If our clothes were nothing more than tools to keep us warm and protect us from wind and weather, building the perfect wardrobe would be easy and shopping for new pieces would probably be no more complicated or time-consuming than buying groceries. Your only criteria would be things like 'feels soft', 'does not ride up when I walk' or 'water-resistant'.
You definitely would not spend any extra money on things like a brand name, a marginally prettier neckline or a more flattering fit. Your actual wardrobe would be tiny because you would not worry about repeating outfits. In fact, you would probably only own just enough pieces to last you for a single week or however long you want to go without doing laundry. But ... our clothes are so much more than just tools, aren't they?
← me, ca 1996
Our clothes express our values, moods and personality, they reflect our social group and our attitudes to everything from political issues to the bands that we listen to. For many of us, getting dressed and putting together outfits is also just another way to be creative, to show off the sense of aesthetics that we have built up and refined over the years. Our own personal style is neither static nor something that we were born with, like the colour of our eyes or the shape of our nose. It is the product of every person we have met over the years, every place we have travelled, every movie we have seen. It is a mix of all the impressions we have collected and the values we attached to them. And our current style is just another one of many iterations created by the process that is our style evolution.
This month's wardrobe challenge is all about... EVOLUTION. If you want to upgrade your wardrobe, spending some time to analyze your personal style evolution should definitely be on your to-do list - especially if you are currently in the process of refining your style, i.e. channeling all of your aesthetic preferences into one coherent concept. Why? Because our style evolution can help us separate what's truly ours from things that we simply adopted, followed or were told to wear. In our day-to-day life it can be tricky to separate things like social norms, passing trends and all those subtle dress codes from work/school from our true aesthetic preferences. Looking at your style evolution is the best way to differentiate between the two and to spot any patterns between your style and both external factors, like your job/school situation and daily habits, and internal factors, such as your creativity and confidence levels.
This month I invite you to spend some time thinking about your own style from a bird's-eye perspective: what clothes did you wear at what stage in your life and what influence did your lifestyle, your relationships, your daily routine have on your style (or the other way around). Then, dig a little deeper: how happy were you at each moment with your style, what were your internal motivations for dressing a certain way and not another, which kinds of settings were most conducive to your confidence and which parts of your personality and values do you want to express/have you expressed through your style.
Of course, your evolution does not end today, so an important part of this month's challenge is also to consider your present - all those small-scale style (r)evolutions that happen on a day-to-day basis - as well as your attitudes towards minor to major style shifts in the future.
Here's the full set of questions + assignments for this month:
At what age did you start to regularly pay attention to what you wore? At that time, what was your main motivation for dressing well?
Which emotions have the biggest impact on how you dress? Do you dress differently when you are very happy or very sad?
Are there any style elements that have consistently been a part of your style for many years, i.e. a specific colour combination or a pattern?
Which factors had the greatest influence on your style 20, 10, 5 and 1 year(s) ago: friends, celebrities, magazines, music, movies, art, blogs, etc. ?
Can you think of any experiences that have had an immediate profound effect on your aesthetic ideals, e.g. a beautiful art installation you saw, a specific place you travelled to, a movie or a super stylish person that you met?
Are there any aspects about your style that you have ‘inherited’ from your parents, grandparents or other relatives, e.g. a love for lace details, a 1950s theme or a certain colour?
Do you enjoy the process of creating something new (whether it is an outfit, an interior design concept or a recipe) or is it mainly about the end product for you?
Are there any style elements that you used to hate but love to wear nowadays? What changed your mind?
Would you consider yourself to be more stylish/well-dressed now compared to 1, 5 and 10 year(s) ago? Are you now more or less interested in fashion?
Are there any things you now wish you had worn at some point in the past, but didn’t because of a lack of confidence or rules set by others?
Do you have a system for recording, reviewing and implementing new ideas?
Which parts of your personality do you want to express through your style and how successfully have your outfits done so in the past?
Have you ever radically changed any aspect about your style in response to a bigger lifestyle change, i.e. a break up, a move or a new job?
To what extent is what you wear influenced by the people in your life, i.e. your close friends, relatives, acquaintances and co-workers. Do people you are closer to have a stronger influence or is it the other way around?
Short-term focus: What components of your style and your wardrobe have you changed during the past six months and why?
How similar is your current style to what you thought it would be like 10 years ago?
Do you have something like a five-year plan for your style? Is that plan tied to any milestones that you want to have achieved by then (e.g. a promotion)?
Write about a paragraph each summarizing your style 20, 10, 5 and 1 year(s) ago. Then, write down a few bullet points about your life at each stage: what was your daily life like, what were your aspirations, how happy/confident were you? Can you spot a pattern between your style and your life?
Make a list of the top 5 most stable and the top 5 most variable elements of your style throughout the years. Which elements have always been a component of your style for as long as you can remember and which do you tend to switch up the most. Can you identify anything that separates the two groups, e.g. are most of your stable elements beauty-related and the fluid ones specific items, etc.?
Looking back at your style evolution, try to identify which mindsets, emotions and external circumstances are most conducive to your level of confidence and/or creativity. For example, do you need a stable support system to try out new things or are you at your most creative when you live/work in an inspiring, visually pleasing environment?