How To Level Up Your Style

You’ve promised yourself to try something new every year. While thinking of it is great, actually doing it bears fear. You wonder if anyone will react. You wonder if you’ll regret it or even worse, wish that you could have done the risk. Some of you are born with it while some of you have to take the time to actually build it. Some of you are bound to play it safe. As told by Cady Heron, the limit does not exist.

Me being the Gemini that I am, the shapeshifter in me likes to break the boundaries of taste. It may not necessarily agree with yours, but that’s OK. I think that I’d rather take risks than to play it safe when it comes to my style. Over the years, I’ve learned that I am bound to keep what I like in the past, but merge that into my present. Or, I can change how I style things to fit my present self. Style is a gray area where you can merge your past and present selves; who you are now vs. who you want to be.

If you’re looking to level up your style and perfect it, here are the top tips I swear by:

  1. Find that one thing you loved most from your awkward phase and make that part of your style essentials

If I have to define my awkward phase, it’s definitely from my teen years to my early 20s. During those phases, I’d always be experimenting with Peter Pan collar dresses, hair clips and wearing Mary Jane shoes to school to mimic Courtney Love. Suddenly, I went full blown 180 by turning myself into a rainbow chaser by wearing baggy harem pants, statement jeans, graphic tees, platform shoes, tie dye, statement jewelry and dad caps. Even though my tastes were radical, I wanted to ask myself: “What was I thinking?”. But then, I realized that there WAS a reason to buy those things in the first place: to find what suited me vs. what didn’t. Instead of letting go of everything, I actually decided to keep my hair clips, Mary Jane shoes, graphic tees, customized jeans and statement jewelry. As you can see here, I wore my look with a cat hair clip I bought during my high school trip to Portugal at a souvenir shop 10 years ago with a Marina Fini statement choker I purchased when I was in college 6 years ago. By mixing the staples from those two phases, it has brought me to realize that I can work with them now. Never will I ever have to worry about stocking up on trendy accessories ever again because I have ’em all already!

2. Stick to a signature silhouette

I love variety, but sometimes, I like variety in the SAME things just like my Mom. Though these photos are taken a year apart (2019 and 2020), I bought both dresses in 2019. Here, you can see that this Bardot silhouette truly flatters me. Since I’m a bustier gal with a itty bitty waist and narrow hips with broad shoulders, this silhouette truly suits me best since it enhances my curves and makes my boobs look more proportionate to the rest of my body. I truly DGAF if I can’t raise my hand to summon a cute waiter to take my order at the restaurant, but at least I can eat in style and still look hot while I’m raising a food baby inside my belly! Point is, focus on your body’s asset(s) and shine a light on one or even more!! You and I may never be of the same build, but at least you and I can agree that we have uniquely different, beautiful and wonderful bodies that can look great in the same silhouette or something similar!

3. Find YOUR designer and invest in it

Designer names are like real estate. You pick and choose whose art vibes with you. Every designer is made for every personality. You and I are two uniquely different individuals who can style the same shoe in a way that suits ourselves. For instance, take a By Far square toe strappy sandal. Being the maximalist that I am, I like to jazz that up with a Vivienne Westwood dress as seen here. You can be inspired by me, but you will style it differently from the way I style it. You may style it with a pair of sleek tailored black pants and a sweater tee and delicate gold jewelry or go hard on the color blocking anchored with pearls and beaded jewels. Whatever you wear, you can make it work for you! If you find that By Far footwear flatters you, make that your go-to shoe designer. Ditto with clothes and bags, too. You don’t necessarily have to stick to one designer: you can build up to two or choose a specific designer for your jeans.

I know that some articles out here will tell you to buy a certain designer ‘cuz celebrities are wearing it, but please don’t be one of those people who follows whatever the masses are wearing. The same rule goes for Insta brands. I sound like a hypocrite because I’ve done that way too many times. If there was one brand that I hopped on the hype train with, it’s Alexander Wang as I saw his designs adorn the bodies of models and actresses. No matter how many times I tried to make his dresses work for my petite and slim, yet curvy body, most of his clothes don’t suit my frame as it’s meant for tall or small-chested petite folks. No shade, but his designs were cool.

4. Quality > Quantity

I cannot stress this enough about how important it is to BUY quality items, especially from Instagram brands. As much as I love being inspired by the app and discovering new brands there, it’s either a hit or a miss. Some of my favorite brands I discovered there are Miaou, By Marta Goldschmied, Holiday The Label, By Far, Poster Girl, Bec + Bridge, Glazed NYC and Are You Am I. No matter how hard a brand is hyped, don’t let the likes and followers fool you. Even I am a sucker for it.

One example where I fell into the Insta hype was buying anything from I AM GIA. Known for its edgy designs and Y2K inspired aesthetic, this Australian brand has been spotted on literally every influencer and celebrity. Because it looked SO GOOD in photos, I was like, “Why not I get it?”. The first I AM GIA purchases I got were the infamous teddy bear Pixie coat and Paris PVC cutout thong-style pants. Upon first sight, it was exactly what I saw on Insta. However, it was 2020 personified in a try on haul. Like a dog shedding its fur on your sweatpants, the coat lost more “fur” than Andre Agassi and his hair. No matter how fluffy, structured and thick it looked in street style photos, it was a thin jacket that looked like someone glued cotton balls in a rush. When I tried on the pants, my short legs looked like Legos the moment I stared in the mirror. I returned both pairs in exchange for store credit, where I treated myself to the Spectrum pants, a buckled jean with bondage-inspired straps at the sides as shown here.

The moment I tried them on, I fell in love as they made my legs look as long as a supermodel. Yet, it smelled like biology class. It took me at least a couple washes to make the smell of formaldehyde fade away. Was it worth the purchase after all? No. I ended up selling them on Carousell as I hated having to constantly fix a buckle that suddenly went undone in public. The biggest con was that the price was way too high for something that didn’t live up to the quality. That taught me a lesson to not buy anything that is overpriced, yet cheaply made. (If you’re an I AM GIA fan, I’m sorry that I bursted your bubble here! I believe that you deserve better when it comes to the quality of their items. I really hate to write bad reviews of any brand here, but I just had to voice my truth.)

Conversely, I had a far better experience with By Marta Goldschmied, which is designed by a friend whom I interviewed for Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore and Galore. Unlike most brands that use PVC out of polyurethane (which peels like CRAZY in Singapore’s hot and humid weather after a few years), her buckled PVC skirt is bonded to denim. Even though I bought it on Black Friday 2019, it survived so many washes without dulling the shine. Heck, the buckles stayed intact every single time I wear it in public! Seriously, it’s my favorite skirt in the world and the quality is phenomenal. Though it’s on par with I AM GIA’s price range, Marta’s stuff justifies the price. I may be pawing towards 30 than 20, but having to buy quality clothing is one of the biggest lessons you’ll learn in your 20s.

5. BE open to buying things you normally don’t ever wear

Dressing up like a rockstar is second skin. Wearing anything prim and proper is like studying Mandarin, but for my body. I guessed that my aversion to preppy staples like oxfords stemmed from the fact that I used to go to Singapore American School, where these kinds of shoes were associated with teachers. It also reminded me of men in suits and dolling up for church. Despite how basic the shoes were, I ended up falling in love with a pair of vintage Chanel oxfords as shown here. Sleek, yet chic, these shoes were to die for with the logo-covered interlocking Cs. I knew that I HAD to get them. Destiny called and they were mine forever.

Another thing about branching out is learning to embrace my body more. Since I’d be caught in t-shirts or full length tops, I barely wear much crop tops in Singapore due to how “revealing” it is for me. Rather than keeping my chest and waist hidden from the world, I impulsively splurged on a Miaou crop top after Black Friday with a special Revolve discount that was exclusive to Singapore. Sexy, yet wearable, this top featured wraparound ribbons beneath the waist and a V-neck to make my bust look more proportionate to the rest of my body. I was shocked at myself that I would even dare purchase this top as I’d usually purchase tees. Though it’s not a parent-appropriate top, I fell in love with it. Feeling secure with my body is the best thing I’ve ever done and fashion helped me to make peace with my big boobs. I have yet to feel 100% secure with wearing anything backless due to my bacne-ridden scars BUT, I can get there!!

Going outside your comfort zone is scary, yet it’s something that you can overcome. I know that more than a handful of you prefer to play it safe as it’s a security blanket yet, I believe that time and boundaries can’t restrict you from allowing you to express yourself. If you can make being more adventurous your New Year’s resolution, make that happen!

Published by

Michelle Varinata

Lapis - (n.) a layer Shrek once said that "onions have layers" as he was peeling one. Like an onion, I have layers. Born in Jakarta and raised in Singapore, I grew up being surrounded in a multicultural environment. Then, I moved to the States, where I lived in NYC and L.A. The creativity, hustle, bustle and vibe of those cities inspired me to become a blogger, journalist and influencer. Writing by day and living it up by night, I slay in the streets one OOTD at a time. Full-face makeup included, too. ;)

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