthful spark to your outfits: jewelry; patterns; feminine and fun detail; color (makeup and nail polish included!). A sense of humor and a whimsical touch are your greatest friends. As long as you have good taste as your ally, don’t worry about overdoing it. Remember that what looks appropriate on another person, will look aging and dowdy on you. Your outfit may look wrong on someone else, but on you, it’s perfect. It’s all about finding the right balance for you, and for each person, that balance, and the components that create it, are different.
One of the greatest secrets of women like Cora is that, as they age, they have the ability to grow from youthful to ageless. Often this ability remains a secret even to them. But, those who learn to tap into this ability, can create signature styles that bring this unique gift to the fore in the most enviable way. With this in mind, I decided to call Cora’s style, ageless enchantment. With her great artistic ability and a natural sense of ease and moderation, she can easily greet the new decade of her life looking both stylish, and true to herself.