This week I’ve been thinking about my three style adjectives. What adverbs I might need to modify them. Looking for synonyms and antonyms. And generally getting all caught up in the grammar of personal style. I swear, it’s been like being back in elementary school.
When I was a kid in grade school, I loved grammar. I loved to parse sentences: selecting the subject (one single neatly drawn line underneath this), the predicate (two lines), and all the modifiers. I loved trying to decide what modified what. Was it an adjective, or an adverb? A phrase or a subordinate clause? A subjective completion or an object? The elegance of a well-constructed sentence pleased me no end. Grammar was simply wrong or right, which was supremely satisfying in my increasingly confusing world.
And this week I’ve been parsing my little heart out, my friends. But with outfits, instead of sentences.
Oh, I know it’s not the same. I’ve not been wielding my little red pen and my ruler, for one thing. But it’s still been fun. Seriously, thanks to Amy Smilovic, closet rummaging has become way more satisfying lately.
Amy calls herself a “Creative Pragmatist.” Her three style adjectives are “chill, modern, and classic.” Amy says the cliché style “boxes” don’t work for real people because we’re complex, and we live complex lives. Simplistic descriptors like “boho” or “classic” cannot fully describe what we want to wear. So, putting together outfits becomes “kind of like style grammar.” source
So how do we go about exploring the grammar of personal style? Well, first off we find our three style adjectives. As you may know if you read this post a couple of weeks ago, my three style adjectives are “classic, minimal, and modern.” At least I think they’re my three words. Classic because I love classic, timeless pieces like blazers, loafers, and turtlenecks. Minimal because I hate anything fluffy or fussy. No ruffles, not too much jewellry, and nothing too feminine or girly. I didn’t like girly even when I was a girl. Ha. And modern because, although I refuse to be a slave to trends, I like to look current, and not too conservative. I like a bit of edginess, even though I don’t think I’m as chill as Amy.
Amy suggests that we add a modifier to our list of adjectives. Because sometimes three adjectives can’t cut it. And as all good students of grammar know, things which modify adjectives are called adverbs. So am I casual classic? Or conservative modern? I like my style to be lean, and a bit tough. Could one of my modifiers be ”tomboy?” Or should I apply words that describe my personality more than how I look. Funny? Ironic? Optimistic? It’s hard to imagine how any of these might apply to my style.
Maybe I should think about “effortless.” Effortlessly minimal? I do hate to look as if I’m trying too hard. For instance, I don’t like to look too dressed up. I never wear a full face of make-up with a bright lipstick. In fact, I never wear bright lipstick. I’m comfortable with groomed eyebrows, three shades of eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, bronzer, and blush. But add in a darker shade of lipstick, and I suddenly feel overly made up.
Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be able to hit on just the one modifier yet. It’s a process. And according to Amy we all have to decide our own words. That’s because only we know what makes us feel good, like our best selves.
So besides casting about for adverbs this week, I’ve been playing with another of Amy’s style grammar rules. Balancing out pieces that are clearly one thing or another with their “antonyms.” Pairing a piece with its opposite, so it doesn’t skew my style too far in one direction.
For instance, take these tailored trousers from Aritzia that I bought a year ago. They are clearly classic, menswear inspired, and loose, a la 1940s Katherine Hepburn style. In other words, just plain big. So I tried styling them with something tight, or as tight as I’m willing to go.
I hitched the pants up, added a belt, tucked in my black Everlane tank top, and added my old Michael Kors flat, strappy sandals that show a bit of skin. I like the more delicate sandals with the masculine pants. The sturdy bag and belt work well with the pants. And in my opinion, the big funky hoops with the gold chain detail add a touch of modern, and tie the black and tan together. I added my orange vintage bracelet for a small pop of colour. And because it doesn’t match anything… it “goes,” as Stacy and Clinton used to say.
I like this outfit that balances a classic, loose, menswear-inspired piece with its antonyms.
Next I tried the loose trousers with my Vince short-sleeve tee shirt, my new Veja sneakers, and this very old suede vest of Hubby’s. I’ve always loved this vest. Hubby bought it back in the late fifties when he and his parents lived on a Canadian Air Force base in France. He says he paid what amounted to twenty-five cents in Canadian currency for this gem. I stole it from his closet in the nineties and wore it with jeans and ankle boots for years. I hauled it out the other day because I’ve been seeing vests worn with tailored trousers on Instagram for months. On IG they’re wearing their vests with tanks tops or nothing underneath. I tried a tank… and ickk. The tee is much better. In my book, the vest buttoned and the tee shirt qualify as tight to balance off the looseness of the trousers.
At first I tried my brown, strappy sandals, but the vest is suede and needs a more substantial shoe to balance it. But not a boot. That would be too, too… something. The sneakers work, and mirror the white of the tee shirt. I went for slightly blingy earrings. You can’t see them very well in the photo. And now I think about it, maybe a big pair of white earrings might brighten the outfit and work as an antonym against the pants which are menswear-inspired. And the vest, which is literally menswear. Ha.
The tan suede with the white tee is not as flattering against my white hair as the black tank. But I loved this outfit. It was fun, and relaxed, and I felt great. I think I’ll wear this as a run-around outfit in the early fall with my brown Fossil hobo bag worn cross-body.
And since I was trying to balance menswear-inspired pants with more delicate footwear, I thought I might try my Aritzia black faux-leather pants with these old strappy, kitten-heel sandals from Stuart Weitzman. These are seriously good sandals for someone like me with very narrow feet. Everything is elastic. Plus the sole is rubber on the bottom, nice and “grippy” and super comfortable. Back in the early aughts, I taught all day in these babies. One time I was still wearing them at ten o’clock on a Friday night, after a full day at school, two hours on the train to Montreal, walking to a restaurant, eating dinner at the restaurant, and then walking back to our hotel. Not sure I could do all that now, in or out of these sandals, without a nap. Ha.
With the faux-leather pants which I would describe as tough, even edgy, I wore a Rag and Bone soft, floaty tank top bought back in 2015. Similar here and here. The softness of the tank balances the toughness of the pants. The tank is a bit sporty around the neck, but the floaty layers make it dressy too. I love it with leather pants. In the grammar of personal style the pants and top are definitely antonyms.
I struggled to find the right jewellry for this outfit. I didn’t want to wear much. Only earrings. And just the right earrings. Nothing too dainty. Or fussy. And not black. Or silver, which I always wear. Maybe something modern, like these black and blue geometric earrings. I really had to dig for these. They were stashed in the back of a drawer in a bag of costume jewellry that I don’t currently wear, but which I thought might come in handy one day. And that day has come. Ha. I love these old earrings. They’re from the eighties. They look almost Art Deco, don’t they? And Art Deco, while not current, looks modern. I have a couple of Art Deco vintage brooches, and they always look funky and edgy.
For someone who loves words and loves clothes, the idea of personal style having its own grammar is right up my street. It seems natural that we should use adjectives and adverbs to describe our style, how we want the world to see us. And since our style, or how we dress, always conveys something about us, it seems right to then use these words to help us figure out how to say what we want to say with our clothes. We can use our adjectives to choose what we should wear. And what we should not. Or what we should buy or not buy. Knowing our personal style and how to describe it can make us more confident shoppers. And dressers.
And taking the grammar of personal style beyond our three adjectives can help us to create outfits that say exactly what we want to say with our clothes. I figured out that one of my three style words is classic. And I know if a piece is classic, then I will probably like it. But I’m more than classic. So I should sometimes use pieces that are the opposite of classic to prevent my classic pieces from making me look… well… too classic. Too boring and conservative. Hence sometimes I should look for antonyms. Or as Amy says, “play into my antonyms.” Because I’m complex. Something I’ve been trying to tell Hubby for years. Ha.
Of course all this is just playing with words. And we shouldn’t get too anxious or impatient with the process. Discovering our personal style takes time. One could even call it a metaphorical journey. And we shouldn’t be in too much of a hurry. We’ll get there. Meanwhile let’s just rummage in our closets and enjoy the ride.
Well, that’s it for me tonight, my friends. I’ve whittered on and on as I am wont to do. Now it’s your turn. Let’s talk about you. And the grammar of your personal style. Do you see playing into your antonyms as a possible way to get dressed?
P.S. There are affiliate links in this post. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission which helps to pay for the blog. Please note, the Aritzia links are not affiliate links and are included as a courtesy.