‘WHAT DOES PERSONAL STYLE MEAN TO YOU?’
It’s such a good question, one that I got asked on Instagram yesterday.
And it got me thinking. What is personal style? How do we define it? How do we develop it?
After all, we all have personal style. I know there’s many who claim that fashion doesn’t mean that much to them, that it’s frivolous, that they’re not very creative, confident, or that they just wear the exact same thing every day. But no matter what you’re wearing, or how much effort you put into it, it’s still your personal style.
You picked these garments over all of the racks of others available to you in that shop at the time, and whether it was a conscious or sub-conscious choice, that was you defining yourself via fashion. Personal style is colour, fabric, cut, pattern, source and even comes down to things like buttons, zips, or whether you’ll wear a t shirt with a logo on it. It’s just as much about what you won’t wear, then what you will.
So whether you’re aware of it or not, these details all come together, in the hundreds, to form what is collectively, our personal style.
And so if personal style is automatic – perhaps the question, for me, is: How do you get the personal style you want?
My answer to this question comes in three parts:
1. PERSONAL STYLE IS THE ESSENCE OF YOU
It should be the epitome who you are, what mood you’re in, or who you want to be. And this can change on a daily basis.
I very much view getting dressed each morning, like getting into a my role or costume for a play. Because fashion is fun, fantasy and a game. With it, you can become whoever you want to be and manipulate the world into believing this self-created personality. We can’t change the fact that the world is based on first, visual, impressions, so why not take full control over who they judge us as?
But even when you are creating a persona via clothing, at it’s core, it is completely you. It still comes from a deeply honest place inside of you, one full of aspirations and influences. So I believe there’s always so much truth mixed into these costumes we create for ourselves.
That’s where the key idea of being true to the essence of yourself comes in. You need to be able to catch your reflection during the day, and no matter what you’re wearing think ‘I 100% represent who I want to be today’. And even if that goal changes daily, you’d be surprised, if you look back, at what themes and styles keep recurring.
2. PERSONAL STYLE IS A SIMPSONS CHARACTER
When I was a teen I read an interview with Billy Corgan that really stuck with me. In it, he was asked about his personal style – this was late 90’s Billy Corgan so we’re talking all vampire like with his black clothing, ghostly complexion, and a shaved head.
He said something along the lines of ‘By shaving my head and wearing only black, I become a cartoon character. Cartoon characters never age, they never fade in the mind of the public – they are frozen in time forever, immortal.’
Okay, sure, he may have stuck with this look over the last 20 years, and has most certainly aged, but I thought that this was a pretty interesting outlook on style and personal branding.
Whilst I am the most incapable person of wearing the same look and outfit day after day, I do get that idea of being like a cartoon character. And that’s why the second part of my response is the question ‘If they made you into a Simpsons character, what would you be wearing?’
As a Simpsons character you wanna be wearing the things that most represent you. I bet if you close your eyes, you can picture what it’ll be. Because that’s what personal style is. Don’t like what you envision your character in? Then change it! It’s only clothes – you can be whoever you want to be! See point 1!
What’s my Simpsons character wearing? Cherry docs, fluffy petticoated skirt, a striped bodysuit, cape, red lipstick and winged eyeliner!
3. PERSONAL STYLE IS AN ONGOING JOURNEY…
I watched Anna Wintour’s 73 Questions the other day. They asked her what is her most disliked word in fashion and she snarled ‘JOURNEY’ and I let out a little ‘ouch’ because I know that I use the word journey a lot when I talk about personal style.
So sorry, Anna. But I need to keep using it. At least for today.
Your personal style should never be complete. There is no end point. You should only reach your final destination on the day you depart this earth for good (and since we never know when that is going to be, it’s good reason to wear something ridiculous and fabulous each and every day…y’know, just in case).
When I look back on old photos of myself as a teenager, and remember what I imagined adulthood to be like, who I wanted to grow up to be, and dress like – elements of my current personal style have always been there.
Back then I was really good at experimenting – vintage coats, hats, ties, punk, goth, Wes Anderson style twee – I used to play with elements of them all.
I might not have had the self-esteem, funds, or confidence at the time to execute the looks to their fullest, but I knew where I wanted to end up.
This idea of having an innate sense of what we want our style to be probably explains why I’ve bought so many coats, hats and other ridiculous items over the years, stashing them away despite not feeling brave enough to wear them in public. But thankfully I held onto them all, and one by one, when the time was right, they’ve all come out into circulation, as my style has grown into them.
Like this 1960’s green coat…
I picked it up in a thrift store about 5 years ago. I loved it, but at the time the colour was too much. I deemed the cut too baggy and therefore unflattering. And so it hid in a bag until one day, last year, when I uncovered it, and suddenly it was perfect. It was just my style.
Like many things in life, they say you only regret the things you don’t do – never the risks that you took. And I feel that this is just as true with fashion. My only regret when I look back on my journey to date is the period in my 20’s when I let another person dampen my style and self confidence with negativity and judgement. In my teens I was adventurous and bold. But then it’s like a black hole happened – there’s 5 years or so where I gave it all up and tried to be what I decided that person wanted me to be. I disliked myself, my weight and my body. And so I wore what I deemed to be ‘normal’ clothes, in an attempt to blend in, make them happy and conform.
It’s the only time I look back on photos with regret and wish that I’d done things differently.
Please learn from me. Never let your body dictate how you feel about, or express, your personal style. Style does not care about weight, gender, or size. After all, think about how many unstylish thin, beautiful, conforming, people you see out there on a day to day basis. Style operates on an entirely, more fabulous, level.
Thankfully, in my late 20’s, I got myself back (along with my freedom) and with it came my confidence, self-esteem, and passion for fashion. Since then, I’ve been steadily evolving and can look back on photos and trace my personal style growth over the past six or so years.
It’s still changing on an almost weekly basis, and it’s been fascinating to visibly see this since I’ve been taking OOTD photos this year.
I feel a bit resentful of those fashion years, in my twenties, which I lost. All I can think is ‘dang girl, think how much fiercer you’d be today if you had another five years of experimentation and confidence under your belt!’. But I guess I’m not doing too bad, all things considered.
That’s the great thing about viewing personal style as a journey (sorry, Anna) – if you’re constantly striving to grow, improve, and embody the essence of you, then the prospect of how much more fucking fabulous you’ll be in another five years is quite a breath-taking and inspiring concept.
I bet you can’t even comprehend how great you’re gonna be!
…I mean, look at Beyoncé. Could you have even imagined these Lemonade and Coachella years back in 2013?!?!
Which begs the question. What does personal style mean to you, my friends?