words Alexa Wang
Museum curators have some serious style mojo. They know how to take art of all shapes, sizes, and colors and show each unique piece to its best advantage. That skill is highly relatable to strong fashion styling. How do you bring that highly technical, beautifully effective sensibility to building an outfit? Let’s break it down like we’re curating an art show.
You’ve taken the time to find the pieces that scream your name and make a bold statement about who you are. Otherwise, you would not be reading this article in the first place. This article is about how to think about choosing what goes with what and how to put outfits together like a design pro.
Start with a Thought
Just like a good art exhibit, an artful ensemble starts with a story. Museums display art pieces with visual connections. Follow their lead.
When selecting pieces, think about what you want to say. Do you want to show your world the power of contrast? Mix bold prints, dark and light, old and new. Do you want to tell the story of a person or time? Choose a period or thematically inspired items that evoke nostalgia. Mix and match eras to show progression. Do you want to highlight one simple idea? Go for monochrome, sleek lines, classic design.
Take Your Background and Framing Seriously
There is a saying among curators that “the wall is as important as the work.” Of course, this means thinking about two things. How are you using negative space in your outfit? What quality do your foundation garments need to have to make the important pieces shine? What accessories will frame, ie. accentuate, your look?
Negative space on your body might literally be the places on you that are exposed and unclothed. A bare midriff is a big deal when balancing the proportions of your top and bottom. Low-slung pants and a teeny bikini top convey a very different story than high-waisted jeans and a peekaboo midriff top. The key to those looks is how much is bare, how much negative space you are using within your clothes.
Just as often, and sometimes, more importantly, the background or negative space of your outfit, however, is in pairing a strong basic or neutral with the attention-grabbing pieces. Notice, we are not talking about throw-away items. Cheap, poor-quality items will distract from the value and beauty of the important pieces in your outfit.
The moral of the negative space story is to balance understated and streamlined clothes with the important statement pieces you use in your outfit unless you want to drown out your best stuff.
Preserve and Protect
What’s the point in shopping carefully, plunking down hard-earned money for the clothes that thrill you and bring you joy, only to let them fall to ruin? There is a reason museums care about lighting, humidity, and even the risk of people touching the art. Display is one part of curatorship, but preservation is another. Think about that as you shop and as you select what to wear.
Know a good dry cleaner. Follow the washing instructions. Choose pieces that are appropriate for where you’re going. No wearing strappy stilettos on a muddy hike. No wearing a silk blouse out in a downpour. You already know not to wear delicate items to messy places.
It may be less obvious, but worth saying, that you need to choose footwear and outerwear specifically because they are easy to clean. This is especially true in cities and schools where there is so much human traffic that you can’t help but expose your feet to dirt. Shoes like TOMS iconic alpargatas are stealth heroes in this regard. You can clean them easily and repeatedly and they still look good.
Enjoy The Process
Curator jobs are highly sought after and coveted for a reason. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate and promote beauty for a living? You are in the enviable position of deciding how to cultivate your own look, with your own set of styles, in your own time. This is your life to enjoy. Keep that front of mind and heart as you style, compose, and play with what concepts to highlight in your fashion. Your pleasure in the process will surely shine through and enhance your look.