Be Yourself


Why not be oneself? That is the whole secret of a successful appearance. If one is a greyhound, why try to look like a Pekingese?  – Dame Edith Sitwell

“Attractive” according to

1.providing pleasure or delight, especially in appearance or manner; pleasing; charming; alluring: an attractive personality.

2.arousing interest or engaging one’s thought, consideration, etc.: an attractive idea; an attractive price.

3.having the quality of attracting.

While Dame Sitwell might not have met the first definition of “attractive”, she certainly met the second.

In my book, Wardrobe Communication, I talk about dealing with the reality on the ground insofar as the physicality you’re dressing.   There’s really no point trying for “cute” if you look like Tilda Swinton, and there’s no point in trying for “architectural elegance” if you look like Paula Abdul.   You’re going to frustrate yourself and get nowhere.

This is not to say that you can’t improve things.  Anyone can take their raw materials and create a compelling whole.   Dame Sitwell was anything but a pretty woman – so she didn’t try for pretty.  She went for intense, exotic, and grand.  She was a poet and an avid appreciator of the arts… and, if you look up a picture of hers, you wouldn’t be a bit surprised to find that out.  The outside and inside are cohesive.

So, how do you do that?  Well – you start with getting honest about the outsides.

  • What are your best (or most striking) features?   Height?  Eye color?  What draws the observing eye?
  • What shape are you?  Roundish?  Elongated?  Squarish?
  • How do you move?  Rapid motions?  Graceful sweeps?  Slowly and methodically?

Next, get honest about the insides – who are you?

  • Artistic?  Ethereal?  Practical?
  • And which of these true things about you do you want to reveal?  (There will be a selection of true things you could say about yourself)
  • What are you revealing right now, in the clothing/style you habitually wear?  Do you want to change this?

And then you get creative and draw the two truths together.   Dame Sitwell was an artistic type with striking features, height, and slim hands… she wore turbans, giant jewelry, and robes.   She minimized nothing!  But she was far more attractive, creating herself as a sculpture, than she would have been in a sensible tweed suit.  She matched the drama of her facial features to the drama of her clothing.   Did that make her “pretty”?  No.  It made her compelling.  She improved the situation by embracing it.

And that is a technique available to us all.


6 Comments Add yours

  1. pukeko60 says:

    Posted an extract.

    1. hearthie says:

      Thank you, sir.

  2. Going To The Fields says:

    Hmmm hmmm…but I suppose this means we must become comfortable with ourselves. Certainly he follows the other but I’m not sure which is in the lead.

    I like skirts. When I go help out at school, or even to church of all places, or grocery shopping…I feel so overdressed. The kids in the cafeteria and library snigger behind my back at how old-fashioned I look. One snotty girl even called me “marm” every time she saw me, but she’s a trouble maker anyway, so I try to ignore it.

    But I don’t ignore it, obviously. So I stick to jeans and sweatshirts so I fit in with all the rest of the frumps. I’ve never really loved fitting in but it has presented considerable difficulties in y life and I’m tired of fighting.

    1. Going To The Fields says:

      Goodness one day I might wear one of my corsets in non stealth mode, and then where will I be? Either trendsetter or eternally ridiculed, and my kids with me. I do have to consider their reputations in the public school jungle.

      1. hearthie says:

        Well, perhaps corsets to kid-pick-up is a bit excessive, but skirts? Harumph. Be who you are and let the chips fall where they may. Fear is a terrible reason to make any decision.

        Helpful hint: Being called Ma’am is a compliment, and so is being told you look dressed up. You just raised your visual status and they’re trying to drag you back down into the crab bucket. Don’t let them win.

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