Five Style Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner


Style Lessons

I was reflecting on my personal style journey recently. Safe to say that it’s been a pretty wild ride.

I was always interested in style. As a child I wanted to be a fashion designer ‘when I grew up’. I remember going through reams of paper while I was attempting to come up with spectacular outfits. Unfortunately, I was born with the artistic ability of a lemon tree. As it happens, lemon trees, generally speaking, are not particularly good at either sketching or designing. (Interestingly though, our son was born with an innate talent for both design and sketching. Maybe it was somewhere inside me after all? Who knows?)

Regardless, my inherent lack of ability didn’t stop me from playing in the fashion and style space. And with the support of an extremely creative and talented mother, as child I learned to create clothes for my dolls and later, as a teenager, I was inspired to sew my own outfits. I also went through a stage of embellishing my clothing with paint and ribbons and lace.

Somewhere along the way though, I lost my style mojo. I’m not sure what happened, but it seems like I just completely lost interest.

My twenties could only be described as a style wasteland. Please don’t ask me to describe that time of my life. I really wouldn’t know where to start. Was it the fact that I was a young mum? Or that I had to wear a uniform every day?  Whatever the reason, let’s just say that, when it came to style, things were bad. Seriously bad.

If my memory serves me correctly, my early thirties were simply an extension of my twenties. Frightening really…

But then when I was 35, we enjoyed a month in France – with most of our time spent in Paris. And all of sudden my love of all things stylish, elegant and classy was reignited. This was despite the fact that my case was stuffed with some of the worst clothing choices possible. (It was after this very first trip that I wrote myself the rule that if I wouldn’t wear an item of clothing at home then I certainly wouldn’t be wearing it when I was travelling. Especially if I was visiting one of the most stylish cities on the planet.)

Since that first trip to Paris, my love of all things stylish has slowly crept back, one tiny style experiment at a time. I learned many style lessons from our regular visits to France. I’m a good student and I employed every tip I came across. Signature styles, scarves, a classic red lip – I’ve incorporated the lot over the years.

More recently, I decided that it was time to take on some formal education in the style space. An unexpected turn for someone who is so firmly entrenched in her corporate career. But ultimately a very satisfying experience. It is safe to say that my inner seven year old is quite pleased that we’ve finally fulfilled a childhood dream and that we now have formal style qualifications.

Clearly, I’ve learned a stack of style lessons over the past few years. A number of which I wish I’d learned a whole lot earlier on in life.

Five Style Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

1. Dressing For My Unique Body Shape

I’ve been triangularly shaped my entire life. I remember measuring myself up for the aforementioned work uniform years ago and joking that I was shaped like a triangle – long before I realised that ‘triangles’ and ‘pears’ were actually a thing.

But at that point in time, I didn’t understand that I shouldn’t dress my triangle shaped body in just any old thing. And I couldn’t for the life of me work out why my sister’s stylish pieces didn’t look any good on me. (Turns out, she has a completely different shape to me. Surprise.) Once I learned to dress in a way that balanced out my proportions, dressing became a whole lot easier…and better.

2. Sorting Out Which Colours Bring Out The Best In Me

This seems so obvious, and yet it pains me to say it took me years to work out that some colours make me look fabulous and others make me look ill. I have nothing else to say about this except that getting some coaching on which colours suited me best was worth the investment.

3. Planning Is A Good Thing

There was a time when I could easily have been described as the ‘Queen Of The Impulse Buy’. If I liked the cut or the colour or the price then there was a strong chance a piece would be making its way home with me. Never mind the fact that it didn’t suit me. Or that it didn’t match with a single piece in my existing wardrobe. Needless to say that I wasted a lot of money on my way to an incongruent look – and a wardrobe full of orphan pieces. These days, I look for gaps in my wardrobe and plan my clothing purchases accordingly.

4. Developing An Understanding Of Quality Is Helpful

Once upon a time, my wardrobe was all about quantity – as demonstrated by point three above. Fast forward to today. Now I always think about quality and how many wears I might get out of a particular item – potentially over a period of years. It did take me a while to learn that a high price tag doesn’t necessarily mean increased quality. And likewise, super cheap rarely indicates quality. Usually I find excellent quality somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.

5. It’s OK To Be A Little Quirky – And To Trust Yourself

For me, quirky equates to slipping a thin black ribbon around the collar of a plain white shirt. Or wearing the raw silk jacket my mother sewed for her fortieth birthday – 30 years after the jacket’s original outing. Nothing too radical really. Rather, I’d describe my style personality as classic with a twist. And for me, it’s the twist that adds the style.

What style lessons have you learned over the years? I’d love for you to share them in the comments section below.

Until next time – au revoir.


About Janelle

I believe that every woman can bring French style and joie de vivre to her life, no matter where she happens to live in the world. She only needs to know a secret or two to be on her way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll learn the style and grooming secrets that will help you to dress with the confidence so many French women seem to have.


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5 thoughts on “Five Style Lessons I Wish I’d Learned Sooner

  • Taste of France

    These are great lessons. I often am attracted to ensembles with slim hips, or oversized tops over skinny bottoms or pencil skirts. As a fellow pear/triangle, these are impossible on me. Why do we want what we don’t have? My daughter has gorgeous, silken hair, perfectly straight, which she braids so that it looks wavy/curly, while her curly-headed friends try straightening. Humans are crazy. That said, French women are very good at playing to their strengths and minimizing their faults, whether it be via clothes or hair or makeup.

  • Lizer Pearl

    I totally agree with everything you say. We spend many years finding out who we are and if we are very lucky
    we find a way to express this through what we wear. Still learning, me.

  • Alex

    Love your reflections and your style tips Janelle! I am curious to know what style qualifications you just completed – and feel very inspired that you have done this! The lessons I have learned are not dis-similar to yours.. The biggest lesson I have learned is you need to dress not only for your shape, but your personality and the image you want to project. Getting those things right make a massive difference to your confidence, and when you are confident in how you look, it shows. Alex X

    • Janelle Post author

      Thanks so much for taking a moment to comment Alex. Seriously, I have no idea how you find time to even read blog posts with your schedule. You talk about inspiration – your energy levels inspire so many of us every single day!! You are so right about dressing for your personality and the image you want to project. I’ll often ask myself what I want to convey before I get dressed of a morning – I’m not sure I always pull the look off, but I have fun trying. In terms of my recent education, I’ve just qualified as a Style CoachTM with the Style Coaching InstituteTM, who are based in the UK. I decided to do something while we were in France last year, and enrolled the day we got home. Safe to say that I was inspired by all the fabulous style you see in Paris (and London).