The Good Ick #16: Antonyms Decoded
The Good Ick #16: Antonyms Decoded

Clothing as tools. I talk about that a lot, but there’s a reason. It’s a critical mind shift and once you get there, building outfits that communicate your personal style becomes quite intuitive. And since personal style is a reflection of who you are, it always feels great when our outward appearance matches what we want to say about ourselves. Oh, did I forget to mention that “who we want to be” is inextricably linked to “who we are.” One’s aspirations speak volumes about an individual so it is logical that it’s an important element of our personal style. Given the linkage between visual and self, you understand why it’s incredibly frustrating when the two are at odds. It’s a crappy feeling you get when you are expecting your outfit to say one thing, but it’s stuck on repeat saying another. I have an easy fix. Try it, I promise. It works.

Employing your antonyms (pages 191-195 in The Creative Pragmatist Book) is, not to over simplify here, a simple way to fix your way out of any style glitch. Here’s what you do. When you’re dressed, and unhappy with the outcome, find the one or two words that describe how your outfit is making you feel. Not how you want to feel. Don’t use phrases - like “not cool enough” or “not interesting enough.” Put to words how the outfit you are standing in is making you feel, right at this moment. Words like “Pretty, Feminine.” Or “Sporty, Masculine.” “Playful”. These aren’t bad words, but if you feel off, it is often because something is making you feel a singular way. One dimensional. And as humans, we have depth - makes sense that that’s what we want to convey. We know we feel best in our style when it’s balanced - hence the name “Creative Pragmatist”, not just “Creative”. Or “Pragmatic.” NOW that you have identified the word(s) to describe how you are feeling, to achieve the balance, i.e. “right the ship”, state the opposite. The antonym. The opposite of Pretty? Maybe it’s Masculine? Maybe you need something highly masculine to balance it out . A “pretty dress’ might feel more balanced mixed with a very mannish brogue. Did that work? Maybe “tough” is what you are looking for - a shoe with a strong point or adding a leather jacket. It’s not about starting a new outfit from scratch. Or even a wall of “outfit ideas.” It’s about understanding how to fix what’s ailing your style. Each of these items become tools to help give better balance. See?

Here, I’ll give you some examples. Let’s start with the dark purple jersey skirt and top.

Three illustrated women in purple outfits

Maybe you bought look “b” in mind for something special. You plan on wearing it to an event, you have a great pair of strappy gold sandals you’ve barely worn that will go perfect, you are set. And that’s just great. But we wear our clothes a lot, so to be meaningful, to get real wear from our clothes, it’s not about wearing it to multiple dressy events but rather in multiple facets of our lives. I’ve illustrated some options to drive home this point. If you’re planning on packing this outfit for a trip to Nice, France, in look “b” you would say you feel too “dressy and covered.” Antonyms to that are “casual and bare.” You don’t toss out the whole outfit, you add in the items that will flip the adjectives on their head. Hence, look “c” in the casual slide and the bare top gets you to the Cours Selaya for fresh grapes and confiture . C’est bon. Or maybe you’re headed to a tennis tournament - watching, not playing. The antonyms you reach for are now: sporty and bare. Here’s where a cotton bodysuit, a flat strappy sandal threaded with cotton sneaker laces and a lightweight sweater for weather options does the trick. Cinched up with a brown leather belt just gives it an extra bit of casual day vibe.

bralette, shoe, purple polo, bodysuit, belt, shoe, long sleeve shirt

Regardless of how you’ve chosen to employ the pieces in your closet, what allows you to move fluidly switching items in and out to find the balance, is that they all have inherently similar characteristics. Each piece above, while on the surface completely different from each other, all possess three key attributes: they are all chill, modern and a bit classic. All three adjectives, all at the same time. This doesn’t mean you don’t have a wild card in your closet, something you were drawn to but can’t really defend in the court of personal style. I love those pieces - in very small doses. I have a pink all over beaded and embroidered jacket that makes sense really only to me. But your wardrobe that you live in, that you will get the most use out of, has CMC all baked in (pages 35-37 in The Creative Pragmatist Book).

four illustrated women all wearing jeans

Let’s try this with the bleached Slouchy Carpenter Jean. Look “c” here - it’s pretty straight up one dimensional. On the surface. But the longer rise on the jean coupled with the sun bleached wash give it a lightness I’m craving right now. Adding a chunky metal watch gives the ease of sneakers and denim a bit of good contrast. The adjectives I would use to describe this look are “casual and sporty.” To achieve a different look, I employ my antonyms. Look “a” added in sexy and feminine. I’m headed to a bar here and this is the easy fix. If I’m out and about on a Saturday browsing stores (b), I’m in need of walking, but I still want to be put together. I’m going to add “feminine and refined” to give me the clothing emotion I’m seeking. Now with the polished sandal in a strong red, I feel fully appropriate in my environment. Or if I’m going to the office (d), I want to employ a different set of antonyms to “casual and sporty.” I’ll add “refined and a bit hyper modern.” The poplin shirt and the blazer for a discerning moment and the mannered, strong square toe of the Pedro slide for that extra push that’s curiously modern.

top, shoe, sandal, sweatshirt, t shirt, flat, watch, blazer, sneaker, belt

I want to leave you with some important parting thoughts here. The “antonyms” are employed to round out, give balance to your outfit. They are not there to try and create a fully opposite sensation to the one you are having. Using them adds layers and depth to your look. I find many people confuse feeling one dimensional with having a “bad outfit.” When I say layers I don’t mean “throw a cardigan over a shirt and a blazer. I am referring here to layers of thought and contrast.

And this brings us full circle to the notion that our clothing is an extension of who we are on the inside. Deeply layered. Filled with thoughts that sometimes wholly contradict coupled with the curiosity to explore just why that is so.

Explore Tibi.