Suit yourself: How do you stay true to your personal sense of style?

Have you ever seen the TV show Dharma and Greg? It revolves around an extremely mismatched couple - quirky, free-spirited, yoga-teaching Dharma, and conservative, old-money, silver-spoon lawyer Greg. When my husband and I were dating, Dharma and Greg was one of the few shows we enjoyed watching together, primarily because we could relate to the lead characters so well. Like Dharma, I was eclectic, liberal, and Jewish. I came from a performing arts background and had wildly colored hair. My husband, meanwhile, was a young lawyer working at a midtown Manhattan boutique law firm. He wore lots of Ralph Lauren, read Wine Spectator Magazine, and was president of his college's Young Republicans club.

As our marriage has evolved, we've both somehow managed to retain our individuality. I've gotten tattooed, remain fiercely independent, and spend at least two days a week digging through the dollar bin at the Goodwill. My husband, meanwhile, is employed at a large, extremely conservative insurance company, where he sports expensive cuff links and rep striped ties and enjoys conversations about residuary charitable bequests.

Yesterday afternoon I met him for lunch at R&D Kitchen, near his office in University Park. R&D is the kind of place visited by old-money Dallasites who wear couture purchased at Stanley Korchack and own private yachts. It is also where you dine on food like this:

That's my $16 rainbow sushi roll, and my husband's sea salt and parsley french fries.

Visiting a restaurant like this always causes a bit of a crisis concerning the need to dress appropriately, and my desire to remain true to myself. I am extremely hesitate to sacrifice my personal style in order to appease those around me. It has taken me a good long time to fully accept who I am, and embrace all the qualities that make me unique. That includes my weight, my nose, my proclivity towards vintage clothing, and my loud girlish laugh. I truly appreciate who I am, and am proud that I don't blend in with the crowd. Furthermore, due to the large tattoo on my neck and my red hair, I am undeniably noticeable and unique. I couldn't blend in if I tried. And that's perfectly fine with me. Life is too short to be anyone other than who I am.

Yves Saint Laurent said, “Fashion fades but style is eternal.”  My personal style is here to stay. It is forever. I believe that too often women downplay their personal style because they are either too busy to refine it, lack the confidence to reflect it, or fall into the trap of dressing as they believe they're "supposed to." It isn't easy to be courageous and embrace who you are. You have to be brave and authentic, and take risks. That's what dressing with courage is all about. I realized years ago that I was never going to be the glamazon my mother wanted me to be, or the romantic woman dolled up in ruffles and lace. I am only comfortable dressing as me.

However, there are occasions where it becomes necessary to reign in my personal style in order to be respectful. Dressing respectfully often means "doing as the Romans do." In an establishment like the one I visited, that translates to subtle jewelry, covered shoulders and subdued make-up. I personally have no problem trading in my 1970's beaded sheer blouse for a simple crewneck sweater, if that's what the occasion merits. Furthermore, I understand that my value as an individual is not defined by what I do or do not wear. Just because I outfit myself in long-sleeves and simpler styles does not mean that I have abandoned my own beliefs to take on that of those surrounding me.

Respecting other people's beliefs does not mean you have to give up your own. It also does not change who you are.

This morning, I actually found it rather easy to dress respectfully while remaining true to myself. My entire outfit is thrifted aside from my accessories. I'm covered up, yet fully comfortable, and feel my personal sense of style is well represented.

And my lunch was delicious.

Vintage thrifted mink cape; thrifted Gap black sweater; thrifted Urban Renewel faux leather skirt; Forever21 belt; Target tights; Kate Spade boots; Louis Vuiton Speedy bag; Betsey Johnson gold watch

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  1. Great post. I think you pose a thoughtful question. How do we maintain our sense of style while being respectful? Can the two be compromised when you're put in a situation that is completely different from your everyday dress? I think you pulled it off though. Looking at your outfit, your look is more conservative, but with your edgy hair, you still maintain that unique "you" factor!

  2. Wow! You look smokin' today! I realize this is not your normal "style" but that skirt, the studded belt, and yes, the hairstyle, still gives a huge hint of the usual you. I have the same question everyday. I work in a corporate office setting. I am also a mommy to a toddler and hang out with a lot of "convervative-styled" mommies who think lace-up boots are too edgy/funky. Do I care? Well, I have 3 lace-up boots and 2 moto jackets. And yes, I wear them to work :)

  3. Fabulous post with real insight. And your outfit is perfect: attractive, appropriate, and possessing a distinct sense of personal style.

  4. i totally appreciated reading this entire post. great insight. still look unique, yourself, and fabulous. i think you've struck a perfect "compromise" even though i don't know if that's the right word because you're still totally yourself. anyway. i make no sense. but bravo. i love the ensemble, everything about it!

  5. Hi! Found your blog through FBFF - I love it!

    Your use of blacks with browns in this outfit is great!

  6. I love this post! It's wonderful that you've embraced yourself and live so authentically and yet you also have the decency to be respectful of others and dress according to the occasion. Sounds like you have this personal style gig all worked out.

  7. You did a beautiful job for dressing to the occasion while still feeling like yourself- Great outfit! I believe the key to retaining personal style is to always at least wear one piece or reveal a part of yourself [like your tattoo!] that is essentially "you"- regardless of the occasion! Better stand out then fall to the background, always!


  8. I share your husband's style choices, but your politics, food tastes, and conversation interests.

    I know many ideologically opposed couples, and I am always surprised by how well it works.

    Good on yah!

  9. wow, looks amazing! Anbd I love your style!!!

  10. Awe, I loved Dharma. We're not together anymore but their was a guy I dated for a year who was rich and proper and Dharma + Greg reminded me of us. This is such a good article! It's something I've thought about a lot!


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