Finding my Home Quadrant - by Ada
Note from Rita: This post is written by Ada, a client, posted without edits. I'm really grateful for her sharing about her style journey and know you will find this very inspiring!
Even after a particularly comfortable vacation, we sigh our sighs of relief upon homecoming, let alone after tedious days at work, long journeys by foot, or after a challenging exam. You open the front door of your abode, see your things in your spots, turn on the warm light beneath the lampshades you or someone you love chose, perhaps turn on your favorite music.
We are home not just in our spaces, but in our bodies and our self-expression, or at least I believe we should be. I spent most of my years decorating the walls of my internal space — my personal style — in greige paint and furnishing it in cold, minimal furnishings against my own will. My internal home was inoffensive, though foreign to me, and did not honor my internal landscape of thoughts, interests and intentions. How can one possibly feel at home in self-expression so impersonal and thus well-suited to mass consumption? It is hardly a surprise that I did not.
A growing discontent
Before finding Rita, I had not always dressed invisibly. In moments in my life where my creativity was a large part of my life, I felt appropriate to blossom into authentic style. My friends, many of whom creatives in their own right, expressed themselves too — it felt only natural to feel safe in my self-expression when it was encouraged by my surroundings.
Might I add, my style back then was not for the faint of heart! Black and blue lipstick, septum rings, colored tights with daring mini mod dresses, thigh highs and shorts, a self-shaved undercut, micro bangs and self-bleached hair were once among the choices for my day to day look going to high school. I was a weird 21st century beatnik, a punk, a truly eclectic person untethered to conventions or the opinions of those who did not ‘get it’.
Even though I had a lot of fun and believe I truly expressed myself in a way I do again today (I apologize for the spoiler!), it did hinge on acceptance. Had I surrounded my 16-year-old self with people less interested in self-expression or style, I likely would never have had this experience of eccentric exploration. So imagine what happens when you put a little grubby bohemian girl in a small-town office environment…
When I began working (see: small-town office environment), I anticipated that I would feel out of place, and I adjusted accordingly beforehand. I never even tried to be myself, for I was so convinced that if I expressed my identity, I would be ridiculed.
It was a confidence issue, looking back, that I did not feel safe to be myself. It was not even to deflect criticism. I thought it easier to disappear, to be a fly on the wall, not to invite people’s judgment about me. What first felt like a normal person costume or a disguise took over my wardrobe. Even with my friends, I wore clothing that made me disappear, even on vacation I packed my blue oxford shirts and my skinny jeans. I forgot that I ever had fun with my style. In the pit of my stomach, a hot piece of coal burned with discontent. It burned for five years before I knew what to do with it, and I did not even come up with the solution by myself.
Adventures in the Kibbeverse
By this point, I had been passively aware of style systems for a few years: seasonal color analysis, capsule wardrobes, Kibbe, you name it, born out of dissatisfaction with both my wardrobe and the very body I clothed. I began trudging through all content I could find on these subjects, draping and drawing myself, auditing my closet, all for the quest to solve the ominous and amorphous problem with my style and my self, convinced the problem was one of ignorance and technique.
Did I believe at this point that there was a technical problem, or did I have the inkling, too terrifying to explore on my own, that it was an issue of feeling unrepresented and unsupported by my clothes? Had I forgotten all the ecstatic outfits of my adolescence so soon? Not even I know that anymore. I think I just wished to blame myself for my predicament. You need to accommodate X, wear only Y colors, and own Z amount of clothes, or else your style is ‘bad’!
I can say from my ivory tower of left-upness now that this was bandaid at best, and at worst it was incredibly silly, but this felt like an exit from ‘bad style’ to me at the time. For a while I went through life as a bright winter DC, then a soft summer D, a soft autumn FN… a bright spring SN? Despite my trying, none of these combinations got me any closer to the style that I dreamt about (though I am fairly certain I prefer SN lines on myself). It just became another stick to beat myself with. It turns out, though these tools can make flattering, beautiful, even highly creative outfits, that alone does not make a style yours.
However, that is where the seed was planted. In my adventures in the Kibbeverse, I came across a certain YouTube channel called Style Thoughts By Rita, and I was instantly hooked…
The body’s quiet needs
At this point, I had accepted that just dressing for my body was not enough to satisfy me. I was good at creating decently harmonious outfits, and I knew from all my experiments what looked good on my shape and with my colors. Sure, this was a great skill, but I realized that was not why I did not enjoy my clothing. Being the opinionated woman I am, I felt as if I needed more agency in my own style, and not just become a product of lines, shades and percentages that I left hardly any space for the quiet yearning I had to make my clothes feel like me.
When I discovered Rita’s essence system, I was pleasantly surprised by how much it prioritized my desires and intent as elements of my style. But, as I was still very stuck in my inoffensive and invisible ways, scared to express myself, I struggled to place myself correctly.
I was attracted immediately to the look and the keywords of right-up essence: the shadow archetype of the Ice Queen spoke to the regality I secretly attribute to myself, and I could see myself aspiring to be luminous, inspiring and so forth. But my association with that quadrant felt empty and aspirational, it felt like the thing I should be striving for and not something I can joyously accept as my own — it felt like the prison I had kept myself in up until that point. I knew I did not filter my essence in a down manner, I am notoriously dramatic and even in my darkest, most understated days, I have felt this way about myself. So, left-up then?
No way, I said to myself. In my years as a master of blending in, I could not bring myself to associating little old me with words like enveloping, intriguing and magnetic. And I was the furthest thing from sensual! Right-up was the answer. It had to be!
So, was this yet another system in which I found ‘the best option’ or ‘the one I probably am’ and disappointedly looked further for yet another magic pill? Impulsively, and entirely certain I was going to be validated in my right-upness, I booked a style talk with Rita herself.
The enigmatic siren
First of all, if anyone reading this is on the fence about booking any type of time with Rita, I just want to push you as hard as I can over to this side of the fence. Rita is a brilliant and kind soul, and if you are in need of this kind of guidance, I am convinced it is the best guidance you can wish for. I do not exaggerate when I say that the time I spent with her changed my life.
Despite her gentleness, she meant business. ‘Can I be blunt with you?’ she asked me once I had half-heartedly explained my search for the aesthetic that would solve all my problems. ‘This isn’t working.’
She asked me about my history with style, and to my great surprise now, I did not remember the fun I had had with it in my youth. Maybe I had written it off as bad, not actually style, or embarrassing. Instead of that, I trauma dumped and cried, lamenting about my inability to express myself for fear of judgment.
Rita said that I have left-up essence, and the archetypes she picked for me were the Enigma and the Siren. Left essence only clicked when she explained it to me in our style talk. I had never considered actively dressing to express myself as being a factor in my style, even though once upon a time it had been a knee-jerk reaction for me.
It had been my belief that dressing for “your internal qualities” was a fluke — mainly because I had no idea how to do it; clothes and qualities seemed such different disciplines that I felt overwhelmed in beginning to explore the translation from one to the other. When I was let free to pursue what things meant to me, and how I could acommodate the qualities about myself that I wanted to make space for so they would show through, it clicked for me: I like to dress in a way that makes me look beautiful, but just being flattered by my clothes cannot satisfy me and bring me to my style dreams. There needs to be more to it.
With wind beneath my wings, I embarked on my journey back home to myself.
Riding my own bike
Whether intentionally or not, giving me these two archetypes was genius. Initially, when I was coming out of my shell, I began exploring the Enigma almost exclusively. To me, that meant I could still dress in a more understated way while I got used to my new attitude to my style. I could not possibly have gone from what I was doing then to what I am doing now, I had to start small and test the waters. The things I wore were laughably simple for how daring I felt it was at the time. Linen pants instead of jeans… to the office? Escándalo! A blazer that isn’t fitted and black? Who does she think she is?! Dying my hair? Quelle horreur! Each step I took in the right direction gave me renewed confidence, after the initial worries about people’s reactions wore off. I had worried for naught: people were nothing but lovely to me. It turned out that they were not nice to me just because I dressed a certain way. The more I came out of my shell, the further up I allowed myself to travel into the Siren archetype.
It was not only sunshine and roses, though. There was a lot of doubt halfway through this journey that was brought on by the perceptions that I believed people would have about me. I have always been a person with a deep contradiction: on the one hand I am a chaotic creative who authored her first book, and on the other I am a level-headed Capricorn in law school. It felt as though I could not reconcile the part of me that was conventional and practical with my reclaimed joy of eccentric, authentically strange dressing. I felt at sea in my own self again. Was Rita wrong about my essence? Was I just a convincing imposter?
The thing is that I now have a very sophisticated compass on my style, even when I feel like an imposter. I am led by my body; I sense myself in the clothes not just with comfort but with the sort of poise I feel in my shoulders and arms, how my torso elongates and my stride lengthens.
When I worry about being ‘too much’, ‘too strange’, whatever it may be, I am met with resistance from my body when I push back against what I know it needs and desires, what I need and desire. I tense up, in the way that I have tensed up for years, and it feels bad enough not to wish it upon myself anymore. And thus, I am led back to myself.
And who is that self I come home to?
I still pingpong between the Enigma and the Siren, and I believe the Enigma is my happy home base with the Siren to bolster when I feel like it. The clothing I wear is inspired by my art, by my personality, with the characteristics I enjoy expressing, and I unapologetically dress to impact others to a degree — though usually in a mysterious way rather than a glamorous one. I have set myself free to dress how I want, and it has made me far more comfortable and confident in my own skin.
I am free to be myself and to explore safely, as I am behind the glass of the energetic barrier I create and I know I am guided by my own compass of style.
Somehow, I cannot even fathom how I felt before. It feels as though I am a fundamentally changed person, a person with so much more ease when it comes to how I am perceived, and the tools to dress in a way that retrieved the burning coal of discontent out from my innards.
It is a gift to have been able to work with Rita and to be able to be taught these skills that brought me back home. I hope that I can forward a gift of sorts: a permission slip for closeted eccentrics to get out there, an encouragement to follow in my footsteps if you so desire, and an even stronger encouragement to dive headfirst into Rita’s wonderful system, and begin your travels back to yourself.