Does fashion sometimes feel like another standard to live up to, another objective to achieve? Are you afraid of getting it wrong? Do you worry about not “looking the part” for the office, a party, or a date? Darlings, it doesn’t have to be that way. Check out what I see as the 3 biggest misconceptions about the essence of style for women and men of today. Because trust me: not everything has to be about image, performance, and success!
When I kick-started my style coaching journey of peaches and pink almost two years ago, I wrote a post about my story of change, empowerment, and true womanhood. Faithful readers of my blog may remember this. It was perhaps the most honest story I’d ever dared to reveal about myself.
Today, two years onwards, that story is still very much part of my daily inspiration. It has become the very essence of what I try to do as Style Coach and Personal Shopper: inspire joy, authenticity, courage and playfulness.
It is also an experience that allows me to have views on style that are different from those of other style professionals and fashionistas. In fact, I want to share with you what I feel are the 3 biggest misconceptions about style today. Perhaps you’ll find it refreshing to hear a defiant voice in a world obsessed with winners and losers.
1. STYLE IS NOT ABOUT PERFECTION. IT'S ABOUT LIVING A LITTLE.
One of the things I’ve noticed, is that a lot of people feel the need to apologize to me. “Oh I’m sorry, you must think I look like a mess today”, “Please don’t look at my coat. It’s so out of style”, or “Sorry, this is the wrong colour on me, isn’t it?”. I’ve even had clients who hardly dared to open their wardrobes to me.
Why??? Do you think my wardrobe is perfect? Do you think I never walk around the house in old rags? Do you think I never buy something that I regret?
I mean, just look at what I'm wearing right now:) Darlings , stop apologizing. Life doesn’t have to be perfect. It has to be lived!
And why are we so scared of "mistakes" anyway? You have no idea how often I’ve walked out of the house with too much make-up on, mismatching shades of blue, or simply the wrong shoes for those pants. People, relax, there is no actual fashion police. There is no fine for fashion faux pas.
In fact, I’ll tell you more, the only way to learn what looks good on you, is by experiencing what doesn’t. You shouldn’t be scared of making mistakes; you should be scared of making none. Playing it safe is a much bigger style problem than any mistake you could ever make.
For instance, let me tell you about Marc, 57, one of my clients (I’ve changed his name to protect his privacy). Since he was in his early 20s, he’d only bought Lacoste polos, Timberland boat shoes, and Ralph Lauren shirts, because “at least you can’t go wrong with that”. Euch, first of all, yes you can! Who ever said Lacoste is the universal standard of good taste? And secondly, think about it, what’s worse: being wrong or being stuck?
Marc agreed that being stuck didn’t sound very appealing, so he let me gently guide him outside of his comfort zone. As always, we went through a process and it's never a straight line from A to B, but gradually Marc opened up to plenty of new, exciting options for himself.
And you know what the amazing thing is? When you take people out of their box, a whole lot of other stuff gets unstuck too. So many hidden desires that were safely tucked away in Marc’s box have surfaced in the process. That is the beauty of style coaching. It works on the surface, on a practical level, but its impact is far from superficial.
So darlings, stop worrying about perfection. Get it wrong, make mistakes, and keep smiling!
2. STYLE IS NOT ABOUT OTHERS. IT'S ABOUT YOU.
I remember when I first started out, plenty of people suggested I’d use the term ‘image coach’. It sounded good enough to me, so I took it on board.
But then one day it hit me. I was developing my website and looked at myself in the reflection of the screen while chewing over the name "image coach". Dressed in my usual unpresentable old pyjamas (pictured above), I asked myself "Do I look like an image coach? Do I really want to encourage people to care about image? Would I have been able to make this drastic career change if I’d worried about what people would think?"
That’s when I ditched the concept of image coach. It’s not me. Style should not be about image, about how other people expect us to dress, about "looking the part" for the office, a date, or a country club lunch. Image considerations kill our courage, lock us in a box, and prevent us from ‘becoming’ (yeah, huge Michelle Obama fan here).
So, this is what I tell my clients all the time: instead of thinking about other people, focus on yourself! How do you want to show up for yourself? Who are you deep down, regardless of what the world expects from you? I call it the subtle art of not caring.
Take Susan for instance (fictitious name again). When she first called me, she wanted me to help her "wear more skirts", because she was "out of touch with her feminine side". I took her on a slow style exploration journey, and I am proud to say that today Susan is … still not wearing skirts.
You see, I’m all too happy to do my hourglass-magic on a woman if I feel the desire comes from within. Trust me, it’s my expertise:) But when a woman is trying to be something that she is not because her husband ‘would like to see her legs more often’, I know a skirt is not going to do the trick.
Many women (and men) turn their backs on style when they feel unable to live up to certain standards imposed on them, whether by society, office culture, family, or partners. They may feel too curvy, too short, too masculine, too feminine, or too "different", so it’s easier not to bother at all.
That’s what had happened to Susan. Unable to be the version of woman that she felt her husband expected her to be, she’d turned to 24/7 fleece-and-leggings. Eventually, what it took for Susan to embrace her inner uniqueness, was to let go of limiting beliefs about femininity and focus on what felt feminine to her. She ended up defining a unique, Berlin-worthy style that felt just right for her. Ever since, she’s on a roll. Or to use her exact words: “There is so much life in embracing the woman that you really are”.
And what about the husband? Darlings, we don’t need to worry about him. Everybody knows there is nothing more attractive than people (women and men) who know their worth and dare to be the most authentic version of themselves.
Dare not to care!
3. STYLE IS NOT ABOUT THE END RESULT. IT'S ABOUT THE JOURNEY.
Most of us are so focused on objectives, goals and results, that we forget to fully appreciate the benefits of the journey.
Style coaches, for instance, will typically start a styling process by defining the desired outcome, the perfect new look for you. For instance, they may propose a “scandi-mature-chic” look for you. And voilà, once that’s settled, all you have to do is achieve the look, and stick to it. life is so much easier with a clear objective in mind, right?
Darlings, I hate to break it to you, but life doesn’t work that way. Identities are never flat and stable. They are complex and fluid over time. So how then could you ever pin down your multi-layered identity into a single style box? How long before “scandi-mature-chic” starts to feel like a straightjacket again? And you tell me, why would you want to limit your playground like that?
My feeling is that people should stop focusing on objectives and go back to enjoying the process. You don’t need to be consistently "French Riviera" to be stylish. Instead, you need to be consistently tuned in with your inner curiosity and desire for life. Rather than defining that one signature style for yourself, do the opposite: try to list all the style influences that you’d be willing to give a try one day. It's like planting little seeds, and then watch which ones will flower.
I promise you, if you let go of pre-defined goals, and you let the process freely run its course, something beautiful happens: the process itself becomes your goal. Nothing is more empowering than testing new grounds and surprising yourself as you go along.
And just like that, we are full circle: it’s Michelle’s becoming again:)
Voilà my friends, I rest my case. Let's make style a little less about "who wears it better", and a little more about playing, exploring, and having some fun. Because life is serious enough as it is!
Of course, if you feel you’ve lost that playful side of yourself, I'm your woman. As Style Coach and Personal Shopper, I empower people by boosting their styling skills and aesthetic instincts in simple, hands-on sessions, individually or in small groups. I can help you grasp the essence of good taste, become the master of your own style, and embrace your uniqueness. Because mastery inspires courage and playfulness!
I know some followers are waiting for my blog post on how to buy and sell on Vinted. That’s coming up in September, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
I will also be publishing a date for a group shopping weekend to Paris. Covid-permitting, that should be for October or November. Places will be limited to 5, so feel free to send me a message to hold a spot for you.