Woah, there. Calm down with your wanna-be sultry eyes. The amount of times I deleted this photo from this post are COUNTLESS, but ultimately was convinced to keep it in. Here’s the story – Darling Magazine is a modern women’s lifestyle magazine that I love because they promote the good values of a being a modern natural, independent woman. Here’s their full mantra:
Their style (especially for this issue) is way different than my usual laughing/happy poses, as you can see. It was EXTREMELY fun to be dressed up in fashion forward clothing that I would frankly never wear on my own, and pose in ways that felt pretty darn uncomfortable. I just went with it because sometimes you get sick of being yourself and for one afternoon want to be someone else. I’m doing to do a whole other post with all the outtakes and different outfits so you judge it all for yourselves (not the magazine, just my persona in it).
For this post/feature I wrote the story about finding my own style with some tips on how to help you find yours. Of course even more of this info is in my book, which you can very simply just pick up here. A few notes: We shot this in July so I was 22 weeks pregnant (thus the ambiguous body shape) and it was before the Good Housekeeping Magazine shoot.
FROM DARLING MAGAZINE, written by me:
When I was 21 I found a gender-neutral lower half body mannequin—the type typically used to display underwear—at a thrift store. The fact that I bought it was disturbing in itself, sure, but what I did with it next was incredible and might go into the “artistically unstable” category. I proceeded to collage a year of my life onto it. I wrote different events on it with the date of the event and then added a brochure or business card to it. It was everything from art openings to a Paul Auster signing. It was a living journal of my early 20s and it was quite the conversation piece—for good or bad. It went into a closet when I turned 25 and then, when we moved to Los Angeles from New York when I was 27, I sold it in a garage sale, apparently too good for it, demoting it to a relic of my crazy New York youth.
I have very few regrets in my life, truly, but selling this piece is one of them. It represented not only some times that I’ve surely forgotten but also my style from that time. You see, I had a penchant for the funkier things in life. I grew up in a small town in Oregon, surrounded not by taste and style but by thrift stores full of weird old things—vintage or just used. This informed my style a lot and has given me both a jumping off point for my style as well as a daily battle to fight.
So how do you go from decoupaging a mannequin to designing and styling higher-end houses for totally normal (and stylish) people? It was a journey, folks—a journey that took many years and a lot of money wasted on things that were wrong on so many levels.
Having a well-curated and thought-out aesthetic is a challenge for almost all of us. And honestly those people who don’t struggle with honing their aesthetic generally just don’t have a very interesting one, trust me. For example, if you put on a perfectly curated and well-fit outfit on every single day of your life then it starts to get, well, kind of boring. The innovative curation of a home is a struggle that most creative and stylish people have, let alone non-creative and stylish people. But after working on my honing my creative aesthetic the past 15 years, I’ve got a fast-pass-CliffsNotes method to finding yours.
Decide how you want your space to feel, not just look. Knowing how you want it to feel and putting words to those feelings will help guide you through the whole process. If you want it to feel calm, quiet and serene then that is a pretty different direction from energetic, sophisticated and fun. So think about walking in your door and the emotions or adjectives that you want the space to evoke in you.
Then head to your computer and pin like crazy. Once you’ve amply pinned 30 to 40 spaces (at least), look at what everything has in common. Colors? Patterns? Styles? Is everything mostly simple and quiet or full of energy and pattern? Create a mood board of your favorites that look good together. This will become your map/guide for your purchases.
Next pick a color palette. Now, you don’t have to get crazy OCD about it and make sure that it matches particular Pantone chips, but if you don’t have a consistent color palette throughout your home, you are likely to get into trouble with things looking chaotic and just generally not pulled together. As you shop, curate or pull from what you already have in your home to make sure that everything fits within that color palette and looks good with your style board.
Ask yourself a few hard questions: Would the person that lives in my style board own this papier mache dog bust? Does this neon abstract painting make me feel calm or want to eat my own tongue? If your answers aren’t positive then you need to ask yourself why you still need to keep it. This type of process requires editing that can feel close to an emotional intervention, I know. I’ve been there. If there is sentimental value to it then OBVIOUSLY don’t pull an “Emily Henderson Mannequin” situation, just maybe relegate it into a space that is possibly less visible—but otherwise, if it doesn’t provide a much-needed function, then consider passing it on to someone whose style it might fit better, or eventually just replacing it.
Once you have edited and collected things that work within your style board and your color story then it’s time to play, style, and experiment. You can still have some regrets, and you may have to revisit that process over and over again, but having those tools should lead to fewer purchase mistakes and a better curated space, one that actually represents your aesthetic, and, more importantly, your personality.
I’m not saying that if I had these tools I would not have purchased and made my mannequin journal. I mean I hope to God that I still would have. But this journal was just one of hundreds of insane things I purchased that ultimately over-represented a tiny bit of my personality in my apartment. I have a whimsical side, sure, but it’s only a small side of me and I was just buying too many weird sculptural pieces of vases with mustaches. It was what I was initially attracted to but when I got them all together it just looked junky, stupid and like I was trying too hard. Once I analyzed the spaces that I loved, I realized that there was a bit of whimsy for sure, but also a lot of simpler shapes, solid colors and just pretty textures. Now I start with a layer of neutral simplicity and I layer on the crazy.
Honing in on your aesthetic can feel like a contact sport, but consider it more of a slow power-walking marathon, with some twists and hills, maybe wading through a stream or two, but hopefully with these tips we can all find some shortcuts and avoid the mannequin pitfalls that I made for most of my 20s. And if you don’t avoid them, at least take a photo of those insane mistakes before you throw them away so you can see how far you’ve come.
*THANK YOU DARLING!!. If you are into this aesthetic and want to see/read more about this kind of woman, buy Darling. They are doing something a lot of magazines aren’t – they don’t photoshop faces and bodies – instead celebrating aging, and natural beauty in every way. Now THAT is a message that I’m proud to pass on to my daughter. Here’s the full spread.