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Feb 18, 2010

Do you have a "look?"


I do not have a look.  Or if I do, I am not aware of it.

I have always wanted a look but it never came naturally to me, which is strange since I was always interested in fashion.  I just lacked the energy to make it happen, I guess.  

It also has to do with my being raised to believe you weren't supposed to put too much emphasis on appearances, as well as growing up male in a culture where men are not supposed to be interested in clothes.

So I've been highly ambivalent about cultivating a look, as well as judgmental of those -- men in particular -- who seemed (to me) to be overly focused on their appearance.

I generally think of dressing up as theater.  It's fun to wear a costume and perform, but I don't want to do it every day.  It feels like work.

Sometimes I wish I wore glasses because they can give you an instant look.  But I'm cursed with perfect vision.



The thing about a look though, is how do you know if you have one or not?  I mean, everybody looks a certain way, but not everybody has a look.

Maybe a look is like obscenity: it's hard to define but you know it when you see it.


Casey and Gertie definitely have a look.

Many people copy the style of a particular celebrity and that becomes their look -- often for life.  In my apartment building, for instance, we have a Liza, a few Farrahs, and something vaguely-Leslie Uggams.  Our Betty Grable suffers from acute senility, poor thing, but she still gets the lipstick and eyeshadow on.

When I walk around the city, or go to the Chelsea flea market on weekends, I always see people -- both men and women -- who have fabulous looks.  It's more than appearing fashionable: they have found a way to express themselves through clothes that is both highly original and extremely flattering.  It's like alchemy.

One of the surprises when I started sewing and getting involved with Pattern Review was how many passionate sewers are turning out ordinary-looking -- albeit attractive -- clothes.  No doubt they fit better than RTW (ready to wear) and are constructed of higher quality fabrics, but sewing for most people isn't about creating a look, or at least, not one that I can readily discern.  Most people just want to look nice. 

When I think about looks, I remember something I read about about one's identity in some psychology book: There's the you you are, the you you think you are, the you others think you are, and so forth.

I think you could say the same thing about your look:  there's the look you have; there's the look you think you have; there's the look others think you have, etc.

Then I'm reminded of the old "if a tree fell in the forest" question:  if you think you have a look, but nobody recognizes it as a look, then do you really have a look at all?

This can get confusing and potentially vertigo-inducing, like when you look up at the stars at night and wonder where the universe ends. 

So I ask you, readers:

Do you have a conscious look?  If so, how do you describe it? 

If you don't have a look, would you like one?  What would it be?

Do tell.

45 comments:

  1. Hi Peter - I've been silently enjoying your blog for a while now (well, that is to say I haven't commented, but I have snorted my coffee several times while reading).

    I wish I could say that I have a single "look," but I think my tastes are too varied. If I had to categorize them, I'd say that right now I have three "looks."

    There's my love for vintage, and I don't have a lot of vintage yet but I'm sewing it. I love anything from the 30s through the 50s. Since I've had more luck finding post-war patterns in my size, that's what my wardrobe will turn out to be.

    Then there's my practical I-live-in-the-hinterlands-and-it's-damn-cold look that involves L.L.Bean and wooly sweaters. My kid plays hockey. There's a little room for style when you're freezing your *ahem* off at the rink, but once you pile on the layers, you just look like the Michelin Man.

    Then there's my contemporary, simple Eileen Fisher-esque "work" and "gallery opening" clothes.

    I actually wear all three "looks" to work; I'm lucky enough to work in a very casual office, so I can dress up or down as the mood strikes me.

    I wish I could wear all vintage, but I can't afford to get rid of my wardrobe and start over again...

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  2. Does "schlub" count? I can rock that look infinitely.

    The thing is that to have a look, you must be willing to be seen. That's not for everyone.

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  3. Ack! Just the sort of topic that I LOVE to discuss! :D lol. I think that everyone has a look, though maybe not as theatrical or "distinctive" as some. My sister, for instance, doesn't take nearly as much interest in clothes as I do. Yet, despite her uniform-style clothes required by her college, she still has a look (but, she does wear glasses ;). Even people who wear "basic" clothes still have a distinct look. Their look is just more based around some "simple" (and I truly do not mean that in a demeaning way; but saying "basic" after "based" just looked weird ;) pieces.

    I think a "look" is a highly personal, subjective thing. Firstly, it depends very much on your lifestyle. You made an excellent point that spending too much time everyday "dressing up" would become work. I think the first key to a look is something that is more effortless (though that would be a joke with my look. My husband always jokes about how long it takes me to do my hair and makeup. rofl!) *to you*. If it starts to be drudge work, I say: why not develop something that is more suited to you?

    I think also one has to take into account personality. Not to harp on my sister, but it's a great comparison. She definitely prefers to fade into the background more than I do (although for years she's sported bright orange scarves and neon yellow book bags against her more neutral clothes ;). When I walk into a room, people invariably turn and stare at how odd I look. She wouldn't be that comfortable with the amount of attention and stir that certain "looks" cause. Plus, there is something to be said for causing a stir on occasion, rather than daily--you can do it more to the tune of your mood! :)

    You definitely have a look in that you are not afraid of using bold materials in your sewing (like that awesome sheet shirt!). So I guess my feelings are that most people have a "look", whether or not they recognize it, or the fashion gods have deemed it "look worthy". It has to be suited to your personality and lifestyle, and finally I think a look is something that is ever evolving. I think that is something to be recognized too. I think my "look" is probably at it's most bold right now, but who's to say it couldn't tone down in a few years (or dare I venture: get bolder?!)? I think as we go through life we subtly tweak our "looks" until one day we wake up and realize we've changed something and have a "new" look. Make sense?

    Hopefully I haven't rambled too long on this topic! lol.

    ♥ Casey
    blog | elegantmusings.com

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  4. What insightful thoughts here!

    I think the more I sew, the more I hope I'm moving towards having a look. Before I was sewing I think I just bought what I could get on clearance and that doesn't really work out so well fit or style wise.

    I'm discovering that I like drama a great deal more than I would ever have imagined. In my head, this plays out as bold sweeping lines, big collars, and every lots of color. I think all the opera I listen to and watch has been slowly seeping in...no, I'll be fair to myself...I'd never love opera as much as I do if I weren't a bit dramatic myself anyhow.

    The real me that runs after a 9 1/2 month old all day is often in jeans, cute ballet flats, and some variation on a v-neck shirt with or without a cardigan and necklace.

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  5. How about comfort? That's mine. True, I almost always sport either wide-legged-almost-to-an-extreme jeans (to accommodate three inches of bandaging on my hugely swollen legs) or long, wide skirts paired with comfy t-shirts and braided hair. Mostly, this 'look' comes from practicality. The braids came from college and being an art student. There's no room for flowy hair styles in an art studio. In fact, it can get you scalped. The first thing you're told in any 3d medium is that you need to have your hair pulled up and back so that it won't accidentally catch on the equipment. They also start telling horror stories about hair being tangled into equipment and ripped out by the roots to underscore the seriousness of the situation.

    I got used to it, so I still wear it in two braids. For four years, those braids were often pinned on top of my head, too, in a Heidi-esque style. It had the added advantage of keeping it out of paint, dye, and a host of other things in various studios. (Unbound, it's past my waist, so that's a good thing!)

    My 'comfort' style stems mostly from this period, as anything you wear into a studio is likely to get ruined fairly quickly. I once had really nice clothes, but they're gone now--smeared with ink and paint and charcoal and clay... Well, you get the idea. Most of that stuff doesn't wash out well. I mean, I *could* make myself nice clothes now but I don't see the point of bothering, since my immune system tanked and I rarely leave my house anymore.

    What I mostly make for myself is pants, because I can't buy RTW pants that are both long enough and have wide enough legs to accommodate three to five inches of bandaging. That's not to say that I always have bandaged legs, but my clothing has to be able to fit over them. The bandages are uncomfortable enough without jeans legs bunched up above them, and I've never been all that comfortable with skirts. I also alter RTW so that it fits better. I have two shirts in my to-alter pile that I need to insert gussets in the sleeves because they fit everywhere else but there. My favorite maxi dress needs a bit of fixing, because the bust is too large and one of the buttonholes needs redone by hand....

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  6. Great question!

    I'm not sure if I have a word for my "look," and I don't dress in any particular era/style but I have been told by friends and coworkers and family that they always know if something is very "Mikhaela" or not. I tend to gravitate towards very specific things when shopping or sewing, as I have learned that these are what I will always feel happy in.

    Things that are very "Mikhaela:" polkadots, stripes, brights (orange, turquoise, various shades of lavender/purple, chartreuse), bold graphic prints (whether modern or vintage-inspired), mixed prints, complementary colors, chunky colorful costume jewelry (mainly necklaces), glasses, ponytails, cinched or belted waists, wrap dresses, sheath dresses, sundresses, v-necklines, surplice necklines, sweetheart necklines, scoop necklines, peplums, shrunken or fitted cardigans, colorful flats and low heels (especially Mary Janes), knee-length skirts (whether pencil, a-line or full), trouser-style pants/jeans/trousers, colorful tweeds, flounces, trumpets, lace (in moderation), piping... somehow this all comes together to look "me."

    In terms of admiring vintage looks I lean slightly towards many of the styles of the 40s but have love for many 50s looks as well. I wish I was a girl who wore scarves but have never managed to remember to do so except when I was in Paris for a few days. That is a goal, though.

    Things that are not very "Mikhaela:" neutrals (grays, beiges, blacks, whites--not that I don't wear these things, but almost always as a background to show off the above brights or prints), tight or skinny or very lowrise jeans/pants, high or skinny heels, flowy or loose-fitting or straight--lined clothing of any kind, tent shapes, shift dresses, high necklines (unless extremely fitted), animal prints, mini-skirts, pale denim, clogs (I have size 11 feet, so that just doesn't work), polar fleece, leggings (unless worn as tights)...

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  7. I'm with Beangirl...."schlub" is my look, too. Not by choice, though. I'd love to have a look (and even know what I'd like that look to be), but I"m too damn tired to do anything about it. It's my kids. Yes, I"ll blame it on the kids. :)

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  8. You've got some nerve about the glasses bit...

    But are you familiar with Mary Mashuta and the 'flamboyancy quotient' concept that she introduced in her book 'wearable art for real people'? Someone's look is not necessarily recognized as such by a NYer :-). Some of it is character, some of it is circumstances. I wore stuff at work in California fully equivalent to shirts made from 70s pillowcases :-). But in France all that seems acceptable is something out of a Japanese old-lady palette. I mind, really, but I can only dress like myself on weekends.

    That said, I agree with brightfeather that having clothes that are truly functional is a look in and of itself. Personally, I won't go out the door without pockets.

    (Marie-Christine, I'm being refused without a URL..)

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  9. I think there is a difference between having "a look" and having style. Having "a look" involves a bit of risk taking and a commitment to creating an image - think Lady Gaga and Dita von Teese. Whereas having style is a little harder to define, because it changes over time. I think of Heidi Klum and Michele Obama as women who have style.

    I don't think I have a look, but I hope to have style at least some day. And, Peter, I think you - and definitely your cousin Cathy - have style.

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  10. Well, I suppose I do! Thanks for the mention. :) In a way, though, a look can become like a uniform. I can't tell you how many days I wear some combo of tie-neck blouse, cardi, pencil skirt, tights and pumps. It's become my own version of neutral, so I'm always surprised when people comment on my 'look' or 'style'. But I'm always flattered. :)

    I do think it's harder for dudes. You seem especially interested in the 70s, so perhaps you can cultivate that. Also: fake glasses. We won't tell. (Though I am jealous of your perfect vision!)

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  11. The most important part of a look is a wide, wonderful smile, and that's the look I sport. I do wear classic clothes, though I recently discovered purple and yellow (never wore them before). I don't dress up but my clothes always have a unique fit and flair. -- San Antonio Sue

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  12. Wow. I have been thinking about this recently as well. How nice it would be to have just one look. It would make picking clothes, patterns and fabric so much easier! On the other hand, though, experimenting with new styles is one of my favorite facets of fashion. I love how one day I can wear a vintage look, the next day I can wear a casual look, and then when I'm having a "getting things done" day I can always just throw on comfy jeans and a button down.

    When it comes down to it, I think I prefer to think of fashion as being "One big dress-up" (in the words of Muffy Vanderbear) rather than requiring a structured look. Why am I taking my fashion cues from a stuffed bear? Maybe it's just a sign of my strange childhood ;)

    Thank you for bringing up this intriguing topic Peter! I've been reading your blog for a couple weeks now, and finally felt compelled to comment. It's really interesting to read what others feel about their "look".

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  13. I think that many of us may not have one ‘look’ but might be influenced by people or several eras or fall into things that we feel ‘do something for us’. I’m completely opposite of my mom, who grew up in the 30s and 40s, looked like a sister of the younger Lucille Ball (think Stage Door), was 5’10” in her youth, thin and athletic. I’m short, pretty stumpy, with a pronounced waist. From an appearance standpoint, we could not be more “180-out”.
    Yet, I have always been heavily influenced by her style, probably because when I was young, I thought she was the most beautiful woman on earth. She and my father used to entertain in a ‘fancy dinner party with cocktails beforehand’ sort of way, she had a closet full of gorgeous cocktail dresses, shoes, etc. She was amazing to go shopping with – very strong on ‘that color (or dress shape, collar, sleeve, skirt length) does nothing for you.” Or “that’s YOU all over, kid.” All of that sort of interaction helped shape my style, which is not a particular look, but borrows things that work on me:
    Shoulder pads and nipped in waists. That’s 40s for sure but something I discovered gives my 5’2” size a little bit more importance and structure. I use shoulder pads in almost everything including sweaters and blouses.
    Skirts no longer than about 2” below the knee. Again that is 40s but works on me because I’m short. My sister, who is almost 6’ tall, can wear skirts much longer than I do – she looks best in 30s influenced styles because of her long, thin shape.
    Hats – all sizes, types, and materials.
    Slacks – straight cut with a longer length so that I can put on a shoe with a heel and be a little bit taller – that’s a look from the 70s and on up.
    So, my 'look' borrows from several different eras. I don't know your height, but your proportions remind me very much of the 1930s - if I were you (and Cathy), I'd go for the 30s.

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  14. I am a new sewer and have been reading your blog for a couple weeks. I have really been enjoying it!

    I have never in my life set out to have a "look". I definitely say I do though. I would describe my look as "preppy resort wear chic" I love BRIGHT color. I love prints. I love classic lines. My favorite designers are Lilly Pulitzer and Melly. I love for my clothing to make me happy. I just don't feel dressed unless I feel excited to put on my outfit. Now, there are definitely days when I have a sweatshirt and no make-up and just can't get it together, but overall I try to make a statement with my clothes. I am a bubbly person, and I think my clothes say that. The funny thing is is that I never realized that I was drawn to this "look" until people I shop with or co-workers tell me that a certain garment is so me. I have realized that I am drawn to plaids, prints, and bright colors and even though sometimes I get looks wondering why I would make a certain clothing choice by some, it makes me happy to wear certain things such as my bright printed dresses and isn't that really the point of your fashion choices anyway?

    Fantastic Post!!!!!

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  15. This is so timely, Peter!

    I was *just* thinking about this yesterday. As an intermediate sewer, I'm wanting to define my "look" in the pieces that I sew. Yesterday, I poured over pictures of Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy and Lauren Hutton for inspiration (and took copious notes about each ladies' style choices). Although they veer toward classic wardrobe colour choices, I find myself drawn to crazy patterns, bright colours and funky jewelry, so I'm looking for ways to encorporate all of those parameters to my new sewing projects. Overall, I want to feel cool, confident, comfortable AND stylish.

    I too, think you're veering toward the 70s fashion-wise. Don't let a lack of crap vision keep you from trying non-prescription glasses. Like hats, there are SO many options for your accessories wardrobe! Play!

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  16. Peter - Great post. I've loved reading commenters' thoughts on this.

    I think I have a look, as people tell me "oh, that's very Rachel." I think my look is "classic". Perhaps "playful classic"? It's definitely not "avant garde" or "hipster", but it's not "preppy" either. I like dresses, long cardigans cinched with a belt, jackets over wide leg jeans (though I do own one pair of skinny jeans), ruffly-neck or poufy-sleeve blouses. I love pointy-toed flats and round-toe pumps. Adore bold jewelry. I like to look sophisticated, even on the weekends.

    I wish I could pull off some of the hipster looks on The Sartorialist, etc., but it's not me. I am trying: I bought a pair of booties and Frye boots in an attempt to become more hip, but it didn't take. I always eschewed them in favor of pointy flats!

    I like that sewing helps crystalize my style (so many dress patterns!) but also lets me dabble in others (I did a Cynthia Rowley sheath dress in a snakeskin print that I probably wouldn't have bought in a store).

    A lady above said that previously, she would buy whatever was on the clearance rack, but sewing allows her to tailor her wardrobe to her style, within her budget. That's such a great statement, and it's one of the reasons I started sewing, too.

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  17. Sadly, I do not have a look, unless one considers "Holy shit, that woman is tall!" a look. In public, I do tend to wear classic styles: slacks, sweater sets, long scarves versus jewelry, flat shoes (of course). But ring my doorbell unannounced, and odds are you will find it answered by a future What Not to Wear contestant.

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  18. Oh my! What a introspection inspiring post!

    I don't *think* I have much of a look, but then my boyfriend would probably disagree. In recent months I've discovered the underlying reasons most more current fashions don't work on me (I have hips, what can I say?) and have been exploring other ways to dress fashionably flattering. Chiefly I end up in something late 30's through very early 60's inspired or reproduced (my vintage collection is next to nil with the exception of some heirloom pieces). While I don't feel I've often pulled it together enough to be a look, my boyfriend more often than not makes positive comments hinting that I made it out of the 2000's and back to the 40's.

    Then again, there are gardening days and all that goes right out the window in favor of 90's grunge. Full on flannel and holes! To some degree of irony those are the days I feel most like I've achieved some sort of look. It feels like my 'gardening costume' wherein I become lord of all dirt I purvey!

    Perhaps my feeling that way translates to me possibly feeling similar to what you feel: Dressing is for theater, productions and costumes. Though, I have a feeling that that mode of thought is slowly melting right out of my head and that one day I'll have managed a look on actual purpose...

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  19. A very interesting topic and one I have been working on the last 2 years as I have started sewing a lot again at this season of my life. If I was young I can see I would definitely drift to steam punk - it is so cute. But being a quite round grandmother - and rather conservative - I have drifted to certain styles I prefer and find comforting. I wear dresses, skirts and jumpers ~ plan to ditch the knit tops (they just don't flatter me)and sew nice woven fabric blouses and shells. I am working to make all my garments more classic (or even vintage)with nice fabrics and fit, rather than trendy. My kids all think I look like Tweetie's Granny :) I embrace Granny - and just want to put her in nice fabrics that fit well.

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  20. I think my "look" is a mash up of untrendy college student and demented soccer mom.

    really, because I no longer work, I just tend to throw on jeans, a t-shirt and a hoodie, and put my hair up in pigtails 'cause I haven't bothered to shower.

    (have you ever seen a 37 year old woman running around in pigtails, a parka and ratty cargo pants? it certainly is a look that says something...)

    When I did the whole have-a-job thing, I generally wore pretty simple, quiet clothes, with the occasional ruffle. I'd rather my clothing be a foundation for people to notice me, rather than the other way around.

    I had a bad banana/gap habit out of sheer laziness and the ability to at least find SOMETHING that worked for me.

    Now, I just don't care :)

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  21. I want a look, I desperately want a look!!! Right now I'm fighting the soccer mom look; it's easy, comfortable, dull and I hate it. I'm so envious of the women I see that look like the rolled out of bed "done". They always have stylish clothes and look like their headed for someplace I can't afford. They're not ever frumpy, tired or dirty and I've never seen one of these women with mushed up cheerios and snot spread on her shoulder. Don't even get me started on how great their hair looks. YOU WILL NEVER SEE THESE WOMAN WALKING AROUND THE GROCERY IN PAJAMA PANTS AND SLIPPERS and they never have panty lines or bra straps showing (you might not understand this one but Cathy will relate).

    I love old movies because women were so "done"! Breakfast at Tiffanys.... sigh, if only I could look like Audrey Hepburn :(

    My figure does not cooperate either. I'm built like a board... I used to be a 2x4, now I'm more of a 2x12. That's another complication that I fight with because I like clothes that show off a curvy figure but I don't have one.

    Obviously I need therapy.

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  22. I've been actively trying to develop a "look" for several years and can't seem to get it together. I realized several years ago that the look I thought I was cultivating--classic and understated, was actually called frumpy. I hadn't really paid much attention to fashion because I just wanted to look neat and well groomed, so I bought pretty safe clothes. Frumpy clothes, actually.

    I've bought a number of books about developing a "look," but I don't seem to be able to appropriate the advice. I'd like to look like Diane Sawyer, but I don't remotely resemble her. We have, ahem, different body types. She's lithe and slender. I look like an 8 holding a watermelon.

    As to your developing a look, I think a good starting place is your wonderful smile. It says, "I'm not taking myself or life too seriously." A studied, self-conscious look isn't you, in my opinion. You have a mischievousness that cries out for a lighthearted, fun style. Your love of retro fashion could easily be part of your look. Add a little funkiness and you're there.

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  23. This is an interesting question. I will have to give it some thought. I would love to have your opinion. Why don't you look through my blog through the older posts and tell me if you think I have a look. I'd love to know what you think. It is hard for me to analyze myself, and you have a great sense of style. I have a lot of patterns that I haven't sewn up yet that may help to make my look more obvious when I can get to them.

    Thanks so much for helping me solve my tangled bobbin mess. I appreciate that you took the time.

    I have just posted a scarf refashion where I took an old shirt and turned it into a gorgeous neck scarf. Next week sometime I plan to do another What I'm Wearing post. And then I need to get back to some real sewing soon. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to visit my blog and leave comments.

    Have an awesome day!

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  24. Such a fantastic conversation! I have so much to say but I thought I'd honor Trudy's request.

    OK, Trudy, you asked for it. Here's what I think. You definitely have a look. It's not a high-drama urban look, but it's a look and it suits you perfectly.

    Your hair is unusual for one thing: it's long and you've let it go gray, which my mother, for example, who's nearly 80, has NEVER done. And of course, being natural, it's perfect for your coloring (why don't most women realize this?) So that in and of itself is striking. You're also thin and -- let's be straight-up here -- classically beautiful. So that helps with your look. But there are also very attractive people who don't have a look because they've never needed to cultivate one to draw attention to themselves.

    You seem to prefer bold colors -- I'm thinking of some red or blue tops you wear in some of your photos -- and dramatic prints, like that fantastic zebra jacket. Also simple but well-defined shapes, without a lot of frou frou. Personally, I love that country skirt you wear with black boots and black top. Perfect.

    I'm also struck by your lack of jewelry and neutral makeup. Those are both strong choices.

    I would call your look Texas Classic with a twist!

    How you manage this with four kids, I'll never know!

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  25. I like this "Tell me if you think I have a look" thing.

    I could do this all day!

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  26. Looks evolve. I have been in business for decades, and have discovered that my uniform is a skirt/slacks and lapel jacket. Short sleeves in summer, long in winter for the jackets. An occasional dress under the jacket. At home, the dead slacks (no longer good for work) and tees or a dead blouse, or empire dresses...you know, the t-shirt with a long skirt, attached just under the bust line. The main thing is pockets! I want and need pockets in the skirts, slacks, dresses, jackets. And I use those pockets. But, I waded through a lot of fashion and mistakes before I realized that this stuff is just plain what I am most comfortable in. So, I suspect that one's look is what makes that one most comfortable.

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  27. Hm. on second thought, I believe I like "functional practicality" for my 'look'. I have realized that I tend more towards long pants than shorts. Living in the Atlanta area as I do, you'd think that I'd go for shorts, but while I do make them and own several pairs, I don't as much anymore. Part of it is that compression garments are expensive and easily damaged, but the main thing is that with a toddler in the house, shorts have become less practical. Evie is simply being the curious baby that she is, but her curiosity is sometimes... painful. Because my skin is fragile and easily damaged, I often have gauze wrapped around my legs and taped up. Conversely, Evie loves pulling the tape off. And if I haven't put on the compression, she picks at my legs, because, as you can imagine, they look different than normal legs.

    So I wear my homemade long, wide-legged jeans everywhere. The baby doesn't pick at my legs and I chase her and we're all happy! The one thing I do miss, though, is cute shoes. My feet are always swollen and I can't find shoes that fit. In fact, I have to have mine custom made at over $600 a pair. I swear, one of these days I'm going to buy a commercial sewing machine for sewing leather and learn to make my own! I supposed I'm strange for a girl, because I only own one pair of shoes.... and they're heavily reminiscent of Frankenstein's shoes.

    So if you come to my town and see a plus sized woman in braids, glasses, wide leg jeans, Frankenstein shoes, and t-shirts chasing a toddler, you've found me!

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  28. This is a really interesting question and I've really enjoyed reading all of these comments. I agree with all you say about Trudy, too. I don't think I have a 'look' per se, but I am known for my shoe collection and the fact that I wear high heels every day. I a small farming community, things like that stand out. If anything, I would say I have loads of different looks. I have several 60's style outfits and on the days I wear those I choose 60's ish accessories and makeup, like wise if I wear a 50's ish style big skirted dress. (I'm not consciously dressing 50's or 60's, it's just that some of my dresses have elements from these periods). Other days I wear very short skirts and very high heels and probably look like a hooker. In winter I embrace the tartan skirt, bold cardigan and tights with flat shoes (almost schoolgirl) look and I probably shouldn't at my age. I guess what I'm suggesting is that the clothes I choose each day create a look for that day and that's probably something similar to you. Like you said, dressing can be theatre and sometimes you don't want to be noticed. Today I'm not feeling well, so I am wearing a muted green print dress that reaches almost to my knees and has a chaste neckline. On my feet I have a pair of sedate white strappy wedges. I look rather matronly. But know you've got me thinking and I'm going to be watching what I wear for the next little while. Thank you, this has been very interesting!

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  29. an interesting post! as someone with naturally pale skin and almost black hair, others assumed that I was emulating a gothic feel. I grew up with strangers yelling 'Morticia' at me! I smile a lot and wear floral prints maybe to counter the severity of the appearance i was born with. I am too disorganised and lazy to cultivate a specific look but I really appreciate people who do.

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  30. I try not to let this get around, but... well, I am a closet fairy goddess and I have a mgic wand. I hereby sprinkle you with magic dust to free you from hesistation. Go forth young man and cultivate a look. No worries about a commitment; you may play the field.
    Personally I wanted a look and I got me one. Since i had trouble concocting it on my one, I paid some cash money to get my look from a pro. (See my posts on body proportions). Now I wear lots of tights, boots and short skirts I let my hair go gray and I refuse botox. I am taking my own route to middle age and loving it. I love my Image Doctor (Imogen Lamport, blogster of Inside Out Style) although I know she won't be exactly what you might seek. cheerio!

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  31. Just a quick note on the glasses: you certainly don't need permission to wear glasses with no prescription. And young man, let me burst your bubble here, when you get in to middle age, you will no longer have perfect vision, you will need reading glasses. Something to look forward to, perhaps. I personally hate this because my contacts are more or less useless without the "readers". PITA

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  32. Oooh, great question. I have a "clean" (relatively unadorned), urban look. I like to think my glasses make me seem very smart :-) It's the way I get with wearing them because I don't have the nerve for surgery and I can't do contacts.

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  33. Yes, I know what you mean by this "look" business. The funny thing with me is that I want so many looks all crammed into one. I love the vintage "look" but also love the modern "look" too. I think it might be more than just a "look" though. I mean, it's an attitude. I love that you featured Casey and Gertie, whom I both consider girls with great attitude about the styles they are into. Great post and very thought provoking about one's "look."

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  34. Yikes. I'm always in search of my "look." Any day I'm not in "horribly boring mommy" garb is a good day, style-wise. I'm one of those ordinary-clothes sewers, although I am getting better at only buying fabric and patterns that are interesting and that I love. At least I always do my hair and some makeup. Your post and all the comments made me think maybe it's time to sit down and think about this some more.

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  35. Valerie (aka Val from Oz)February 19, 2010 at 7:20 AM

    A true 'look' is something that comes from the inside out rather than the outside in.It is usually a reflection of an out there personality (re Lady Gaga) or at least not a shy one (Katherine Hepburn)
    It's true most of us on PR sew 'ordinary' clothes for non standard issue bodies (in my case too short, wide shoulders, otherwise standard).
    I'm usually happy to just blend in but on occasion I'll vamp it up or wear a lot of bright colours, all at once.
    People who see me every work day 'you always look good'. those who have seen me dressed up say I look elegant. That's enough for me.

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  36. Love your post (and, really, all of your posts)! Something I muse about, though certainly never achieve, is consistency of "look". At one point in my office-going past, I had a hairdresser who was interested in flat ironing my hair, which is naturally curly. My co-workers were so discombobulated by this! Eventually I made her stop because the whole business just attracted too much attention and comment. The people around me wanted to know that my general "look" would be consistent (consistently curly, that is). My aspirational look is slightly crazy in a good way. With a tiny dash of verging on the inappropriate (for my age, for my height, for the situation, for the era or whatever), but not ridiculous.

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  37. This post has really channeled some insecurities I've been feeling about having lost my look. I am an architect in NYC that was laid off a year ago and now I work for a construction company. I used to put together things called "outfits", combinations of cool skirts, pants, boots, heels, jackets, sweaters, accessories... now i wear one of two pair of jeans and one of two hoodies - every day. I feel like it's even affecting my enthusiasm for weekend and evening looks. Partly it's the season, I've always had a wider and more interesting selection of warm weather clothes, but mostly I feel a bit like I've lost part of my identity. I've started sewing clothes again in the last couple of months to remedy this problem. No clear solution yet, though. I just want to sew dresses, which doesn't exactly solve the workwear problem

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  38. I've just recently found your blog, so "hi there!"

    My look depends on my mood. Apparently I have lots of mood swings. ;) I love making interesting pieces, and invariably will get the "You made that didn't you?" accusatory question. Yes...yes, I did.

    When at a party, with all our shoes in a jumble at the door, the ladies will say, "Those are Stacy's shoes, aren't they?" Yes, yes they are.

    I like "unique" pieces. Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of standard fare. I have a pair of khakis in my closet and many pairs of jeans. I love that I can sew some non-standard clothes that can spice up my ordinary wardrobe.

    I am a mom of two small ones and an accountant, so I understand the need for comfortable and at times, understated clothes. I think you can still interject some fun style and be comfortable, though.

    Great discussion! :)

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  39. My preferred style is pretty much summed up by William Gibson in Pattern Recognition: "CPUs. Cayce Pollard Units. That's what Damien calls the clothing she wears. CPUs are either black, white or gray, and ideally seem to have come into this world without human intervention." No logos (except, on rare occasion, I'll wear a t-shirt for band I really enjoy). But usually it's jeans and a t-shirt, the uniform of the software engineer.

    The look I would like to pull off, if I could? Still going with the CPUs, but with more style. So it looks like I actually thought about what I put on that morning. That's why I wanted to learn to sew, but I haven't really pulled it off yet.

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  40. Hmmm, still thinking about this from yesterday, but thought I'd try to pull something together about this whole "look" idea. And, ah ha!, that might be part of my problem. Inertia, indecisiveness, an inability to come to grips with a rounder me. My style/look has gone from stay at home mom in Lands End/LL Bean/Talbots to empty nester, but work at home, same basic look, though its now more Ann Taylor/Talbots. Whenever I try to veer away from that formula, I feel like I look like I've tried to hard.

    So, where does that leave me. I've re-entered the "sewing for myself" world, and want to develop an "oh, I just threw this on, but of course I look fabulous" look. Sounds like a tall order, but I'm willing to work on it.

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  41. At women's college, my look was decidely lumberjack.

    Now at 34, I'm trying to dress more classically. And less somberly. I still wear corduroys, but at least they fit now.

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  42. First, let's ignore the fact that my look is "shlub" 50 percent of the time, and "frump"10 percent of the time.

    When I'm actually making an effort, my look is clean lines and dark colors with bright accents. I love rich colors and rich fabrics. No pastels for me.

    Comfort is a must, so I'm usually wearing round-toe shoes, long pants, and layered pullover tops. I'm more into scarves than jewelry, although I've had pierced ears all my life so I'm usually wearing earrings. My look is more modern than classic or preppy. I love vintage sewing stuff, but vintage styles look so wrong on me.

    People at work tell me that my long curly hair is my "trademark". I think that's interesting, because as a child I wasn't allowed to grow my hair long. So I still don't think of it as definitively "me". But I do like it and happily wear it that way, so I guess it's my look.

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  43. What a fun discussion! I don't think I have a "look" per se, but I do tend to gravitate to classic styles in neutrals with pops of color here and there. I actually had a friend come over last year and help to get me out of my rut and incorporate more bold jewelry, scarves, prints and open necklines into my wardrobe. Things were going well with this, but I found that starting to sew really blew the doors open! I'm not afraid to try styles that I may not purchase RTW because of fitting issues and I think I'm branching out much more now.

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  44. Interesting post...I don't think I have a look as much as style preferences. I do like shorter skirts, bright colors, bold prints, but I find myself wearing boring khakis and ho-hum tops to work too often - esp. in the winter.

    My almost 3 year old DD - she has a look. Miss Gracie, who has been the star of many of my pattern reviews, always looks stylish in bright, fun colors, ruffles, bows, and mixed patterns. I think I like being her fashion designer b/c I can make her feel and look special and everything fits her so easily. She's my dress-up doll.

    I need to work on bringing Mommy up to the fabulousness of Gracie.

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  45. Correct me if I am wrong, but I have always believed that a look is not in the clothes themselves, but the details. I tend to wear conservative clothes. But somewhere on those clothes, you can be assured there's a humorous detail that's my definite "look". For example, I have a small collection of cuff links that are shaped humorously, like old television sets, or old airplanes. I have shirts that display a humorous message, usually in good taste, that I do not hesitate to wear with more conservative clothes. To me, a look is really in the details that make ordinary or conservative clothes somewhat out of the ordinary.

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