Here's the last of the photos sent to me by Martha, in which she shows us that she has some latent ability that has clearly been underutilized. Here she's got layers, she's showing us her shapely legs, and she's got bright, fun tights paired with those adorable mary janes. I'd consider this to be her best outfit in terms of the effort she put into it and the fun flair it has. Rather than tweaking this outfit myself, I decided to do something a little different today, and ask my readers to restyle it. This is your chance to test your skills if you've been learning alongside Martha, or show us all what a pro you already are. So let's hear it! What other ways can Martha style this look? Feel free to comment, or even better, send pictures!
So while my readers are busy coming up with ideas for Martha, I'll get going on a couple more abstract concepts I want to talk about before I finish this series. Reader Herbee set me up beautifully for this post, by asking the following question:
My question for you today, Audi, is about your tulle skirt underneath the dress. I LOVE this look every time you wear it, but is the whole skirt tulle? Is it a petticoat with the tulle attached to just the bottom? And, more importantly, can a hippy girl like me carry off a tulle under layer? I picture the fullness making me look like one of those crocheted Barbie dresses Grandmothers make!
There are two main questions here. I'll start with the first one: I have several tulle skirts, and all are tulle the whole way down. One is very thick, unlined, and made entirely of tulle in overlapping layers, one is just a single unlined layer finished with a satin ribbon around the bottom, and three are like this one, with a single layer of tulle over a matching lining. This skirt has extra panels sewn in around the hem to give it the full look without making the top part too poofy. Only the kind I have on today can be worn alone as a skirt.
On to the second question, which I think actually encompasses two very different concepts. The first one deals with the technical aspect of wearing a big full skirt, and that's a very straightforward one to answer. Wearing full skirts, or any other full or eye-catching piece of clothing requires you to think about balance. In the outfit I'm wearing today, I balanced out the full skirt with the top. I chose this top for two qualities: one, it has fluttery sleeves and a broad V neckline that widens my shoulders; two, the wrap-ties and peplum help to define my waist. When you're faced with the opposite situation, where your top half appears larger than the bottom (or actually IS larger), you can layer skirts as a way to fill out your bottom half. This is the nice thing about layering skirts and dresses; it gives you the ability to control how full they are.
Now before I leave the topic of balance, I just want to touch on it in terms of color and pattern. How you use one color or pattern in proportion to another impacts the overall effect of the look, as well as which element becomes the focal point. There are two disciplines that have informed my understanding of balancing color and pattern, and oddly enough, neither one is fashion design. The first one is landscape architecture. A good landscape architect knows not only which types of plants and flowers look good together, but also the proportions in which to use them. Another place to find inspiration, not only for color but for pattern mixing, is in interior design. I think I mentioned before that I completed a significant portion of an interior design degree before deciding I was sticking with biotech. In the process of doing that I learned a lot about color and pattern that I later started applying to my wardrobe.
I'm sure many of you read home and garden magazines, so the next time you're flipping through the pages, linger awhile and look more closely at the gardens or interiors that really catch your eye. What are the primary, secondary, and accent colors? How has texture been introduced? If it's an interior, how many different patterns are in the room, and how are they placed in relation to one another? Does it include objects that reflect light? The nice thing about looking for wardrobe inspiration in non-fashion sources is that it decouples the basic concepts of color, pattern, texture, and balance from the body image issues that creep in when we flip through fashion mags. Often it's difficult to get past the thought of, "I could never wear that." By looking for fashion inspiration in the pages of Modern Architect or Better Homes and Gardens, you can find new color combinations or pattern mixes without the hollow-eyed, underfed models staring back at you. It also doesn't demand that you buy anything, only that you create a new idea.
As much as I'm loathe to relate any sort of "rules," I will pass along the one that I learned in one of my design courses about how to proportion three colors in an interior. Please do not think I'm saying you should follow this all the time, I'm just putting it out there as a guideline. OK, enough disclaimers -- here is your 'in case of emergency, break glass' rule that you can use when you're really stuck on how much of each color to use:
According to interior design principles, the main color should occupy approximately two thirds of the total area. Of the remaining third, two thirds of that should be your secondary color. The rest is your accent. Ta-da!
I'm going to move on to the other concept Herbee touched on, because I think it relates nicely to Martha's original question. It's the concept of fashion identity. Is it ok for a hippy girl to rock a tulle skirt? Well that really depends on how much you want to define yourself as a hippy girl. I chose this skirt today because it's the most hippy thing I have, and in the end the outfit came out part Boho, part girly, part Parisian, and part motorcycle chic. Does it work? There's no one answer to this; that's up to each person who views it to decide. What I know is that I like it, and that's really the only thing that matters.
Try not to worry so much about defining yourself by any one particular style. Why not allow yourself to be Boho Chic one day, and Sexy Secretary the next? We are all multi-faceted individuals, and unless you're wearing a uniform to work, you wake up every morning with a body that's a blank canvas on which to paint whatever you like. Sure it's fine to have some signature looks; I mean, I'm Mod Hat Girl, right? But dismissing items of clothing as 'not my style' is a fairly limited way of exploring fashion. Next time you're considering a piece, rather than asking whether it's your style, ask whether it will flatter your figure and whether you like it. If the answer is yes to both of those, why not give it a try? Maybe it's stylistically different from the rest of your wardrobe right now, but it also might be a direction you ought to be exploring.
Top: La Redoute
Jacket: Zadig & Voltaire
Skirt: Ralph Lauren
Tulle skirt: Noa Noa
Boots: Modern Vintage