Meet Joy, writer of one of my all-time favourite personal style blogs, Of Stranger Sensibilities, and general curating genius. In today’s post she will share her own style evolution and curating beginnings, from Teen Vogue to Menswear.
MY STYLE EVOLUTION
Growing up with architects as parents, I’ve always understood the importance of good design and general appeal of aesthetics. Of course I didn’t know the exact terms then, but on a visceral level I did. In my pre-teens, I started to borrow pieces from my mother’s wardrobe. I really indulged myself with her designer clothes that she bought back when she was a single career woman—Armani, Yohji, Calvin Klein, you name it. She had the whole minimalistic tomboy style down pat. I was quite satisfied with the way I dressed, however I was curious to see what was out there. I began to read Teen Vogue religiously (around 2003-2005) before I got bored and picked up Japanese magazines such as Vivi and Seventeen. My early to mid teens was such a tumultuous time for personal style. It shifted so dramatically from one way to the next, after discovering high street brands like H&M, Zara and other local cheap delights in Hong Kong. One month, I would be worshipping leather leggings from Givenchy (and eventually bought some poor pleather imitation) to trying out new Alexander Wang-esque high waist shorts. A few more months down the road, I would copy Lena Fuji’s trademark baby doll style (top half Japanese half American model from Vivi) by trying on various pastel twee combinations. It was a simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting time: fashion was an exciting divergence from the pressures of boarding school although it was extremely draining because of the high maintenance and constant changes.
HOW I GOT INTO CURATING
I got real fed up with all the stuff I had accumulated over the years quite quickly. Every year in boarding school we would have to pack up everything in our room and store it in the trunk room for the summer before moving in to an entire new room the next year. My boxes grew in number and size and it soon became unmanageable. Senior year came around and I have had enough with all the stuff I had. Curating as an wardrobe management idea had not formally come up yet as a general idea, but the gist of it was there. I separated my belongings into three piles: things I would keep, things I would give away to other girls in the dormitory and things that I could pass on to my younger sisters.
Meanwhile, during my senior year in high school (2009-2010), I began reading an increasing number of menswear blogs in addition to all the womenswear blogs I had been reading the entire time. The aesthetics were what drew me in initially— the colours, the textures, the materials and the tailored cuts. Again and again, I began to notice how the experienced menswear bloggers dispensed such advice on “how to build your wardrobe with essentials” etc. By then, I am sure that ideas such as the French 5 Piece Wardrobe had already began to take root independently on sites like The Fashion Spot, but I am positive my start in curating my wardrobe came from menswear.
I didn’t take it too seriously at first. I thought my love for menswear was a mere passing fad like before, except it wasn’t. At the tail end of the year, I started to work in my school archives and it was there I became even more exposed to the PITA style (which stands for preppy-ivy-traditional-americana). I was sure I was not preppy like most other kids in my boarding school, but I had a deep appreciation for the formality of Ivy League wear back in the ’60s. Lo and behold, “Take Ivy” was published. It quickly became my style bible but I approached with caution. As a young woman instead of a strapping lad, I could not directly copy the outfits without looking too awkward, though I certainly could take elements of the style and apply it in my wardrobe. With the knowledge of building the wardrobe from menswear blogs and armed with the aesthetics of “Take Ivy”, I began to curate my wardrobe.
MY PERSONAL STYLE NOW
Acutely aware of how stylistically fickle I was in the past, I had first approached curation with caution. I recognized the importance of simple basics, so I started with that, knowing that if my love for PITA changed, I could still work around my core. Three years later, my love for PITA is as a strong as it was on day one. I can’t say for sure that this will be THE style that will stay on for the rest of my life (is there even such a thing?) but I know this is more than just a passing phase. Finding great menswear pieces that would fit a woman’s body was completely impossible before what I like to call the “Jenna Lyons/Phoebe Philo-sation” of womenswear. Tomboy style is more popular than ever and I’m having a complete blast finding the things I like so easily. After debuting stateside, Uniqlo has ushered in a lot of high quality yet affordable clothing into my wardrobe. It is by complete coincidence that the aesthetics I am into are shared by so many right now. I am sure that it will be but a passing trend for many, however my love for menswear will remain for a long time to come. Meanwhile, I still have a hard time convincing friends that I follow Mr Porter and read GQ for their style content rather than for their male models.