SY reader Michelle unlocks her style

Michelle BarracloughFashion 30 Comments

Editor’s note: Remember Deanne’s SY Unlock Your Style storyPaula’s Unlock Your Style familySheree’s Unlock Your Style letter? And Mindy’s story about gaining new style confidence? Today we’re featuring a post from Michelle. Enjoy reading about how Michelle unlocks her style with a good dose of humour and experimentation.

Unlocking my style has been a work in progress my whole life but I think I’m finally finding my groove. It’s only taken me 44 years to get there, but then I’ve always been a late bloomer. I was the last girl in my year to get my period at nearly 16, and I’m still waiting for boobs!

I am a baby of the late 1960s which means that my formative fashion years were the big-haired, shoulder-padded ’80s. It was a confusing decade for fashion. You had your batik skirt/roman sandals look, your rubber bracelet/ra-ra skirt combo a la Madonna, your Olivia Newton-John inspired headbands and leg warmers. And there was hair, lots of hair, preferably permed or in a lopsided New Romance style. In other words, the ’80s were a dog’s breakfast.

Fast forward 30 years and I was still wandering around in the fashion wilderness. I found myself stuck in a holding pattern of jeans, t-shirts and boots for winter, and nondescript floral shifts for summer. Not to mention a whole lot of tracksuit pants behind closed doors.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with any of those garments, but I simply had no idea what I could do to make those choices more exciting, more on-trend, less boring. I’m also a hopeless shopper. I find it difficult to visualise how a top, a jacket and a pair of pants on hangers are going to look on me, let alone how to put them all together and accessorise them. Cue high frustration levels and more than a few terrible, horrible, no good, very bad fashion purchase disasters!

But over recent years I’ve developed a few tricks to help me “fake it till I make it”.

Accessorise or die!

Accessories are my new best friend. I always felt a little ‘blah’ in my jeans, boots, shirt combo. Now I always add a cropped blazer, scarf, a necklace (or three!) some statement earrings or a gorgeous chunky arm party. Not all at the same time of course!

Michelle unlocks her style 2

Mutton vs lamb

Being a lady of a certain age, I always have my “mutton vs lamb” radar on. Occasionally in the past I’ve made a big mutton mistake (stiletto boots and a mini-skirt anyone?) but most of the time my radar stands me in good stead. Essentially, I try to dress appropriately for my age, while still aiming for a chic edge. That means a short skirt, heels OR cleavage. Just one. Not two, never all three and absolutely never ever in eleventy billion years expose a midriff.

Michelle unlocks her style 3

The Champagne tastes dilemma

If you’re anything like me, you have champagne tastes and a sparkling wine budget. The good news is you can take that budget and get some pretty good copies of the latest trends at places like K-Mart, Cotton On and Target. I have bought skinny jeans, tank tops, t-shirts and the occasional frock from those places. I think the trick is to go with plain styles and block colours as a base for some of the fancier garments in your wardrobe and then accessorise with belts, scarves and jewellery.

Small local boutiques are also a gold mine of well-priced items. I recently picked up a gorgeous cream kimono jacket from a local boutique for $25.

Thrift stores are another favourite for inexpensive, yet often groovy items. I’ve picked up a fabulous winter coat, cool leather belt and a beautiful lined woollen skirt which still had its original price tag of 80 pounds attached. I paid $7. Score!

Michelle Unlocks her style 1

Find your guru

And last but not least, read Styling You every day for inspiration! Since I’ve been following Nikki’s blog, particularly the Nina Proudman series, I feel like I’ve been on the fashion equivalent of a magical, mystery tour. I’ve discovered that floaty tops don’t have to make you look fat, kaftans aren’t just a bad memory from my mother’s ’70s wardrobe and that single items of clothing that I thought were just a one trick pony are actually so versatile they can be worn in winter or summer. Amazing! I feel like my wardrobe has been holding all sorts of secrets (cheeky minx!) and now I know how to tease them out of her.

Nikki has also taught me the holy grail of fashion lessons – how to pull an outfit together from head to toe. Thanks to Nikki, I no longer have fashion nightmares filled with stirrup pants and acid wash. Although I must admit I’m still partial to a Farrah flick.

Perhaps you’ve got a SY unlock your style story to share? Email it to: [email protected] or leave a comment below.

Michelle Barraclough is a Melbourne gal with a Sydney lifestyle, merrily wielding a hairbrush, paintbrush, whisk and iphone by turns. Her blog Bumparella is all about the great universal fertility story, as well as the comedic-tragic-dramatic performance of being a parent & partner. A place where over-sharing is not only welcome but encouraged. Get yourself a folate smoothie and join in.

Comments 30

  1. “absolutely never ever in eleventy billion years expose a midriff” that made me laugh out loud! You’re a great inspiration, Michelle.

  2. Oh I know what you mean about champagne tastes … I certainly have those! It is such a nice feeling to feel like you have your style sorted. Good on you Michelle!

  3. Thankyou Michelle for sharing your story,Nikki has helped heaps of us and I love your style now and especially love that kaftan dress you have on,Love love kaftans and No they don’t make you look fat you have a lovely figure as I am a similar age I find the mutton/lamb thing an issue too but have worked it out now!Go and buy some lovely things for summer that are chic and stylish.

  4. You look very gorgeous and chic Michelle! Success! I have just been lucky enough to be gifted a couple of hundred dollars in shopping vouchers for my birthday (thanks family). I want to make some smart shopping choices to get the most options for my dollar. I want to update my summer wardrobe. Does anyone have any tips?

    1. Thank you Trudi. Lucky you! What Nikki said below. Also, visit some local non-chain boutiques as they are usually run by women who can put together a look for you, or at least send you into the change room with half a dozen things they think will work for you.

    1. Oh girls, thank you, but it’s just camera angle and my beloved iphone filter apps that make the legs look okay. Up close, lots of dimply bits and usually in need of a razor 😉
      I wish I can remember where I first heard the motto, but it’s a good one to have for sure.

  5. Thank you for that inspiration! Could have been talking about me, I’ve just been out on a shopping bonanza for an upcoming professional conference and was so happy with what I purchased. Shopped my wardrobe first, then wrote a comprehensive shopping list and hit the mid-season sales. Now I feel confident about going to the conference and looking good.

      1. I’m actually going to Canberra to receive a national award, so I’m really mindful that the photos will be around forever so I need to look good! (Yikes!)

      2. I’m actually going to Canberra to receive a national award, so I’m really mindful that the photos will be around forever so I need to look good! (Yikes!)

  6. Loving your unlocked style Michelle – isn’t it great to feel confident that you’ve pulled an outfit together. Big thanks to our clever sisters like Nikki who are willing to help those of us who don’t have any clue where to start. Love the denim jacket, big belt, floral (maxi?). Thanks to SY tip I have pulled my old sportsgirl denim jacket out to wear with tank maxis.

    1. Yes! It is a great feeling when something works and I feel so lucky to have discovered SY and Nikki’s excellent, no-nonsense advice. I swear that denim jacket has sat unworn in my wardrobe for at least 10 years until last year.

  7. Hi Michelle, I enjoyed reading your story, thanks for sharing – I was nodding along all the way! (I discovered Nikki the style guru after googling Nina Proudman style!) I think you look great in all these photos. Love your earrings! xx

    1. Thank you Julie & Nikki. I got the earrings from a little place near me called Generous Soles on Collaroy Plateau. They stock the most fabulous shoes, bags and accessories, at really reasonable prices. Those earrings are slightly unusual in that they are tiny beads and sequins stitched on to leather which makes them sparkly but very light.

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