Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Style Statement: the Journey

My style statement is Creative Joy.

I've struggled with style for a long time. I always figured that once I figured out what I want to do when I grow up, I'd also know how to dress. The logic fails there a bit, when you consider that not all architects, or writers, or professors dress alike--not by a long shot! But in the meantime, I had developed a fairly stable, non-offensive, somewhat dull style that I'll call "classic." And a thing for red shoes.

So I was thrilled when I came across Carrie & Danielle in Domino magazine, and beyond thrilled when I heard about their book.

The gist is this: you answer a flood of insightful, provocative, soul-searching questions, then you sift and sort through your answers, and you come up with a two word "style statement" that sums you up, body and soul.

While I was working through the book, I was certain I was going to be "Creative Light." I loved all the puns in "Light" -- travel light, lighten up, radiant, plus one of my passions is color, which is really just light bouncing around -- but I ran into a snag.

When you get towards the end of the process, Carrie (I assume it's Carrie's voice at that point) tells you to make sure that at least one of your words could describe a sofa. So I tried to imagine a Creative sofa, and immediately I thought of a scary cross-stitch lady with a purple polka-dotted sofa and a lot of cats. I ran screaming to look for more words.

I pulled two more: Classic and Joy. The description of "Classic" in the Style Vocabulary hadn't particularly stuck out at me, but my synonyms sounded like home: "quiet, tasteful, supportive, strong, proven, simple, complex, independent, elegant, clean". Joy turned out to be what I was trying to get to with Light, without the "fewer calories" connotation: "light, life, laughter, bubbles, sparkles, sexy, rich, happy".

This was it!! Classic Joy! I wrote it down and did a dance for my 9 month old son! I could see my Classic Joy living room. I picked out a Classic Joy haircut. It explained SO MUCH. I promised myself to save up for an Hermes Red Berry scarf.

Then I mentioned it to my husband. "Classic? Classical? I don't really see it." I read him my synonyms, and he scrunched up his nose. "Well, I was thinking of Creative, too..." "Yes! That's you - you're totally creative. Creative Joy - I love it!"

Hrmph. Now, I often feel that my husband knows me better than I know myself. But I wanted to be right on this one. I argued that Creative felt like WHAT I do, not HOW I do it. Yes, I'm a creative person. But it doesn't feel like a style to me. (I was still reeling from that purple sofa image.)

So I decided to give it a test drive. I bought a "Classic Joy" handbag on ebay. It arrived. And it was nice. A little conservative. In my mind, the style statement was becoming "Classic (but not conservative) Joy."

Then I went shopping. Whenever I shop, I always struggle to find a middle ground between "boring" and "dumb." "Classic" seemed to be that middle ground. I came home with really useful stuff - black trousers, a nice turtleneck sweater, a pair of jeans that fit. Nice. A little conservative.

Your style statement is supposed to help with more than just clothes. It's supposed to be a guidepost for building a life. And in that sense, Classic Joy wasn't really working for me. It explained where I am--technical writer, huge corporation, thing for red shoes--but not where I want to go.

By the next morning, a new little voice was whispering... "there is poetry and fire in my soul." I sat down with a pencil and notepad to figure this out.
Creative Light
Classic Joy
Poetic Fire
Creative Classic
Creative Joy
...Damn if my husband wasn't right.

Classic felt right because it was where I have been living for a long time. It's safe. It's frugal (and you've gotta know I love a bargain). But it's not my core. Creative makes my stomach squirm a little bit, because I know that Carrie & Danielle are going to make me own it.
  • That means, instead of using my creativity to feed my frugal itch...
    That new sweater is too expensive. Instead, I will buy one at goodwill, rip it up, and knit a new one with the yarn." (yes, I actually did this in college.)
    ...using my frugal self to feed my creativity.
    I will save up for truly gorgeous yarn, so that I can wear a work of art.
  • That means saying no to the MBA and maybe to the MFA.
  • That means doing morning pages once my boys are asleep.
  • That means digging out some old manuscripts from digital mothballs.

Deep breath. Whoo boy.

Also, read my Style Statement Profile.


Anonymous said...

Suzyn - thanks so much for sharing that and sending me the link - it's funny the parallels! I love to hear about each person's journey and experience with their style statement. Thakns again...

Zarah said...

I love your description of the Style Statement process! It was very difficult for me too, and I ended up running my statement-in-progress by my husband, who also vetoed by original choice. I ended up with "Cultivating Play" - I think. This whole "intentional living" thing is still a process for me.

roo said...

I strongly endorse morning pages.
They were my therapy when I couldn't afford a shrink.
And you're the one who gave me "The Artist's Way" in the first place.
I don't always cotton to its twelve-steppiness, but just for morning pages the book is worth a go.

Anyway, glad you're figuring stuff out.
Thinking of you...

Colleen said...

Thank you for sharing your process! I am working through the book right now and have been tossing around the word classic. Your description and list of synonyms (quiet, tasteful, supportive, strong, proven, simple, complex, independent, elegant, clean) make me think I may be on track... Thanks!

Paper Relics said...

It is interesting to read about someone else's style statement experince (I am Nostalgic Creativity - http://besottment.typepad.com/besottment/2009/04/nostalgic-creativity.html) and I feel that discovering this has opened so much up for me.