Style Theory and the Modern International

“‘Style’ is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style.”
– John Fairchild

Some will tell you that a move is the perfect time to try on a new persona, change your attitude, adopt a new style, etc.  And they are right, theoretically.  As someone who has meandered across four continents, moving once every couple of years, with ample opportunities to try on very different demeanors and looks, I can vouch you can change your style.  But I can also vouch that it can be expensive, tiring, and a lot of times futile, as lots of us inevitably go back to our old ways.  Here is the true secret to changing/staying true to your style: it has next to nothing to do with how you look.

That’s right, dumplings.  As cliche as it is, your style is all about you, not what you wear.

I sense you nodding along sagely, but wondering at the back of you minds, “Why bring this up, and what does this have to do with moving to Merrie Olde Englande?”  The answer is because I can’t count the number of friends, acquaintances, and fellow travelers I’ve known who think that a big trip or continental move is just one excuse to try on a new persona.  More specifically, that it’s an excuse to buy lots of stuff.  It’s not.

Back, you snarling shopaholics!

Whoa!  Down, minions!  Yes, there will be shopping, I promise, but all in due course, alright?  But the truth is, if you are traveling/moving and you want to do it in a savvy manner, there’s a lot to do before you whip out your credit cards with a maniacal look in your eyes.  Trust me.

So, why discuss style when we’re talking about living out of two suitcases for a year?  Because you will eventually have to shop and the first stop is your own closet.  The best place to start when figuring out what you will need in those suitcases it to sort out what you already have.  Clothes aren’t just a frivolity, they are important and especially so when traveling.  You are going to have to balance cost, care, wear, personal taste, needs, and functionality.  It’s as delicate an act as chemistry equations, and it all starts with your own personal style.

Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

Which is why I reiterate, style is about you and what you’ve already got.  When you are packing for a trip/move, or even if you just want to mix things up in your closet for a change, be honest with and about yourself.  Stock up on and pack what you know you like and will wear, and allow yourself only one or two flirtations with something new and exciting.  If you’re not a femme fatale, all those cocktail dresses might languish in your closet and you will shake your fist at the sky for having failed to pack jeans.  If you long to be a dapper Brit but are hopelessly, helplessly a true blue American lad, that straw boater hat and striped blazer will become a source of shame instead of pride.  It doesn’t matter what you pack, if the looks aren’t to your taste, aren’t comfortable, and don’t make you feel good (which you should on a trip or move to a fabulous new place!), you’re going to have spent a lot of money on a new personality that you will never wear, just like those new duds.

“To thine own self be true,” and all that.  I am a pretty conservative dresser.  Not a lot of sequins (except at New Year), not a lot of skin, and not a lot of bling.  My closet is full of skinny twill pants, solid color knit shirts, stud earrings, and low heeled riding boots.  I have a no bangles, no floppy hats, no bohemian dresses, and very little that is “of the moment,” sartorially speaking.  So, when I’m putting together my two suitcases to get me through a year, I’m going to be taking my tried and true looks that suit me and make me feel comfortable and classy.

Because, and this is key, darlings, style is in your head, not what’s on your carcass.  No one has ever – in spite of my boring and conservative wardrobe – accused me of being a boring or conservative person!

Lest you think this post was needlessly sappy, let me just say that I’m being especially supportive and nice because the next step might be painful.  Excruciating.  Weeping, gnashing of teeth, and sackcloth horrid.  Because once you’ve mastered Style Theory, and the Cardinal Rule of Packing, we’re purging your closet.  And.  I.  Am.  Ruthless.

4 thoughts on “Style Theory and the Modern International”

  1. Take plenty of wool, for unheated British buildings; lots of things that can get wet and survive. But leave most of it at home and enjoy what people look like “over there”…be open to some new things! I’d stock up on lovely British things at jumble and boot sales and vintage shops — where are you living???? — and get into the spirit of it.

    I loved buying emerald suede boots in Paris…even while on my cheapo fellowship.

    I’d look for Liberty anything; Viyella; lovely hand-knit cardis…I like the British look and I bet you will too.

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