The Power of Non-Verbal Expression

Whenever I meet a neighbour of my mother-in-law´s, they will tell me how wonderful she is, how she is sharp-witted, full of vitality, and how well she dresses. She is 92 years old. She has worked as a seamstress for much of her life, and she has made most of the clothes in her vast closets herself. At 92, as you can guess, she doesn´t usually have anywhere to go, not many friends still alive, she is nearly blind from macular degeneration, and not always steady on her feet. Still, every day she dresses well, puts on a necklace, a belt with a striking buckle, and she is never crumpled, untidy, or unmatched. The Swedish adjective for ladies like her is parant. My dictionary tells me it translates to something like strikingly elegant. Actually, it also means that the woman has a bit of regality about her. Confidence unlimited.

No matter how deep, and serious, and above such trivial things we want to be, it is an inescapable fact that the way we dress and present ourselves matter a great deal. People make a lot of assumptions about us based on our appearance (as do we about others, consciously or not), and I think that since one must wear clothes (or be arrested or freeze to death), why not wear ones that make one happy and make others treat one with respect.

Being a somewhat insecure dresser, and very interested in design in general, I have plowed my way through quite a stack of "How to dress"-books in the past. While all of these will stress the importance of being well dressed to boost one´s self confidence, they then will tear it apart by pointing out all the things about one´s body that needs to be covered up and hid from the public eye. It seems every categorization (you know them: pear, apple, etc) is based on a flaw of some sort and the only acceptable shape for a woman to be is hour glass, tall and slim. No wonder these books sell like hotcakes. The more of them one reads, the more insecure one becomes, and the more books one buys... and so on. I say "one", meaning "me", but I know I´m not the only "one" who has these issues.

Lately, I have been looking elsewhere of answers and I have found two books I can heartily recommend. The first one is "Already Pretty" by Sally McGraw, and I bought this book on Kindle. She has an excellent website which she updates several times a day, so you can get to know her and her work a bit to make up your own mind about it. This book is about finding one´s own style and learning figure flattery techniques to highlight or downplay parts of your anatomy, in any way you choose to yourself. But she is more of an advocate for flattering and highlighting than she is about hiding and downplaying. She doesn´t tell you you have to look like an hourglass. Or like a boyish supermodel. And she can introduce you to a whole community of women who dress happily and creatively after their own ideas. Some are fashionable, some are not, but all have their own great style.

The other book that made an impression on me is "Style Statement. Live by your own design." by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte. (Actually, this book could have been a recommendation by Sally McGraw, though I can´t really remember. She regularly recommends good reading on this topic.) This book isn´t particularly about what to wear at all. It´s more of a big questionaire, with illustrative examples, portraits of people they have worked with to figure out their style statement. So what is a style statement?

It´s a two word combination where the first word expresses your 80%, your foundation, your nature, what you are. The other word expresses your 20%, your creative edge, how you express yourself, what motivates you. The great thing about this is that the word combination is really unique to you, you are not ever put in a box with a lot of others that are "sporty" or "classic" or whatever (but of course you can be both those things). It´s about expressing what is authentically you.

The idea is that when you have "found" (caught sight of, more like) your core personality, every choice that you make can be made in accordance with that, and you will communicate much more effectively who you are and what you want, both in what you say and how you say it. And the world can respond. Self knowledge is always a good thing and this is a really good tool to get there, I find.

What my style statement is? You want to know? Actually, I think I´m going to keep that one to myself.

1 comment:

  1. Reading this makes me miss a wardrobe and not be limited to hiking clothes and a few other items. I see it as an opportunity though to start fresh when I get back from our travels. :-)