Be Your Own Icon; Using Style to Transcend Fashion

Remember: Fashion is a teasing, unfaithful lover.

Now, some of you already may wear your style as well as a second skin. You know how to slip in and out of different costumes, all the while keeping a certain something-something about you (Fuschia hair, a predilection for Pumas) to proclaim “This is me!”

If this describes you, then read no further. I’m not going to say anything you don’t already know. But if, like me, you occasionally find yourself in need of a style overhaul, the following steps might help.

if cool is dead, where does fashion go?


Pet peeve #37:

Fashion and Style used synonymously. A little clarification:

Fashion is a prevailing custom, or usage b (1): the prevailing dress during a particular time while Style is a distinctive manner of expression.

Fashion is what is determined to be popular by designers, Hollywood, and the other various powers that be. Style is an individual’s personal form of expression. So, while I may be out of fashion, I will never be out of style – so long as I wear what I like.

Which raises the question: If someone’s style is a direct reflection of the current fashion, do they even have style?


Step One: Clean Out Your Closet

Less is more. Since style is about creating your personal identity, and identity, like a good brand, rests on a few key elements – well, all that stuff in your closet is just clouding the picture. You’ll need to excavate yourself! So get a garbage sack and go take a good, hard look at your clothes. Prepare yourself to start chucking.

Don’t stop to feel guilty about it – you’ll be donating all your unwanted duds to the Salvation Army, giving them to your friends, or selling them at a used clothing store. Shush all those voices that start saying, “But I may wear it one of these days!” or “Aunt Louise knitted it by hand!” or “It was so expensive!” Style will let you wear combat boots with your prom dress, or a Power Puff T-shirt with your power suit.

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Now, pull out everything you hate and put it in the sack (this should be easy and will help you build momentum). Next, get rid of everything you haven’t worn in over a year. (Yes, you’re allowed to make exceptions for party wear, costumes, and other things you just adore, but try not to get too sentimental.)

Finally, toss trendy items in cuts, colours, and styles that may be popular, but don’t flatter you personally. Having the strength to say “No!” to these clothes will save you from ever being a fashion victim.

Step Two: Know Yourself

Authentic style begins with honesty. You’ve got to know yourself and what you like (rather than what fashion dictates). Take a second look at your freshly cleaned closet. Notice patterns in colours, cuts, and styles that you buy over and over again (Me? I have a closet full of slip skirts and motorcycle boots.) Obviously, you buy this stuff because you feel comfortable in it – so make a mental note of whether clothes are snug or loose, racy or demure, brightly coloured or subdued, bohemian or conservative.

This is the core of your personality and style. If you can pick our two or three things that really encapsulate your individuality (a hair colour, the way you wear your pants, a favorite necklace, a cigar-box purse), so much the better. These are your signature pieces. Wear them happily and often.

To refine the picture, ask yourself a few more questions about your sexiness quotient (Ginger or Mary Ann?), favourite colours (bold? quiet? neutral?), and preferred aesthetic (Glamorous? Minimalist chic? Natural? Sporty? Nerdy? Punk? Goth?).

I’m not saying you have to pick just one – but figure out the particular combination that’s uniquely you, dress accordingly and stick to your guns – at least most of the time. (AndI can tell you that if you change your look too often, people won’t recognise you – so it’s best to pick something and stick with it, unless mysterious anonymity is what you’re going for.)

Step Three: Go Shopping (Carefully)

Okay, okay, I know I just said less is more, but I’d be an idiot if I claimed shopping wasn’t a blast. The trick is in knowing how to come home with a few select additions that complement your style rather than caving to fashion’s whims and making over your whole darn wardrobe. So go take a look at your closet for a third and final time and see what you’re missing (if anything).

Since you’ve already thinned out your wardrobe, you may be better able to hone in on a style you already have – for you, step three may be completely unnecessary. If you must go out to find something snazzy to go with your newly excavated style, decide what you want to find and how much you want to spend before you walk out the door. Now go out and shop! Armed with your stylish know-how, odds are you’ll bring home some trophies.

– Wesley Hall has stuck to the same hair colour (red) for almost 11 months now, which is a real milestone. She’s also a writer, editor, and information designer currently living in San Francisco.