From the Archive: How to Draw Inspiration from Any Image

I’ve encouraged you all to find inspiration everywhere you look. I genuinely believe that sartorial inspiration is all around us so long as we remain open to it. Stores whose merchandise we don’t own can spark outfit ideas, women working with far larger or smaller budgets can inform new looks, people who are different from us in practically every way can still inspire us to dress in new and exciting ways.

But I also know that we gravitate toward people who look and feel familiar, and that outfit ideas are much easier to tease out of still images if the woman in those images has our same proportions or build. There’s nothing wrong with seeking out imagery that shows women who resemble YOU on blogs or Pinterest or in magazines. But in case you’re curious, here are some of the ways I examine and consider photos that get filed away for dressing inspiration.

Color combinations


Images via Style Sightings, Le Blog de Big Beauty

I’m a self-confessed color fiend and constantly on the lookout for new and different color combos, so this is my first scan. Although decor and nature images can provide color inspiration, I find outfit images to be more helpful because they not only show a palette but how to put that palette to use. So, on first look I decide if the colors are a combo I like and haven’t seen a billion times before. Then I ask myself if I might be able to re-create this color combo using items I already have. Then I look at how the various shades are combined: Is one dominant? Does the grouping work because of how much or little of each color is used? Are some colors just accents? (The red bag and pocket square above are great examples.) Do my own items in these colors fit into similar categories (orange top and magenta bottom) or will I need to shift placement around? Color is wonderfully fluid, so I find it to be the easiest inspirational source to extract from outfit images.



Images via Brook & LynThe Hijablog

My next level of examination is proportion and interplay of garments. This is a bit tougher and usually arises when I see outfits that make me swoon but that I have no chance of re-creating myself, at least not exactly. So I try to figure out how the proportions break down and how the garments are working with and against each other. I’ll never have that top and those pants, but what about a clingy top with asymmetric detail and exaggerated wide-legs? Do I have those? Would mine work together? My tulle skirt is shorter, but could a longish, belted cardigan work with it? Pondering why the proportions of certain outfits work helps me understand how to re-create those proportions using different garments.

Use of accessories


Images via My Curves and CurlsCoggles

I adore accessories and have lots of fun options, but like everyone I play favorites. So any images that can offer me new and interesting ideas for combining and wearing my accessories are equal parts fascinating and valuable. And, like color combos, all I really need to find is a bit of common ground with my own belongings. What colors are the accessories? Do they match or go? Do I have similar items, colors, styles, and textures in my own closet? Would I wear them in this same way or make tweaks? Anything about the surrounding outfit that makes this group of accessories work that might need to be considered or re-created?

The unexpected

miscellaneous inspiration

Images via Hel-looksMr Newton

Of course, plenty of images end up in my files and Pinterest account because they show amazing outfits with unusual or unexpected details. Although these aren’t as straightforward when it comes to copycatting, I love seeing people dress in ways and make choices that strike me as bold, unusual, and surprising. Red tights and shoes? So perfect with the red gloves and umbrella. And a light coat over darker layers? Chic, cool, and unexpected. These images remind me that taking chances may be risky, but can also yield dazzling results.

Obviously, it’s not essential to train yourself to derive inspiration from diverse images. The world of style and fashion can seem intimidating and overwhelming, and gravitating toward the familiar can make it feel more manageable. But I believe that looking at photos of people who look nothing like ourselves and finding points of connection is a great way to acknowledge and embrace the infinite variety of the world. When you see a woman who looks nothing like you but is wearing an incredible outfit, when you identify what it is you love about her taste and style, and when you consider how to tap some of her choices and make them your own, you have made a connection. And that connection can help you see that you’re not so different after all.

Images individually credited, also all from my Pinterest

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