Excerpt from The Art and Craft of Entertainingby
Question of Style
is one of life's intangibles: easy to recognize, but harder to
define. We may know who's got it. But can we say for sure what it is?
is comprised of our likes and dislikes. It finds a voice in what we
wear and what we surround ourselves with, but it's more than just the
outward appearance of our preferences. Style is an expression of the
way we move through life. It marks our attitudes and communicates our
desires and is reflected in everything we do, from the homes we
choose, to the clothes we wear, the books we read, the music we
listen to -- and of course, the way we entertain.
style is unique to you. At least it should be. You might think that
you dress a lot like a dear friend, but look closely and you'll find
subtle and significant differences. Style is about expression, not
imitation, and it's not the same as fashion. Style has nothing to do
with being thin, young, rich, or beautiful. And like beauty, it's
much more than skin deep. Style is not just about personal appearance
or how your home looks, it really does reflect every aspect of life,
including entertaining. Say you prefer casual to formal; that's a
matter of style and it will reflect the way you entertain. If you
choose time-honored recipes or like to experiment with the latest
fusion food, that also indicates your style and inspires your
entertaining. I love to entertain and realize that my desire to share
good times with friends -- that's the heart of entertaining -- has
grown as I've come to a place where I am sure of my style. Knowing
what I like has given me confidence to express myself and share my
style with others.
describe my style as traditional and sophisticated, with a sassy
twist. I don't care for anything stuffy or too crazy, but I do like
fun things and will use them with classic pieces. That's true of how
I dress and how I entertain. For example, I love Burberry. It's
traditional and proper -- and very well made. They've been in
business for more than 150 years, so you know they must be doing
something right. Even so, I'd never do a whole head-to-toe look. That
would be too extreme, and just not me. So I'll wear a pair of jeans
and a favorite white shirt with a Burberry scarf tied round my waist
and maybe a stylish pair of boots. That way I can take what's
timeless, blend it with what's fashionable, and come up with my own trademark.
How I Got Here
a kid I looked pretty much like the friends I hung out with: kind of
preppy, lots of polo tops and khakis, a couple of flowery dresses.
Then in college I lost interest in how things looked. I was busy
studying and enjoying the freedom of being away from home and style
just wasn't that important to me. I had a uniform of jeans, fleece
tops, and hiking boots. (Maybe it was so that I could blend in with
all the guys I hung out with?)
college that all changed. By then I'd moved to Atlanta and was
spending time with friends who had terrific style and clothing sense.
Next to them, I looked, well, boring. So I started to pay more
attention to what I wore. At the same time I got my first apartment,
a tiny rented place. I had no furniture and virtually no cash. Sound
familiar? Even so, I don't know what made me decorate it the way I
did, all stark black and white. Maybe it was a way of making an asset
of my lack of possessions. Looking back it's amazing that I lived
with that look for three years, but at the time I really did like it.
After that experiment I realized that I'm not the minimalist type. I
understood that after I got married and Todd and I moved into our
first house. A whole house! It was so exciting, I couldn't wait to
use different colors and textures to escape from the black and white
prison I'd created for myself. I sold all the stuff from my old
apartment at a yard sale and -- faster than you can say French
provincial -- went from that "put your stereo on a pedestal"
kind of look to a "hide your TV in a country French
armoire" kind of look. My style has evolved over time. I'm
really comfortable with myself and my tastes now, with who and how I
am -- and how the world sees me.
you're in high school, even college, there's a definite sense that
you should be like, look like, and sometimes even think like the
people you hang out with. Thankfully that doesn't last forever.
Today, my friends and I are still close -- we still have a lot in
common -- but we've gone our separate ways when it comes to style.
is a fine artist who always makes a splash. Talented and expressive,
her passion for art and for life is apparent in the way she talks,
dresses, and decorates her home. Her place has a lot of different
artwork and blends all kinds of old and unique furniture. Her clothes
are funky, like her artwork: vibrant colors, crazy shoes, and often
splotches of paint "decorate" her outfits. I don't think
Ashley owns any china or crystal, her tableware being an eclectic mix
of bold and bright pieces.
is quite different. She's tiny and quiet, with a style that is
simple and clean. She's more traditional than I am and chooses calm,
neutral colors for both her wardrobe and her home. Her house is neat
and functional and not at all fussy. Her clothes are simple and
elegant, and she keeps accessories to a minimum, usually her favorite
pearl earrings. Caroline has lovely traditional silver and crystal
and a very classic china pattern, one that's been popular for the
last fifty years.
and even defining your style is a lot easier than you realize. Think
about what you like to wear. What colors, what patterns (if any) do
you adore? Do you prefer cowboy boots or stilettos? Do you wear those
cowboy boots with jeans or long flowing dresses? Do you like beaded
purses or prefer a functional backpack? Think of a friend's house
that you love. What elements speak to you? Is it the dreamy porch
with a swing or the gleaming professional-style kitchen range? Or
maybe it's the couch in that glorious blue-green color? Do you like
lots of textures on a table or lots of color or both? What makes you
comfortable, happy, and contented? Is it certain colors, certain
fabrics, or maybe particular foods? Making a list of ten (or twenty!)
things that really speak to you, not necessarily things you own or
aspire to buy, just things, rooms, colors that strike a chord can
help to define your style.
of my very favorite things are priceless, my Yorkshire terrier Sadie
for one. Some are pricey like the Waterford crystal vases. I love how
crystal reflects the light. The little cherub -- I don't know why I
like it but I do -- I don't know how old the statue is or where it
was made. Originally I bought it to go in the garden but then I liked
it so much I wanted to keep it in the house and I do like the idea of
bringing things meant for the outdoors in. My favorite perfume is
from Jo Malone, I wear it all the time; what might be more suprising
is that I love the bottle as much as the fragrance! The shape, the
stopper, they appeal to my eye. I even love the way they wrap the
perfume and the bags are to die for. But then some of the other
things I adore don't really have much of a price tag. My favorite
colors are blues, all kind of robins-egg-like shades, and browns,
rich warm tones of brown. I particularly love combining these two
colors in the trim on projects, on the table, even my business card.
Silk is my fabric of choice; I use it a lot in decorating my home and
love to use it for crafty projects. There are so many gorgeous shades
of silk at the fabric store that I can't resist. And ribbon, well I'm
crazy about ribbon; I make entire projects with ribbon and use it to
trim just about everything I make or wrap as a gift or favor.
someone asked me what flower I like best, I'd say hydrangea. It's by
far the flower I buy most to have at home, just to look at and admire
-- blue, white, pink -- I think they're all gorgeous.
it a step further. Whom do you admire -- and why? The women I admire
for their style of dress are true icons: Coco Chanel, Jackie Kennedy,
Audrey Hepburn. They have a sophisticated yet clean look that I
aspire to. I'm also in awe of how polished they were, and I've come
to realize that this is not because they were fashionable, but
because they had an understanding of themselves that gave them
confidence. Above all, they were comfortable in their own skin.
Turning in a different direction, I also look up to Julia Child. She
was so wonderfully lively and nonplussed -- even when her food hit
the deck on live TV. You've got to give her points for that.
the people you look to for inspiration should give you clues as to
the nature of your style. But you don't have to do it all on your
own. Ask your friends how they would describe your style. They can
have great insights into what makes you tick. You might not agree
with what they say but it will be informative. Haven't you ever been
shopping with a friend when she picks out something that's perfect
for you but you'd gone right past it?
not going to try to pinpoint every available style; it's just not
possible. I do want to outline some of the basic style groups to help
you enhance your own. I doubt you're going to fit into exactly one of
them. Frankly, I don't know anyone who is totally country casual or
entirely urban chic. Most of us like a little bit of this, a lot of
that, and quite a bit of something else too! In fact I'd say the
biggest style today is mix and match, kind of a buffet approach where
people feel free to take what they like from one look and mix it up
with something totally different.
in mind that these styles cover a wide swath of territory; for me
some country styles are it, but there are others that come under the
country umbrella that I never like. Style is a big store and you
don't have to do all your shopping in one department!
It All Together
lot of people I know have a hard time defining their style. This
prevents them from entertaining because, as they are not confident of
who they are, they cannot be confident that what they do and present
to others -- the food, the table, the atmosphere of the party -- will
be "right." Often people say they don't entertain because
they don't have a dining table, their place is too small, they can't
cook well enough, or there isn't enough time. Really though it comes
down to confidence and this relates to knowing yourself, your style.
Everything comes easier when you have a concrete understanding of
what you like, what your look is, and how you share your style with
those around you. Style is an expression of you. So getting to know
your style is a great first step to hosting a party. Once you know
your style, everything you do and the choices you make -- selecting
the gift you give, deciding on the menu for a dinner party or how to
decorate a room -- will come more easily. If you serve dishes that
you find delicious, set the table so you find it attractive, then you
will be less stressed and your guests will be more comfortable.
Personal style does not suddenly appear, it evolves over time, but
starting to think about your preferences now will help you to develop
your style, and others will begin to recognize your "look,"
your own trademark style.
© by Kimberly Kennedy
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