When we see a woman wearing an outfit that is interesting, creative, and unique – we might wonder, “Could I pull off something like that?” These “artsy” outfits often look like works of art. In fact, some of them actually are – they are what is called wearable art.
Now, you can always make almost any outfit look a bit more “artsy” by adding a statement piece or two, such as a hand-made, or highly textural or rough-hewn necklace or bracelet.
Or, you can simply wear a more classic wardrobe piece – like a simple white blouse, sleeves rolled up – with a fabulous collection of Native American jewelry (these are from the Sundance Catalog.) Native American jewelry is intrinsically artistic.
But to get the overall look requires more than just one added element.
What Does it Mean to be “Artsy?”
If we had to describe what “artsy” means in terms of the seven basic style facets we would say that it is a combination of Dramatic, Natural, and High Spirited essences. The Drama is expressed in what is often an exaggeration in size and construction. The Natural is demonstrated in the looser fits and more textural fabrics. The High Spirited qualities show up in patterns, pattern mixing, and unexpected elements. (Both this and the outfit above are from one of John Kitchener’s favorite websites, Artful Home.)
Think of the textiles and garments that make up this style as suggesting the earth rather than the sky. They have a more substantial, dynamic quality than a soft, quiet or yielding one. That means you won’t be seeing them in very refined, delicate or sheer fabrics, at least not a lot of them (there are always exceptions to the rule.) The closest you might get are some of the more “boho” looks from places like Johnny Was, as is this one on the right.
Also, there isn’t the highly tailored silhouette you would find in a Classic blazer or a button-down blouse. You won’t see body-hugging or flowing, sensuous pieces. And except when the pattern is playful (such as something with polka dots and/or stripes) the style expresses more, well, gravitas. That includes, for example, something like a velvet top or wrap. The velvet may make it lean toward Romantic, but it still has a Dramatic flair because it is costume-y. (This one on the left is from Amazon.)
These pieces are the opposite of trendy. The upside is that they won’t go out of fashion. They can heirlooms. (That means you might find some great ones in thrift stores.)
The Japanese Aesthetic Called Shibui
From an aesthetic viewpoint, some”artsy” types of clothing could be defined by what is called “shibui.” It is a Japanese term that identifies those things, like this pottery, that express a different, eternal, unusual, and captivating quality. There is something about it that speaks to us on an elemental level. We can almost feel it as much as we can see it. Here’s how my mentor, John Kitchener describes it:
“Profound harmonious beauty expressing understated richness.”
Everyone Can be Artsy in Some Way
Finally, keep in mind that being “artsy” doesn’t always have to mean being dramatic or serious. It can actually be playful. That makes this concept more accessible for those of us who don’t have a lot of Drama or earthy coloring. So if you ask yourself, “Can I wear something like that?” the answer may very likely be, “yes.”
These (below) are all from the Artful Home catalog. Since they are designed by artists, and are not mass manufactured, they come with a more hefty price tag, but they definitely give you the flavor of what artsy fashion can look like.
The important thing when wearing something artsy is to keep the rest of the outfit fairly simple. Even Iris Apfel, who loves to pile on her accessories, follows this rule for the most part.
Another site that I like for artsy fashion is called Shop My Fair Lady, and their prices are more affordable. All of these are on that site from various sources including Clara Sunwoo, Damee NYC, Dilemma, and Moonlight.
Art and Color
So, as you can see there is something artsy in every color harmony. But if just want to dabble a bit in the concept, accessories are one way to do that. All of these earrings (below) are very “artistic” and unusual, but hardly serious. These are some that John picked out of the Artful Home catalog recently with the following descriptions about how they would work for each of the color harmonies:
“These are very soft and gradient in color and would be very beautiful for someone Subtle Blended.”
So, if we want to know if an item or article of clothing could be considered artsy, try applying any of these words: “different,” “unusual,” “unique,” “hand-made,” “creative,” and, well, artistic!
[BTW – The one item from Amazon is from my personal link. I participate in the Amazon Services LLC, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com]
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