Indie darling wannabe
July 16, 2012 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I want to find my personal style, but I don't want to be categorized as fashionable or trendy in any way. You might not be an independent film costume designer, but maybe you can help me find blogs or sites for inspiration.

I want a small wardrobe, with pieces that are comfortable and plain, but not boring or unflattering. I absolutely hate to shop for clothes, maybe because most of what I find in clothing stores seem trendy or too descriptive. If I didn't hate to shop so much, I'd probably be shopping in thrift stores more often, but I've found shopping on ebay to be more of a time-saver. I'm just not sure of what I should be searching for on ebay.

If anything has served as inspiration for me so far, it's been indie films (especially those by Nicole Holofcener and Noah Baumbach) and a lot of French films.

Some actresses have this style going for them (or whose characters do, anyway), like Catherine Keener (her body type is a lot like mine), Lili Taylor, and Rebecca Hall.

I'm open to any suggestions, even if you don't know of websites to recommend. Thank you!
posted by okay-quiet-time to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
How about Nerd Girlfriend?
posted by freeform at 10:58 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thrift stores. Sorry.

You don't say where you are located. If you're in or near a major city, look for "vintage clothing stores" or thrift stores that are a bit more curated than your average Goodwill.

For example somewhere like Beacon's Closet in New York. If you can afford it, try places that are even a little more curated than that (Beacon's is a rung up from your typical Sally Ann type experience, with prices mainly in the $10-40 range depending on the item). For example Amarcord (which tends more towards designer) or Rosebud (tends more towards period clothing).

I mention stores in the New York area because it's where I live, though all the places I linked to either have online shopping on their websites or ebay/etsy shops.
posted by Sara C. at 11:00 AM on July 16, 2012

Find a look you want, a piece or combination of them you can work every day, every way, and build yourself a uniform. My go-to look-- which will probably not work for you, but as an example-- is a polo over a knee-length skirt with wedge shoes. Different colors and different fabrics to adapt it, but I can grab it out of my closet and go anywhere.

From the actresses/styles you're describing, a potential uniform for you of a v-neck and capris comes to mind for summer months. You can add or subtract accessories to dress it up/down.
posted by RainyJay at 11:01 AM on July 16, 2012

Best answer: In your quest for a personal style, I'm going to recommend something VERY strongly :)

A Camera, camera, CAMERA!!! So many people try to pull off styles that don't fit their face/body/shape/etc. AAAAAAAND... there are people like me who make the mistake of vetoing great clothes that I foolishly think don't look good on me when I look in the mirror.

The secret to battling both of those mistakes is a camera. A decent smartphone camera will do.

Mirrors lie. They lie because we're so intimately connected to the image we see. It's almost impossible to be truly objective. But when you're looking at a still image later, even though it's an image of yourself, it's a jillion percent easier to judge what you see.

Get in the habit of taking lots of pics of yourself in fitting room mirrors. I can't even begin to express how much of a difference it can make.

Good luck to you!
posted by 2oh1 at 11:16 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

What kind of clothing stores have you been trying? I see no reason why you can't find "pieces that are comfortable and plain, but not boring or unflattering" at normal-person stores like Ann Taylor, J. Crew, or Banana Republic. Or are you going for a more A.P.C. look?
posted by acidic at 11:16 AM on July 16, 2012

Best answer: Re RainyJay, a great way to keep this stuff from looking costumey is to mix it with staples and basics from "normal person" stores like Gap, Ann Taylor, J. Crew etc.

If you like vintage dresses, make sure to wear them with contemporary shoes and accessories. (adding a current belt can make a shirtwaist look a lot less Mad Men, for example.)

If you like romantic Anthropologie type styles, balance it out by wearing, say, a ruffly embroidered super-feminine top with dark jeans and a simple shoe.

If you like statement accessories, make sure your clothes are very understated.

Contrast is key.
posted by Sara C. at 11:22 AM on July 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

A great way to go about this is to watch a few movies that have inspired you stylistically before, hone in on the outfits you are really drawn to and get specific about what it is you like about them. For example, say you like this outfit. Write down, "Okay so specifically, it's a classic, dark high-waisted skirt, fitted french stripe tank/tee, and a fitted, classic dark cardigan. The cardigan and the skirt are monochromatic. The stripes in the tee coordinate with the other pieces." Then go forth and find those pieces. Treat each outfit you like as a mini-project. I find this is helpful for people who hate shopping because you are looking for something specific, especially helpful if you are thrifting. They don't have to be an exact match; you're looking for the basic pieces (high-waisted solid-colored skirt, fitted stripe shirt, solid vintage-looking cardigan). This is a fun and actually satifying way to put together a "look" and the pieces of one outfit you like will probably work with another outfit until you have created a wardrobe of multiple looks.
posted by Katine at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2012 [5 favorites]

After doing some Google image searching on your list of inspirations, it looks like the common denominator is basics made in quality fabrics and improved by good tailoring. Building a wardrobe with this kind of clothing takes a serious initial investment of both money and time (you really need to physically go to a store), but it's totally worth it. And if you're doing it right, you end up having to shop waaaaaay less in the future. J. Crew and LL Bean Signature are good places to look for really classic things that won't fall apart after a few washes.

As for style inspiration, try French fashion blogs-- The Cherry Blossom Girl and Garance Dore both have hits and misses, but are working with small, high-quality wardrobes-- so you see the same pieces pop up over and over again in interesting ways over the course of years, which is a refreshing change from style bloggers who use every post to show off a new H&M dress. Scandinavian sites like Face Hunter might be worth a look, too-- much more thrift store stuff than the French ladies; sometimes totally wacky, but sometimes really great.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:53 AM on July 16, 2012

I've found Pinterest to be immensely helpful in developing my personal style. I hate 99.9% of what's posted on there, but every once in awhile I come across a look I like (either on Pinterest or on style blogs like the ones listed above) and to be able to put all of those in one place really helps me realize "oh, I really like the look of boxy, color-blocked tops, I should look for one" or "I'm consistently drawn to outfits with a mix of neutrals and bright accent colors" or "I love how that dark, a-line skirt looks with a loose white button-up top, but I wouldn't wear it with those shoes" or whatever. You can also look for screen shots from the movies that you mention and pin those to incorporate them in your brainstorming process.

Once you have a set of images you like, you can apply Katine's excellent system to analyze the outfits and make a list of the pieces that you would like to purchase. Having that list should make for a fairly painless shopping excursion, and you won't be as distracted by all of extraneous stuff in the stores because you'll have a much better sense of how to build the look you like.
posted by EmilyFlew at 12:35 PM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

As oinopaponton points out, tailoring is key to the look you want. Simple, comfortable basics are great, but they're only going to look good and interesting if they fit you really well. And that's why thrift stores are a much better bet than ebay, because you absolutely need to be able to try things on. If you're willing to get things tailored, this is obviously less important, but thrift stores really are your friend, especially if you're wiling to go to the slightly more expensive ones Sara C. recommends (Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads Trading Co. are other examples of the type, and are both chains, so may be around where you are).
posted by dizziest at 12:43 PM on July 16, 2012

I faced a similar problem as I too hate to shop but want to look nice, and the answer I came up with was minimalism.

I drastically cut my wardrobe down to the things I really wore, the things that were my favorites (not just ok, but favorite) and added a few other pieces that fit really well with what I already had. I also had someone help go through my stuff, to get an objective take on what worked, and what didn't. This was a good approach in terms of bettering my style without spending much money.

Color-coding turned out to be crucial; now I wear blue and black almost exclusively--in my world blue is a neutral--really basic stuff like pants and shirts with a sweater if necessary, and that is it. Make sure the shirts fit your shoulders, and that the pants aren't too long or too short, both of which I didn't pay much attention to until I realized how they can really mess up a look. I also firmly believe in the power of the statement jacket.

This post by Timoni West about her wardrobe was my model; not that I am advocating that you wear band t-shirts all the time. But, you know, the uniform idea.

Oh! And for tailored dresses, I hear eShakti is great. It's all online.
posted by tooloudinhere at 1:11 PM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Nthing Pinterest. Also going up to people who are wearing pieces you like and saying "I love that/those ____! May I ask where you got it?"
posted by koucha at 1:29 PM on July 16, 2012

What helped me was to come up with a formula that works for me and then I know what kind of pieces to pick up when I shop. I look at each piece and quickly run it through the rules, for example:
- Identify garment type and load rules. Garment type: Cardigan. Cardigan rules:
- V-neck? if no, pass. if yes:
- Weird ruffles or bizarre details or see-through or other deal-breaker? if yes, pass. If no:
- Jewel tone color? if no, pass. if yes, get.

I can walk through evaluate the contents of the store very quickly using this method. And wardrobe is slim and focused.

Kind of like knowing what apples to pick when you're apple picking: get the ones that are a certain color and shape and leave the rest.
posted by bleep at 6:52 PM on July 16, 2012

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