Earlier this week I got a very interesting comment from Julianne, about how she’s got more than one clearly defined style, and is having a bit of trouble merging the two. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this myself. The style I had when I was “Maria the Musician” isn’t as present as when I actually was a musician, but that rebellious part of me simply refuses to go away completely. “Maria the Fashion Consultant”, on the other hand, likes ladylike dresses, shiny hair, and sparkly jewelry, so those two Marias don’t always get along (I’ve even started to notice a third Maria, but more on that in another post). When Julianne wrote that comment, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist the challenge to blog about it, so I asked if she wanted to e-mail me a bit more about it all – which she did, huzzah!

In her own words (I simply had to quote her directly, since her phrasing was so bloody brilliant): “Basically, it boils down to something like your own dilemma; merging the elegant/cute with the rebellious/quirky. In my case, I try to merge the elegant-cutesy-Zooey Deschanel-Dita von Teese-vibe with the Gareth Pugh/Karel Appel/Luxury Comedy-ish-geeky-rocker-sprinkled-with-winklepickers-and-sequins-vibe. I honestly don’t know how to describe the second ‘style’ in any other words, I spent a good fifteen minutes coming up with this less than vague description! […]

“I love dressing in pretty skater dresses, my nan’s dresses (she was so elegant, these dresses are amazing), pencil skirts and heels – cute and elegant. But I also love dressing in clothing with an edge, structured collars, studs and spikes, heavy boots, winklepickers and the occasional graphic or animal print. I think merging these two styles would be just about right for me, as dressing solely one way or the other is just a bit too much, if you catch my drift? […] I’m convinced that a merging of these two things will make getting dressed in the morning feel like an amazing aurora borealis sandwich and make me very happy – I just don’t know how to do it without looking like a plonker :)

Oh, Julianne, you and me both. But I truly believe that the aurora borealis sandwich is within our reach! I’ve made some Polyvores specific to your case to illustrate my points. Also, I’ll try to give some useful advice for others out there with a similar problem – let me know if it is useful, will you, darlings?

All polyvores by me, and clickable

Firstly, the better you can define the two (or even three) styles you’ve got going, the easier it will be to merge them. The way I do it is that I try to list the elements I think are essential to each style. Now, as I was working with Julianne’s styles and not my own, I might not be 100% spot on, but the process should work nonetheless. Don’t worry about whether the things you list are “right” according to what you’ve read in a magazine or something – as long as you feel they belong there, everything’s all right. The more concrete/definite elements you can list, the easier it will be to find actual things that match, but you can also include a few more vague elements like movies or music. My lists for Julianne looked like this:

Style 1: romantic shapes, full skirts/dresses, glamorous accessories, lipstick, 500 days of summer, sensual fabrics, elements from the 50’s and 60’s – and femininity.

Style 2: tough shoes, leather, metal, asymmetry, bright colours, surprising colour combinations, masculine touches, creative combinations of items, The Runaways, a rebellious attitude – in short, something unexpected.

The ideal solution is to find items that somehow embody both styles. The red coat above, for instance, is “Style 1” because it’s so classy and elegant, with soft, feminine lines, but it’s also “Style 2” because of its bright colour and unusual silhouette. The blend of styles might not even be obvious to anyone but yourself – but as long as you can see it, it should incorporate itself into your wardrobe pretty seamlessly. These items are usually harder to track down, but usually feel even more instantly right when you happen upon them.

Such “combined” items usually don’t belong smack in the middle of either style, because there is a compromise going on. The skeleton ring above, though, can be said to be pretty much solely “Style 2”, and the floral clutch “Style 1”. Items that lean more strongly towards either side are easier to find, so you’ll definitely need some of those to fill the gaps in your wardrobe. Still, it’s the “combined” items that really pull a look together. Also, in an outfit, try to balance the number of items from each style, so you won’t end up with a fully “Style 1”-outfit with just one “Style 2”-element sticking out like a sore thumb.

I suspect many people would say that the looks in my Polyvores are a bit eccentric/rather a lot of look/slightly crazy. That might be, but probably mostly because people aren’t used to see someone dressed like this. When someone is dressed in the “rock chick”-look from head to toe, any onlooker will usually understand the look quite quickly. An outfit like that is easy to identify, we’ve seen it before and we have a name for it.

Something new or unusual, however, will attract more attention, and can often make people react more strongly. But just because an older lady on the subway looks at you in an awkward manner, doesn’t mean your style is in any way wrong or stupid. Usually, it just means you’re harder to read, and not everybody’s comfortable with that. Fortunately, we’re not put on this earth to make everybody happy, are we?

Today I went to the grocery store wearing my Dr. Martens; dark, tapered pants; a black, hooded leather jacket; slicked-back hair; red lipstick, but no other makeup; and huge headphones. In other words, very much “Maria the Musician”, with hardly a trace of “Maria the Fashion Consultant” – the jacket even completely hides my waist! Still, I felt really good. Why am I telling you this? Well, simply because although I think the whole merging-two-styles-thing is an interesting challenge, and creates a wardrobe that’s more easy to manage, I also don’t believe we absolutely have to have just one style.

If you simply feel like dressing like a dangerous biker babe one day and an androgynous hipster the next, I have no problem with that. There are some practical arguments against this, of course, because a very schizophrenic wardrobe can often feel chaotic and make it hard to create many different outfits. Still, there are no reasons based in fashion/style/whatever-you-want-to-call-it for having to limit yourself. You’ll still be you, no matter which clothes you wear. But when things go so far you don’t feel like yourself anymore, that’s when we have a problem. You all know that feeling, right? You’ve put on something that objectively looks perfectly fine, it might even flatter your shape and colours and everything, but it still feels wrong somehow. Well, I find that’s usually because it doesn’t match the “me” I am that day.

Hopefully my advice can help you out if you feel your wardrobe needs some mediation between several styles. Still, there’s nothing wrong with having more than one, either. After all, we’re all a bit mad here.