Okay. Close your eyes and pretend you are in a new city. A beautiful city, with historic buildings, tree-lined streets, maybe a mountain or two in the distance. Down a pedestrianized, cobblestone side-street you spy busy cafés, and patios filled with patrons, sipping coffee, chatting. You pause on the curb to allow a tram to rattle by before you cross the main street and join the coffee drinkers. Gratefully, you collapse into a chair, and a frothy hot drink is placed before you. You sip your coffee and look around.
Now. What do you notice first? What always draws your attention when you are in a new place? The sounds? The smells? Colour? Trees, flowers? Architecture? People? What the people are wearing, maybe?
I’ll be perfectly honest with you; for me it’s always, always people and what they are wearing. I know, I know. That makes me shallow and obsessed with clothes. I agree. But in my defense I will say that I do eventually notice the rest of my surroundings. The beautiful buildings, the colours, the breeze ruffling the patio umbrella over our heads, the smell of fresh baked pastries, the sound of quick footsteps on a cobbled street, a snatch of conversation in a language I don’t understand. But in cities, I always notice the clothes first. I can’t help it. To me visiting a new city, far away from home, is like getting a big shot of style inspiration.
Of course I love other aspects of travel. Seeing the countryside, hiking unfamiliar trails, driving scenic roads, climbing the streets of small hilly villages, staying in quirky cottages, shopping outdoor markets, meeting new people. I love all of that. But seeing what other people wear in cities around the world is always endlessly fascinating to me. I love to breath in, so to speak, a city’s sense of style. And try to get a fix on what women love to wear. It’s inspirational. And sometimes aspirational as well.
Everyone always talks about Paris, as THE city of style. Paris was lovely and historic and as iconic as I expected. And the women there always looked pulled together and stylish. But the two cities we’ve visited in the past few years that stand out for me with respect to style inspiration are Rome and Zagreb.
In Rome in 2018 I was struck at how amazingly chic everyone looked in their sneakers. Sneakers with jeans, of course, but also with dresses and with dress pants. The second day we were in Rome, I changed up the black loafers I’d packed to wear with my black cropped pants, and wore my sneakers instead. And I felt marvelous. Before Rome, I’d only worn my sneakers with skirts for blog photos. But Rome inspired me to wear them with everything, everywhere I went.
So when I packed for the Balkans the following year I left the fussier clothing and footwear choices at home. In Zagreb too, I noticed lots of sneaker outfits, with polished jackets, and even with leather pants on one woman. Leather jackets abounded, with dresses, with smart pants, with jeans. Dottoressa (who you all know from this blog) was wearing a yummy butterscotch leather jacket with her jeans when we met her for coffee our first morning in Zagreb. Besides Dottoressa’s leather jacket and jeans, I particularly remember the woman we saw on the street who wore a navy puffa jacket with knit sleeves, navy tights, and a red skirt. Gosh, she looked adorable.
Hubby and I still laugh about the conversation we had as we stood on a corner behind the lady in the red skirt. “Look at that beautiful old building,” Hubby said as he pointed off to the left. “You know,” I replied, looking at the lady in the red skirt, “When we get home, I could wear my navy denim skirt with tights, my navy cashmere sweater, and my burgundy puffa vest.” His answering look said it all. Ha. Travel is so broadening isn’t it? And filled with style inspiration.
When I talk about style inspiration, I don’t mean copying an outfit exactly. But using the idea of the outfit to help you see new ways to wear your clothes. That’s why walking the streets of a new city as a tourist is great for style inspiration. Because you get to see many outfits, not just one. You develop, as I said, a feel for the style that women who live there love. And if that style appeals to you, it can suggest new ways to wear what you already own.
But with travel only a memory and not likely to happen in the near future, at least for us, what am I to do for my shot of style inspiration these days? Instagram, people, Instagram. Of course, that’s not exactly an earth shatteringly creative suggestion. I’m sure many of you do the same.
I follow all kinds of accounts on Instagram for different reasons. I follow friends, family, other bloggers, some artists whose work I admire, a few celebrities, a few accounts that show only travel photos, and some accounts that show only books. But most of the accounts I follow are for fashion.
The shot above is from the IG account of Leia Sfez from Paris. I do not aspire to wear many of the outfits she wears. I mean she is years younger than me and much slimmer. But still I admire the idea of her style. Her clean aesthetic. Monochromatic as in the shot above. Or classic and a bit slouchy as in some of the other posts on her account.
Frequently I find new accounts to follow by looking at who other people are following. Like we used to do when we were researching essays in university, in the days before the internet. We’d find a journal article that worked for our essay topic, then scrutinize that writer’s bibliography, and track down their sources.
That’s how I found two of my favourite Instagram accounts.
Brittany Bathgate whose YouTube channel I follow, spoke in one of her videos about a Korean Brand she likes. She had purchased a jacket or a skirt from them; I can’t recall which. Anyway, I followed the link from her video to the IG site for the Korean brand Feminique.
I love the style aesthetic of Feminique_official. The clothes are casual, and comfortable looking, yet polished. They are often oversized, but still chic. The colour palettes appeal to me. The soft blue and cream on the left, and the white, tan and navy on the right. I love the small touches which make their simple outfits interesting. Take the outfit on the right. The rolled pants, the super casual tee shirt paired with the smart jacket. The soft leather mules (which seem to be everywhere these days), and the brown belt that doesn’t exactly match anything else keep this look fresh.
And recently through a link on Pinterest, I found another Korean brand which I now follow on Instagram. The Kimo describes their style as modern, basic, simple. The images on the_kimo.official Instagram account are lovely. Very much in the vein of Feminique. Simple pieces. But worn with a nod to style and attention to detail. A sweater thrown over a model’s shoulders, in just the right shade, not matchy-matchy, not self-consciously trendy. Lots of fresh white shirts and loose jeans rolled above comfortable shoes. It’s the overall vibe of the images on this account that inspires me. Not the individual pieces. Well, except for that caramel cardigan. I love that.
The other day I tried my hand at channeling the styling of some of these images I found. I love the white, cream, and soft brown outfit above. So I made an attempt at a similar monochromatic look with pieces from my closet. With less than stellar results.
I hauled out an oversized white tee that I almost gave away last year. That works. I was happy to see the soft tan leather shoes on the model. They inspired me to dig out my tan Tod’s driving shoes which had been packed away for a few years. I will definitely wear these this summer. Soft, slim loafers and slip-on shoes are everywhere this season. I substituted my tan linen jacket for the soft brown sweater in the photo, even though the colour is not as strong. But my white jeans are too slim and too white. They spoil the overall look of the outfit. I need a pair of jeans or pants that are a slightly looser fit, and not bright white. This outfit also needs some part of it to be a deeper shade. It’s insipid.
So overall, the proportion and the balance of colour in my outfit are off. I’d never wear this.
But the idea of the white oversized tee shirt with a pair of looser pants stuck in my head. So I swapped the tan linen blazer for my white Theory one, and the white jeans for my yellow linen pull-on pants from Theory. These pants are much looser in the leg. They bring a bit of slouchiness to the outfit. And to try to make the whole thing slightly more monochromatic I swapped the Tod’s shoes for my white Stan Smith sneakers. The idea is still similar. But instead of having the top and bottom a similar shade and the contrasting shade around my shoulders like in the photo. I’m going for all white on top, and the brighter colour on the bottom. This outfit also looks great with the Eric Javits bag (similar). Overall, a much better attempt. I’d definitely wear this.
You know, I tried to style these yellow pants a couple of years ago when I bought them. But I couldn’t hit on anything I really loved. And now I’ve stumbled on an outfit which hits the spot for me. So that means that the time I spent styling an outfit I’d never wear to instead find one I would wear using pants that I thought I’d never love was time well spent. Ha.
You know, I don’t always think only of clothes when we travel. But I do find that if I’m comfortably dressed, reasonably put together, and feel good about what I’m wearing I can then forget about what I’m wearing and just enjoy myself. I’ve learned a lot over the years about what I should pack and what I shouldn’t to achieve this. And how to dress so that even if I wouldn’t be mistaken for a local, I don’t feel totally out of my element.
Gosh I miss travel. I miss strolling the streets of some new city, or sitting in a sidewalk café, watching the people. Noticing what they wear. And absorbing the style inspiration.
I miss driving unknown roads, getting lost, trying new foods. I miss meeting friendly people, laughing and trying to speak at least a little of the language of wherever we are. Most of the time, I find a smile and a friendly shrug of the shoulders, makes up for really bad French, or Croatian, or Italian. Not always, but most of the time. One of these days I’ll tell you about the three very helpful, and very elderly Frenchmen who followed me around for several minutes, delighted to help me find what I was looking for in a grocery store in Provence. Ha.
Hubby and I don’t know where we’d like to travel next. Or when we’ll be comfortable enough to travel overseas. But I’m thinking that when Ottawa finally opens up, I’d like to get dressed up, and stroll about downtown. I’ll pretend I’m in a new city because, in a way, I will be. Or at least one that I haven’t seen for quite a long time. I’ll admire the historic buildings, take a detour down a cobbled alleyway. Maybe I’ll sit at an outdoor café and see if I can absorb some homegrown style inspiration.
What about you, my friends? Where do you get your style inspiration?