Privilege Blog

A Mantra Of Authentic Style

Yesterday Susan at Une Femme d’un Certain Age put up a post on authentic style. She was kind enough to include one of my outfit photos – and she chose well to illustrate her point. For fun, you might want to guess what I’m wearing before before you look. I’ll comment over there on why I think the clothes are a good example.

An entire discussion could ensure, to see whether our points of view align.

But more importantly, I’d say the style bloggers I like most write mostly about authentic style, each in his or her own way. So of course we have to ask, what does “authentic” mean, in this case? As Susan points out in her usual measured, well-written, and friendly way, it’s not necessarily the same thing as “natural.” Were that the case you’d find me ubiquitous in flannel pj bottoms and a tee.

I think authentic means fully inhabited. In order to really live in a space, psychic, physical, or aesthetic, you’ve got to explore it inside and out. So we come to know our authentic style on two roads.

  • First, we cover every inch of what we know and love, small step by small step. For me, that meant identifying the absolute best cashmere v-neck. For you, it might mean finding the perfect vintage store, or that certain pattern in printed tunics.
  • Second, we explore at the limits. Mine are cordoned off with motorcycle boots, biker jackets, purple anything, and 70mm heels. I go no further.

Style is so fascinating because it’s so like life. Our singular self manifests in the balance between acceptance and effort, comfort and adventure.

14 Responses

  1. Very true. To develop ones own authentic style takes a commitment to a journey of discovery on the inside that can subsequently be expressed in the outside.

  2. Great post.

    For me, style is so much more interesting than fashion. From the first time I was allowed to choose my own clothes, at age four, I have gravitated to a certain look. I live in a grown up version of my childhood fantasy of the perfect house. It is what feels comfortable to me. At certain times in my life I have tried to adapt my style to context. Now I am old enough, and privileged enough, to have the luxury of spending most of my time living in a world of my own creation. How I dress, how I decorate my home, and how I live are pretty much all of a piece. It has everything to do with what makes me feel comfortable and nothing to do with impressing others… though I do truly enjoy compliments and appreciation of my efforts. I would continue to dress and live this way even if I was the last person left on the planet.

  3. I like the idea of the two authentic style roads – and a comfort/adventure Venn diagram. And if I do ever get to California again, I’ll definitely say hello.

  4. I love this: I think authentic means fully inhabited. Yes. Thanks so much for the mention, and for allowing me to use one of your pictures. I’m glad to know my sense of what’s authentically you aligns with your own!

  5. Love this. Both your elements are absolutely necessary–exploration, so that personal style is still style and not mere habit; and careful returns to essential familiars, so you have a compounding of enjoyment, rather than a proliferating but directionless cycle of depressing faddishness that fash mags might bring. As easy to forget when older and looking for a change, as when young and prone to reinventing the self.

    You’re very insightful, and rather zen, to say that fully inhabiting a space means also exploring its boundaries.

  6. It helps if you honor who you are. That’s not to say you think you’re perfect. Sometimes it takes someone saying, “it looks just like you” or “I knew you’d love it” to help you see yourself clearly.

  7. Busted. Alright then, it’s a deal. I will make it a summer project to explore the outer limits [the inner limits I’ve got DOWN] to be sure I’m inhabiting myself. It’s time, really. Past time. [My main summer project is to slipcover this PB sofa I’m now sorry I bought. Using painters dropcloths from Lowe’s for fabric. The routine motions of sewing will leave lovely cranial bandwidth for churning these ideas you’ve presented.]

    LPC, your sequin skirt showed up yesterday at the other Femme blog. I will forever associate that skirt with you — an outer limit which I WISH were mine.

    You are an inspiration.

  8. When I worked I would change my clothes when I got home to avoid spills and splatters while I cooked dinner.

    I do wear ratty old clothes when gardening, cleaning the house, etc. Is this my true self? Yikes!

    1. I think we get to have bigger true selves than just our comfort garments, right?

  9. Interesting.
    I guessed these:

    and, on second thoughts, pictures which turn out not to be outfit photos at all, but pictures you have written in my head:

    Which goes to show how well you write! Because I’m *sure* I’ve seen you wearing “jeans, pearls, Ferragamo Varinas, the striped tee I will persist in calling marini√®re, and a James Perse peacoat”, only of course I haven’t seen the outfit photo at all :-)

    1. I like your guesses:). And thank you for the kind words about my writing. I find writing about clothes to be much like I believe MFK Fisher felt about food writing – happens quite naturally, the clothes themselves write the words.

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