Beyond the Outfit

Fashion and style were things I hardly thought about as a child. I was never a girly girl nor was I a tomboy either, although I do remember a few years of being a lot into jeans and sneakers. But when I was small, being the youngest of three girls, I remember either wearing something similar or matching with my sisters at times, or being the receiver of hand-me-downs growing up, neither of which really encouraged me to develop my own style, understandably.

In high school, I slowly came into my own where fashion was concerned. Nothing distinct or earth-shaking marked my choices really — just cute stuff, trendy at times.

But I remember one pivotal moment in college — yes, I was quite the late bloomer — which determined the beginnings of my own personal fashion and style. There was this pretty girl I met in an activity place I would go to after school. I noticed just how feminine and put together she always looked, and also how boys obviously liked what they saw and gave her constant attention. Thus, I learned that it wasn’t rocket science to look nice and attractive. I simply had to wear pretty clothes, put some effort into my appearance and act feminine.

I didn’t really have that much of a problem imbibing lessons one and two, which is not to say I succeeded in those areas right away. But it was the “acting feminine” part that stumped me at the time. On my “best” days, it was all about not talking too much or laughing too loud. But I became comfortable with my own version of feminine soon enough.

When I worked as a lifestyle journalist after college, I never really got into covering fashion and beauty with much depth. This wasn’t because I didn’t appreciate fashionable clothes and beauty paraphernalia — I did enjoy mixing and matching, having fun with accessories and dressing for the occasion. I had also developed a sense of what I liked and what suited me, but then that was all there was to it for me — I really didn’t find it all that interesting or challenging to dissect the topic in greater detail. I much rather wrote about other lifestyle topics like theater, travel, food, personalities, health and wellness, music…you get the picture.


Playing dress-up

But on the practical side, I did care about fashion and style. I’m female after all — and creative — so I enjoy putting a nice outfit together and looking good sure feels great. Besides, I love theme parties and costumes. Fashion is a cool part of our everyday lives and we’re bound to be influenced by it to a greater or lesser extent.

Here are key fashion and style principles I’ve adapted through the years and now live by. They are personal to me, but the general ideas can hopefully be of use to you.

First, I dress according to my personality. I pick pieces that resonate with me, make me happy somehow, are flattering and make me feel good when I wear them. If I were to describe my style, it would be a mix of creative, relaxed and feminine — owing most likely to the inspiration I got from that aforementioned pretty girl. And there’s definitely a touch of bohemian in there, too, owing to my free-spiritedness.

Second, I dress according to the occasion. I like “fitting in” as opposed to “sticking out,” which is not to say that I dress drably. I like being unique and creative, for as long as what I’m wearing allows me to move freely and unself-consciously, whatever the occasion, activity or venue may be.

photograph courtesy of UNSPLASH/becca mchaffie I DRESS according to the occassion.

Third, it’s important that my clothes fit well. There’s nothing as uncomfortable or unflattering as ill-fitting clothes. So, during this pandemic, when I found myself outgrowing items in my closet, I did one big declutter at a certain point to avoid wasting time when I would try on clothes that no longer fit me.

Fourth, I find that more than the design — although design is important, of course — it’s the cloth or material, along with the cut and make, which usually determine whether a piece of clothing is suited for casual, office, semi-formal or formal use. I have never been into brands per se, but the quality of clothes in terms of material, cut and workmanship are important to me.


Fifth, accessories are key! I have fun accessorizing, and this is all about choosing three or four items that enhance the look of my outfit, and which match each other and the occasion. I prefer to wear real jewelry to important and formal events; good quality or conversation piece accessories, mixed with simple real jewelry if I like, for most parties and get-togethers; and fun, eye-catching fashion jewelry for casual occasions.

Sixth, shoes can really make or break an outfit. However, I am not a fan of high heels. I have, shall we say, dainty feet that callous easily, and especially since I love to walk and to dance whenever there’s an opportunity to do so, I make sure that my footwear is comfortable enough, aside from being pretty. I just am not the kind of girl who will endure too much discomfort just to be a few inches taller and supposedly “sexier” by strutting around in painful heels that I cannot walk properly in, no thank you.

Finally, I will not spend on designer pieces that cost an arm and a leg, although I have been gifted such items by loved ones, and I do understand that top quality bags and accessories can literally go a long way — not just as fashion accents, but lifespan-wise. I am all for investing in quality items, but having too much… well, to be honest, it really just makes me think of how there are so many people in the world who are starving and languishing in poverty. Just sharing my honest thoughts here about splurging on (too much) luxury goods.

At the end of the day, fashion and style are ways for us to enjoy life and showcase our personalities. Let us, by all means, dress nice and have fun while at it. But let’s not break the bank or lose sleep over our OOTD, keeping in mind that beyond the packaging is the person donning the clothes and the quality of life that person is living.