I've promised a review of "Style Statement" by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte, since I suggested it to virtual friends.
The premise of this book is that a two-word summary of your style will guide your decisions, not just in attire and decor, but in all aspects of life: wellness, relationships, service, wealth.
A lofty claim and ambitious goal.
My initial reaction was doubt, Then I recalled a job offer I received years ago. The role offered challenge and great money. They showed me what would be my office: a windowless, dull box on a wearily-decorated floor of a grim high rise. My heart sank, my soul shriveled; I could not imagine spending years of my life in that sterile box. I fled and never regretted it. In the language of this book, this was a style-guided decision.
The two-word Style Statement is, therefore, more of a banner that reflects your
values and needs: what makes life wonderful for you, not a strictly aesthetic definition.
You reach this lodestar through a very detailed process: first, a rather windy and self-promoting intro: what a Style Statement is, why you need it, and how the authors developed their methodology.
Then, a workbook section called the Inquiry Process, organized by sections such as Home + Stuff, Spirit + Learning, Fashion + Sensuality, Service + Wealth, Relationship + Communication, Creativity + Celebration, Body + Wellness, and Nature + Rest & Relaxation.
Each of these sections contains reflective open-ended statements relevant to the topic, organized into two themes: what works for you, and what does not. After you complete the statements, you then harvest key words, images and themes, and store them for the last piece of work: Defining Your Style Statement. The authors provide a pick list of Style Statement terms (called Creative Edge Words). Don't see the right words on the list? Fine, choose your own.
Profiles of (mostly) women shown with their Style Statements and the objects that embody it, provide guidance and respite from the workbook tasks.
I broke the work into chunks, picking up the book (and a blank notebook) for a few hours each week. I mostly enjoyed the questions, such as "Some things in my living space that I want to toss but haven't or can't... What do you dislike about them?", "What I would love to have made for me is...", and "I withhold my love when..."
What I enjoyed:
1. The depth of self-analysis in several sections led me to a reaffirmation of values and therefore choices, as well as some mourning for lost opportunities.
2. The complete absence of 'stylist' advice (is your body a triangle or hourglass etc.), and their emphasis on style as a way of celebrating your true self.
3. Prefaces to each section which contain prose-poems to capture the essence of the section. The preface to Service + Wealth, for example, reads in part:
Counts pennies. Counts blessings. Money in the cookie jar. Stock portfolio. Broke. Gives at the office. Gives at church. More than enough. Just enough. Lives lightly on the land.
What I didn't enjoy:
1. The book contains gorgeous photos of people who discovered their Style Statement, along with excerpts from their self-reflection exercise. But I found if I turned the page to look at the collages of their stuff, I could not tell a Natural Cosmopolitan from a Genteel Vitality. But maybe it's enough that they can, and no longer make choices that aren't "them".
2. Cheating doesn't work. I kept turning to the list of "Creative Edge Words" at the back and trying to get my two words to float up into my consciousness before I completed all the sections. But I had to do the work, and ta-da! I've got it! If you want dial-a-style, you won't be engaged.
Now that I've got it, where do I put it?
Most superficially, if this saves me from buying one mistake, I'll recoup the cost of the book.
A more significant benefit was seeing the concept of 'style' in new light. Style is either A) an embodiment of your purpose, talents and preferences, B) a mindless neurotic grab, or C) an attempt to imitate someone else.
B and C are not life-affirming. If you've never considered the relationship of your 'stuff' (including how you give, what kind of friend you are, and how you care for the earth) to who you are, the Style Statement exercise develops your awareness.
"Who am I"? is certainly not what a magazine tells you to be.