Let me set the stage for you! Many people browse others’ content to find fashion inspiration; that’s the whole premise of Pinterest, including mine. However, as I’ve been
editing drastically reducing my digital photo archives, I’ve got an heretical idea: I’ll do a style mood board of my own materials, ideas I’d like to go back to instead of trying out what other people are doing. Yes, very self-involved but also reafirming and comforting!
I did run into the problem of disentangling the memories, the photo (light, colors, posture) and particular garments… but Pinteresting – and all fashion inspo in general – has the same issue. We evaluate the overall feel of a fashion editorial, not every garments on its own merits. And the notion of style is about combinations not pieces. It’s garments by other garments by adornments by activities by ‘audience’, etc. etc. And my ‘conclusions’ are also more about mood than garments.
In case you have a couple of hours to spare and want to do something similar, these were my steps:
1. I went through my old photos starting with the older ones and copied (copy, don’t move! whatever photo system you have, you want the originals to stay in their place) into a separate folder all those that spark fashion joy. Treat it like scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram and ‘like’ the ones that inspire you style-wise! I ended up with 50 or so photos from 2005 to 2011. I consciously chose not to deal with the most recent ones, that’s what the rest of this blog is for.
2. Then I tried to find commonalities between the photos and key words for the common themes. And the winners are:
3. The rest was just formatting the photos to the same sizes, making them into collages by key word and then trying to figure out the reasons for their salience…
This one needs a background explanation, because it’s not a purely aesthetic choice, it’s a mystery and an ongoing tension! My natural hair color is ash blonde, but I’ve been dyeing it different shades of red since I was 11, first with synthetic dyes and then with henna since 17 or 18. The length has fluctuated between none (hah!) and half-back, mostly being around shoulders. The texture has fluctuated between straight and wavy but always very thin. I have a child’s nose and a child’s hair, yes.
My go-to hairstyle for the last few years has been a modified french braid from ear to ear followed by a normal braid that’s either just hanging or is pinned up to complete the circle. I came up with it when looking for an easy way to (a) keep hair away from neck, (b) not to gather the bulk of my hair at the nape as that is the last thing you want for inverted yoga postures, (c) do something more stable than the messy bun which in my case is a ridiculously small thing that keeps unraveling, (d) find a ‘do I can sleep with in Barcelona’s summer, (e) gracefully gather even dirty hair, (f) not to tire my scalp (f*ck ponytails!). An additional advantage is that it looks like I made and effort while actually I have it down to few minutes and then don’t have to think about it until the end of the day. Very practical and adult.
Yet when you look at the pictures that have moved my heart’s strings, I clearly long for my rebelious, uncommbed, wavy locks. I know that there are selection bias at play – those are the extra good hair days! And the causality is unclear as so many variables have changed since then: age, stress, food, water, air, shampoo, combing practices… so I wouldn’t even know how to go back to having such hair, yet I love the look:
Artsy and defiant (yes, those go together)
While I still dress quite differently than my peers and have done so since my early adolescence, I do have a feeling that I’m settling down… and it bothers me. So a great share of my inspo photos are capturing a more daring way of dressing.
There are lifestyle dictates, such as that pretty much everything has to be bicycle safe to be used on working days (this mostly restricts headpieces and skirt length). There are bodily whims such as my earlobes deciding that they will inflame with anyhting but pharmacy baby studs. And there are my more mature standards of comfort: no pinching waists, no tugging pants, no uncomfortable underwear, no chocking necklaces, and no street-sweeping hems.
But when I look back, of course it’s the ‘craziest’ outfits (and the occasional shaved eyebrow) that I appreciate the most and would like to go back to. It’s the feeling that I’m not pushing the fashion conformity enough, that I could do more to actively remind myself that clothing is means of expression and not to blend in (OK, you could, if need be) or to serve as an unpaid billboard (you really shouldn’t).
(I have a huge flower that few people would pick even for their wedding day on my head as I’m drafting this, though. So maybe I’m doing my mission alright on this London-Paris train surrounded by ultra-casual tourist wear and people in business suits. Also, there are enough garments that I did wear but wouldn’t want to go back to, my toy princess crown period in 2005 being just one of them.)
Curiously enough, my narrative is that pop feminism set me free. The message that I could do whatever made sense for me and that pleasing others was optional was a permission to experiment with dressing up to my heart’s content and not for anybody else. There were fails and occasional succumbing to (percieved) peer pressure (because at that age we are all so anxious about ourselves that other people barely enter our field of vision) but I felt like dressing true to myself most of the time.
I clearly have an underlying issue of having to stand out in a crowd, even if then I have to provide proof of not being as superficial and self-involved as it may seem. I now think that my loudest acting out coincided with my most normal dressing, but both could be just side-effects of being a teenager. Even though I abandoned the idea of becoming an artists at 15 – I might get back to it when I’m around 70 – dressing is one of the aspects of my life where I can be flaunting my (perceived and desired) creativity and extravagance. So far it has been a constant need and doesn’t seemt o be going anywhere.
Climate conditions bodies. I am convinced that we learn to regulate temperatures according to the climate we grow up in, so… I miss proper winters! Salamanca still had enough cold for me (~ 5ºC on average between December and February), but Barcelona just doesn’t have any for my standards + it’s the stupid combination of cold at home and warm outside that drives me mad. The same way as Spaniards treat winter and cold weather as an annoying emergency, there is a part in me that loves it. The bundling up, the careful thinking through what layers to put on and in what order, and the smug satisfaction when managing to put together a good looking winter outfit that works both with your coat and without. I miss proper layering. I miss cold rosy cheeks. And I miss the collective milieu when being warm and cozy trumps everything else. (Barcelona has that in summer heat: all other standards of decency and formality get lowered to favour weather-appropriate clothing and sweat stains are not frowned upon.) I miss my big scarves and winter boots, all the cocooning. And, yes, insert a joke about Latvian summers and all of us having a winter coat, a spring coat, and a summer coat. It took me years to learn no to take a layer with me ‘in case it gets cold’. It doesn’t.
An additional coziness note about trousers: yes, I used to have and wear them a lot! Something switched, though, and I haven’t been serious about getting a pair since more than five years ago. Many of these photos made me think how I used to wear jeans and feel both comfy and cool. Maybe the desire to wear them will come back someday.
On a closing note, this exercise did remind me of three particular types of garments that I would like to get back to (September Swap, I’m looking at you!): (1) what I called my Mucha dresses – floral, dropped waist, bare shoulders, and short; (2) a dark turtleneck, could be with a subtle print or plain; (3) a jersey bodycon. These were the paragons of comfort and feeling awesome at the same time.
What would be the major fashion inspiration themes from your past? Has your style ben consistent or are you changing? Can you see yourself going back to wearing garments similar to those you had when teenager? Or did you never stopped wearing them?