Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's You! Looking, Working, Feeling Terrific 24 Hours a Day!

Sporty jacket and denim skirt fabric....romantic embroidery and lace on the cami-top.....classic, sexy strappy sandals......clean and dramatic silhouette, all put together in an offbeat manner. Emily Cho's ideas helped me learn to express all of these sides of myself in ways that are true to who i am, where i live, and what i do.

Today's post title is a mash-up of a couple of Emily Cho's book titles. Loyal readers will already have a grasp of why i love Ms. Cho's philosophy - she very much emphasizes the importance and opportunity of fully expressing your personal style through all aspects of your life. I only had one book of Ms. Cho's, It's You! Looking Terrific Whatever Your Type, published in the 1980's.  The plentiful, very well done illustrations became dated over the years, but the insight into building a wardrobe and especially understanding and developing your own style never went out of date.

There's a ton of style advice out there on the web. I find that the vast bulk of it falls into a few categories: how to find/express your aesthetic tastes, how to flatter your face and figure, how to make current trends work for you, how to put together stylish outfits, how to use accessories, and shopping tips. Much less popular but still available is advice on how to build a wardrobe suited to your particular needs, dressing for your professional life, and dressing from certain practical angles (Angie's Mom On The Go looks, for example).

Emily Cho approaches style and clothing from these angles, but her focus lies elsewhere. She discusses style and clothing from the perspective of society, your 'audience', social occasions, and the community at large. In other words, you don't just get dressed to shield yourself from the elements or strictly to express your aesthetic creativity. You dress in order to tell the world, and particular people in your life, who you are.

This may well sound stereotypical, and it is. This type of categorizing and pre-judging happens in our society, for good or ill. Emily Cho's system provides one way to become conscious of this stereotyping so that you can make a decision about how you want to participate in it. For me, working with Ms. Cho's ideas helped me to make my peace with all of this and dress in a way that feels honest to me while not undermining my own goals or creating needless strife with family, co-workers, etc.

At your workplace your dress tells your boss if you are hard working, dependable, and ripe for promotion. At your sister's first baby shower your dress tells her how you feel about her and if you're willing to put your rivalry aside to support her at this time. How you dress to meet your boyfriend's parents for the first time lets them know if you're 'the one' or if you're too flighty, slutty, or bohemian to be 'wife material'.

equestrian boots add a touch of the dramatic for my am walk
I'm sure all of you have vivid mental pictures of 'Do' and 'Don't' looks for each of the above situations. The trouble comes when your goal is to impress the boss, but your free spirit feels like you're wearing a straight jacket in 'corpodress'. Or when your tomboy self feels like a clumsy impostor in a managerial-grade suit (even though the fabric and cut are so lovely......). The beauty of Emily Cho is that she shows you an honest way to wade through all this mess and contradictory signals.  You start by recognizing in which 'essential image type' your heart lies. Then you experiment with how to expand your range through the casual, formal, pure, and creative expressions of this type. Part of this involves understanding the relations between the image types. Finally, you expand your range through all the types to see how you, individually, can express your own truth about every image type. At this point you have developed the flexibility to dress for all the occasions and situations in your life, and have confidence that your audience feels respected and generally 'gets' you.

I'll close out today's post by naming the six type: Classic Elegant, Sporty Casual, Romantic Feminine, Sexy Alluring, Exotic Dramatic, and Arty Offbeat.  Chances are excellent those of you who've never heard of Emily Cho before already have a good idea about who and what make up these up, discussion of these types and how they relate to one another.

Some Links About Emily Cho:

Great take on Ms. Cho and 'Seventies Adult Style' in Peculiar Beauty

Short blurb on image consultants in 1986 L.A.Times

TIME Magazine on Looking Good in 1985

Emily Cho's books on Amazon


  1. I used to own that book, and now I don't, and I don't remember what I did with it! Never mind, I just saw that it's still being sold, so I ordered another one : > At my advanced age I still don't know which category fits me the best, but I am certain I'm not A Sexy Alluring or an Exotic Dramatic.

  2. That link to the discussion of styles of An Unmarried Woman was a jolt. I still have a real pull to all that stuff. I can feel myself tend that way and then pull myself back because it's so... enveloping. :) Another old book that still looks okay is by Leah Feldon. I think it's Womanstyle. Heavy on the pictures. Lots of bundled up clothes. :)

    I'm 63 and I never can fit myself into one of those style profiles and I feel like I've read 'em all. What I suspect is that I may do Sexy/Alluring by wearing none of those clothes and making all the other styles Sporty/Casual on the theory that friendly is sexy and democratic is permissive. :D I'm the gal who would sit on the floor in a skirt suit if there were no chairs. (ooohhh, what else would she do)

    Today I wore my cream colored "straw" trlby with the black band to the supermarket with my husband. We don't have a car and we get a ride back with a gypsy cab. It's really the best part of the trip, chatting with those old guys. The driver noticed the hat right away and said it was "mean." (in a good way).
    I had remembered Frank Sinatra: Cock your hat. Angles are attitudes.

  3. I would say I am Arty Offbeat without even looking at that book!

  4. Hello Ladies!! first of all, thank you for your comments - i tried to address some of your ideas in my just-published post. Specifically, i never have really figured 'my type', but i still got a lot out of Emily Cho's ideas.

    Patti, that's exciting you ordered the book! it's so affordable i should get one too - mine disappeared a few years ago, so all this is from memory (uh oh!)

    Vildy, i love the thought of you in a trilby~! and that link was a jolt to me too - i know just what you mean.......your second paragraph cracks me up. when i would be moaning about what to wear as a teen, my dad would always pipe up: "Go Naked! You'll be the life of the party!" Dads-ya gotta love 'em!!!!

    Hi Sheila! i mention you in the next post - you're definitely Arty Offbeat, at the same time you can project every one of the image types - in your own way.

    Emily Cho would be proud - to her that's post-graduate-school level dressing!

    Happy Day Everyone! steph