Finding your style -or - how not to look like a pint of milk

I live in Scotland – Scotland, where the weather is, shall we say, variable. It can be glorious one minute (and there’s nowhere I’d rather be when it is) and ten minutes later you’re reaching for your umbrella and buttoning your coat up to the chin.

I’ve been walking on a Scottish island beach in my shirt sleeves in February under sunshine and blue skies. Wonderful! Today, in July, the rain is coming straight down and I’m wearing three layers. Yes, Scottish weather is unpredictable.

All this makes dressing rather tricky! Fashion does not take account of our climate. Essentially, fashion is fun, a celebration of imagination, design, colour and texture. Here for a season and then on to the next. At the inexpensive end of the market, it is disposable – as the amount of textiles ending up in landfill testifies.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fashion and about style and what defines the two. I don’t think they are mutually exclusive by any means, but they are definite differences. To me, fashion is about ‘now’, this year, this season. This year’s ‘in’ colour, skirt length, trouser leg width, pattern are all dictated by fashion. It may not suit you (or the weather), you may not particularly like it, but that is what will be in our high street shops.

Style is different. Style is personal. It’s about individuality. It allows you to wear ‘your’ colour, to combine garments and accessories your way, whether in fashion or not. It is recognisably ‘you’.

Finding your style might take time and a bit of experimentation. Luckily, this often happens when we are young and can carry off our mistakes more forgettably! I am not allowed to forget one particularly interesting outfit I put together in my late teens. It centred round a white Laura Ashley smock dress which had pretty embroidery on the smocking and beautiful buttons. So far, so good. Unfortunately, I decided to wear it with white clogs and, deciding it was too warm for the thick green tights I had planned to wear, white over the knee socks. My grandmother’s summation was, “Hmm. You look like a pint of milk.” Yes, I had yet to find ‘my style’. My sister frequently reminds me of this long ago episode. Thank goodness it predated social media!

There were other less than successful experimental looks before I found my own style. No doubt you have had a few of your own. Shall we just draw a veil over those? The journey, however, is worth it.

Finding your own style means you can be comfortable, wear colours you like and that suit you, combine things in ways you are happy with. You can take account of the weather (our good, Scottish climate) and what you will be doing. I learned the hard way that shopping in high heels did not work for me!

You are not confined by what someone else wants you to wear this summer. You can express yourself as you want, be it in tailored suits, flamboyant dresses, comfortable jeans, in muted monochrome or glorious technicolour, in sparkling ‘bling’ or shimmering silver, with scarves, hats and bags – or without.

Shopping is so much easier too. You can ignore all the things that don’t work with your style, for a start and have fun finding the things that do. Try going off high street to independent or online shops for something different, for example. Visit markets and craft and design fairs for great accessories. Your style is not limited by what is in fashion.

Once you find your own style, you find clothing lasts for years. You don’t need to replace and update every year. Fashion dates, but style doesn’t. Clothes seem less expensive too when you know you can wear them for a long time because it’s ‘your style’.

Changing accessories can refresh your style and keep you interested. I have a lovely customer who invested in a beautiful Jean Muir dress many years ago. It is simple, classic and suits her perfectly. She buys scarves and necklaces to change her look, but she’s been wearing that same fabulous dress for over thirty years.

The scarves, garments and accessories I make will never be fashionable, but they might just suit your style. When I hear customers say, “Oh, so-and-so would love that.” Or “I can see so-and-so wearing that.” I know that whoever they are talking about has found their own individual, recognisable style.

Have you found yours?

If not, then there are many great blogs that can help you discover what you might like and what works for you. This blog is not one of those.

Me? I’m off to wrap up in my woolly layers and enjoy this wonderful Scottish summer’s day! Pass me my scarf.

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All photographs copyright Kim MacGillivray and Heidi Burton Photography 

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