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How to Translate Inspiration Outfits for Your Own Style: Inspiration Versus Aspiration

I have been on a turquoise/aqua theme recently, and I don't mind it because (1) I love the color and (2) it's perfect for summer! Continuing on this theme, and as a follow-up to this week's Jerry Garcia marine life Style Imitating Art (SIA) post, let's revisit an SIA artwork featuring fish and water. In April, Terri shared this review post with outfits from 9 participants in the SIA challenge centered on this gorgeous work by Christi Belcourt: The Great Mystery of Water. (I wrote about my interpretation in detail here.)


All the participants in the review post are familiar to me from previous SIA posts and/or their own blogs, so it was interesting not only to see the variety of wonderful looks, but how true they were to each person's individual style. This got me thinking about a further extension of the challenge: Style Imitating Art Inspiring I could use these outfits based on the inspiration artwork to inspire additional outfits of my own. Not replications or re-creations because of course I don't have the wardrobe, personal appearance, lifestyle, or style preferences of the participants. But still using elements of their outfits or an overall vibe to push the boundaries of my own outfits while remaining authentic to my own style.

I believe that we can get style inspiration from anyone, no matter how different they are from ourselves. But I do think it's important to separate style inspiration from aspiration. Here's the distinction as I see it:

Inspiration - excites your mind with possibilities, stimulates your mind to think creatively, to make new connections, to bring together disparate elements, to do something different with what you have; motivates unique, authentic action; expands and reinvigorates the self

Aspiration - focuses your mind on the social ideal and how to emulate it, leads you to fantasize about being like someone else, about being perceived as better (thinner, curvier, younger, richer, more popular, higher status, etc.) than you really are; motivates imitative action or negative feelings and inaction; diminishes and devalues the self

I seek out inspiration that uplifts my mind into a mode of curiosity, experimentation, and action, and I avoid aspiration that pushes my mind down into a mode of comparison, imitation, and inaction.

So it is fitting that my first Style Imitating Art Inspiring Style post features an outfit from Shelbee at Shelbee on the Edge! Shelbee is one of the three curators of the SIA challenge, with a fun hippie/boho/Western/country-music-superstar vibe to her style and a blog that celebrates uniqueness while tackling subjects from fashion to mental illness. She shared the details of her inspiration outfit here. The thing about Shelbee's look that sparked outfit ideas in my mind was the layering of a long, loose white kimono over a long, loose turquoise dress.


Her kimono reminded me of this thrifted white cardigan that I have struggled a bit to style for a couple of reasons:

(1) It kind of looks like a doctor's white lab coat with the sleeves left long...which is not the vibe I'm going for;

(2) It's lightweight and somewhat sheer but is made from a 95% polyester/5% Spandex fabric, so it doesn't breathe in the heat.

Because of issue (1), I should wear the cardigan in the summer with the sleeves rolled/shrugged up, but because of issue (2), it's often too warm to wear in the summer. Hmm. So seeing Shelbee's outfit, I decided that I would create an outfit with this cardigan for summer, but I'd reserve it to wear on a relatively cool summer day (which is a thing in Minnesota).

White waffle cardigan - thrifted, CJ Banks/Goodwill - 3X - $5.24 - 10/2018

Total number of wears: 7

Current cost per wear (CPW): $0.75 [hey, it's meet my <$1 CPW goal already; nice!]

I decided to wear the cardigan over my drapey, pleated turquoise knit skirt (which I featured recently here and here) for an atypical volume-over-volume look like Shelbee modeled. I popped in another somewhat-problematic sleeveless-but-warm-synthetic piece, this geometric print tank, to create the base outfit. For accessories, I selected turtle earrings (in keeping with the water theme), a long black/silver pendant necklace (corresponding to Shelbee's long Michelle-made necklace), black flats (inspired by Shelbee's black cowboy boots), and a variety of DIY aqua bead bracelets (because: hello, I'm Sally in St Paul and I wear DIY bracelet stacks almost every day!). Then I put this outfit idea aside and waited...and waited...and waited.

And then this week the forecast called for cooler weather! So when I did my weekend outfit prep, I scheduled this outfit for a day that was rainy and cool (high of 76 F, as it turned out). I rolled up the sleeves on the cardigan and went to work! (Well, I walked a few feet into my office to WFH.) The outfit gets a thumbs up from me on both style and comfort. Due to the thin, drapey quality of the fabric, the volume-on-volume combination was not overwhelming. And I'm now seeing how this challenging cardigan can be used not only for the cool summer day but as a spring/fall transition piece as well.

OOTD 7/26/22

I would not normally have gravitated toward the black shoes for this outfit...a nude pair would be my go-to here, I think. But I like the repetition of the black color from the geometric print and the pendant. It was unusual for me to leave all that open space above the tank's neckline open rather than filling it with layered necklaces, but I think that expanse of skin helped me not overheat.

I did modify my bracelet stack by adding in two plain silver-tone bracelets from my Amazon set to bulk up the stack a bit and to augment the silver metallic element of the overall outfit. The silver beads are also a nice intermediate size between the seed beads (3-4mm) and the magnesite stone beads (8x6mm). Without the silver beads bridging the gap, the difference in sizes didn't look quite right.

I was intrigued by Shelbee's white crocheted hat in her outfit, so instead of the black Alice band I'd usually wear here to bookend the black flats, I grabbed a silky white scarf and wore it as a headband. It's a nice summery, fresh, and light alternative!

So there you have Great Mystery of Water - Styling Imitating Art Inspiring Style outfit inspired by Shelbee!

Lion's mane update: Of course I had heard of purple and blue shampoo used by women who color their hair to counteract the yellow and orange tones, but I never thought of it for myself until I read an article that mentioned they can be used on naturally blonde/light brown hair also. My hair definitely has a yellow/orange tone to it (thanks, red-headed grandpa, haha) so when I needed to buy new shampoo recently, I bought a blue shampoo. This is what my hair looks like after the first wash with it (left for 3 minutes before rinsing). I can't really tell if it made a difference or not, but I'll keep using it, and perhaps it will become apparent over time. What is apparent in this photo is that it's time for another trim; my hair is getting long and a bit lopsided as it grows! (These days I'm cutting my own hair and getting my husband to neaten it up in the back.) It's summer, so my hair is definitely fuzzy, but it's not too bad considering I'm not applying any product after I wash it and I'm letting it air dry.

I have not been very adventurous with color in my styling of this geometric tank in the past. These two black-based OOTD are pretty representative of how I've worn it.

To wrap things up, here is another look at our artwork "improved" with the addition of a this case, a black broken pattern Mini Rex has joined the school.

The Great Mystery of Water "improved" with rabbit

Thanks to Shelbee for helping me find new possibilities in this white cardigan and for graciously granting me permission to use her photo in this post.

Does my distinction between inspiration and aspiration resonate with you? Do you have anything in your closet this season that you struggle to style? Where do you go for style inspiration?

Blogs I link up with are listed here.

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