Fashion can be so universal, but style is personal. If you’re afraid to express your style, there’s a solution. Join us in conversation with style blogger Mel Kobayashi, who is such a great inspiration. Enjoy the show!

 

 
 

Margaret Manning:

My guest today is Mel Kobayashi. Mel is a style blogger who lives in Vancouver, Canada. What’s interesting about her is that she has a very unique passion for style and clothing. Mel maintains a wonderful blog called Bag and a Beret and she’s here today to share with us how style can define you – or how you can define your style. Welcome, Mel.

Mel Kobayashi:

Hi, Margaret. It’s my pleasure to be here.

Margaret:

Thank you. I’m so happy that you’re on the show because a lot of women in our community, in their 50s and 60s, don’t know how to use style to express who they are. So, how about you share your tips with us?

Mel:

Yeah, absolutely.

Margaret:

Great. My first question is, what do you think is the best way to go about experimenting to define your style and to connect with it? Tell us a bit about your shopping experience – where you go to get your clothes and what you think about when you’re making a purchase.

Mel:

I am a big thrift shopper. I love the experience of the treasure hunt and I like digging around. It’s very exciting for me. Sometimes you come out with no luck, but sometimes it’s a real jackpot.

I prefer thrift shops because I find that vintage clothing has very high quality compared to things you would find in a main stream store. Also, the prices are cheaper than what you would pay for mainstream class fashion.

If it’s been well-cared for you can get some really great pieces. It will be unique, it will be a bargain, and it may turn out to be a designer piece that someone has lovingly cared for all these years. Perhaps they had to give it away because of downsizing or whatever reason.

Also, I like going to consignment shops. They’re different from thrift shops in that there are usually newer items. They can be fun too, but the price point is a little higher there. Thrift shopping is my main source of clothing, and it’s fun to experiment because the price point is so low.

Margaret:

You can take chances and experiment.

Mel:

You can totally take chances in there. It’s so much fun, especially if you go with girlfriends. It’s so easy to find something and say, “Oh my God what is that? It is hideous! I have to have it.”

Margaret:

That’s true, but thrift shops and consignment shops offer items that other people had decided, at one point, were their style. They bought this beautiful suit or blouse because they really liked it.

What about people who don’t know what their style is and are completely concerned with how others perceive them? There are many people who would say, “So and so could wear that, but I could never wear that.” What would you say to someone with that mindset?

Mel:

This is a loaded question. A lot of people struggle to find their unique style, but let me show you some small things that are a great way for you to experiment if you are struggling.

I know that tights are one item of clothing you really want to wear, but you feel pressure not to wear it. Tights are a great way to break into your style sweet spot. One of my favorite pairs is an hombre striped tight.

Margaret:

How would you wear that? With a long tunic or something else?

Mel:

I’ve worn it with dresses, with ankle boots, running shoes. It’s like a neutral for me.

Margaret:

We’ve had a lot of discussions about leggings, and it seems the community is split almost 50/50. Some say, “I hate leggings. I would never be seen dead in them,” while others confess that they love wearing leggings. They would put a long tunic or something to cover up. It sounds like you love them too.

Mel:

I sure do. I think that one’s opinion about leggings depends on the body parts that show when you wear them. But, I would never wear them so my parts show. I would always wear a tunic or a dress, though my dresses are getting a little bit shorter because my confidence is growing.

Also, I figure leggings are like pants. If you are not comfortable with one pair, put on two pairs. If your bits are covered, there’s nothing wrong with wearing leggings.

Margaret:

I think style also has a lot to do with visibility. It certainly seems that we feel more invisible as we get older. What is your take on invisibility and style?

Mel:

I think it’s good to be seen if you want to be seen. Some people don’t want to be seen at any age. My perspective is that I’m not getting invisible – I’m the way I’ve always been. The problem is that everyone else’s vision has gone really bad.

Margaret:

Totally, they need glasses.

Mel:

They do, so I’m giving them a vision correction when I’m wearing my colorful clothes. You know how an optometrist goes, “A or B, A or B?” Well, I’m saying “A, B, C, D, E, F, G! I’m here!”

I think the popular media in Hollywood is really, really bad for ageism. We’ve all heard stories of top actresses who are denied parts because they are over 30. Give me a break!

So, I’ve concluded that the problem is not me. Everyone else needs to adjust, and sometimes they need a little shock to get them back on track.

Margaret:

You are giving people the gift of clarity, so they can see that you are an older woman who is enjoying life.

Mel:

Yes, out of the goodness of my heart I am helping the world. I have another pair of tights I like to wear that is colorful and vibrant.

Margaret:

I think colorful tights could make a great scarf, too.

Mel:

They could, if you arrange them nicely. I also have greenish-gold tights with glitter. They’re so much fun.

Margaret:

It could be a fun Christmas outfit with something velvet on top.

Mel:

Oh yeah. I wear them with so many things. I have these patent red sandals with a sling at the back which give quite an arresting effect with the tights. If you go to my blog you could see some examples.

Margaret:

I know you don’t dress like this just for show. This is your real style which you wear in public. This is your life.

Mel:

That’s right. I’m not dressing for shock effect – I’m living. I dress how I dress because I use clothes to represent my inner feelings. When I go out there, I want to just be me and show everyone how I feel, and I enjoy it. I have helped the vision of so many people in my city.

Margaret:

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You’re the optometrist of style.

Mel:

Yeah, that’s me.

Margaret:

What do people say to you? Do you think your style makes people say, “That’s a really cool outfit”? Or do you think people are truly in need of adjusting their glasses?

Mel:

It’s both. There are people who go, “Oh my God, what was she thinking? It’s hideous!” And that’s okay too. You are never going to please everyone.

The sad truth though is that people are usually not even looking at you. They don’t care who you are. You probably can’t recall the last three people you past on the street – male or female? – let alone what they were wearing. But, with style, I can adjust their perception and turn it on or off.

I think people who are struggling to get out there need to do a little bit of that shock effect to adjust people’s lenses a little bit.

Tights are a good way of approaching it because you could wear fairly comfortable clothing with them. Very cool, punky pair of tights, do grab the attention. Then if you get positive feedback, you are going to feel emboldened. And the next thing you know, you are going to wear a funky belt with that.

Margaret:

You are going to step it up a bit. Recently, I was on a cruise with a friend. I’m the kind of woman who brings one bag with three outfits and a few scarves, while she is the one with two suitcases and sixteen pairs of shoes.

We were rooming together, and when we’d got to dinner, I would wear pretty much the same black dress with a different scarf. She, on the other hand, would wear red sparkly shoes.

She had this one pair that was sparkly silver, and I was amazed how she made so many friends on the cruise just because of her shoes. They were a magnet.

Mel:

Yes, that’s so true. I have a friend who dresses this way to spark conversations with people. And it really works. I’ve met so many people just from how I styled myself. It makes me feel good about myself and that creates positive energy which attracts people.

I styled a woman from my street style blog once. She told me this: “Nobody ever crossed the street to meet a personality.” It’s so true.

When I’m walking down the street, I don’t know the people I pass by. If I see somebody wearing something cool, that might spark me to investigate her personality, but the signal is the style.

Margaret:

I really think there is a secret though, and that is enthusiasm and authenticity. You could wear clothing for effect, but if it’s not natural for you, it doesn’t have any heart in it, and it doesn’t speak to anyone.

By contrast, you can just wear your Audrey Hepburn plain black top, but there’s so much energy in you. You’re authentic and real, and that attracts people

Mel:

Yes, and I think that is important. People can sense your energy. So if you’re wearing something that doesn’t resonate with you, it’s like a Halloween costume.

Margaret:

I think authenticity is a gift to others as well as to yourself. Be eccentric if you want. Forget what you assume other people might think about you, and just let yourself out.

Mel:

It’s both self-care and care for the community. Whether you like it or not, you are effecting the community you live in. There is this huge circle of people around you, and if you bring positive energy in, they are going to receive it and spread it to other people.

Here’s a tip if you’re wearing something you are uncomfortable with – focus on other people. Distract yourself from yourself and compliment other people.

Focus on how great they look. Forget about your freaking cool tights, and find a genuine way to compliment someone else, like, “Wow, I love your hat.” Just don’t throw away compliments if you don’t really mean them. That’s the worst thing.

Margaret:

That’s true. Also, if you find a real compliment people usually would say to you, “Thank you. You’ve really made my day,” and that is just so beautiful. It doesn’t have to be excessive, it could be as simple as complimenting their eyes, or their scarf.

What else have you been experimenting with?

Mel:

One of my eccentricities is that I like to decorate my clothes with my own artwork. I’ll thrift a piece and then I’ll change it. For instance, I have an Armani jacket that I’ve scribbled all over.

Margaret:

We should probably have a whole other interview on upscaling clothes. That’s where you take two different items and make something creative out of them. You may cut one sleeve off a shirt and sew in something else there.

Mel:

I’d love that. I also love decorating my shoes. I have a pair I found at a thrift shop. They were boring beige and I just had to color them and make them all pretty.

I also like to modify my shirts. I get them at thrift shops and then they inspire me to wreck them. That’s the best thing – when you feel comfortable wrecking something because then you can have fun with it.

Start small and just have fun. Go to a consignment shop with your friends, and don’t be afraid to drop five dollars. It might change your life, seriously.

Margaret:

Do you experiment with brooches and jewelry too?

Mel:

I do. I have several huge necklaces that I tie together so I can just put them on as one, otherwise I will be at home all day arranging them.

Margaret:

What about makeup? Do you experiment with makeup?

Mel:

Oh yes. My favorite is a twelve pack creamy eyeshadow with all kinds of colors. I don’t wear cream often, because the lids get older and it doesn’t sit quite as well. But this is special occasion eyeshadow. You know, I hate taking makeup off. It’s like a satanic ritual to take off makeup.

Margaret:

My secret is coconut oil.

Mel:

I use olive oil, but it feels like I’m using my tooth brush. I don’t like doing it.

Margaret:

You are such an inspiration, Mel. I really want to thank you for being such a beautifully eccentric and giving us so many ideas. It’s been a real pleasure to chat with you.

Mel:

Thank you so much, Margaret. I had so much fun.

Margaret:

I am off to the thrift store now.

Mel:

I’ll see you there.

Margaret:

Take care.

Do you have your own style? How did you develop it? What are some eccentricities that you’d like to share with us? Please join the conversation below.

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