Sally McGraw is a well-established personal stylist and freelance writer from Minneapolis who recently published her first book, Already Pretty: Learning to Love Your Body by Learning to Dress it Well, launching from the popularity of her body-conscious style blog. In her recent visit to San Diego for the CAbi Scoop event, I had the opportunity to learn more about her mission to redefine how women view their bodies and their relationship to fashion:
C: How long have you been writing your blog, Already Pretty?
S: The blog launched in September of 2007. I'm a dinosaur, by blogging standards!
C: We touched upon how we didn't start out as girly girls as children. What was the moment that changed and you began exploring fashion and style?
S: I'm not sure it was a single moment so much as a gradual realization. I used to utilize so much energy hating my body that I exhausted myself into depression. For years I tried to change my body with diets and exercise, believing that its shape and size were the root of the problem, but I just kept on hating it. In my mid-twenties, I began exploring fashion and style – dressing in fun, flattering, and form-fitting clothes – and an unexplored universe opened up to me. For the first time, I respected my body. I realized that there was nothing wrong with my body. I saw my body as integral to my identity. I wanted to show it off, and decorate it joyously, and hone my personal style so that I could understand it on new levels. When I started to dress in a way that made me look amazing and feel amazing, I finally stopped actively, continually, exhaustingly hating my body. I don't think that personal style is the magical solution to all women's body image woes, but it certainly helped me through my personal struggles with self-image.
C: Your mission is to show that body knowledge gained through explorations of personal style can foster self-love and self-respect and after reading your book, Already Pretty: Learning to Love Your Body by Learning to Dress it Well, it is clear to me that personal style overrules the notions of industry trends. How closely do you follow current trends and how much impact would you say they make on your personal style?
S: Actually, I love keeping abreast of current fashion trends and participating when they resonate with me. I think that keeping tabs on trends is a great way to keep your look current, even if you interpret those trends in unique ways. Just reading about what hit the runways during the current season may inform your shopping and dressing decisions in terms of colors and cuts, even if you're shopping thrift or making your own garments. However, I do like to encourage women to focus on trend categories instead of trendy items. There are always color trends, and those are the easiest to customize: Emerald green for spring! Just grab any emerald pieces you've already got and put them back into rotation. Stripes will be huge, and you can thrift a striped top or dress in a heartbeat. Trendy items like peplum dresses, shorts suits, and photo-printed garments can be passed over for more general - and easier to wear - trend categories.
C: A good chunk of your book helps readers define what their personal style is through a series of exploratory enterprises. How important is it to be able to put one's personal style down in words?
S: Based on the feedback I've gotten from clients and readers, it's indescribably helpful to force yourself to think and write about your personal style. Most of us just cruise through life picking out items that look shiny and pretty on the racks, or filling in perceived holes in our wardrobes. By articulating your style goals, you can be more mindful of your shopping and dressing choices and gradually build a closet full of garments that work together and work with your unique figure. Writing it all down forces you to conceptualize and categorize in ways you otherwise wouldn't.
C: When you started to write your book, was it your initial intention to have it be a workbook with action items?
S: Well, I definitely wanted to provide concrete action items for my potential audience. I wanted the book to outline a process with a distinct beginning, middle, and end. But I wasn't conceptualizing it as a workbook, per se. More of a guide. And in terms of the accompanying workbook PDF, that was my husband's idea! He was one of the first people to read through the rough draft, and he pointed out that folks might be intimidated by the amount of writing required. Since the book is basically a self-guided makeover that demands contemplation of specific questions, he suggested an easy, printable PDF workbook for people to fill out. I love to imagine folks creating highly personalized Style Journals, as suggested in the book, but I know that some people just don't have the time or inclination to do so!
C: What can someone who is new to you and your blog look forward to in your book that they haven't been exposed to by other stylists?
S: I want my book to be the antidote to cookie-cutter style guides. Instead of dumping readers into a body type category and restricting what they can and cannot wear, my body-positive book presents a highly customizable regimen to help readers define and hone their own personal styles. There are no "dos" and "don'ts," just an a la carte menu of figure flattery techniques from which readers can select favorites. I'll never command anyone to donate clothing that's gone unworn for a year, never force devotees of ballet flats into platform heels, and never insist that any woman discard her own preferences in favor of what's hot or current. Or even "flattering" by traditional standards. I know that personal style is a fabulous medium for self-expression, and want each woman who reads my book to use it to express herself as she sees fit.
C: When you were in San Diego recently for the CAbi Scoop Event, what were your impressions of San Diego style?
S: From what I saw, it seemed like most women dress along the fancy edge of casual. Lots of tunics and boots (my own favorite dressing formula for cool weather), lots of fabulous accessories, and many women who looked immaculately manicured and coiffed. But no one was hobbling around in sky-high stilettos or otherwise suffering in the name of fashion. It seems like a great mix of laid-back and fashion-forward.
To purchase Sally McGraw’s new book, visit http://www.alreadypretty.com/book.