I’ve been thinking about style a lot of lately, possibly because I have been shopping excessively and going out at just as much – requiring the styling of many new ensembles for many different events, locations and situations. When I studied fashion two years ago I was lucky enough to truly discover exactly what it is exactly that beguiles me about fashion. Beyond the delight I find in dressing and dressing up, what I am so curious about and so deeply intrigued by is simple…it’s style. STYLE! That simple one syllable word that has such a weighty significance in terms of self expression. We all know the famous fashion quote ‘Fashion fades, style is eternal…’ But do we truly know how to define it? We know it when we see it -‘That’s stylish, she’s stylish, he’s got style etc.’
We all generally tend to have a universal understanding of who and what is stylish, hence why the world covets and henceforth creates style icons. And style icons vary from classic and sharp Victoria Beckham, to masters of the glam rock chic Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, preened to perfection and always neat Olivia Palermo or forever casual and cool in a leather jacket, skinny jeans and boots combo Kate Moss.
But asides from using the word to identify a form of dressing, Classic, Casual, Trendy, Sporty etc, what constitutes as style and how can we identify what it looks like?
I like to define style as fashion’s cousin, her much cooler cousin and a trend is fashion’s sister, possibly even twin sister. Without going too deeply into semiology and linguistics, fashion is the object – the signified and the trend is formed by the signifiers, in this case the consumers (us), who with our consumption of said object eventually make the object fashionable or/ and trendy.
Style, I refer to as fashion’s cooler cousin because it’s more expressive and offers more of a personal communication. If we could all afford to wear runway looks straight off the catwalk of the season’s most coveted look, regardless of how fashionable and on trend it might be, we’d all look like clones, or the alternative terminology, fashion victims. Style is not the possession of, or the monetary strength to, own and dress in fashionable items. Style is the dance between conforming and rejecting, between being predictable, ironic and unexpected.
We can all wear a runway look and be fashionable, but we’d have no credit to take for our ability to dress, because the look has already been packaged and parceled by another stylist. In fact, the only thing we might express dressed head to toe in a runway look is our undying love for fashion and our ability to keep up with its capricious nature. Ask Anna Dello Russo, Fashion Editor and Creative Director at Vogue Japan, who’ll tell you ‘I don’t want to be cool, I want to be fashion’. I have never seen a woman wear so many runway looks, in fact so fashionable is the passionate fashionista that she has been described by Helmut Newton as a ‘Fashion maniac’. Anna might be considered ironically cool, like wearing nineties patterned Moschino in the twenty first century or a black woman wearing a t-shirt that reads ‘Blondes have more fun,’ but too much irony or too much of one thing is never good.
So, back to this dance of conforming and rejecting. Style is a personal interpretation of the signified object – the fashion item, it’s the way in which we choose to hangout with fashion’s sister, the signifiers, the masses that form the trends and its how we choose to reject it, by refusing to wear it, altering it or manipulate it. A white shirt might be fashionable, neatly buttoned down and tucked into a pair of jeans, we conform to the trend by wearing the white shirt, but we reject it by tucking only the front of the shirt into our jeans and leaving the back out, wearing the first three buttons undone or placing a statement necklace around the collar and so on and so forth.
In my humble opinion, ‘styling’ is the way in which we manipulate fashion. The most stylish of people in my belief are those that always have their eye on fashion but have the ability to manipulate, to innovate, to be unexpected but respectable, ironic and predictable and know exactly when to conform and when to reject. Style is formed once we develop a particular method towards the way in which we approach dress, over a period of time this will form a motif which eventually becomes our own unique style.
Here’s to some of my personal style icons at the moment…
Be charmed, stay inspired! x