The Good Ick #22: Modifiers in Action
The Good Ick #22: Modifiers in Action

You’ve been doing all the homework to verbalize your personal style. As you may have discovered, it’s hard to show visually what you can’t say verbally. Maybe the exercise of finding your adjectives has been relatively easy - if you’re reading the Good Ick there’s a good shot that the way you describe yourself (and therefore your style- which is a reflection of self) is chill, modern and classic. And if not in those exact words, then a strong synonym tends to describe the core of your personal style. Now, after lots of digging, focusing on the “why” of what you wear versus the “what” of what you wear, you’ve identified the modifier. That one word that requires a bit of soul searching, and probably trial and error, to identify. It’s also the word that’s highly worth discovering because it describes the essence of what you want to leave behind when you exit a room, what you would want your epitaph to read: “Amy was someone who was contentious and determined but never took herself too seriously and could find humor in the most absurd of situations.” Therefore, my modifier is “humor.” Many of you have written, thinking you were complete, that you had found your modifier. Let’s say you tell me it’s “edgy.” My question to you now is, what does that mean to you? Does it mean “someone who is tough as nails and a force to be reckoned with?” Or maybe “someone who never stood down to a fight for something she believed in and could be counted on by all?” Thinking in terms of the epitaph will help you round out your modifier - it’s a way to be very honest with yourself. Which isn’t easy and why finding your modifier is something done well in private. You, a pen and some paper.

Now that many of you have found it, putting it into practice is sometimes daunting. It shouldn’t be, so I’ll help break it down for you. The most frequent DM’s in my feed ask about how to find the items that will help communicate their modifier. What I’ll show you here is that it’s not about matching the modifier to the item. One item can work for myriad modifiers- it’s all in how it’s styled. I’ll show you what I mean:

The Victor shoe. One shoe, multiple modifiers. Depending.

The Victor Shoe

Each sketch below employs the Victor in a way that helps convey their modifier. It’s why many of us can wear the same item yet look wholly different.

Three illustrated women wearing different outfits but the same shoes

Exhibit A. The modifier: Humor. If this is you, you’ve used the shoe as a tool to add “polish and refinement.” You’ve played into the tee to convey straight up humor - mixing it with a sharp blazer and the Winslow pant, which gives it balance. But you didn’t pair the look with a sneaker. You probably felt it would take the humor messaging from ironic to silly, too casual. So, the Victor was the choice - a shoe that’s sharp and refined but doesn’t take itself too seriously. See?

Exhibit B. The modifier: Thoughtful. The oversized Gabe shirting in pink is soft and modern, the raw denim jeans give off an eased tailored vibe. You’ve used the Victor here to convey that this is no predictable outfit. The shoes convey a level of thought process that’s purposely not overwrought. But thoughtful, all the same.

Exhibit C. The modifier: Humble. You’re doing your work thing and headed out afterwards - mixing in a chic sweater - with a little chewed detail that keeps it interesting, sans the flash. No logos here. The skirt is tailored within an inch of its life, but the inserted pleating is squarely effortless and a bit soft. And the shoe - sharp but hardly angry. All the chicness without the attitude. The good humble.

I can do the same thing with a pink sweater. Ok?

three illustrated women wearing different outfits but the same pink sweater

Exhibit A. The modifier: Confident. For too long confidence has been tethered to a strong shoulder suit and an aggressive pump. And sometimes, sure, why not? But true confidence comes when you are so clear about who you are that you can mix up your clothes. And wear them. A lot. You loved the pink sweater, your friends were a little surprised you went for it. You’re not a “pink person.” But you knew that the slit in the arm gives that shot of modernity and that you would wear it with your sport striped Scottie jogger and a proper brogue slide - all your key WOFS. When you really push and try new ways of styling your WOFS (page 191 in The Creative Pragmatist Book) then you feel confident. Ergo, you are confident.

Exhibit B. The modifier: Elegant. The sculpted pencil skirt exudes chill in a rich sturdy cotton. Worn with the Victor, the whole look is quite demure. You balance this out with the pink wool sweater. It’s got a sporty vibe to it - the high neck, the ribbed cuffs. You’re elegant, but not unapproachable. The sweater does the good work in allowing you to lean into your modifier without overtaking your look.

Exhibit C. The modifier: Risk Taker. Mixing the pink with a range of ring 3 (page 116 in The Creative Pragmatist Book) colors gives the good friction. All the tools in play - the modern sweater, the Stella pant knotted and twisted at the bottom, a cashmere sock and an olive green sandal. Topped off with a big L.L.Bean canvas tote. Items you own put together in ways you could never have planned out when placing the sweater in your shopping cart. But when you have a closet full of tools rather than outfits you can play. And take risks. And it shows.

So yes, some modifiers are bought with specific intention. When I bought earrings with red dogs dangling from them, it’s hard to imagine how someone elegant will work that into their look. But generally speaking, the item is not the modifier in and of itself. The item is one that can be employed in different ways to convey what you’re trying to say. It’s the tool that helps you form the full visual sentence about who you are. Or sometimes, just how you’re feeling that day. Ultimately, this all comes back to setting your closet up as a toolbox rather than outfits. Ok?

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