How Do We Know What “Our Style” Is?

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Hubby and I had a conversation about style a couple of nights ago. I tried to explain to him what “my style” is. And it was tricky. I mean, how do we know what “our style” is? And even when we think we know, how can we explain why one look is “our style” and another not?

So, like I said, the other evening in between a taped episode of Frasier (so good!) and the beginning of the hockey game, Hubby and I were talking about fashion. I know, amazing, right? I was telling him about the fashion show I’d been to that day, with my friends Susan and Eunice. We’d eaten a table d’hôte luncheon at Flippers restaurant in downtown Ottawa, and watched models wearing outfits from the nearby clothing shop, Escape, thread their way through the tables, chatting to women like us about what they were wearing. The food was good, the conversation fun, and the clothes were lovely. But as I said to Hubby, most of the outfits were “not my style.”

“Why not?” he asked. That’s where the conversation got tricky. Why exactly were they “not my style?”

Yellow linen pants by Theory, black Helmut Lang blazer, yellow Free People gingham scarf, Stan Smith Adidas sneakers. Not sure if this is my style.
Not sure if this outfit is “my style”. I do know that I am in dire need of a haircut.

Let me just say first that I really like the store Escape. My friend Susan shops there. I attended their fashion show last year with Susan and won a $50.00 gift certificate. As a result I bought a casual linen dress that I love. A few weeks later, I took my sister Carolyn shopping there, and a couple of weeks ago my friend Eunice. Both of them did really well, and went home delighted with several pairs of cropped pants, jeans, and tops, and in Eunice’s case a great cardigan and a jacket. I like shopping at Escape. Leslie, the owner, is friendly, and really helpful, and makes shopping fun. That’s why Hubby’s question was… well… tricky.

“I thought you liked that store,” Hubby said. “I do. It’s just that I probably wouldn’t wear a lot of the stuff they sell.” “Why not?” he asked. “We-el, some of their clothes are too flowy. Too ‘woman-y’.”

“Woman-y?” he raised his eyebrows.

I tried again, “I like things to be more structured, a bit more edgy.” “So they weren’t stylish?” he said. “Of course they were. It’s just that I prefer outfits that are not so… ah… lady-like.” “So they were old lady clothes?” “NO!” I was getting exasperated. Him again, “But, you think the clothes in the show were too old for you?” “Of course not. I mean, at almost sixty-three, I could hardly claim that, could I?” “So their clothes are not right for you, but good for Carolyn, and Eunice?” he persisted. “Well, yes…” I faltered.

“Okay. Let’s try this again,” I said. “Remember the other day when I was at Escape with Eunice? Well, I admired an outfit that they had on display: cropped black and cream patterned cotton pants, with a longish black silky top, and over that a cream light-wool poncho/shrug, and a long pendant necklace. It was chic, on trend, and I liked the way the pieces were layered, especially since the poncho was shorter than the silky top. But I wasn’t interested in trying it on. I could appreciate each piece on its own, I liked the way they worked together, but that outfit just wasn’t me. It wasn’t ‘my style.’ If I wore that I’d feel as if I were wearing someone else’s clothes.”

I sighed. I’d probably lost him at cropped pants, I thought. That was way too much detail. But it didn’t matter. The puck had dropped, and I’d lost him anyway.

Yellow Free People gingham scarf, striped Equipment tee, black blazer by Helmut Lang. Earrings from Paris.
New yellow gingham scarf, old striped tee, old Helmut Lang jacket, earrings from Paris.

You see, here is the crux of what I was trying to say. That somehow I just know “my style.” And, while I could see that many of the outfits at the fashion show that day would look lovely on my friends, they didn’t suit me. Partly that’s because we have different body types. But only partly. See that look below on the left? I took that shot because I thought the outfit might be great for my sister. She is tall like me. And this look is dressy enough, but still comfortable enough for her to wear to a conference or to a work meeting, with her flats instead of heels. For me, it’s a bit too lady-like.

Various looks shown at the Escape fashion show at Flippers restaurant on Bank Street in Ottawa. Lovely clothes, but not my style.
The ladies circulating at Flippers on Thursday. Wearing clothes from Escape on Bank Street in Ottawa.

And it’s not an age thing. See the lady below in the pink sweater? I thought she looked marvellous. The pink sweater looks lovely with her silver hair, and that crisp white shirt, and narrow black pants you can’t see. I love that she’s pulled her hair back into a low ponytail, and worn her bright lipstick. Her outfit is smart but simple, more “my style”. She was even wearing a small black leather belt bag… very on trend. By the way, that’s Leslie behind her, in the cream scarf. The models had just come out for the last time, her partner had thanked everyone for coming, and we were applauding. Then they had the draw for the door-prizes. I didn’t win this year. C’est la vie.

Lady in pink and white at Escape Fashion show at Flippers restaurant in the Glebe, Ottawa. Her outfit is my style.
I thought this lady looked chic and with her white shirt, neat ponytail, and bright lipstick.

So how do we know what “our style” is? As I said above, for me it’s partly about how clothes suit my body type. And my lifestyle. Both have changed over the years. I am less about suits and skirts, and good blazers with dress pants. If I do wear a skirt or a suit it’s not with pumps, but instead with flat sandals or sneakers. I can’t do snug, tucked-in tops anymore. And short skirts make me feel too top heavy… because… well… the top IS quite a bit heavier these days. Ha.

The other part of “my style” is about who I am, and how I see myself. And that hasn’t changed much in the decades since I’ve been picking my own outfits. I’ve always loved turtlenecks, and jeans, and blazers, and boots. Despite changing fashion, that has remained the same. I’ve never liked “girly” looks, or anything too feminine. I feel silly in ruffles. Or anything low cut. I hate looks that are, as one friend said, “too much muchness.” I embraced minimalism like crazy in the nineties. And conversely I’m not big on the mixing prints thing. I prefer simple, sometimes even mannish styles. I guess I should say “menswear inspired.” I’m more Katherine Hepburn than Marilyn Monroe… although that sentence just made me laugh out loud, since I’m clearly neither. Ha.

As you can see in two of the shots above, I’ve recently purchased a couple of new things. A yellow gingham scarf. And yellow Theory linen pants. Ha. Yellow pants! Yep. Not usually “my style.” But I love them both. And I’m currently trying to see how they get on with the other pieces in my closet. How to wear them so I still look and feel like me. I’ll get back to you on that.

So, yeah, I’m pretty clear in my own mind what “my style” is. Even though it’s morphed since I retired. But describing it to Hubby. Well, that’s a whole other thing.

P.S. You can find Escape clothing store at 703 Bank Street, in Ottawa.

How about you my fashionable friends? How would you describe “your style”?

Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeThursday Favourite Things#ShareAllLinkup

From the archives

travel

Five Reasons to Love Fall Travel

Fall travel is the best travel in our opinion.

books

Girls Etc. on Trains

I’ve finally read Paula Hawkins’ book Girl on the Train. I liked it. At times …

books

On Her Own: Spinsters and Women Who Write about Them

Apparently Greta Garbo never actually said, “I want to be alone.” Except as a line …

Email delivery

Would you like to have new stories automatically delivered to your inbox? When a new story appears on the website, we’ll send the story right to your inbox. 

* indicates required

62 thoughts on “How Do We Know What “Our Style” Is?”

  1. I think of your style as sporty modern elegance. And the yellow pants and scarf and blazer and sneakers are that exactly.

    FWIW. And I can’t wear flowy clothes either, too much flapping. I like to know my muscles are still with me if that makes any sense WHATSOEVER:).

    1. Thanks, Lisa. You’re right about the flapping, can’t stand that either. I like my clothes to stay where I put them, which is the problem I sometimes have with scarves. Love, love that line about knowing your muscles are still with you. I feel that, baby! And I can’t explain why. 🙂

  2. After looking at the photos, I can totally see why you didn’t think the items were ‘your style’. Nice clothing, just different than what you normally show as something you would be comfortable wearing.

  3. You may want to check out this website https://my.liveyourtruth.com/ I’ve been doing Dressing Your Truth for years. It’s based on energy typing. It makes so much sense and breaks down exactly what you were trying to explain to your husband. There are four energy types and each type has their style preferences, one being more structured. I think you’d enjoy looking into this, even if you didn’t follow it.

  4. Love the yellow…I can’t wear it but love it on others!

    I had to laugh at your convo with your hubby. We have a very tall, very thin friend (I’ll call her Jane Doe) who can basically wear anything in the world. My DH has FINALLY stopped showing me flowy, drapey outfits I should try/look at/buy once I started saying, “That would look great on Jane Doe.” It helped that I showed him ME in a couple of them. What a relief. haha

  5. Personal style is an interesting topic because it is an illustration of how we see ourselves rather than how others see us. Some years ago I was talked into buying a pale pink lipstick which everyone said looked great on me and it was fashionable. I used it for awhile but actually didn’t like it because I didn’t feel like me. I felt like it was my mother’s style. Now older, and I hope wiser, I stick to items that feel authentic to me.

  6. You’ve pulled off yellow! I love to see this as someone who generally just admires it wistfully (although I couldn’t resist a mustard-ochre shift at Eileen Fisher before we left — if we ever get heat, I’ll wear it). . . I enjoyed this post as one whose husband also tries to grapple with this question. Sometimes he gets pretty close, but then he’ll say something that makes me want to be sure he always keeps the receipt for my birthday gifts . . . .

    1. Ha … Stu doesn’t even attempt to buy me clothing or jewellry of any sort. Unless I can wear it on the ski trails, in a canoe, or on a bike. I think that your husband is much more clothes savvy than mine. I’m think of those red pants, here.

  7. Wendy in York

    I absolutely agree & your style is my style , love your outfit & the soft ‘ worn look ‘ of the trousers . Bearing in mind you are abit taller & slimmer than me , we are on the same wavelength . I would wear most of what you wear . For me it’s about good fit , simple but well cut lines , natural fibers , no girly frills or trimmings or glitzy or florals or knees or cleavage – sounds quite Puritan ! I don’t dislike all this on others but it isn’t me & it isn’t what I admire . I think one interesting item can lift an outfit but some fashion bloggers pile them on & it’s all too cluttered for me . One of my current favourite outfits is denim jeans , tailored dark navy jacket & either a paprika sweatshirt or pale blue shirt plus white leather trainer type shoes & a mustard bag ( paprika specs too )
    PS Frasier was the best

    1. Right about the Puritan thing. My ancestors emigrated to Canada from the east coast American colonies before the war of independence… I’m pretty sure they had some Puritan blood in them. Hence my love of clean lines and slightly severe haircuts. Not to mention roast turkey. Ha. Puritan joke.

  8. I so agree with you about style-there are a lot of outfits I see and absolutely love, but not on me. I find that I always wear black and white. Boring, right. I actually googled to see if I was committing some major fashion faux pas. But to my surprise there are a lot of “famous, beautiful” people just like me. Turns out I dress like the French and we know they are always right when it comes to fashion!!! Yeah!! I love my black skinny jeans, white cardigan (I have always been a sweater girl) and black heels. Next day I just switch it around and wear my white skinny jeans and maybe a black cardigan or another white one and my heels. I feel comfortable and now, thanks to the internet, “fashionably French”. Love your blog!!

  9. Thought provoking post Sue … following my comments on IG, I do like your scarf, just not with the dark jacket, I guess … Personally I’m often tempted to buy summer lightweight scarves ( love the colours and light fabric) but even if I check how they fold/drape etc I rarely actually wear them …. I always end up thinking my outfit looks crisper, less fussy without them … Winter scarves are completely different for me … I love them and always feel they enhance what I’m wearing!! Strange eh??
    As MaryAnn says, our perception of how we look…
    Sorry I’ve been somewhat absent in comments lately … you’ve written some really great posts … the empathy one, really resonated with me .
    Rosie

    1. Spot on Rosie. The black jacket is too dark with the pants and scarf. It’s funny that I ended up changing before I went out. I kept the striped tee, the jacket, and the sneakers, but changed into white jeans and my old fav black and white and red scarf. I will eventually wear the yellow pants with the short sleeve tee I bought to go with them… but it needs to warm up considerably to do that!
      P.S. No worries about commenting you’ve been busy with lots of family stuff. Including that new grand-daughter.

      1. Thinking about what you actually wore to go out, is so like me … I always end up wearing navy, black, white, blue … in fact in the summer it’s pretty much white, blue, navy! ? … I tried a shirt dress yesterday … in gold/ochre with spots … actually it probably looked pretty good on but I doubted I’d ever actually wear it … just too “different “ for me. It reminded me of the year I bought a Bobbi Brown lipstick in a shade of red , thought it would be festive for Christmas. The shade really suited me … somehow worked with my hair colour, but I knew I’d never leave the house wearing it! Too obvious! ? Jess looked great and wore it!
        Rosie xx

        1. I can’t quite get the hand of bright lipstick. On some people it looks youthful, but on me I think it’s aging. Maybe a bit too much make-up since I always wear eye make-up.

  10. Hi Sue,
    With letting my hair go curly I wonder, who am I now? My old look has changed!
    I do like what you picked out for your sister. The model suits the outfit. I love the finishing touch of her scarf, as I’m a scarf person. In the other photo of the same model, she is wearing chunky pearls, I love that too…but not so much on me.
    Shopping exhausts me, which I put off until the last minute! I work better under pressure…if that makes any sense.
    Robin

    1. I know exactly what you mean, Robin. When I let my hair go curly a year or so ago (should probably do it again, actually) I felt as if some of my clothes didn’t suit me the way I’d been wearing them. And I changed up the earrings I wore. No more big earrings because my hair was “bigger” and I felt as if I was all head. Ha.

  11. I adore your chic, tailored style. You are always so lovely, and your style portrays the self assured, confident joyful women that your are.

  12. I’d call it Tomboy Chic…and although we have different body types, it’s what my style is as well. Love the yellow and navy.

  13. Ann in Missouri

    Every. Thing. You Said. Me. Too!

    And that lady in pink sitting at the table is da bomb! Love her style. See … “style” is what matches the person. I think we probably do award extra points to other women whose styles match our own.

    And now I’m going to go take that test at https://my.liveyourtruth.com/dyt/home/ and see what I learn.

    1. I thought that lady was lovely. Plus, she was on her own. eating lunch, taking notes on the clothes as they walked by, and looking every inch as if she was enjoying herself.
      P.S. Let me know how you make out with the “test.”

      1. Ann in Missouri

        Sue, so far I haven’t figured out how to do the test or where it is on the site. When/if I do, I’ll ping you. 🙂

  14. My style has not changed much in the last 15 years. I think after we get older, we realize what works and what does not work. I have quite a list of items I will not wear! I do not like flowing clothes that are too feminine. These clothes with ruffles just don’t suit me at all. I have slightly changed my style since moving to Florida! I now wear capris and crop pants as an accommodation to the hot steamy Florida summers. I do have some peasant blouses which are my attempt to wear something more summery. I think where we live has an influence on what we choose we wear.

      1. You would laugh at me during our winter here! When the temp drops to 45 degrees Fahrenheit, I start wearing velvet leggings, velvet shirts, scarves and boots! I really do miss wearing all the cold weather stuff! I get so sick of wearing shorts and tee shirts. A few years ago when the temps dropped to 28 degrees F. you should have seen all the women wearing furs at the mall! It was so funny! And there you are with all those freezing freezing temps!

  15. Hello Sue…I am not the best at putting things together on my 5′ frame but always admire how you’ve made your closet “work, work, and work”. With height, it seems that some color contrasts can work while on a short frame, they chop and stunt the visual image.
    For myself, I would try these great yellow pieces with others that have less contrast. A linen jacket (not neon white) comes to mind. Also, a denim jacket.
    I, too, am not a frou/frou person. I prefer tailored pieces with geometric prints. If I wear florals, they lean more towards a geometric presentation. I write that and then remember a favorite black all-over floral jumpsuit I have (10+yrs) that is quite tailored and sleeveless with a wide solid belt that I feel gives me a decent figure! The floral design is small and muted. I just wore it for Easter in So. California.
    I always enjoy your writing and your varied topics. I love your ethic of buying better and wearing longer. Working on adding that principle to my closet…and wallet! (I’ll add a Sue Burpee Ha!)
    Have a blessed Sunday…
    Charlene H

    1. Oh… being petite is a hard call, I think. An extra six inches of leg means you can get away with certain things you couldn’t otherwise. At least that’s what all my 5’2″ friend tell me:)

  16. Interesting post indeed
    I like your yellow scarf and trousers ,with navy (I like yellow with white,too)
    I’ve bought exactly the same pattern scarf to my friend two years ago
    I like your style,could feel “at home” in your outfits and agree with Wendy (although, I like and wear some prints and dresses as well ,when in a mood ,but”tamed”in my way,without any muchness or frou-frou)-simple clean cuts,natural fabrics–non-negotiable-, best quality I can choose-outfit like a simple canvas where personality can do the talking.
    It’s who I feel I am and what I do and how I see myself-as Maryann said
    Dottoressa

    1. Prints have to be “tamed” for me too. Although, back in the early eighties when I worked at a department store cosmetics counter, I had a summer dress that was royal blue with big yellow pineapples all over it and a yellow collar. I loved that darned dress. Made me feel happy just wearing it. And one day at work, an elderly male customer told me that I’d made his day… cheered him right up. I’ve always loved that he stopped to tell me that.

  17. I think your style is a casual version of ‘Gentlewoman’ Sue. I first heard this description from Alyson at ‘That’s Not My Age’ and is the perfect description for this style of masculine influenced dressing which I have embraced myself and adore.

    1. Yes, I’ve read that term over at Alyson’s blog. The whole idea of “Gentlewoman Style” appeals to me too. There’s a book out that by the writer of the blog Disney Roller Girl …but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it

  18. Jo in Chicago

    My take on your style is that you like well-tailored clothing, good fabrics, clean lines, and no fussy patterns or decorations. You do like the occasional spot of bright color. To me this is more “modern classic” rather than “menswear inspired.” I see it as a mixture of British county lady, Coco Chanel, and London sixties mod.
    I also would never wear clothing with ruffles. They remind me of the fussy/frilly/overly-decorated dresses that little girls once wore to birthday parties, which is why my daughter and I always refer to them as “cupcake” dresses.

    1. Oh… I love that, Jo. British county lady, Coco Chanel, and sixties mod. Speaking of cupcake dresses, remember that line about looking like “a meringue” In Four Weddings and a Funeral?

      1. Jo in Chicago

        I have to say that I don’t remember the “meringue” line, although I have watched the movie a number of times and really like it – the leading characters are good and the supporting cast is fabulous!

  19. Plain, simple, no extraneous fuss. Black white gold silver, sometimes grey, occasional dark blue. And repeat. It means I never look wrong. Have branched out with a red/pink lip gloss and a curling red nail polish this year. But I put on a big shirt with red stripes last week and thought: oh god…cruise wear for the over-60s. It will have to go.

    1. Don’t forget those coral pumps you bought a while ago! They were a lovely pop of colour.
      P.S. Spent the weekend immersed in the 1600’s: saw, heard, and smelled some very evocative sights, sounds, and smells, salivated over meat pies, met Guy Fawkes, learned what “ruff” means, and generally couldn’t find my way back to the twenty-first century until Allison and David did so too. Great read. Thoroughly enjoyed myself. Especially the appearance of Susan in the first chapter…. maybe?

  20. Time to think about ‘my style’ and that doesn’t really take much effort …when trying on clothing the item must ‘feel right and look right from all angles’. It is an immediate and heartfelt reaction to what is seen in the mirror and if I have to spend more than 15 seconds convincing myself it looks good the garment isn’t right for me! I love classic, well tailored clothing in a black/white or black/ivory colour scheme with a pop of colour…blazers and boots for me too! Fabulous sneakers for warmer weather are a wonderful addition that are not only stylish but comfortable. I love the black and yellow combination in your outfit as it is something that looks both polished, stylish and comfortable.,,,you look lovely!

  21. This is such an interesting post and really enjoyed reading about it. I love the way yourself and your friends embrace style, when it comes to style it’s all about using fashion in a personalised manner, always be true to yourself and find a style that suits not only your frame but your personality also.

    Yellow is certainly a gorgeous colour, and the lady with the vibrant pink top looks fantastic!

    It’s nice that you and your hubby discuss style and fashion together, it’s something I enjoy doing also with mine especially as he often takes my blog imagery.

    Laura xoxo
    http://www.shehearts.net

    1. Thanks, Laura. It’s amazing to me that my husband and I have begun to talk about style. Mostly about my philosophy (if I can call it that) of buying quality and editing my closet etc. Lately he’s even begun to critique the outfits of people he sees on tv. Ha. He does NOT take my blog shots though. Not yet, anyoway.

  22. I like your style. I don’t see you in flowy things. You’ve got a sharper edge that I appreciate. I also like the style of that woman in the white shirt and pink sweater. Very cool looking. That’s how I see you. Style and cool. Me, style a little out there.
    Sue, you always look great, bottom line.

  23. I get it! I’ve never been a yellow or a frilly girl, but I bought a pale yellow, flow, midi skirt from Anthropologie and love it! Me! The minimalist is also wearing jewelry! xoxox, Brenda

  24. Yes! Kerrie & Jo nailed your style perfectly. I too thought of “gentlewoman style”, but with some edge. 🙂
    I’m still struggling to find my clothing comfort zone, not to mention style, following age- and illness-related changes and many years of having no time to even think about it. Living in a warm climate (Israel) doesn’t help, as hiding anything by layering is only possible in the 3-4 months of our winter, which is probably more like your summer. Or warmer. Plus, having grown up around the Mediterranean means I am not averse to some drama in my outfits, when the mood is right – not girly frilly, but definitely color and shape. So I guess I’ll just have to suffer through a lot of experimentation! 😉

    1. There is so much colour out this year. I was shopping today and saw beautiful colourful skirts and dresses at Anthropologie. I also saw some lovely hippy style, gauzy tops in outer stores that sadly aren’t for me anymore. Good luck experimenting!

  25. In my ” autumn years ” I am definitely on Team Comfort, style-wise and I can literally count on one hand how many times I’ve dressed up for an occasion in the last ten years !

    1. I look at what I wore to school every day for years, and sometimes can’t believe how “dressed up” I always was. But I never get really dressy, now, except for weddings.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *