Developing Personal Style: a brave act in a trend-mad world.

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook


After watching the gorgeous documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel I’ve been thinking a lot about personal style and the bravery it takes to allow oneself to be fully free.  Ms Vreeland was a one-of-a-kind fashion editor for both Harper’s Bazar and Vogue in the 40s, 50s and 60s and had full artistic control over both publications.  She was a free-spirited, workaholic, exaggeration-prone, mad genius of style who loved all things visual and had a wonderful no self-censorship policy.  She lived everyday in head-to-toe dress-up and designed her home (with help of legendary designer Billy Baldwin) to be a fashionable lair to match her personality.  What would happen if we all let ourselves be as free?  What if we all worked to develop (and maintain!!) an exterior look that matches our interior lives?  How do we summon the courage to choose a style when everything we see and read dictates trend over personal taste? It’s a tough one.  I struggle with it all the time: do I prefer casual Californian decor with linen couches, raw wood and white walls OR Parisian antiques, high ceilings and chevron flooring?   And clothing is a completely different story!  Since fashion trends change so much faster than home-decor, there are so many more choices to boggle the mind and empty the wallet.  What to do?   In this, as with all things, a few role models might be key.

So in order to bolster myself (and hopefully you) towards more confidence in the self-decoration department, I’ve chosen three wonderfully courageous women who chose consistent looks -with subtle changes and updates of course- for both their wardrobes and their homes in equal proportion.  And guess what?  All three of these ladies will be remembered for bravely exposing what they truly love and their own personal sense of beauty, trendy or not.

Special note: I am NOT suggesting eschewing all current taste and fashion…just a little more playfulness perhaps.

I’ll start with Diana Vreeland.  It seems that she never skipped a day dressing to the nines:

Her design brief for her living room (below) was “I want this place to look a garden, but a garden in hell”.  I think she got her wish: with floor to ceiling scarlet chintz and Persian flowers and red carpeting her salon was an incredible expression of personal style.

Out on location with Harper’s Bazaar; sometimes the photographers would forgo the models and shoot their Fashion Director instead.  No fear, no second-thoughts.

My next inspiration comes from a movie called “Coco and Igor”, which came out way back in 2009 but I finally came around to recently.  I was struck with the consistency in Coco Chanel’s look for both home and wardrobe.  She was meticulous in her choices and built a full-fledged persona that changed fashion forever.  In fact, she was the opposite of a trendy-dresser, creating a whole new silhouette.

The following images are a shots from the movie -and I realize that the set-design could be an interpretation by the film’s designers (and I can’t find any information on accuracy)- but my point is that Chanel painted her world with her tastes and preferences- so much so that her clothes and her home were equal representations of her style.  At this point in the story, it’s 1920 and Art Deco is raging.  Instead of colour, she went with black and white.

Next is one of my personal style icons, India Hicks.  I discovered Ms Hicks when I visited Harbour Island in the Bahamas where she has her home. She is truly design-royalty and has crafted a whole lifestyle out of Island Living (and also a wonderful book of the same name).

“Island Style” caused ripples all around the design world and created a trend: casual yet elegant with loads of antiques (decor) and flowing, printed fabrics (fashion).  India Hicks’ design choices are authentic to her taste and experience and are so very inspiring to me.

I have had many a client ask me whether or not it might be best to design their homes like the pages of House and Home and leave it at that.  And while I love and admire the magazine to no end, I also try to encourage people to think outside the box and do something different.  Beige couches are great, but what else is there?  And if you are lost, there are tons of people out there who can inspire you by styling your home or giving your wardrobe a facelift.  Do you think Chanel did it all herself?  No way. Help is just around the corner. Drop me a line and I would be happy to send you a few names.

Anyway, I hope this gave you a boost on this dreary November day.  Next time you’re out shopping, give something new a try.  What would YOU do if you weren’t afraid?

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