How To: Develop Your Own Style

Madame Chaos presents her eighth post in her ongoing guest-blogger series.

I have broached the subject of personal style before, but in the context of home decor. I would like to turn the spotlight on a more personal canvas: the adornment of one’s self. For me, the year 2008 was one of unparalleled fashion triumph, a veritable mindspring of creativity born of personal ingenuity and an innate sense of style–and, astonishingly enough, utilized only those things readily available in my own house.  In my quest to offer self-improvement choices beyond traditional expectations, I submit to you that attention to detail in the way you physically present yourself will both reflect and encourage your inner fabulousness, and needn’t be prohibitively expensive.  Here are my tips for exploring the identity you want to project without breaking the bank:

1. Repurpose

Not only is repurposing a thrifty choice, it is a green one. You will exude and encourage eco-consciousness when you take to heart the Proustian adage: “The voyage of true discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in seeing with new eyes.” With four older sisters, I have at my disposal a collection of costumes from uncountable ballet, clogging, and tap recitals–but what is the fun of merely recreating those costumes? Instead, repurposing showcases my personal style when I take a dotty skirt with an inset panty, and make it my own by flipping the panty inside-out and creating a one-shouldered bodice:



(**Note: my longtime readers will recognize my application of Tough-Love in the above photo.)
Adding mismatched heels makes a statement–and checking the “spin” of the skirt is mandatory:


This particular outfit was a staple of my at-home wardrobe for much of the year.

A second example of repurposing makes a comment on the convergence of the sociopolitical and ecopolitical in a single item: The Wal-Mart plastic bag. Fashion becomes the vehicle for voicing the questions: what are the long-term effects of pandering to and literally clothing ourselves with homage to the corporate machine? Are we trading our local control over natural and financial resources for a flimsy and ultimately unsatisfying relationship with international conglomerates who wish to transform us into consumerist sycophants?


It is my hope that such an outfit gives my older sisters food for thought on their and their friends’ unenviable position of being sellout corporations-with-legs advertising for American Eagle, Hollister, Old Navy, Abercrombie, and Aeropostale. Ah, but such musings perhaps deserve their own series installment, and I should resume my take on the subject at hand.

2. Alter To Make it Your Own

As the youngest of 6, 5 of them girls, the bulk of my wardrobe has consisted of hand-me-downs. While I’m resigned to being forever designated as “Missy/Kiwi/LouLou/Dee’s Younger Sister,” I certainly don’t have to be simply a smaller victim of their fashion choices. One of the quickest way to alter a tired hand-me-down is with my tried-and-true friend, scissors.


See how these old pants went from drab to fab with just a few snips? Now they are REALLY wild, instead of just wild-print wannabes.

More clever scissor-surgeries include this ingenious alteration I like to call The Port Hole: it reveals my “novel naval navel,” get it?

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t take a stylish snip out of the crown of your hair; however, it virtually guarantees that your mom will require you to wear a carefully-placed ponytail for the rest of the year, which defeats the purpose. Still, you can enjoy knowing that the snip is there, and that *you* created it:


Another alteration involves the simple application of lipstick in an unexpected place–an older sister’s coveted dress (one with lots of the aforementioned and highly-sought-after “spin”):
“Making it your own,” you see, can be code for “Render it unwearable by anyone else.” The effect is the same.

3. Add Surprising Accents

Too much of one particular style can appear uninspired. Mix things up! Why have just “Princess Ballet” style or “Cool Cowgirl” style when you can have “Cool Princess Cowgirl Ballet” style?


Friends, family, neighbors, and livestock alike will appreciate your ingenuity–particularly 4H hogs named Romeo and Juliet, another unexpected mixture of good-taste and tastes-good in the “in-love-and-destined-to-die” kind of way:



Set yourself atop a horse and you’ve created an unmistakeable style that reflects your unique personality:


The ultimate unexpected accent is . . . . Nothing. Juxtapose layers of skirts and accessories with . . . Nothing . . . on the top–Wow!


For further surprises, launch the Nothing in a public place like the zoo, draping your clothing on whatever is handy while your mom has her camera focused elsewhere. When she turns the paparazzi device on you, you will be ready!


4. Don’t Forget The Face

It makes good fashion sense (and just good plain fun) to remember the face when deciding how to self-present. Lipstick is a truly indespensible tool not just for sisters’ dresses, but for the nose and hair (and mirror–why not?):


While you’re at the mirror, practice the facial expressions you think will reflect who and what you wish to show the world to be your truest self:


Passive? Nah.


Aggressive? Maybe.

How about this one?



Until next time, dear readers . . . . . . .

Madame Chaos



  1. Kris said,

    January 31, 2009 at 2:04 am

    Nikki, you slay me! Sadly, there simply was no wit left over for me: you got it all! Bravo yet again.

  2. Numismatist said,

    February 2, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I love this post! She is adorable. The Walmart outfit, priceless!

    By the way, I’ve read you on fMh for a long time. What a surprise to see you at Kalama Quilts!

  3. requiel said,

    February 3, 2009 at 10:33 am

    That was so cute! I love the princess ballet with the boots. I may have to do that one one day.

  4. kelly said,

    February 18, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    I loved these pictures, and love the outfits!

  5. Dene Pancheri said,

    February 22, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Dearest Nikki and Madame Chaos

    I laughed until I couldn’t breath and I’d like to offer my kindship to you. I too know the struggles of only hand-me -downs for I was the youngest of six. The day will come when your older sisters will ask you for style advice and barrowing clothes. I know this for a fact because I am a personal shopper for 3 out of the six.

    From one extreme Aquariaus to another, shine on little one, shine on.

    The Fabulous Ms. D

    ps No grading my comment teacher.

  6. Dene Pancheri said,

    February 22, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Opps the youngest of six GIRLS.

    How do I send this to my people???

  7. Ryann said,

    March 3, 2009 at 1:47 am

    First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

    Mind Blowing!

  8. Tally-wa said,

    April 15, 2009 at 9:51 am

    -Madam Chaos
    Maybe you could give me some style advice. I love the “cool princess cowgirl ballet style! I do like the aggressive face too. Keep up the writing.


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