Hello, and welcome to the style element quiz! The goal is to give you 3 adjectives that define your primary style for you to keep in mind when shopping or assessing your current closet. There is some overlap between these chosen style elements, and some are open to interpretation. Just choose the one that resonates with you the strongest and move on to the next pair. Keep track of how often you choose each word.
- elaborate or sweet
- fun or sophisticated
- androgynous or feminine
- classic or elaborate
- casual or naive
- daring or sexy
- sweet or sexy
- classic or naive
- feminine or sophisticated
- daring or fun
- casual or simple
- androgynous or elaborate
- simple or sophisticated
- feminine or classic
- elaborate or simple
- sweet or fun
- naive or daring
- sexy or casual
- naive or sexy
- daring or sweet
- fun or sophisticated
- classic or androgynous
- androgynous or simple
- feminine or casual
Add up the number of times you circled each word. Your top choices are going to be ones you circled 3 or 4 times. Choose just three of these (if you had three words you chose four times, those are your style elements). If you find yourself torn between different concepts, here’s the breakdown:
Elaborate describes styles that are complicated and fussy. Draping, pleating and beading are all signs of elaborate style. Think of a Balmain ball gown or a Lilli Ann suit with huge pleated bell sleeves. Nothing low maintenance about this look.
Sweet and Naive are two sides to the same youthful coin. They have a lot in common – florals, small prints, embroidery, pretty decorative trim and buttons, peter pan collars – but Sweet has an innocence to it and is far more cute than Naive. Naive can also be sexy – think Ann Margaret or Marilyn Monroe. Sweet tends to be more 1930s (puffed sleeves, pretty patterns) while Naive runs more 1950s (gingham, ample bosom, tiny waist). Ingrid Bergman is sweet, Betty Grable is naive (see “How to Marry a Millionaire”).
Fun and Daring have a lot in common too. Large prints, bold colors, unconventional styles. Think paper dresses of the 1960s, flapper dresses of the 1920s, crazy shoulders and peplums of the 1980s – or even trousers in the 1930s (think Katharine Hepburn). These are risk-takers. The difference is the spirit: Fun is fun (Jane Russell), and Daring can be downright solemn and dangerous (Jean Harlow). Cher. Rita Hayworth.
A close cousin of Elaborate, Sophisticated styles have something going on, but just a touch. Instead of an intricately beaded gown, they might have a pointed beaded collar on a blouse. Minimal draping, fine fabrics like cashmere, silk, wool gabardine and rayon in solid, often dark neutral colors, extremely well-tailored and fitted to the body–without being overtly sexual. Think 1940s suits, slim detailed 1950s dresses that fit close to the body and hit below the knee. Grace Kelly.
What I’m referring to with androgynous is mostly a penchant for menswear and the ability to get away with shapeless shift dresses. I also put pixie cuts into this category. I could have also called this gamine, or Marlene Dietrich, or Diane Keaton, or Audrey Hepburn, or Twiggy, the 1920s or the 70s.
This is it, ladies, the 1950s in full effect. Just as Dior said, Feminine is about women as flowers. Sloping shoulders, nipped waists, hourglass shapes, full skirts, high heels, accessories, lipstick, the whole nine. And I don’t think I need to mention that there are no value judgments associated with any of these; I’m intentionally playing off culturally-established concepts to make it easier to create a shared visual language. Period. Again, Grace Kelly, because she’s my favorite. Elizabeth Taylor. Betty Draper. Sophia Lauren.
Classic encompasses a lot. It can mean elegant, serious, traditional, conservative, stuffy, well-established, wise–again, none of these things are bad. It’s sort of on the other end of the spectrum from Daring. Think Maureen O’Hara.
Casual is where California style really shines. Poolside looks, lots of pants, buttoned shirts, wrap tops and dresses, clothing designed for ease of movement. Claire McCardell. Flats. Sweaters. Softer, easy to care for fabrics like cotton and linen.
This is a loaded one, right? Seems like all of these could be described as Sexy somehow. But what I mean here is a kind of shorthand for outright sex appeal: think Jayne Mansfield. We’re talking low cut dresses and blouses, tight-fitting skirts (the “wiggle” skirt), high heels, deep jewel tones, reds or blacks. Drawing attention to the body. Brigitte Bardot. In this context, sexy also implies a certain, shall we say, knowledge? Think Lauren Bacall or Kim Novak. You kind of get the feeling that they always know something you don’t.
No bold prints (no prints at all, really, except maybe a plaid here and there), minimal accessories, tailored sheath dresses, solid-colored shirtwaists, Simple is on the opposite of the spectrum from Elaborate. No fancy beading or draping, no fuss. Quality but uncomplicated construction. Audrey Hepburn.
When you’re set on your top three adjectives, head back to the original post to start putting them in action.
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