One of those quips that has always bugged me is, “you’re either born with style or you’re not.” It bugs because there’s a kernel of truth to it, but even more so because it’s often used dismissively. And it’s not the last word.
Sure, we’ve all known that person who seems to have the “style gene.” They’ve just always had a good eye, and perhaps a healthy disregard for rules or what anyone else thinks. They know what they like, they can visualize how two (or more) colors or patterns or pieces will work together. I’ve always been in awe of those people.
But that doesn’t mean the rest of us are doomed to flounder. Style can be learned, at least to a certain degree. And personal style is inherently subjective. One person’s sublime is another’s horror show. Style has become more democratic and inclusive over the last decade or so. It’s no longer dictated from On High by magazine editors and fashion columnists. That doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t make our own judgements about what styles appeal to us. In fact, discernment is key to finding our own style voice.
I also believe style can and should evolve over time as our bodies, tastes and lifestyles change. It’s key to keeping one’s style authentic, workable, and relevant.
Building Blocks of Style
It’s a wild world out there, with so many competing voices and visions. If you feel as though you’re still developing or evolving your style, here are a few elements of good style that I would argue are universal.
Fit, fit, fit. Regardless of your size and shape, getting the fit right will go a long way toward a more stylish appearance. Alter whatever you can to get a good fit. Even just adjusting a sleeve length can make a huge difference. (I plead guilty to not doing this as much as I should.) I’m not saying everything has to be tailored to the nth degree, just that your clothes should follow the lines of your body rather than fight with them. Even more unstructured or oversized pieces might benefit from a tweak here and there.
Educate your eye (and your hand). Shop above your budget from time to time. You don’t have to buy, just look, feel and maybe try on. Get a sense of quality fabrics and construction details that make a difference. Give fabrics the crunch test. See how the garment drapes.
Know yourself. Get familiar with your shape and coloring, yes, but also with your temperament and sense of aesthetics. Do you crave ease and simplicity? Or lots of color, splashy prints, interesting details? If you aren’t sure, I’ve found that looking at art, or even just scrolling through Pinterest is a great way to get some direction. Pay attention to what you respond to viscerally. Trust your taste. Don’t succumb to anyone else’s “must have” lists.
And I’ve come to believe that ultimately much of what we consider “style” comes from confidence. Feel good in what you’re wearing, and people will pick up on that.
What tips have helped you to develop your style?
My Personal Style Stalwarts
Image above from the Christian Dior: Couturier du Rêve exhibition in Paris. More from the exhibition HERE.