We all know that the best thing about rules is that they are meant to be broken. They can even be stretched and modified. One of my key objectives when consulting clients is laying out parameters that help them understand, visualize, shop, and dress in accordance with their personal style. For my clients, establishing these style parameters give us a tangible framework to refer back to when evaluating colors, textures, fabrics, fits, shapes, lines, and designs of clothing and accessories, as well as seeing new ways to update hairstyles.
Years ago when selling clothes on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, I was always keen on establishing individually based style rules. It’s the clear cut way of discerning why one outfit is superior to another; why, with a bit of visual fine tuning, you come to see how the better design is in the details. Once you know how these rules apply to you and your lifestyle, you then know how to interpret them and make them your own. You even know how to break them.
Last week while shopping for a client’s summer and summer travel wardrobe, I stumbled upon the most amazing Blumarine long flowing floral print skirt in a mix of blues that are the sweet spot of her color palette. It was the only piece of its kind on the sale rack. It looked like her size, so I grabbed it immediately. Once I checked the size, it crossed my mind that it could be small. But then again, if she wore it higher, as it seemed like it should be, it could be perfect. Undeterred by the potential glitch, I stayed the course, searching for the right elements to complete the look.
This gorgeous and unusual piece ordinarily would be worn with other highly stylized items. But I was about to break one of her style rules – and mine. Always mindful to keep the focus on the face, wearing such an eye-catching item on the bottom half of the body, breaks that rule immediately. That she isn’t a wearer of jewelry further assures the focus stays on that skirt. So I played into that notion by creating a “bohemian chic” sort of look, completing it with a tonal pocket t-shirt for a monochromatic effect, and a choice of two shoes. One, a wooden stacked platform, juxtaposes the skirt’s languid feel with a power surge. So when she is seen from the toes up – because that’s where the focal point is – her entire beauty is taken in after all. The second choice of shoe is a gorgeous tonal strappy iridescent patent leather heel. I told her this would make for a great evening look with this skirt, less bohemian, but more “well heeled.”
Had I followed rules about the skirt, the shoes, and most significantly about her personal style, these disparate items might not have come together in such a successful way to convey the true spirit of her style.
Be open to see beyond the strictness of style rules so they do not constrict you.
When another client met me for a shopping session last week, an item we looked at left her both interested and questioning the buying decision. In my image consulting work, this is an excellent opportunity to reiterate how to interpret the rules. I broke a rule when encouraging her to get this item!
The item is a summery linen jacket with a stand up collar. It’s got many style traits that would be excellent for my client. The color, shape, and detailing are all flattering to her appearance and personality. It fit quite well, too. But her apprehension with it had to do with the linen material. By suggesting that she wear this piece, versus a fluid light wool or silk crepe de chine, I was not looking for an item that follows the rules of her personal style to the letter.
Though her style is based on possessing a sense of refinement, including wearing finer fabrics, her lifestyle is less formal much of the time to be running around in fine wools. So finding this relaxed gorgeous linen piece makes great practical sense, especially because it has so many other tasteful features. For example, the buttons are colored to blend with the linen fabric. Also, when she partially buttons the jacket, those buttons disappear by a hidden front button closure. Even the quality of the linen is among the best I’ve seen in women’s garments this season. Each of these qualities adds up to make it more refined for what it is, and works for her relaxed and refined lifestyle. Maybe I broke a rule, because I can tell that in her own life she breaks her own rules.
The reason I can help my clients break rules isn’t ultimately that we’re really ignoring style parameters. What we’re really doing is expanding the way the rules work so the system continues to support their styles and goals.
I have been professionally dressing people for over half of my life. It’s the greatest joy when a client says, “Joseph I don’t know how you can know me so well, but it’s just great.” Whether you’re a true conformist or a rule breaker at heart, I really work at getting to the core of you, not working to fix you.
Let’s break some rules together.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps high-profile individuals revitalize, manage, and be secure in their personal visual brand. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.