Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wardrobe revision

I realize my long post about Sofia Coppola may have come off a bit obsessive or fangirly. But I was determined to crack the code. While I concede that some of her elegance may come from carriage and confidence, I felt a lot of her style might be approximated.

It's helped in my wardrobe-editing process because it's given me a touchstone, an end result to measure my progress. And I realized from studying her clothes that I don't have to get rid of every distinctive, non-neutral piece, but I should get rid of all my gimmicky clothes, the one-note pieces that can only be worn a single way.

I've tried to see if I could streamline my wardrobe from the other end--by acquiring more selectively--but I realized that my closet was too far gone. If I wanted to change my wardrobe and my entire approach to dressing, I had to clean it out. I had to cull the many lackluster pieces from my closet. So the last few weeks, that's what I've done. It was painful at first, but as I got rid of more and more, I felt a burden lifting and, as others have noted, it becomes addictive. I'm not nearly finished, but at least I've started.

Stuff that has made the edit pile & what I've learned:
- Winter scarves and hats. I realized that I have favorites that I wear again and again, and I don't need or like big accessories to change up my look. Rather, I like to wear signature accessories: my polka dot wool scarf, my tiffany diamond earrings, and my Birkenstocks.

- Different experiments with workout clothes. I have two brands that look good and hold up well: Patagonia and Lululemon. Everything else gets cut.

- Many, many clothes from a sad period in my life a few years ago, when I was married. I was beginning to experiment with how to upgrade my wardrobe, but I was also feeling angsty and unmoored. I tried to use shopping and clothes as a way to project a presence that I didn't feel.

- Lots of clothes that are visually appealing but somehow slightly wrong in cut, color, or material. Lots of clothes made with thin or itchy cheap-o fabrics. Stuff that gives no pleasure in the wearing.

- Clothes bought at the wrong price point. Items worn often should be acquired at the upper end of my price limit, and not on impulse or for a narrow range of ocassions. I'm not sure if this is pointless snobbery, though.

- Stuff appropriate to an earlier age. I find myself transitioning to more demure pieces. I could maybe still get away with them, but I feel less desire to be on display.

- Clothes that don't quite fit the way I like. I've gained 5 pounds, and I have no desire to diet back down to 95 lbs to fit into my old clothes. I also don't want to squeeze into my clothes and be reminded that I'm older and fatter. It's time to give up the ghost! No shame in growing older.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

About Sofia Coppola's style

I know I've written about Sofia Coppola before, but I find myself on this rainy weekend looking over my old inspirations from about 5 years ago, when I first started getting interested in high fashion. I've almost always been interested in personal expression and looking nice and appropriate, but it wasn't until about 5 years ago that I started thinking about style, chicness, and designers, and I had the means to approach them in some small way.

So when I just started trying to figure out fashion, I started by studying the people who I felt got it right, people that I might want to emulate. Sofia Coppola was one inspiration. In fact, she's probably the style muse of intellectual girls everywhere (she said something similar about her photography phase . . . that every smart girl goes through one, and takes lots of pictures of their feet). She has had a handbag named after her, signaling an ascension to the most rarefied of style icon status. She was famous for wearing flats on the red carpet and was the muse of Marc Jacobs. She started her own clothing line, Milk Fed, and moved through her own (somewhat unfortunate) grunge phase. Now she's designed her own line of handbags for Louis Vuitton, and they're everything that you might associate with her: elegance, refinement, heritage, minimalism, and immaculate style.

I think you can break down her style in a few ways. Some are obvious, and a few things are counterintuitive. Her pieces are not fussy, but are rather pared down to the essentials--exquisite cut, perfect fit, and beautiful fabrics.

Her definitive style, and what makes it work, is most obvious by comparison:

Compare her outfit to Scarlett Johansson's. They both wear sleeveless summer dresses, but Sofia's version is just a few crucial inches longer and seems much more demure. Her shoes are simple black flat sandals, as opposed to pink Converses. Her proportions are right, whereas Scarlett looks a little bit off, a little bit too much.

In the second picture, next to Kirsten Dunst, the fabric of her dress is much richer and "grown-up" than Kirsten's--a thick satin as opposed to cotton. Her jewelry is minimal, but its presence helps her seem much more polished than Kirsten. Although they both wear little makeup in that photo, Sofia looks finished, as opposed to Kirsten, who looked like she just rolled out of bed. Kirsten looks just a little bit too undone. Compared to Scarlett and Kirsten, Sofia looks just right--neither trying too hard nor trying not hard enough.

In both these pictures she's wearing black, and you might think that black is an essential part of her style. To some degree, it is, but that's not the entire story. In fact, she wears a lot of color, but usually against a background of black. Or else, when she strays from more neutral colors, she restricts her color palette to just one or two colors for the outfit. Examples:

Similarly, you might think that she's a straight minimalist, but in fact, her clothes are not always streamlined. Often, they are frilly, pleated, graphic, or feminine in some other way. She just never layers them on--it's always just a few separates that compose her outfit. But her accessories are always few, modest, and classic. Earrings, necklaces, and watches are small and subdued; shoes are always trendless and demure. You'll never see Sofia in the monster platforms so popular right now.

But she never looks overdone, even on the red carpet, and part of her secret is her hair. The fact that it's always in the same signature style--clean, neat, bobbed, and shiny--ensures that she always looks like her, never looks like she's trying too hard, and always exudes a cool downtown vibe.

To summarize this overlong post (lol), here are what I think compose the essential ingredients to Sofia Coppola's style, the "it-ness" of her It girl status:
  • Clothes that tend towards minimal, with quiet feminine touches
  • Restricted color palette in an outfit (but not in the wardrobe), with black used as an anchor
  • Classic black shoes, usually flat or with a small heel
  • Small, classic jewelry
  • Clean, shiny hair that's always in a signature polished bob, never coiffed
  • Perfectly fitting separates; never tight but sometimes loose (pants ending just at the ankle)
  • Very little layering
  • Outfits that allow ease of movement, everyday life, the weather