Wardrobe Architect – Personal Core Style

Tastes, preferences, influences

Sarai started us on our Wardrobe Architect journey by inviting us to get personal and explore what in our lives influences our clothing choices. Honestly, I don’t feel comfortable sharing all of my responses. Some are just too personal. However, I’ll share a few snippets:

  • History: Your personal history and life events.
    • When I was a kid if we wanted to paint, play outside, or do anything that might involve a bit of a mess, we were encouraged to change out of our nice [school] clothes and get into our grubbies. I’ve always had a “nice” wardrobe and a grubby wardrobe. When I worked as an archaeologist, my grubby wardrobe became my work wardrobe. I have a hard time throwing out clothes because if it still fits, I just move it to the “grubby/activity” drawer. My current style began to crystalize in graduate school, when I started thinking about professional job attire. 
  • Philosophy: Your religion, spirituality, or general philosophy.
    • In graduate school I became very interested in sustainability. I turned to sewing intending to reduce my carbon footprint. I now buy a lot of used clothing, which means I am usually a year or two behind trends.  I am also prone to impulse purchases at Goodwill or Value Village, and until last year I was not good at envisioning the whole wardrobe.
  • Culture: Your cultural background and the aesthetic values you grew up with.
    • I prefer photography, pen & ink drawings, and Impressionism (Monet’s waterlily series is my favorite). Abstract, modernism art…I can appreciate it as someone’s expression and interpretation, but usually I just “don’t’ get it”. So, I think this means I appreciate precision, clean lines, realism, but also nature, color and softness.
  • Community: Your friends and the people around you.
    • I definitely take cues from coworkers to figure out the dress code at new jobs. My geek & gamer friends inspire me to find awesome geeky t-shirts…except I don’t regularly wear t-shirts to work or on the weekends.
  • Activities: Your interests, activities, and hobbies.
    • Work is the most common activity that influences my clothing choices. How much walking do I have today (in office and during commute)? How much time do I need spend away from my desk, and do I have pockets to hold my cell phone when I am? I usually opt for flat shoes or [semi] comfy heels. I want to be comfortable around the office and home. But I also like to be professional at work. At home, I tend to dress more casually and grubby when I sew or craft.
  • Location: Where you live.
    • Seattle is much more cosmopolitian than Portland, so I’m surrounded by more polished, professional styles. In Portland, I my style very laid back, comfy, with a hint of hippy. Rain has always been a part of my climate. I tend to wear pants and close toed shoes most of the year. I also avoid white or light colored pants on super rainy days because I fear they will get ruined in a water or mud puddle. I also get cold easily, so even though I don’t need to worry about sub-zero blizzards, I usually have a cardigan to layer in the summer and a sweater in the winter.
  • Body: How you feel about your body.
    • Fitted and structured clothes make me feel good. I comfortable in my skin, though I wish I was healthier and stronger. I think I might be midway between a pear and semi-hourglass figure. I get frustrated with RTW pants and skirts that can’t accommodate my hip-to-waist proportions. And my smaller than average bust means that baggy or loose blouses make me appear pregnant or like a little girl playing dress-up in her mom’s clothes. I like my waist to be defined. 

Describing My Core Style in images and words

The second week’s worksheet teased out dozens of words I use to describe and define how I feel in certain outfits (frumpy, sexy, confident, authoritative, smart, young, etc).

When you are wearing your favorite clothing, how do you feel (e.g. confident, sexy, poised, powerful, etc)?

Casual cosmopolitan is how my husband describes my style. My favorite outfits make me feel mature, composed, confident, but also fun or joyful. My most favorite outfits are ones that also are physically comfortable. There are some outfits that look goooooood, but require constant readjustment. 

When you’re wearing something that is not quite right, how do you feel? What are the feelings you want to avoid about the clothes you wear?

Frumpy, uneven, and childish.

I look young, and there are times that my clothing choices make me look too young, cute, or childish. Lots of trends do this, if it is something that high schoolers and college students are wearing, I need to think twice.

Because I am petite, it is easy for me to buy a jacket or sweater that makes me look like I am wearing something ill-fitted in the bust or armpits.

Who do you consider to be your style icons? What is it about them that appeals to you?

It has been a long while since I have actively tracked celebrities and fashions. I always had an affinity for Reese Witherspoon’s easy elegance and sophisticated California casual. Her style is simple and pretty. She could glam it up, but the dresses are still usually simple. She is polished and sleek and femine, but not super frilly.

Also, Natalie Portman. Again, I liked her natural, simple style, which had a hip edge from time to time. She goes from super casual (jeans and tshirt) to New-York trendy and tailored, but she often also has a “timeless” classiness to her style, sometimes it evokes a previous era. She also has a small chest, so her outfits often (but not always) highlight her waist, to make an hourglass silhouette. This is something I need to do.

What are some words that describe styles that you like in theory, but are not quite you?

I love the look of rustic and bohemian looks, but both of these can make me look young or immature. I also love chunky sweaters and scarves–those styles that evoke a forest cabin and no electricity. But being small, I get lost in those garments. 

Then Sarai asked us to narrow that list 3-5 words that describe ourselves that stem from our style choices and our personal history. These are the words the wardrobe is aspiring to.

I followed the lead of another Wardrobe Architect participant, gathered photos of myself in various outfits to settle on the words that described how I feel in my favorite outfits.


  • Simple – basic garment pieces, minimal or subtle patterns, basic shapes
  • Classy/Classic – Technically these are two different words with nuanced meanings. Classic implies a transcendence of trends and time. Classy implies traditional, polished, smart, respectable, and so on. In my head, a lot of the classic outfits are classy.
  • Creative – while you won’t find me pairing wild patterns or wearing works of art for jewelry, I do appreciate creative details. Sometimes it is a necklace, sometimes it is lace appliqué.
  • Fresh – natural fibers, cool and tasty colors, clean appearance. Also, a hint of playfulness. Think: Monet’s waterlilies.
  • Casual – many of my garments can be dressed up (emphasizing sophistication and classiness) or dressed down. Casual is also comfortable. I like that flexibility.

This certainly describes my style preferences up to this point. While I’m not looking to revamp everything about how I dress, there are some areas where I would like to be more intentional and more polished. I think that will come after I stock my wardrobe with more garments that intermix. I am trying to build a more cohesive wardrobe and this is the first step.

The next step is to explore garment shapes & silhouettes.

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