We are having a lovely day in California and while I do not want to suffer sun damage, I have opened all the shutters in the living room and enjoying the sunshine outside. Some time ago, I had a fun conversation with my aunt about my ongoing fashion conundrum – choosing a “current” personal style. I may have mentioned somewhere on social media or on the blog that like many things in my life, my personal styles have come and gone in phases as well. Call it lifestyle circumstances, fashion trends, or changes in personal tastes, or all three, each fashion phase of my life has been unique.
So today, I thought I’d return to the blog with something fun and personal instead of something didactic. So here goes:
Childhood to College: Gender Neutral Charm
Introduction: My mom tells me that I was a picky dresser. Although she would have loved to dress me in cute little dresses, I was quite impossible to deal with. So instead she would dress me in outfits I would deem now as rather boyish. Yes, I was the girl in shorts (knickers they would call them in Pakistan), t-shirts and dresses were reserved for school and parties. I do remember wearing dresses in some off-days. My mom loved dressing me and my siblings impeccably daily, no matter what the outfit and there are numerous pictures (and memories) proving that. And this continued throughout my schooling. While I became increasingly interested in fashion in my high school and college days, I always gravitated towards classic prints and colors, blue denim jeans, and various colored jackets & coats. I remember owning one or two pairs of daily wear shoes and for parties, I had a pair of classic gold and silver sandals.
Makeup: With makeup, I had a lot of fun with and experimented quite a bit. These were the areas where I followed the trends the most. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to my friends and family to see me at a MAC counter in a department store trying on the latest eyeshadow colors or buying one of their fabulous brushes. The smoky eye was really trendy at that time so I was really into that whenever I went out. Other makeup trends I remember wearing were the shimmer eyeshadow, glitter eye pencils, and dark nail colors. I wore those to school sometimes, but I tried to stay as natural (and serious) as possible on campuses. Lipsticks I would avoid at all cost because, at that age, it is impossible to keep your lipstick or glosses in place. Now we have setting sprays, which helps, but when you are that young, you can’t be careful all the time.
Accessories: When it came to accessories, I kept it light unless there was a Pakistani wedding. I would wear studs here and there, but rings, bracelets, and necklaces were unmanageable for me at school.
Advice: Don’t spend a lot of money on clothes. Although I worked during my entire school career, I saved most of my money. I opted for khakis or well-fitted jeans with monochromatic tops for work-related activities, which I could wear at school as well.
Post College To 2012: Professional Chic
Introduction: After I graduated from post-college grad work, I transitioned into working as a teacher. This was the first time, I had to go out and work full time. While I have worked all my life, I took this job seriously because there were kids involved. I wanted them to be proud of their teacher so I took extra care (and precaution) when choosing clothes. This period lasted a few short years, but I had the most fun with fashion here. While earlier I bought clothes from Gap, Target, and Macy’s, during this time, I could afford clothes from Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. I didn’t go crazy over designer-wear because I didn’t feel the need for that as a teacher and also because I wanted to save money for traveling, lunches with friends, and of course a part of it for retirement. During this period, I wore a lot of professional clothes. There were no suits involved, but there were plenty of dresses, skirts, t-shirts, button-down shirts, cardigans, sweaters, and coats.
Accessories: I was particularly into scarves. I even knit myself several because I was so in love with how they looked professionally. Other go-to pieces were headbands and hair clips. I did buy a lot of shoes during this period. Yes, peep-toe and closed toe pumps from Ann Taylor and Banana Republic got me through those long tiring days of teaching. On field trips, I would wear sneakers of course. And for going out, I would opt for ballet flats.
Makeup: I gravitated towards natural fresh-face looks. I wasn’t comfortable wearing dark colors like red on my face still so it was just maroons and pinks. I forego my eyeshadow days and used only a foundation, lipstick/gloss, liner, and mascara.
Advice: Depending on your role, dress accordingly. Women at any age need to look professional at their work, even those beloved Casual Fridays. While men benefit from the quality over quantity rule, I know women don’t work that way when it comes to fashion. So shop for branded clothes such as Banana Republic & Ann Taylor (or department stores if you are in the mood for hunting) during their sales.
2012 – 2016: Bohemian Vibes
Introduction: This was an eclectic period in my life. I wasn’t teaching anymore and instead concentrated on “slowing down”. Thus, I think, my fashion choices inadvertently reflected that. I did some odd jobs where I would wear tunics, tights, and ballet flats, but casually I was no different. I began opting for heavy prints, statement sleeves, and fun silhouettes, which I had never done in my life. Free People is a great brand for Bohemian chic clothes (See HERE).
Accessories: I stuck to my ballet flats and pumps. I had collected quite a bit of jewelry from my travels and Etsy (which I donated mostly), so I had fun wearing those statement pieces.
Makeup: I went for the bare minimum look with just a foundation and lipstick. Sometimes, I would wear eye makeup, but most of the time, I would just go as natural as I could for a woman my age.
Advice: During your thirties, comfort takes precedence. So focus on that.
2017 – Present: Experimental Phase
Introduction: During this time, I have stuck to some of my old pieces collected through the years. While I have purged many of my old stuff, I have replaced it with generic pieces to wear. I have tried to find a brand to be loyal to (that is not a designer) that believes in sustainability and ethical sourcing. Free People may have served its purpose a few years ago, but I am looking for something that covers and protects my skin from the sun, is comfortable or versatile enough to wear for any occasion, and is cute.
Makeup: I really began noticing my affinity for cruelty-free and vegan makeup. While in 2016, I just bought PETA-approved glosses, the last couple of years, I am proud to say I have transitioned into completely vegan and cruelty-free hair and beauty lines. For nail polish, I shop HERE. For makeup, I love products from Huda Beauty, Fenty, Bare Minerals, and Kat Von D, which are available HERE. For skincare, I swear by products from PCA available HERE. For personal care, I love products from Dove, which may not be vegan, but are definitely cruelty-free. My last step is to go cruelty-free with perfume as well.
Accessories: These last couple of years, I bought more than my share of designer shoes and handbags. I began collecting timeless pieces that can serve as heirloom pieces. At this stage in my life weekly lunches and periodic parties with friends, in general, are no longer my lifestyle, so I shop and save accordingly.
Advice: My dream would be to own a closet full of designer clothes, but knowing my personality and the need to purge every now and then, I don’t think that would be a smart move financially. Instead, I would recommend splurging for key designer pieces like those classic pumps from Roger Vivier, or a classic LBD from DVF and saving money on the rest of the stuff.