Around a decade ago I read an article about fashion which resonated so strongly with me that it’s influenced my approach to clothes buying ever since. The article recommended overcoming choice overload by developing a signature style identity. Recently as I’ve been angsting over design decisions in the home, I’ve wondered whether applying the same principle to designing my home would help make design decisions easier.
The article advocated defining a signature fashion identity by selecting three criteria encapsulating your aspirational style. This “identity” becomes the prism through which you assess every potential purchase. Only if your prospective buy is consistent with your identity should you reach for your purse.
I’m absolutely not a fashionista and clothes shopping is a means to an end for me; a necessary chore (naturism holding little appeal for someone of dubious circulation living in Scotland…. among other reasons).
I was never much cop at clothes shopping either. Lacking a fashion compass, my shopping forays would involve chaotic meanderings along the high street taking in every part of the style spectrum on the way; from the most refined of the “lady” labels, where I’d be pondering the desirability of tweed A-lines one minute, to teen palaces the next, where the most pertinent question would be whether I would be able to fit more than one thigh into the largest skirt size.
Defining my style identity, thankfully, has revolutionised clothes buying for me. It lends focus to shopping expeditions, making them more efficient and less stressful. With a fashion identity in mind it’s possible to scan displays, quickly honing in on pieces which score ticks for the three criteria, and instantly rejecting those which don’t. (Hear that tweed A lines and sequinned hot pants?)
The benefits extend beyond efficiency in shopping though. The real win is that your wardrobe develops into a coherent clothing collection. You develop a recognisable fashion identity to the extent that people will say of items, ‘ooh it’s very you’. It gives you confidence in your purchases and guards against wardrobe clashes and serious errors. (Did someone mention sequinned hot pants?)
Fashion Style Identity
All those years ago I defined my fashion style identity with the following three criteria:
- elegant (No sniggering in the back please. I’m saying my clothes are elegant, not me. I readily concede it is not elegant to drink four pints of lager and scoff chips and curry sauce on the way home. For instance.)
- print accents
- retro vibe
I hope that people who know me will recognise this as my style. It’s high level enough to have weathered multiple seasons of evolving trends, but detailed enough to translate to a quite specific style.
Interior Style Identity?
But could the same be said about my home interior style? Do I have a signature style that I could sum up in three criteria?
At first blush, I doubt it. As the redecoration of the Around the Houses house marches (haltingly) along, the rooms are developing quite distinct characters. There’s the grown-up sophistication of the living room. The family room has a definite mid-century vibe. Then there’s the bedroom, which is harder to define; I like to think of it as the enchanted forest (or as my family less generously describe it, the Snow Queen’s palace.)
Well that doesn’t sound very coherent, does it? Perhaps it’s time to define my style? But with such apparently different aesthetics going on, where on earth do I start?
I wondered whether my fashion style identity would have any cross over with my interiors preferences. I set about testing my three fashion criteria against against my home decor choices.
In terms of clothing fashion, “elegant” for me means clean lines, frill-free cuts, classic fabrics, timelessly fashionable avoiding anything overtly trendy.
The item of clothing which best sums this up is my Hobbs camel hair coat.
While I’m generally very happy to shop at H&M and Zara for instance, winter coats are one area where I think it’s worth splurging. This is most definitely an investment piece and is the most expensive piece of clothing I’ve ever bought. However, it’s now entering its fifth winter of regular wear and is still going strong. Its cost per wear totally justifies the outlay (Mr Around the Houses take note). The reason I like it so much is that it can be thrown over any outfit, whether for work or a night out, and will make it look like I’ve made an effort (despite the fact that I almost certainly haven’t).
But does this philosophy ring true of my home style. Do any of my decor choices hold similar attributes? Yes!! My velvet chesterfield sofa.
Like my camel hair coat, it’s the one item of furniture that I really splashed out on. Chesterfields and velvet are timeless interior looks though the combination of the two feels fresh and contemporary. While I lust after velvet sofas of every hue, for my own home I plumped for a neutral shade. Like my camel coat, it was an investment piece and needs to be able to roll with multiple decor changes in the years it’ll have to last to justify the cost.
This element of my fashion identity is the bit that stops my style from crossing the line to boring uniform. While the majority of my wardrobe comprises grey or black, clean-lined basics, I try to incorporate in each outfit one piece which has some graphic interest.
I have lots of prints in my wardrobe from geometrics to florals. I’m particularly drawn to dark prints with floral overlays, like this one from Oasis.
Is there any evidence of this in the Around the Houses home? Oh yes. My favourite cushion in the living room.
Come to think of it, I would wear this cushion. That is, I would wear it were it possible to craft it into a garment capable of covering more than one buttock.
My fondness for retro clothes extends back to my teens. In my 20s, when I had more time than money, mooching around vintage clothes emporiums was an enjoyable pastime. My wardrobe held enough 70s nylon to style the cast through an entire series of Charlie’s Angels.
These days, I prefer my clothes shopping to be a better edited, comprehensively-sized, natural-fibred experience. However, I am still drawn to fashion that at least pays homage to earlier style eras.
A large chunk of my wardrobe falls into this category. Perhaps my favourite, most well worn, is this geometric print dress.
Bought from H&M ages ago, it’s retro win for me. Does anything in the Around the Houses house bear any similarity? Anything at all?
Readers. I cannot refute the photographic evidence. I am actually wearing my wallpaper.
And of course my retro love doesn’t end with the Cole and Sons feature wall. There’s not a room in the house that doesn’t have a vintage find (or five) in it.
Do I have an Interior Style Identity?
Despite my initial skepticism, it would appear that I have some sense of my home interior style identify after all. And, as it happens, it’s not at all dissimilar to my fashion style identity.
I’ve had years to practice sticking to my fashion vision statement and have developed a reasonable sense of how it translates to a wardrobe. However, I’m definitely not there with an interior style identity. Some of my design choices might be consistent with my fashion style identity, but there’s a fair bit that’s off piste too.
Does it matter?
Perhaps it’s less important for an interior style identity to be tightly focused. Maybe experimenting with different styles and mixing it up is a healthy and interesting approach to interior design.
But, if there’s a strategy which helps deal with choice overload, reducing the stress of making design decisions, and letting me focus on the fun part of designing my own uniquely eclectic home, then it’s got to be worth a go.
So I’m going to continue the Around the Houses home decoration project with my newly defined interior style identity firmly in mind. Will I stick to it? I’ll be honest. I’m not sure. Did I mention I’m indecisive?
What do you think? Is it helpful to have an interior style identity? Does your interior style identity match your fashion one too?