A work in progress

When I was in middle school, like most kids, I was still trying to figure out how to dress and what it meant to be fashionable.

And at 26 years old, I’m still trying to figure it out. Though I no longer wear skorts (a combination of a skirt and shorts) or snap-back hats (a flat brim baseball cap), I still wouldn’t consider my wardrobe to be on par with the latest trends.

For me, stylish is wearing what’s comfortable, but also looking presentable (though some might argue how “presentable” is defined.)

Maybe I am not giving myself enough credit. I think I dress well, but there’s definitely room for improvement. A couple indicators: I sometimes wear pants that are a tad too short, and my shirts don’t always hug me in the right places.

From my perspective, being able to wear the latest styles depends on time and money. At 12 years old, I had all the time in the world to get beautified. I’d often spend two hours just curling or crimping my hair, doing my makeup and picking out an outfit for school. It was like I was primping for a beauty pageant.

At the same time, one could question what look I was going for. One week, I attempted to pull off “punk rock,” and the next, I pranced around like a teenybopper.

Who could forget those big clunky shoes or stretchy tattoo choker necklaces? I don’t even know their official name, but they were horrendous.

I had yet to determine my “style personality,” which, according to Portland area image consultants, is important when learning to dress your best. Before this issue of Maine Women, I wasn’t even aware there was such a thing.

Julie Cunningham, owner of Julie Cunningham Color, a personal color and image consulting company in Portland, said dressing appropriately requires a woman to know her correct color palette, bodyline, silhouette and clothing personality (dramatic, natural, classic or romantic.)

According to Cunningham, a dramatic seeks to make a bold statement; a natural likes comfort and function (sounds like me); a classic wants to be appropriate; and a romantic seeks to look feminine.

While “every woman has her own personal, unique style that works best for her,” she said, “what women wear should be flattering and a reflection of (her) personal style,” which is based on coloring, body silhouette, proportions and personality.

“Creating a harmonious visual presentation,” Cunningham said, “is dependent on knowing this information when building a wardrobe that reflects your best self.”

Women should invest in learning their color palette, as well as what fabrics are most flattering, she said.

“It will make you look younger, prettier, more poised, professional, and unique,” she said. “You can look taller, slimmer and more elegant with the correct choices. No diet required.”

“Stylish to me is having your own personal style,” says Portland-based image consultant Ashley Jordan. “This means staying current and adding in bits of newness for each season, but it is mostly about knowing what you like and staying true to you.”

Jordan works with women who are unsure of what to buy or what looks good on them. She said the key is to “try on everything that you own and look in the mirror and be honest with yourself.”

Another factor, said Jordan, is forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone – something I struggle to do.

I often find myself purchasing the same colors and styles when I go shopping. Apparently that’s a fashion no-no.

“Trying things on is the starting point to figure out what works for your body,” Jordan said.

That makes sense. In middle school I was only trying to figure out what type of clothing complemented my ever-changing teenage frame.

As I continue to gain and lose weight as an adult, it probably wouldn’t hurt to try on different styles to determine what flatters my body shape, or better yet, establish my style personality.

Just the other day I was contemplating throwing out my entire wardrobe – underwear, socks and all – and starting from scratch.

Though I’m not totally dissatisfied with my everyday getup, I could probably benefit from flipping through a Vogue every now and then, or at least browse online for what’s hot in fashion.

I suppose it’s not too late to continue experimenting.

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