May. 02, 2021
A Comprehensive Guide to Elegant Style
Nov. 13, 2020
How to use clothes and style to channel your truth
Have you ever wondered why a public person, or your favorite celebrity sometimes look so good while other times they do not? If you like them unconditionally, have you ever wondered why some of their public appearances (outfits) cause so much negativity? Is it all about haters looking to channel their frustration? Indeed part of it is always about online rage-addicts, but there is something else to it: when a public person isn’t honest, people sense it, and they object.
Having poor personal style is a way of being dishonest.
When choosing clothes that do not channel our true selves, we are first and foremost dishonest with ourselves and then with others. Most of the time it happens because people do not have the tools to understand themselves. Sometimes it is fear and denial of facing who you are. Often it is a deeper yearning to parade as someone else, to meet setting requirements or someone’s expectations. Finally, it may be a genuine lack of understanding of how much our appearance predetermines our style. We are taught by the fashion industry to think of ourselves as tabula rasa. For better or worse, we are not. And if our clothes go against our archetypical truth that expresses itself through our face, body, and gestures, the end result will be comic or dull. This often happened with Michelle Obama.
What is the problem? Is this just a poor shot? No, not really. It’s a system bug, which in html coding would be called </ wrong_path>. Translated into the language of the image consultant, it is “wrong_Basic_Style_chosen.”
Basic Style is a set of design principles that creates a foundation for one’s personal style. It also helps you wear more and recycle less.
The California-based image consultant Alice Parsons offers a Universal Style system that has three basic (classic) styles: Traditional, Sporty, and Elegant and four additional (non-classic) styles: Dramatic, Romantic, Alluring, and Creative. I will stick to them for now, because they will help us easily digest a PhD’s worth of information. This article focuses on the three basic (classic) styles.
Division into Traditional, Sporty, and Elegant will help us digest a PhD’s worth of information.
Let me show you several examples of dignified people compromising themselves by choosing the wrong basic style.
Basic Style-1: Sporty
Michele Obama’s basic style is Sporty. Sporty style is about stronger colors, color blocking, and less structured cuts. On the right she is outfitted in Sporty style. It goes well for the event she is attending at the Newseum in Washington, DC in 2012 and it is authentic for her. Michelle’s formal coat by Thom Browne on the right represents Traditional style. She wore it for the 2013 inauguration. Traditional style is about small geometric patterns, somber colors, and a highly structured cut. Traditional style evokes an image of a ruler who is straightforward and is connected to his citizens. In this case, the style has backfired and distorted her proportions.
Michelle’s inherent Sporty style should have been considered in planning public appearance outfits. Another great example of her embracing her inherent Sporty style is her official White House Portrait.
Princess Charlene of Monaco shares a Basic sporty style with Michelle Obama. On the left, she wears a black navy bomber and dress by the Swiss brand Akris and it’s a manifestation of an elevated Sporty style. The angular lines of the neckline combined with softer silhouette go well with her sincere and friendly demeanor.
With the dusty aubergine dress on the right, Charlene is deviating toward the Elegant style. Elegant style is about smooth contours and the unobtrusive colors of a Greco-Roman sculpture. The reserved appeal of Elegance is often associated with the personal integrity expected of the royals, but here it robs Charlene of her natural charm and decreases her to a mere function. An inventive and sensitive designer’s mind is required to create an outfit that becomes an amalgam of her own Sporty style and meets the requirements of her position. For decades this place has been vacant.
Basic Style – 2: Traditional
To show you Traditional basic style in action I have found an American darling, a multiple Oscar winner, Diane Keaton. Diane’s English plaid light brown jacket on the left was worn for the Ellen DeGeneres show and represents her inherent Traditional basic style. The ivory pant suitpantsuit on the right is inspired by Elegant style. Elegant style is about less angularity and smooth, oval shapes. While it isn’t entirely wrong (this ivory is wonderful for her complexion), the lack of small geometric lines and angular contours robs the actress of her natural vitality. The cut of this blazer is designed to shorten an elongated body and highlight a gently accentuated waist, a body typical of a Greco-Roman statue which is usually a symbol of Elegant style. Keaton’s body type is exactly the opposite: she has a shorter torso and longer legs. She does not need this cut, which would better fit Angelina Jolie.
Another example of Traditional style is a young actress from New Zealand, Thomasin McKenzie. The small geometrics of the silver pants suit on the left highlight her delicate and perky facial features. The silver shimmer adds drama, which is appropriate for the high-voltage occasion, but the suit is inspired by Traditional style. The molded lines of the grey sheer cape and dress on the right are attributes of Elegant style. There is nothing wrong with it and a glamorous appearance in glamorous clothes is already exciting by itself, but she does not leave a lasting impression, compared to when she is outfitted in the pantsuit. The angularity of the pantsuit makes her look sharp and also creates a balancing opportunity for a romantic hairstyle.
For Traditional I was also lucky to come across a male example, Dr. Jordan Peterson. On the left, where he is outfitted in a light-yellow shirt (a watercolor hue extremely flattering for his complexion), he represents a casual approach according to Traditional style. On the right, the black t-shirt is casual according to Sporty style.
While a lot of external and internal factors contribute to every single picture, it is usually true that people whose inherent basic style is Traditional need a touch of formality and geometric structure added to all their outfits, including informal ones. An unbuttoned shirt with rolled up sleeves will channel casual, laid-back, friendly and approachable for those whose basic style is Traditional. People whose basic style is Sporty can do even high-profile public appearances in t-shirts without compromising their integrity, because Sporty is inherent to them. This misleads a lot of people. If someone’s basic style is Traditional and they go for a t-shirt look, they may lose their (visual) integrity, as we see in the picture on the right, where Dr. Peterson is captured during one of his famous podcasts. He needs small geometric shapes even for his casual looks.
a lot of factors contribute to every picture. But my experience shows that people whose basic style is Traditional need a touch of formality even for their casual outfits.
Basic Style – 3: Elegant
To show you transformations of someone whose basic style is Elegant I will use pictures of American actress Angelina Jolie.
Angelina’s double face coat on the left conveys Elegant style. Elegant is about molded, oval shapes, fluid fabrics, and subdued colors. It fits elongated and molded facial features and a pensive, slightly aloof demeanor.
On the right Angelina Jolie pairs a trench with slacks and small symmetrical print, which is an example of Traditional style. The crispier cotton fabrics that are typically used in Traditional style tend to create an unattended, messy look on people whose basic style is Elegant. The comfort and ease are better achieved with more fluid fabrics like double face light wool or jerseys.
Here is another example of the French model and actress, Laetitia Casta. She shares Elegant as her basic style with Angelina Jolie.
As usual, on the left I place a photo with the inherent basic style that complements facial features and natural coloring. For Laetitia, it’s Elegant, rooted in a Greco-Roman aesthetic, with draping, free flowing, monochromatic color solutions. On the right she is outfitted in a red gingham dress, which is a Sporty style. She chose both of these dresses for appearances in Cannes.
While the red dress catches the eye and seems to have corresponded with her tender age at the time (2001), it suppresses her natural, dignified beauty. It is the Grecian gown that brings her forward and gently accentuates her sophisticated beauty.
Celebrities fueled by the strong support of their fan base and access to world class designer talent enjoy endless opportunities to rectify their fashion faux pas with new outfits, appearances, and professional photoshoots. We mere mortals… not so much. We are pretty much stuck with unsuccessful investment pieces taking up our precious closet space and then pictures from important dates and events which we hoped to create memories with do not do us justice. Basic styles are a handy tool to minimize disappointment and take the stress out of choosing the right garment.
Knowing your basic style will help you fill your closet with garments that bring joy for years instead of piling up in landfills.
Another reason I strongly support the language of basic styles is because it creates an opportunity for a non-judgmental evaluation. Terms like “old-fashioned” and “ugly” step aside and create room to analyze what looks good on some and does nothing for another. This does not work in favor of industry trends and economy of scale whichscale, which benefit from mass production. Instead, it favors small brands and helps create a visual diversity that is healthy for the sophisticated beings that we humans are.
Is knowing your basic style enough to be a good citizen, eye candy, and a person of substance all in one? No, it isn’t. You will need to dig deeper into your colors, sense of proportion, lines and spacing, and your personal brand message, called an archetype. But thinking in terms of basic style is an important step in the right direction.
Below I list the main characteristics of each of the three basic styles and some resources in case you want to dig deeper into the topic.
Sporty Style Principles:
The style is inspired by tropical and exotic environments’ aesthetics. It is primarily extroverted and active with a strong physical focus. Typical archetypes: Hero, Rebel, Every Wo/Man, Innocent, Jester, Passionate.
Traditional Style Principles:
The style is inspired by Anglo-Prussian and Medieval aesthetics. It is moderately extroverted and dutiful with both mental and physical focus well pronounced. Typical archetypes: Ruler, Hero, Explorer, Creator, Caregiver.
You may find a detailed description of the Traditional style here in Russian. The English version is coming soon.
Elegant Style Principles:
The style is inspired by the Greco-Roman aesthetic and is primarily introverted and pensive with strong mental focus. Typical archetypes: Sage, Magician, Caregiver.
You may find a detailed description of the Elegant style here.
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May. 02, 2021
A Comprehensive Guide to Elegant Style
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