Reinventing myself - Livre d'Or

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Reinventing myself
Monday, 05 February 2007 at 10:51 pm
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I'm coming to the conclusion that I need a change of style. Various things have triggered this: a friend commenting that I dress "conservatively", and another pointing out a really horrendous dress, a shapeless monstrosity covered in busy floral patterns in green, brown and yellow, the sort of thing a 50-year-old who thought she could get away with looking "cute" would wear if stuck in a 70s timewarp, as being similar to my sort of style. I should emphasize that neither of these people was being anything other than friendly, but it made me think.

The truth is that last time I thought seriously about my style of dress was as a young teenager, when I first started choosing my own clothes and wanted to look like a young adult rather than a child. So my basic mode of dress since then has been long, full skirts, usually patterned, and long, loose tops, usually in plain colours. Lots and lots of layers. I've branched out a little bit since then; I own a few smart suits and a few party dresses that I didn't have when I was 14, but basically, I haven't really moved on sartorially.

I don't have to wear the same kind of clothes all the time, obviously. So I think I need to extend my wardrobe in a few directions. Maybe some outfits that are a bit more smart without being completely OTT power-dressed, so that I look like a 28-year-old professional rather than a teenaged hippie. Definitely contemplating things that are a bit more fitted; loose fitting clothes are very much easier to buy, and I think they do suit me, but I don't have to wear them exclusively. Some outfits that are somewhat more intentionally sexy, obviously not trying to look as if I'm hoping to sleep with everything that moves, but just showing off my body a bit instead of trying to hide the inconvenient fact that I don't look like an androgynous child any more. I think at least some nod towards fashion, I certainly don't want to become a sheep and do intend to keep on defining my own style, but there's no good reason to be deliberately untrendy.

I don't know what to do about my hair. I really really really really don't want to cut it, but at the same time, waist-length, completely ungroomed hair can look childish. Maybe some more sophisticated hairstyles than just the single long plait I normally do for convenience would help. But probably, I have to resign myself to getting professional attention somewhat more regularly than once a decade, at the very least keeping it trimmed and neat, and it might make sense to go in for some degree of layering or colouring. Last time I had my hair "done", I was really pleased with the result, it ended up a lovely colour and a very neat shape, and although I missed the length something terrible, halfway down my back isn't short. The thing is that cost £80 and took an entire morning, and no way on this earth am I going to follow the hairdressers' recommendation of doing that kind of major operation 8-10 times a year. I'm also a bit concerned that dyeing it regularly will damage it. I think I could realistically think about going to the hairdresser once or twice a year, though.

I am absolutely not going to wear uncomfortable shoes. Putting a bit more effort into my clothes, even on a daily basis as well as for special occasions, I think is probably worth it, but I am not even slightly willing to souffrir pour être belle. And of course, my appearance shouldn't matter, people should judge me for my talents and personality, but in practice it doesn't work like that.

I don't want to spend vast amounts of money. For a start I don't have vast amounts of money, and even if I did, there are so many things I would rather have than lots of nice clothes that devoting a serious proportion of my budget to clothes would just make me miserable. It's also pretty important to me to consider the ethics of how my clothes are produced. It's not something I've really thought about before, because I bought so few clothes that I felt it didn't matter. Does anyone have any good resources for finding out the origins and labour conditions of clothing manufacture? I sort of naively hoped that upgrading to slightly more expensive clothes would also entail supporting less exploitative manufacture, but that's just not the case; good quality clothes seem just as likely as cheap ordinary ones to be made in China and other places where manufacture depends on near-slavery. Even buying stuff that I could be sure came from Europe would be a start; are there any brands where that is known to be the case? (I don't particularly want to subsidize hippie-dippy brands that make a marketing ploy of being more ethical than thou, either, but I'll go for that if I have to.)

Maybe one solution is to look for second-hand stuff. Still, I'm not sure that really squares with trying to look smarter and be better dressed generally. I think it's probably doable to dress well from charity and second-hand shops, but it would take a lot more shopping time than just going to the high-street, and I still hate clothes shopping. I suppose it's the usual paradigm of cheap, fast and good not all being possible at once.

Anyway, I made a start on inventing the new Liv today, by going shopping with ploni_bat_ploni and letting her divert me to racks that I would never normally look at. It's the very tail end of the sales, which meant not a lot of choice, but what is still hanging around is absolutely dirt cheap, (and often mislabelled wrt size). I ended up with a really cool jacket, and I'm already imagining building a whole new style around it. It's black velour, short, very tailored, with two rows of (fake) silver buttons. It's alluding to old-fashioned military dress uniform, but in that decidedly feminine way of "I'm dressing up like a boy because I'm ever so very cute in drag". Reduced to 200 Kr (slightly under £15), woot!

Despite what I said above about hating shopping, it's a lot less hateful with good company. I haven't had a girlie best friend like ploni_bat_ploni since pseudomonas in 1998, and even that doesn't properly count because Pseudomonas is not actually a girl (besides the fact that we ended up dating, which rather spoils it!) It's an expensive hobby, certainly, but I think having a more varied and more stylish wardrobe will pay off in the end (as long as I don't go overboard with it!)

So, any advice or suggestions? Even if you've never met me, general advice is still appreciated.

Whereaboooots: Stockholm, Sweden
Moooood: hopefulhopeful
Tuuuuune: The Beatles: Lucy in the sky with diamonds
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shreena: me yet again
Date:February 5th, 2007 11:15 pm (UTC)
21 minutes after journal entry, 11:15 pm (shreena's time)
What charity shop stuff is very good for is trying out a look. You can buy something for a couple of pounds that you're not sure about, wear it a couple of times and it's no big deal if you end up deciding that you actually don't like it. But it is very timeconsuming. I never used to get around to doing it very often until I moved to Bristol and had 5 charity shops within a couple of minutes of my flat - now, I browse on my way to and from things which doesn't take very long and means that I sometimes find some really nice stuff.

For what it's worth, I think your hair does look better when it's been trimmed and having it slightly shorter is also better for being able to put it up. Putting it up would make you look instantly more professional, if that's what you're going for.
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hatam_soferet: default
Date:February 5th, 2007 11:25 pm (UTC)
31 minutes after journal entry
Bunning the hair would make you look jolly different. You could probably get a hair person to show you some ways of putting it up.

I think your flowy skirts suit you jolly well - add some fitted-y tops and you've got most of your objectives ticked off :)
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doseybat: default
Date:February 5th, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC)
43 minutes after journal entry, February 6th, 2007 02:37 am (doseybat's time)
I have never found a better strategy than long wanders through many many shops full of horrid things until eventually something friendly finds me there (which it often doesnt); I have a difficult time finding clothes just because there is virtually nothing in the shops that I like.

I hope you wont it find it counterproductive me saying that really love what you have been wearing up to now! And hope you dont mind me saying that you have been a big clothes style influence on me, precisely because you have never bothered with considering fashion, and I have always found the end result very nice.

Good luck and we want pictures!
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ursamajor: shiny!
Date:February 5th, 2007 11:47 pm (UTC)
52 minutes after journal entry, 06:47 pm (ursamajor's time)
I usually spend between $30 and $50 on a semi-annual haircut and blow-dry, and save color experimentation for home (hooray semi-permanent color that doesn't require the scary scary bleach!). But sometimes, especially if you want a big change, it's nice to treat yourself. Highlights are generally cheaper than a full color change, and while not as drastic a change, can enhance what color you already have.

A haircut might also steer you more towards new clothing items that you wouldn't have thought of before; I agree with shreena that they're a good place to try new things, and definitely bring a friend along.
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lethargic_man: default
Date:February 6th, 2007 07:43 am (UTC)
8 hours after journal entry, 07:43 am (lethargic_man's time)
Firstly, if you're thinking about doing anything to your hair that's semi-permanent, such as dyeing it, you've already been seduced by the fashionistas too far. You're looking for a new image in your clothing, not trying to change what you look like!

And secondly, it's probably no use in Sweden, but for cheap and ethical clothing, Traid is probably your friend. (Probably as in, I don't know more about it than having walked past the shops myself.)
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ewtikins: poi
Date:February 6th, 2007 09:17 am (UTC)
10 hours after journal entry, 09:17 am (ewtikins's time)

Thoughts on clothes

A lot of stuff doesn't fit me. As a child I got around this sometimes by having my mother sew things for me. As a grown-up I am learning to sew.

It may be helpful to take inventory of the clothes you do have - which of them do you absolutely love? Which of them make you feel wonderful? Which of them make you look wonderful? Which of them (if any) make you feel a bit dumpy or dowdy or frumpy? Which of them do you only ever wear when everything else needs to be washed? Are any of them uncomfortable? A good way to do this, if you don't have too much clothing, is to have a close friend around while you try on every single piece of clothing you own.

Plan on getting rid of anything that you only wear when everything else needs washing or that makes you feel less than wonderful, save one practical outfit for really dirty jobs like painting and gardening. Getting rid of it doesn't necessarily mean never wearing it again - it might mean waiting until you've found the right thing to go with it, or it might mean making alterations to something that is too long/too short/too big/and so on. Something where you love the fabric but hate the shape could perhaps be made into a different shape, or cut up to use in a scarf or bag.

When you have a list of all your optimal clothes, have a look at whether they can be re-combined in ways you haven't thought of.

One safer way of experimenting with style is to get several very basic things that suit your shape, and then go mad with accessories. It's worth spending a fair amount for classic, versatile pieces that actually fit properly, because you'll get a lot of mileage out of them. For me, this means making them myself or paying someone else to make them, because the stuff at Long Tall Sally is the only stuff that truly fits me and it isn't really made exceptionally well. You may have more options than this, but don't be afraid to ask around about having things made for you - I know claire_smith is not taking further sewing commissions at the moment but I'm sure her website will change when she does have the time.

Re: your hair - I think it's beautiful long, and wouldn't cut it, save for getting split ends taken care of periodically. I'm biased, because I'm trying to grow mine out at the moment. Do experiment with different ways of putting it up. One thing I like to do when my hair is long is to twist it into a bun and then put a couple of chopsticks through it diagonally; looks very chic and sophisticated, stays put all day (especially if I put a hairband around after the chopsticks, though this is difficult sometimes), doesn't really damage my hair. You might also consider a French plait, plaiting a scarf or ribbon into your hair, wrapping your long plait around your head somehow, experimenting with soft curlers, and so on. You might also try braiding or wrapping a very small section of hair for several weeks at a time - adds a bit of interest without really limiting other hairstyle options and unless your hair grows very fast indeed, six weeks won't damage it.

If you must cut your hair you could consider getting a fringe, but I have no idea whether this would suit your face.

hairyears suggests go easy on the black leather and studs. Chains are okay though. He also says don't cut your hair.

I'm with you on the shoes. Uncomfortable shoes are just Not Worth It. I've found Ecco to be expensive but generally comfortable.
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Date:February 6th, 2007 09:21 am (UTC)
10 hours after journal entry, 09:21 am (ewtikins's time)
Also, the jacket sounds great! :)
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blue_mai: default
Date:February 6th, 2007 09:56 am (UTC)
11 hours after journal entry, 09:56 am (blue_mai's time)
i know several intimidatingly professional women who have long hair in styles which you would probably consider to be unprofessional. i think long hair in a plait is great. yes, it's what little girls wear in stories, but that's no reason it can't also look grown-up on a grown-up. i'm keeping my hair long, though i really need to get it trimmed. you're not a lowly worker requried to conform - in your position having an individual sense of style also comes across as assertiveness.
some shopping advice - don't buy lots of stuff all at once - practice shopping but only buy a little. you might find this frustrating but it'll save you money and clothes you don't want. ok, it takes time, btu that's all. you might even find that without the pressure of having to buy a specific thing today, you get a better eye for it, or enjoy it more.
comfy shoes, yes. i have 1 uncomfy pair (you've seen them) but all the rest are comfy. but i'm also very into my shoes, and they are probably more important to me, stylistically, than clothes.
i don't think you should try and reinvent yourself with a new wardrobe, just change the way you shop, that's ok. but i don't really think a new Liv is necessary. a couple of items (such as your new jacket) may be all that is necessary for the time being, things you can wear with stuff you already have. then later when it comes to replacing clothes that are worn out, that's the next time to think abotu a new style.
yes, the ethics of clothing is important, they're luxury items, in a sense, and you can afford to pick what you buy (because you wouldn't be cold if you didn't buy any particular item). are there any swedish brands? some european countries are more keen on promoting their own manufacturing industries than others, maybe it's worth checking out.
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karen2205: default
Date:February 6th, 2007 12:21 pm (UTC)
13 hours after journal entry, 12:21 pm (karen2205's time)
I'm hopeless at recognising people's faces; but I've always been able to recognise you by your dress. It's Liv style dressing. I'd thought that it perhaps had something to do with Jewish rules about clothing, but that was it.

I'd say making sure you've got some properly-fitting, comfortable bras is a good place to start because that will affect how your clothes hang.

Then go for small changes - long flowy tops in different colours, skirts made from different materials. There's nothing wrong with loose and flowing.

Trousers are good for a change & can work well with a long flowing top.

Trimming your hair to deal with the split ends is a good thing. You ought to be able to do this yourself most of the time - I can do mine & yours is much longer so you ought to be able to see it well enough to get it even. IME whether your hair will stay up in a bun-type shape on your head depends upon how thick and heavy it is. Mine is so thick that it's hard to make it stay up unless its greasy.

Also have a think about different clothes for different settings - presumably there are rules on what is acceptable in a lab & different standards for what you wear to work events. Then there's clothes for relaxing at home, other clothes for seeing friends and so on. I generally do smart with black trousers and a semi-fitted top. Loose tops can be smart providing they're actually tops and not polo shirts or T shirts. You could do the same with a long black or navy skirt. I hate wearing suit jackets and avoid it whenever possible because they're not comfortable. A scarf around your neck can smarten a more casual outfit.
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lisekit: Kittenwhip
Date:February 6th, 2007 04:41 pm (UTC)
17 hours after journal entry
I'm also a bit concerned that dyeing it regularly will damage it.

Not nessy-celery. You can use vegetable dye instead of ammonia or peroxide-based dyes (ask your hairdresser); these tend to give a subtler result as they don't strip the hair's natural colour, but this can look better when growing out anyway, and they leave the hair glossy rather than dry.

You can also do a lot to put mosture back into your hair - this does need an investment of time and effort, but with hip-length hair you probably want to think about conditioning plentifully anyway. Again, ask your hairdresser for recommended home treatments, and have a salon treatment every now and again. Good for the follicles, and makes you feel pampered!

Up to you what you want to do with the length, but it's worth bearing in mind that longer hair can often have the effect of making you look shorter (entirely your call if you find that a bad thing or not!) and you probably want aregular trim to keep it looking its best.
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Date:February 6th, 2007 04:46 pm (UTC)
17 hours after journal entry

You might want to check out the LJ board "Modest Style" (on my Userinfo) because they often discuss fashion with sense and how to avoid the frumpy look without overexposure :-)

Style is like make-up: it is a tool to accentuate what pleases you about yourself and to cover what pleases you less. But it is *not* a tool to completely change who you are or to become something you are not.

You don't need a "new" Livredor. You just need to systematically consider what you like about your current style and what you don't. Make a list if it helps, and select your wardrobe according to these new criteria.

For instance, example from my life:
I did The Hippy Thing too long ever since 1992 and it was time for a change. So I thought, what is it about the hippy look that pleases me? And what is it that I want changed? I realised that I still like flary trousers, bright colours and beady necklaces. So those can stay. I also realised I don't want to wear cheaply-made Indian cotton clothes anymore, or tie-dye or "frumpy" things. So I harmonised the styles into something that I find the best of both words: a "clean", crisp look in bright colours, that is fitted and elegant, but not stiff because I carefully choose cute and youthful assesories. So a decent, plain, woollen skirt can look "hippy-chique" with a nice, crisp, fitten colourful top in a solid, bright colour and a nice string of beads. I haven't forsaken my old style, but have moved up from it.

So, there is a lot worth keeping in your old style. You intuitively realise what is a good look for you. You just have to become more strategic about it.

So, my suggestion would be:
- Keep the skirts-look. It's a good look for you. Just find skirts that are a little more "solid" and "crisp" looking in more "serious" fabric as opposed to loud floral prints. Skirts in A-line look gorgeous on people like us with a larger hips and a small waist.
- The layers gotta go :-) The danger with layers: frumpyness. Two layers of fitted garments can be very cute, but too many layers become confusing and frumpy.
- If you do the skirt thing, which you do well, make sure that you get fitted tops. I cannot be adamant enough about this. You have a beautiful, shapely figure with impressive breasts. Although I am a tzniut-person, there is nothing immodest about bringing to the fore what the good Lord gave you. Show off your slender waist and bust by buying tightfitted tops. Go easy on the patterns. Because you are busty, patterns on tightfitted tops can look pretty awful.
- Colour coordinate and assesorise. A top in a solid material with a nice necklace looks better than a print top, or something like that. Assesories are fun and CHEAP and allow you to match apparently mismatching garments. An orange shirt and a green skirt? I can pull it off by wearing orange-and-green beads.
- Be radical with your wardrobe. Moving out of my house and to Sweden *forced* me to ditch my majority of clothes. I realised how many clothes I didn't really like or wear anymore. Better to have a small wardrobe of handpicked items that you can coordinate with one another, than a whole bunch of clothes you cannot make sense of.
- When you shop: be critical. A bargain is nice, but you got to keep in mind how a particular buy might fit into your wardrobe!

Hope this helps! You can go so many ways with your looks: romantic, hippy-chique, Gothic, classy... so don't despair. It's not about a new you. It's about letting you shine forth :-)

If you want, we can go through your wardrobe tomorrow :-)
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livredor: body
Date:February 6th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
21 hours after journal entry, 08:52 pm (livredor's time)
Thanks, those are really useful suggestions, being so detailed. I could only aspire to be a fraction as stylish as you are, so I will definitely consult you for advice on this.

Playing dressing up sounds a lot more fun than cleaning and tidying! You're very welcome to stay over, by the way, but of course it's no problem if you want to go home.
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Date:February 6th, 2007 10:38 pm (UTC)
23 hours after journal entry
Ok, thanks! I'll bring T&T just in case, plus my toothbrush etc. If things wind up late (likely they will), we can try and go to Minyan together in the morning :-)

Glad my suggestions were useful. After cleaning/tidying, we will reward ourselves with dressing up. Wow, what an incentive! :-)
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adrian_turtle: default
Date:February 7th, 2007 03:49 am (UTC)
1 days after journal entry
Those are good suggestions. I have a similar figure, and some vaguely related concerns. I don't feel comfortable wearing skirts in lab, but I do wear them elsewhere. And I don't follow the formal tsunias guidelines, but a lot of clothing that seems designed for professional women is really too tight/low-neck/provocatively-decorated for my taste.

As for your hair, henna might be a good color for you. It improves the condition and shininess of the hair. I've been using it on mine, to cover the gray with red so the overall light brown looks more like reddish brown. There are some resources at
for ideas about using henna, and for suggestions about putting up long hair in interesting ways. To start:
To approach henna like a very thorough geek, try
Or the crude approach:
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awful_dynne: default
Date:February 15th, 2007 06:25 am (UTC)
9 days after journal entry, 01:25 am (awful_dynne's time)
Enjoy shopping and getting pointed to racks you'd not have gone to yourself. I once told a friend that I really liked their clothes, their outfits, and ended up asking them to go shopping with me, as I have no fashion sense. One skirt I bought I know I would've never even looked at had it not been for my friend, and it ends up that it is now my favorite skirt. So, I definitely see the benefits, and fun, in going shopping with a friend who has a different style. Enjoy, and good luck.
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