A mom and her daughter looking at each other as they sit on patio chairs

“Some people’s wardrobe and home will boast neutral, muted tones in a distinctly hygge style,” my mom would say. “Others will wear a suit with lemons and oranges patterned all over while sitting in a tartan chair.”

“It’s not what you’re wearing as much as it’s how you’re wearing it.”

My mother grew up in a family of creatives. Artists, writers, painters, teachers and homemakers, whether it was the dining room table or the home interior, the environment was always layered with creativity and patented with designs that had great intention and care behind them. There was always something to behold, and it’s beauty was left up to the beholder.

This was the most significant piece of style advice that she gave me: to remember that style is, first and foremost, in the eye of the beholder. One may prefer hygge, the other may prefer the lemons and oranges. Neither are wrong.

Style is, first and foremost, in the eye of the beholder.

Secondly, she taught me that style must be developed, not borrowed. We will inevitably learn from our favorite designers, but these styles must be digested and reproduced for ourselves rather than replicated. She taught me that translation of styles will vary depending on personal preferences. 

I got all my style advice from my mom, and here’s what she taught me:

Choose elegance sans the extravagance.

My mother has always operated in the “less is more” policy. It shaped the building of her home, the curating of her wardrobe and also fed into her life and values (apart from when she would host—there was an abundance of good food!) The aesthetics of “elegance without extravagance” means that the little details are in focus and that block colors will often be found, with small splashes of statement colors or an accessory. However, these bright glimpses of extravagance will never distract from the main color palette or piece of clothing, which are typically monochromatic and neutral.

She taught me to regularly declutter. This meant that my style wasn’t overpowered by many different trends and colors. Instead, my style has been consistent throughout the years while steadily evolving as I matured. She taught me to “remember grace” when buying clothes and that often, the less you wear, the more you have to hide. Although she was not prudent toward a little skin (especially when you’re tan), she did, however, prove to me that the most confident women are often those with no need to reveal everything.

She did prove to me that the most confident women are often those with no need to reveal everything.

Choose timeless items over trends.

My mother had a remarkable way of keeping her finger on the pulse of trends while going above the need to grab the latest items of clothing simply because they were “in vogue” at the time. I don’t think I ever saw her watching London fashion week or reading fashion magazines.

Instead, she observed styles that she liked from her friends, took note at what had been timeless throughout the centuries (taking note from icons such as Coco Chanel) and built her style catalogue from there. She just knew that some trends would float in as easily and as quickly as they would float out. 

She just knew that some trends would float in as easily and as quickly as they would float out. 

Learn from Italians and the French.

European women are consistently voted the best dressed in the world. Clean lines, muted colors and an undeniable confidence, Italian and French people are known for their effortless elegance without taking hours to get ready. Unlike Americans, who are unfortunately often used as a comparison, Europeans have a way of making pajamas and loungewear look as elegant as a cocktail dress. While my mother did not rigidly stick to the European style, she did teach me that the “Je ne sais quoi” style is timeless and a staple.

Style is not meant to hide you but communicate who you are.

Your style must be a reflection of the wholeness within. Whether it’s the clothes you wear or the home you live in, your style is an extension of your personality. You should not rely nor depend on style, but rather it should emanate from who you are and, in doing so, contribute to your self-confidence.

Your style must be a reflection of the wholeness within.

It might be cliche but my mother was firm about it. Without the inward virtues of kindness, grace, compassion and generosity, style is a waste of time. Good style is complemented and revealed by a good character.

Image via Martha Galvan, Darling Issue No. 15

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