Monday, July 14, 2008

The Fundamentals

Buenos dias, mis queridos.

If there is anything we cannot live without, it's the fundamentals. Food. Water. Shelter. Companionship. We can enhance our lives with all the technology, recreation, and frivolities we want, but in the end, survival relies on those four things.

A wardrobe, however, has very different fundamentals. The little black dress. The classic white shirt. The perfectly fitting pair of jeans. The timeless neutral trench coat.

But are all of these 'wardrobe essentials' really necessary for a teenager like me? Of course not. Which is why I have compiled my own list. I figured that the basics are a good place to start off before I get into anything else.

A Teenager's Wardrobe Essentials include:
  • Tank tops. These can vary from boyfriend tanks to strappy camisoles. Keep in mind, though, that most school dress codes don't allow straps narrower than two finger width. Tanks can be worn with just about anything; they are easy to dress up (think button-up shirt, skirt, and heels) or down (by themselves with jeans or shorts and flats). Layered under a cardigan, long-sleeved shirt, or sweater, they can work in the winter months, too. These are perfect for those days when you don't have the time or energy to choose out an outfit.

    You should have at least one black tank top and one white tank top. If you like colour, get a few in punchy shades such as raspberry, turquoise, or emerald green. Make sure to choose colours that are flattering to your skin tone! If you are generally disinclined to wear bright colours, pick up a few neutral hues like navy blue or steel grey. Prints are fun, but if you're looking for real basics, skip the really trendy ones (i.e. hearts, stars, and especially skulls).

    As for material, look for 100% cotton.
  • T-shirts. V-necklines are the most universally flattering, but try on a variety of cuts to see what looks best on you. My personal favourites are deep V's and scoop necks. I find t-shirts require a little more effort if you want to look a little less casual, but they look great with a blazer and tucked into cleanly cut slacks. They will never be truly dressy, but that's fine, because when do teenagers have to go to formal events anyway? If you're just trying to pick out clothes for a day at school, tees go great with any old pair of jeans or shorts.

    As with tank tops, it's a good idea to have these in black and white. Colourful t-shirts can add spice to an otherwise simple outfit, while one in grey can be the perfect key to a chic neutral-coloured look.

    Sleeve lengths are a matter of personal choice. I find that shorter sleeves are more versatile; they can be worn alone in the summer and with a cardigan in the winter. As with tank tops, look for 100% cotton.
  • Cardigans. Cardigans are some of my favourite pieces - they're comfortable, warm, and oh-so-easy to wear. They can be thrown over just about any outfit, and are great for taking full advantage of your wardrobe. During the cool days of winter, spring, and fall, pair a cardigan with a top or dress. You might want to choose a thinner, lighter fabric and shorter sleeves for warmer weather, however.

    I really love long, drapey cardigans, which are great for layering and playing with lengths, but the choice is up to you.

    If you're looking for basics, get these in black, white, navy, or grey.

    I usually look for V-necklines, but crew necks will work as well, as long as you leave the first few buttons open. This prevents you from looking to prim.
  • Button up shirts. You don't need too many of these, but have at least one in white. They're not necessary for everyday wear if they're not your style, but they come in handy for more formal events such as job interviews. If that's all you'll be wearing it for, don't get these in bright colours; white, black, navy, or another neutral colour are your best bets.
  • Coats and Jackets. Have at least one good quality, cute, and warm winter coat. While spring and fall coats and jackets are generally less crucial with the addition of a cardigan in one's wardrobe, you might want to buy one of those as well, especially if you live in a colder climate (like I do!). A quality, timeless coat will last you many years and eliminate the need to buy one every year (that is, unless you grow out of it).

    There are so many different coat styles to choose from, but classics such as trenches and peacoats are the best choices, mainly because they won't go out of style after one season. These are definitely worth investing in. If you're looking for a coat to carry you through year after year, buy one in a neutral colour such as navy or beige.
  • Jeans. Great jeans are real lifesavers when you don't know what to wear. They go with just about anything and a good pair will never go out of style. But with all the choices available nowadays, it's easy to get lost in the different cuts and washes. Your best bet is to choose straight or bootcut, unembellished, medium- to dark-wash denim. Please do not buy jeans without back pockets - they look so unflattering. If you could use a little boost in your rear end, back flap-pockets are genius.

    The most important thing to consider with jeans is fit. A perfect-fitting pair does wonders for your look, so skip those too-big or too-tight jeans on sale in favour of the just-right but considerably pricier pair. Make sure they're not too long - or if they are, hem them - unless you plan on wearing them with heels all the time.

    A thing to remember: dark wash jeans always look more elegant and dressier than lighter washes. Personally, I like them as dark as possible.
  • Skirts or pants. Here, it all depends on personal taste. If you never wear skirts, go for pants. If you never wear pants, go for a skirt. There's no point in spending money on bottoms you'll never make use of.

    In pants, look for clean cuts and good fit. Choose a straight leg in a neutral colour like khaki. These, like button-up shirts, can be worn for more formal occasions (such as interviews) but also for more casual, everyday outfits. Note: If you choose to buy pants instead of skirts, it's also a good idea to buy several pairs of shorts for the summer heat.

    A basic skirt should hit around knee-length - my favourite length is just above or at the knee. This conceals your thighs but shows off your calves and ankles, which are generally the slimmest parts of a leg. While most "wardrobe essentials" lists include pencil skirts, these aren't necessary to most teenagers.
  • Shoes. There are so many kinds that I'll have to split this up into separate categories:
    • Sneakers are perfect for when you've got a lot of walking to do, and there are so many styles available these days that they don't have to be ugly. Have at least one cute and comfortable pair.
    • Flats are really wonderful in that they're more comfortable than heels but can look just as nice. There are tons of choices, but I think everyone should have a black pair of ballet flats. Besides that, go crazy with colour, animal print, details, whatever! Fun flats are the best.
    • Heels are legendarily uncomfortable, which is a shame considering they visually elongate the leg. You should still have a pair just in case, because even teenagers have the occasional formal event to dress for. To make them more bearable, look for a heel that's not too high (no more than 3 inches!) and make sure to walk around in them before buying. While a shoe might feel comfortable when you first try it on, no pair of heels will be comfortable after a day of standing around and walking.
    • The necessity of boots depends on the climate. If you have actual winters, waste no time in buying a good pair that will survive snowfall and the inevitable slush. Though I love suede boots, they are impractical in snowy and icy locations. Winter boots should have a slight heel, but definitely not too high (no more than an inch and a half) unless you don't have to deal with ice. Look a grippy outersole to prevent slipping. And, make sure they're warm! Frozen toes are so not sexy.
  • Bags. For school, a utilitarian backpack is acceptable, even if it does completely ruin a cute look. But there are so many other choices, though they are generally not as practical as the backpack. Messenger bags are a cuter option, but they put more stress on the shoulder and can't carry as much. Big shoulder bags work as well, but there are not many that can carry my daily baggage of textbooks and binders. Inside the school, you can quickly throw your clumsy backpack away in your locker and use a tote or a shoulder bag to carry your books from class to class. I can carry enough material in my tote bag for my two morning classes, then switch the books at lunch time for my two afternoon classes.

    For outside of school, choose a handbag that isn't too bulky but is big enough to carry all your essentials and then some. Interior pockets are amazing for when your cell phone rings and you can't find it in the dark (my parents like to call me every six seconds, because apparently it is that easy for me to get lost/get separated from my friends/fall off the face of the earth, etc). Try to find a bag that will work with most of the clothes in your wardrobe, as this eliminates the need to spend more money on multiple bags as well as the need to move your stuff from one bag to the other every time you leave the house.
  • Jewellery and Accessories. Arguably the most important part of your look! Okay, so they aren't the most important, but they can definitely take an outfit from blah to beautiful. Don't spend too much money on these, as they get lost and go out of style so very quickly. Because they're gentle on your wallet, you can go crazy with trends and colours. Just because they're inexpensive, though, doesn't mean that you can wear an unflatteringly chunky necklace, a bracelet that is always slipping off, a ring that cuts off your circulation, etc. Make sure that it still looks good!

    Some accessories that everybody should have:
    • Necklaces. They draw attention to your face.
    • Earrings, if you have your ears pierced (I don't).
    • Scarves, my personal favourite. They add interest to any plain outfit, are warm in cold weather, and there are so many choices and ways to wear them! This will need a post all for itself, I love them that much.
    • Belts are great for defining your waist or, the obvious choice, holding up a pair of pants. I also use them wear skirts higher up on my waist.
  • Other great pieces to have:
    • Dresses. They're not exactly essential, but are definitely a big part of most wardrobes. Not everybody loves them, but I most certainly do.
    • Hats. These are hard for some people to pull off; it all depends on head shape.
    • Headbands and hair accessories.

The most important thing to remember when you read through lists like these is that you should put your personal twist on it; don't buy a "classic" piece you know you'll never wear. For example, if your style is more feminine, look for girly fabrics and details, not super clean cuts. If you like bright colours, don't buy tons of navy and beige coloured pieces. It's all about style, here, and style is not about rules.

A la proxima.

Friday, July 11, 2008

An Introduction

Good day, my dears.

Introductions are crucial to the way we live. They give us glimpses of people, of places, of just about anything. Often, like movie previews, they tell us whether we will love what follows or whether we should save our ten dollars and put it in our shoes fund. We rely on introductions to open up different pathways; they present us with individuals, groups, subjects, stories, and more in a way that doesn't require commitment but instead allows us to have a taste of everything. After being introduced, we are still able to put back the drab and bitter vegetables and hang on to the true delicacies.

Seeing as to how it is so important, I obviously have to introduce the blog. Like I've mentioned before, what I aim to talk about is so much more than pretty dresses. Life of Style is not a simple shirt; it's not a three-piece suit, an outfit, or even an entire wardrobe. This diary is the whole room, the whole house, maybe even the whole street. I might go on to say the whole city, province, country, continent, and planet, but that would be stretching it.

First and foremost, this blog is for writing. It's my free zone, where I can let loose and follow the words. I happened to choose style as a topic because it's what I want to explore.

I should say this before I go any further. Style, to me, is not clothes, not fashion, not even looking good. It's not what you do with your hair, or what kind of cut appears most in your closet. Style is not what. Style is how. How you dress yourself, how you hold yourself, how you see yourself. How you spend your days. How you treat your world. How you live your life.

And that is what this blog is about.

Until next time.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The First Day

Bonjour, mes cheres.

The first day of school is a memorable day for most. Memorable buildings, memorable events, memorable outfits. Memorable parents taking memorable photos. Memorable kids. Memorable teachers.

I don't remember my first day of school. I can faintly recall a new dress (was it navy? I think it was) and the flash of a camera; a new schoolbag and the ringing of a bell.

This day, I imagine, will be even less memorable. After all, why would I remember my first blog entry? Ten years down the road, when reminiscing about my grade 10 summer, I will completely overlook Tuesday, July 8.

Unless the purchase I have made today manages to change my life. If there's one thing I'm going to miss in my future life as a New Yorker, or a Shanghai-er, it's going to be Shoppers Drug Mart. I adore that there are high-end brands mixed in with their drugstore cousins (though I can't afford to splurge on expensive hair care, skin care, or cosmetics). And the one thing an American cannot get without crossing the border: Life Brand products. I have tried four already - a cleanser (Oil Free Daily Pore Cleanser, a Clean & Clear knock off), a toner (Essentials Skin Toner), a lip balm (Kiwi & Avocado Lip Balm, which works about as well as an old car on a cold day), and a pack of oil blotting sheets (Oil Absorbing Sheets, another Clean & Clear knockoff), which I seem to have misplaced. No worries. They cost even less than the C & C version.

My newest buy? Life Brand Essentials Gentle Face Cleanser. A knock off of the famous Cetaphil. I'll report the results after two to three weeks of usage.

Now, a little something about the blog.

There are many beauty and fashion blogs out there in what they like to call the "blogosphere", and even some for teenagers. I doubt, however, that they are written by teenagers - the closest thing is College Fashion, whose author is a college student (by the way, guys, that blog is awesome. Go check it out. I dare you). In comes yours truly, with Life of Style - sorry, make that A Teenager's Life of Style - written for teenagers by a teenager. I plan not only to talk about fashion and beauty, but also about life, and my life. Therefore my chosen topics may sometimes be different from other blogs; some may be more personal, or philosophical, or what have you. Now let's cross our fingers (and our toes) and hope that I can keep this up. 'Well, Cory, why wouldn't you be able to?', you ask? Well, I suppose it's fun fact time.

Fun fact numero uno: The attention span of a goldfish is approximately 6 seconds. The attention span of a Cory is a third of that, multiplied by seven, divided by fourteen. (In case your mathematical ability is even poorer than mine, that equals 1.)

Fun fact numero dos: I am the reigning world champion of procrastination. I missed the competition registration dates sixteen years in a row. (That's right, I beat you, sucker!)

And now, some little somethings about me.

This self-proclaimed genius is 16 years old.

This self-proclaimed genius loves to write.

This self-proclaimed genius lives in Canadian cold.

This self-proclaimed genius is not so bright.

(Dr. Seuss was my great-uncle three times removed.) (No, silly, I'm just kidding.)

Look forward to upcoming reviews and other rambles. Hopefully they'll come soon.

Au revoir!