Style Inspiration Stories

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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.

Image from leiasfaz Instagram account
Image from the IG account of Leia Sfez

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.

Images from Feminique_Official

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.

Images from the_kimo.official

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.

I can’t quite pull this look off.

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.

I feel better about this one.

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.

I’d wear this to town. If I ever go to town again. 🙁

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?

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52 thoughts on “Style Inspiration Stories”

  1. I too “ people watch” when we travel, and have missed it so much this last year! I think Japan is the most interesting, with the most stylish older generation I have seen anywhere (and I have been to LOTS of places). Both men and women combine traditional Japanese clothes( often kimonos) with a modern edge which is great! I love your blog for your honesty about your love of clothes which I share. They are my amour at times like this and making my own has been therapy and mindfulness in isolation. ( my IG is @sarahjw70).

  2. Wendy in York

    Quite an annoying post there Sue . We arrived back in York late last night & I have so much to do . It’ll be a while before I can sit down & explore all the sites you mention . Korean fashion is new to me though I often study our Japanese tourists here in York – such minimalist chic . Margaret Howell is my favourite designer ( as you might remember) & I always view her site for tips . She has links to Japan & apparently it is her biggest market . I can see why . I agree about your first outfit – thought you were going out in your pajamas 😄 but love the second one . I’m going to have to find time to sort an outfit for this Tuesday though . I’m meeting my sisters , my niece & her new baby Noah ( 4 weeks ) for a meal in York . My first meal out since last summer & the first time we have been indoors together for a year & three months . We’re even allowed a quick hug . I’ll feel like a visitor myself . I don’t suppose it matters what I wear but you know what we’re like !

    1. The Asian tourists we see when we travel are always very stylishly dressed. They put us North Americans in our baggy shorts or yoga pants to shame. Since today is Monday, I will wish you good luck in deciding what to wear tomorrow. Hope you have a fabulous get together. You deserve it, my friend.

  3. Aw,thank you (for Zagreb and myself),I’m so flattered to hear/read that. I adore people watching,it is so inspirational,and ,as you know, love italian street fashion. London is another favourite.
    The combination of yellow and white is lovely,one of beautiful combinations we find in nature-love it.
    Korean fashion is quite new to me,but I like your photos and would investigate more
    Beside travel (inspirational in all kind of things,from food to culture)-I spot something (online,in a magazine…) and then follow the lead and one thing simply leads to another…. and another…….
    Dottoressa

    1. I didn’t see anyone inspiring in London. But I wonder if that was because we frequented mostly touristy spots. It was my friend’s first visit and so we did many of the usual things. I’d have been better served to sit in a cafe in Marylebone if I wanted fashion inspiration, I think. Not sure if you recognized my view of that lovely street where we met for shopping in my opening description. Albeit a little fictionalized.

  4. …. and I thought I‘m the only one who felt that way. (Milan and Munich are my favorite “fashion watch fix” cities).
    Thank you for this fun post – so glad I found you!

  5. I too like to pick up ideas for outfits from people watching. When I find someone whose style I admire I try it out using what I have in my closet. It’s fun and like you, I often find an article of clothing I haven’t worn that works better with the idea and it’s like a new piece of clothing. This was a fun post, as I find all of your posts.
    Karen

  6. This post will lead me down many paths today as I look into some of your inspirations. The idea of a looser tee is so much more appealing to me lately as well. Travel, well, I miss it so, and yes, the people are the first thing I watch and enjoy watching from a comfy chair. Next for me is the architecture and unusual embellishments on the old buildings. We have nothing near as old as some other countries and that fascinates me. You will catch me taking zoomed in shots of gargoyles and arches and spires for much too long for my travelling companions. As for the fashion inspiration, I get that from many sources, and blend ideas to get the desired feel I like. I have a softer, more feminine feel to my looks ( not frills or ruffles unless on the bottom of a skirt) but still get wonderful ideas from some great blogs, magazines and yes, people watching. I could talk clothes with someone for ages, but not all my friends are as infatuated with clothes, jewellery, scarves, skin care etc. as I tend to be at times. There are times when asked what book I am reading at the time, I will pull up the title of a previous one due to the fact that I am eyebrow deep into a few fashion ones and love them. I am happy to see that you have found a new way to wear your yellow pants. They look fabulous with the white, and I love to read of your thought process to come up with the great looks. I can take the ideas and add my own twist and play with some looks as well. Another great chat Sue and much to explore…… until real exploring resumes. Oh how I miss it.

    1. I only started looking at gargoyles as a result of a walking tour of Bath. The guide said, never forget to look up, and I since then I never have. Have to watch not to bump into people, though. 🙂

  7. Another great post — that outfit with the yellow pants! Genius! — and I can already see the comments are going to be fun to read through as well. I’ll be sure to come back and listen in.
    Like you, I’m missing all that inspiration that comes from travelling. And I’m trying to think about why I’m not finding as much of that online as you are right now. For sure I’ll be going to each of the sites you link to today and checking them out, but I’ve been spending less time looking at Style/Fashion blogs and IG accounts lately. More time looking at those that show other kinds of creative expression (journal illustration, garden design, architecture, food) — and are often less curated. I think that’s why I miss the travelling and why the on-line stuff hasn’t been cutting it for me, because there’s just not enough of the random energy that makes an outfit look as if I could adopt aspects of it for my daily life. At the moment, I think I derive more style ideas from people-watching right here at home, from TV shows and movies, from my daughters and their friends, etc.
    I’m not sure I’m entirely right about this and it might just be that I’ve fallen out of the habit of looking at online Style — perhaps I’ll go to the links you’ve provided and be hooked all over again. I do know that you’ve got me thinking about a fun topic — and again admiring your focus, analysis, and organization when it comes to your own wardrobe and impeccable style.

    1. I’m finally comfortable with my yellow pants. I think it’s mostly because my “eye” has changed to like baggy better that I once did. I agree about the idea of random energy. What a great was to put it!

  8. What a fun post Sue! I have to get outside for some planting, stuff purchased this week before we got several days of rain. Then I want to return to your post for parts I don’t have time to read right now. But I also wanted to mention that AG has a lovely jean in a color called Ivory use, which I purchased a few weeks ago. I love the white with ivory in your photos, you may want to check them out.

  9. People watching can be so absorbing. When I was a teenager, my mother and I frequently had to go to the airport to pick up my father from his business trips. The airport (DCA) had a second level seating area above the old main terminal where you could look out at airplanes but also down on the crowd walking below. As we waited, my mother, who was very quick-witted and a bit merciless to the unkempt, would provide a running critique of those passing by. Those sessions usually ended up with us laughing until we cried. And that was decades before the current fashion of some folks wearing their PJs to travel. Must admit, I continue that particular maternal tradition when my daughter and I are together.
    Will have to look at the links you provided to those Korean fashions. Could absolutely see you in the Feminique outfit of the jacket and rolled pants. And I like your white jacket with the yellow pants. My first thought was that a very small silk butter yellow pocket scarf would be great just peeking out of the pocket. A quick look online and I found a beautiful Eton yellow double print one in soft yellow (love the paisley side)…gee, only $105. But still…would really pull up the colour from your pants and add some a bit more colour nearer to your face.
    Fun post.

    1. Oh, wasn’t your mum naughty. And didn’t you love it! She sounds like my mum! I will explore the pocket square idea. I have just the tiny handkerchief for that. Bought years ago at a vintage sale.

  10. I love the idea of white jeans, but I’m always worried about the possible spill or sitting on a less than pristine bench (and not realizing it until after I get home 🙄). I prefer wearing pants, even in our North Carolina summers. I wonder how you feel about, and style, linen pants? I’m thinking about the looser drawstring type. I really enjoy your posts. You’re encouraging me to be a little braver about my style.

  11. Thank you for such a lovely feature today. Each time I read what you have written you have touched on what has been on my mind. I love the yellow pants and white tee shirt. Have a lovely day.

  12. New York City is my favorite for this kind of people-watching. I’ll never forget the summer I realized that all the cool downtown girls were wearing thong Birkenstocks. Needless to say, I had to get some;).

    1. I had no luck doing that in New York the two times I was there. The first time was in November. And the second my travelling companion was not interested in people-watching.

  13. Oh gosh Sue, … your first paragraph transported me somewhere wonderful! I read it two or three times, letting my imagination run wild and soaking up the ambiance!
    Like you, I love to “people watch” when we travel and I particularly recall women I’ve seen in the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, that seem to have such a vibrant style of their own.
    Your examples of Korean style is very much as I saw it, while travelling there.
    So many impeccably dressed people. Often wearing varying combinations of shades of cream, caramel, black and white. The school uniforms were stylish as well … some of the girls looked as though their uniforms had been made by Chanel! Looking as though they’d stepped off a catwalk … the boys as well.
    It also seemed to be the norm there for them to actually wear their uniforms when out and about, not just going to and from school or college.
    I’m so glad that you’ve finally found an outfit that you love that includes those yellow trousers!
    They’re so lovely, who’d have thought that they’d be so hard to style!
    I hope you’re having a lovely weekend … I’m going back to that cafe in Den Haag, Ghent or maybe Stockholm to relax and watch the world go by!
    Rosie

    1. Funny, but I felt the same when I wrote it. It pretty much describes my feeling the day in Zagreb that I ventured off alone to meet Dottoressa for an hour of shopping before we both met Stu for lunch. Gad. The joy of being on my own after many weeks of Hubby and I being in each other’s company almost constantly. Much as I love him, I do love my alone time. And meeting up with Dottoressa… to actually shop! I sat in the pedestrian street on a big stone planter for a bit and just watched the people swirl around me. Heaven. Then of course there was the Max Mara store. But I won’t go there. 🙂

  14. Mary Lou Hartman

    Love the yellow and white pairing and enjoy your thoughts about putting the items in your closet together. I also need to take another look at oversized tees.

  15. I love to people watch but when I’m in a new city/country my first glance around is always the architecture, then the people. I agree the women in Italy are very stylish. I remember the first time in Rome, I saw this lady and couldn’t look away. She was stylish but at the same time classic and simple. Like you, I started to dissect her look to figure out the parts that made the whole. I find most Europeans make the simplest of outfits look spot on. You won’t see women wearing leggings as pants, as you do in North America. Even a simple outfit of jeans and tee will have a scarf knotted around their neck and the perfect pair of shoes or white trainers.
    I’m really liking the straight leg jean trend, especially with a rolled cuff. It has that laid back look while still looking put together and stylish. I’m in the market for a pair of cream or beige straight leg jeans. Not so easy to find. Perhaps, you’ll have better luck and pass it on to your readers.

    1. I agree. There is something so “cared for” about even the most simple look on European women. I am also in the market for cream or beige jeans. I will let you know if and when I am successful.

  16. This column resonated with me SO deeply! I used to be self-conscious about how much I loved clothes and fashion, but not any longer. I have finally learned to embrace that this is my “art”. I have a small wardrobe, mostly handmade, but absolutely based on the inspiration I get from seeing other women in their clothes, and especially from observing women in my travels. Thank you for expressing it so clearly and confidently, and mostly, thank you for inspiring us all with your sustainable approach to dressing yourself.

    1. My bag is by Eric Javits, bought a couple of years ago at Nordstrom. I’ve only been able to find one that is a bit bigger than mine, same fabric and colour and style, though. You can find it here.

  17. I like to people watch too. I love all the outfits you put together. Thank you for the brand links. Here recently I’ve been coming up blank with filling in missing pieces for my wardrobe. Much of my style inspiration comes from Pinterest and then I look to see common themes. The two most pinned people for me are: Diane Keaton’s wardrobe in the movie Somethings Gotta Give and Caroline Bessette Kennedy. I’m longing for their timeless style. As my mom would say “That’s a good looking outfit”. On Instagram I like Jennifer Alfano and Simplicitycity. Jennifer has a blog as well. Her style choices are impeccable but way beyond my budget.

      1. On a second note, all the outfits you put together look wonderful. Please continue to do this. After seeing the women in the first photo I played around with a white shirt and off white pants. It’s not so much tall and thin but the shape of each item. I tried several white shirts and only one looked okay. Of course it was my oldest and most stained.

  18. Hhmmm, style inspiration…ok, Church. Many, many years ago when I was a little girl I would go to church. Spanish language with my Granma, English with my Mother….and would look around to see what all the ladies were wearing. Hats, dresses, gloves, coats, scarves and shoes, oh I loved the shoes. The two church were both Catholic, but the congregations were different, older vs. younger, styles were different but in both the ladies dressed up. In those days one dressed for Church, it was wonderful. Now days, sorry to say, some need to dress with a bit more respect, but at least they showed up! As for new cities and countries I also notice how green they are. Sue love both your outfits, how about a blue blazer with the white pants and T?

    1. Hats and gloves… dressing up for church always included both of those, didn’t it? I sigh when I think a pair of smart summer cotton gloves with a small leather handbag on one wrist. Reminds me of fifties fashion.

  19. Your first paragraph drew me in and instantly brought back wonderful travel memories! In a new city, it’s most often the architecture, the colours, the sounds, the smells, and then the food that capture my attention, but I do love people watching too. I miss travel terribly right now and think it will be awhile before we venture beyond our provincial borders or to anywhere outside Canada. 🙁

    I get much of my fashion inspiration from the several blogs that I follow as well as from Pinterest and Instagram.

  20. Thanks again for the style inspiration!
    AND… personally, I think you look fantastic in the monochrome look that you thought “you couldn’t quite pull off.” Very chic!

  21. Joanne Murray

    I haven’t travelled much…as in lately (last trip was the summer of 2019)…and as in to many exotic places (we tend to travel in Canada and we used to do bi-yearly weekend trips to Lake Placid). In most of the places we go, clothing is practical: in Banff, everyone wears outdoorsy gear, in Nova Scotia we are fishing or visiting a relative’s farm, in Lake Placid, half the town is crawling with triathletes who wear their spandex for both cycling 180km and for light lunches in town, so I never bother packing anything nice as we spend most of our time outside.

    So I’ve never had the opportunity to observe interesting fashion afar. The only fun moment I had was long, long ago when I backpacked in Europe. My friend and I decided to run the original marathon route (I admit, my idea of a vacation is often ‘exercising in a new country’). When we arrived at the Parthenon in the afternoon, I was shades of red from the sun and the heat, with streaks of dirt dried on my arms and legs. My hair was a greasy mess. I was wearing a stained tank top and ratty shorts and old running shoes. As I stood looking out at the view of the city, a stunning Japanese lady came up to me to admire the same view. We locked eyes briefly. She had an umbrella held over her head; she had flawless white skin with perfect make-up; she had stilettos; she was wearing Gucci for her pants and long-sleeved shirt. She had a beautiful scarf around her neck. I thought she was stunning – but nuts – for her expensive and impractical “tourist clothes”. I’m sure she thought I was a shameless pig for being so filthy in a public place. Or maybe she was admiring my shabby-chic outfit 🙂

    My other fun memory of that trip was deciding to eat a box of crackers and drink water for three days so I could afford gold earrings from Greece and shoes from France. What kind of idiot carts around new SHOES when backpacking? Me: the answer is me.

    Here’s to the near future when we may all travel and observe and admire the fashion choices of people around us! Not me, though: we’re going to BC (British Columbia) this summer. To fish. Not to fashion.

    1. Only you, Jo, would carry new shoes around in your backpack. But I applaud the sentiment. Eating crackers to be able to buy earrings I can identify with. 🙂

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