Several months ago I wrote about fashion in the thirty-something years, and how surprised I was at the significant changes my personal style has undergone over the past five years. Just when I thought I had my style nailed down, it shifted. Significantly.
The comments on that post are wonderful. But I’ve been thinking about one comment in particular ever since, five mornings a week, as I face my closet and choose my outfit for the day. Because of it, I’ve purged items from my wardrobe that never felt completely right, although they seemed like they should be perfect for me. And I’ve changed my criteria for what I buy.
In the comments, Brenda shared a bit of personal style advice she’d picked up. It’s one of those offhanded comments that changes the way you think forever more. She wrote:
“I was taking a class on sweater knitting and the teacher talked about people fitting into different categories for clothing and fabrics, and I thought this would be the same-old classic vs trendy. But then she said people were either “stiff” vs “draped” and “shiny” vs “matte.” I was a bit floored. I realized almost immediately that I am a draped/matte person in terms of fabrics looking flattering and being comfortable on me, and therefore, I should probably stop buying polished-cotton, buttoned shirts in the vain hope I would find something I like. It was the most informative styling advice I’ve ever gotten.”
The first question, “stiff” vs “draped,” was familiar territory. About five years ago I realized that while I like a bit of structure in my clothes, I need a drape to feel comfortable. My wardrobe benefited from this realization immediately. (My friend is the exact opposite. She says if we switched wardrobes we would both look ridiculous and feel horribly uncomfortable.)
But “matte” vs “shiny” has been a game changer these past few months. It explains why a Stitch Fix blouse that seems practically perfect for me (great color, great fabric, nice drape, perfect accents) never looks quite right to me. Now I know why I feel compelled to keep putting a certain button down through the washer and dryer even when it’s already clean. I wanted it to look a little more “worn.” In other words, I was trying to mute the sheen.
That’s why those coated black skinnies that go with everything and fit great are dusty from never being worn. “Coated” is just another word for “shiny.” It even explains why I hate to wear my latest swimsuit purchase, even though the fit is good and the color is great: it is shiny, shiny, shiny.
Maybe you’ve asked yourself these questions for years. But to me they were a revelation. I’m grateful for any question—any framework—that helps me see something familiar in a new way, and take better action because of it.
I’d love to hear your answers in comments: are you stiff or draped? Matte or shiny? Can you share any other simple questions that have helped you refine your personal style? Don’t hold back!