Tag: personal style

MR Writers Club: Describe Your Personal Style

See below the response I submitted to last month’s prompt.

Black & minimalist. Words that I’d previously use to describe my personal style. Note: previously. I worked in an office for a year at 17 and quickly adapted to the corporate dress code. Somehow it spilled over into my casualwear. Neither jeans nor sneakers existed. I wore a uniform of pencil skirts, wide leg pants, and black tops of some variant. I’d say I dressed twenty years older than my chronological age. Sometimes I still do.

I went back to school this summer. Starting college after two years out of the system was daunting to me, especially coming from Scotland where things are rather different. Not only were the classes going to be unfamiliar, but the people too. I’ve discovered that although we are two English speaking countries, culturally, we are worlds apart. I learned that teenagers in America are really teenagers. Like, actual kids still, not mini-adults like we are at home. I soon realized that I had to adapt or I would stick out. During orientation people were already asking me why I dressed up so much, so I made a conscious decision to change. It was time. Micro-miniskirts in various materials (vinyl, pleather, scuba), colorful fur coats, t-shirts, and jeans have made it into the rotation. I literally hadn’t worn denim since I was 14 years old.

I enjoy getting dressed nowadays. I often think of a #look (yes, the hashtag really elevates it) and strive to realize it. I love when I plan an outfit mentally and execute it perfectly. Going to a fashion school helps too, allowing the freedom to push the boundaries of what would be considered acceptable in a regular college. Sometimes I will wear the most ridiculous outfits just because I can. It’s fun. Fashion should be fun.

The Man Repeller ethos was ingrained in me before I even heard about this website. I’ve never dressed for guys. Ever. I don’t want to. Case in point, I wore a typical “club” outfit yesterday but paired it with black leather Converse and a plaid blazer. “Geography professor” vibes, yet I think it looked cool. The week before I wore Acne Studios leopard print tights with a leopard print fur coat – you’ve got to fully commit to that kind of thing. I got many puzzled faces looking back at me on the streets (and I thought New York would be ready for that look).

My style has changed over the past few months, but so have I as a person. I’ve matured and my style has too. I’d say the biggest sign of maturity is not caring what people think, knowing that you are enough without requiring the validation of others. That’s what I’ve come to achieve in my outfit choices and, almost, in daily life. So, to summarize my new, improved, and ever-evolving style in the simplest way possible: a series of #looks. (Say the hashtag.)

Personal Style, again

I was on the Village Voice website earlier today and I came across an article in their fashion section from 2015. In it the writer chronicles her trip on the train in New York where she seen a whole bunch of people wearing the same items (Herschel backpack, flannel shirts, Shrimps fur coats etc.). The article ended up being an exploration into personal style and whether we, as New Yorkers, still have it.

There used to be a perception of a big city style. New York was black, polished, and streamlined. Now it’s a mix of everything. Furthermore, the big city style has reached the suburbs. I remember watching Working Girl for the first time and being hit by the makeover that Tess had in order to work her way up the corporate ladder – and she was already a New Yorker. Nowadays that kind of thing doesn’t need to happen. You don’t need to spend a small fortune to look professional. You don’t need to go to fashion shows to know what’s cool. The internet has democratised fashion to a level never before reached. It’s for the masses now. Fast fashion helps too, knowing that a look on the Gucci runway will be replicated in Zara often before the original hits the stores. We can all be a part of it.

This then made me think of quotes from Raf Simons’ recent interview in GQ:

I was actually someone who was very often saying that fashion keeps thinking that it can serve everybody, that it can be there for everybody, high fashion. I’m sorry, but high fashion was always for a small environment. High fashion by nature used to be extreme. Right now we define a lot of things as high fashion, but they’re not high fashion. They’re clothes. They’re clothes on the runway with a nice little twist of styling and coloration. Everybody thinks it’s high fashion. Bullshit. There is very little high fashion.

He thinks that fashion isn’t elite anymore, which is definitely true. Anyone can be a designer. Anyone can make it big, whether that be as a creator or an influencer. Your clothes are merely clothes, and put them on the right people and they can become a trend and you can solidify yourself a place on the must-see fashion show list on every fashion news outlet out there. Look at Vetements and the constant stream of coverage the brand gets. Raf’s interview is actually a good read in terms of gauging his opinion on the current state of fashion and the brands that are at the top. He is unafraid to share his views because he knows he is in an almost untouchable position and that without him and his archive, many brands would struggle to produce collections. He is arguably one of the most influential designers of the century thus far.

But going back to the point of the original article, the writer was saying that in the pursuit of personal style, we all end up dressing the same. Maybe it’s because we are all exposed to similar influencers or maybe it’s an attempt to be different and just ending up the same, accidentally. Either way, there is little truly original personal style left out there. The conclusion that the writer came to, after interviewing various subjects, was that although we all wear the same items, we wear them in different ways or with different things, hence making them individual once again.

Honestly, I’d argue otherwise. Sometimes I will buy something then six months later when I encounter a lot of other people wearing it, I’m put off. I feel like something is less my style, more just mass acceptance fashion once it becomes a trendy item. Trends have the ability to ruin an item, to make it unwearable. I’m not someone who is super out-there with my dress sense or someone who cares too much about being totally individual, but sometimes it bothers me when I end up having something that turns into a trend. In a way its embarrassing as you feel a little bit like a clone, or like you can’t make decisions for yourself so you copy others. Conversely, that’s just fashion. If it doesn’t hit the masses, was it ever fashion in its true definition? Or was it just clothes?

Another aspect of personal style that actually upsets me is seeing celebrities being lauded for their style and originality and trend setting abilities when their looks have all been picked for them by stylists. Literally nothing that many of the bigger influencers wear (Kardashians, Hadids, Selena Gomez etc.) has been picked by them. They pay a stylist to curate a wardrobe for them to wear. It’s very strange to me to see these people being called style icons and entire websites and Instagram accounts dedicated to chronicling their sartorial choices. I’ve touched on this before previously but it is something that is truly baffling to me. Then on top of that, said influencers undertake collaborations with brands to “design” collections. It’s odd. But it’s fashion. As Raf said, fashion thinks it can cater to the masses and this is exactly what that phenomenon demonstrates. Fashion is pop culture. 100%.


Further reading

“Is Personal Style Dead?” – Village Voice, November 2015

“Raf Simons on life in New York, designing under Trump, and the New Generation of Designers who look up to him” – GQ, January 2017

“Personal Style/Celebrity Stylists” – from my website, June 2016

“What the Hell Happened to Personal Style?” – Vogue.com, April 2016

My Current Lack of Fashion Feelings

I’m at a strange place right now. I thought that moving to New York would provide me with so much inspiration to step up my game style-wise, but in fact I feel it has done the opposite. Or more so, I’ve been exposed to so much that I’m not sure where I’m headed or where I want to be. I’m in a little bit of a rut. I’ve found that some style shifts are involuntary, heralded by a new job or a change of circumstances, and some are made via a conscious effort. Right now I feel like I’m in stasis. No change.

FIT has surprised me. I thought that everyone would be dressed up for class every day but in fact I don’t think it’s much different than a regular college. People still wear sweatpants. I’d say 30% of people in each class that I’m in are wearing sweatpants or exercise tights or yoga pants, another 50% are wearing jeans (in a casual manner), and the remainder are dressed up how I’d expect people at a fashion school to be. In a way I was taken aback by this. I thought everyone would be all about self-expression and wanting to showcase cool outfits. Especially because so many of us attending the school are from small towns that are perhaps less liberal or accepting than New York. People always spoke about how they couldn’t wait to get to New York so they could dress how they wanted.

I’ve always been pretty sure of my style. For the past three years, approximately, I’ve worn the same kind of things. You could walk into any store and pick something out for me because I’ve always followed the same formula: black, fur, leather. The silhouettes have either been super tight or super relaxed, no inbetween, and generally I’ve dressed for girls, not guys. My style isn’t sexy and I make no attempt to be. I’ll wear a slip dress (which can be made sexy) but with sneakers or a t-shirt. It kills the sex appeal for sure.

Nowadays I’m wondering do I want to dress sexier? Do I want guys to look at me or do I want to continue hiding? For me, dressing in a non-sexy way was a real choice that I made. I didn’t want people to look at me. It made me uncomfortable. Then when I went to work in an office I began dressing corporate as hell. I wore pencil skirts every day. Now I’m at college my previous uniform seems inappropriately formal. My challenge since getting here is trying to dress slightly more casual but in a way that I feel comfortable with. I can’t be someone who rolls out of bed and walks to class wearing a baseball cap, baggy tshirt, and leggings but I also shouldn’t be someone who looks like they got lost on their way to Goldman Sachs.

To be fair to myself, I am getting better at the whole casual thing. I’ve worn jeans a couple of times. I wear dresses with sneakers now. I’ve only worn a blazer once in the past month. But my problem is, I now hate all of my clothes yet when I go shopping I can’t see other things that I want to buy instead. In fact, I don’t know where I want to go, style-wise.

Whilst browsing in Soho last week I seen one pair of pants in All Saints that were just so me and I got excited about fashion for the first time in around a month. They were “ink blue”, satin, relaxed fit through the leg. To me they were sexy as hell; to a guy they probably weren’t. Also in the same store I seen a double breasted black blazer. I wanted to pair them with strappy heels and a cami underneath. I keep thinking about looks that I want to try out but I just don’t have the resources to execute them in a way that I’d be happy with right now.

I’ve been a bit disappointed in myself because I’ve found myself frequenting Zara and browsing on Boohoo & Missguided a tonne in the past few weeks. After all the research I did into fast-fashion and the harmful effect of it, I’ve fallen back into the trap. I’m back to feeling the insatiable need to have more “stuff” and to always have it instantly. It’s about quantity not quality. It’s gross to me because I know better than that yet somehow I keep looking at it, trying it on, buying it. I want to stop. Basically, I’m confused right now and I feel like I could sample a bunch of different looks at fast fashion stores that I couldn’t do if I was buying at more expensive stores. Plus, I lost a little bit of weight in the summer and since then my favourite clothes don’t fit properly. My Sandro tuxedo pants haven’t even gotten a looking. They’ve literally sat on a chair to be taken to be altered since August. It’s sad really.

So to summarise, I want to buy a lot of new clothes because I’m a little bit lost in terms of style right now. My classic uniform of all black is boring me. I want pink. I want beige. I want red even. I want leather. I want boots. I want jeans that make my ass look hella good. I want more slip dresses. I want Givenchy. I want Alexander Wang. I want Off-White. I want a floor length fur coat. I just wanna be fabulous.

Personal Style/Celebrity Stylists

A couple of weeks ago I received my daily newsletter from Vogue, that day entitled “What The Hell Happened to Personal Style?”. To give you the gist of it all, basically the writer was disappointed in the homogeneous, Kardashian style that has swept the nation and is worn by millions of young girls every day. They were sick of neutrals, topknots, and bodycon and missed true style icons like Kate Moss being lauded instead of those who work with a stylist. The latter point is what I’d like to hone in on.

The idea of working with a stylist seems strange to me, especially if it is for a non-red carpet occasion, but you cannot underestimate the power of a celebrity stylist. Think about what Rachel Zoe did back in 2004/2005! Nicole Richie had a major makeover and suddenly became an international style icon. This was a woman who was often ridiculed and thought of as just a famous-for-being-famous, reality tv star suddenly transformed to a real star. You cannot discredit Zoe for that. Nowadays it is Monica Rose who is spreading the same effect through her work with the Kardashians/Jenners and their gang of friends like the Hadid sisters. Just like the band of Zoebots who were constantly photographed this time a decade ago, Monica Rose’s clients often wear very similar looks today. It doesn’t help that they are currently some of the most talked about women in the world right now.

In the article the writer says Kate Young’s work with Selena Gomez is different because it is a “creative partnership”. Unfortunately I don’t agree with this. I don’t think what Kate Young does for Selena Gomez is any different than what Monica Rose does for her clients (although Selena does look so incredible now). Both stylists are picking “off-duty” looks as well as outfits for official appearances. I don’t have a problem with stylists doing this for clients. In fact, I think it is a super smart thing for all celebrities to do – a good branding move. However, I really do hate when people cite the celebrity’s personal style as their inspiration because I really don’t think it is their personal style at all. If your stylist has to pick out your clothing, whether they pre-pick your outfit or just provide you with pieces that would work well together, I don’t think it is your personal style, I think it is just a style. To me it is about those who the look originated from getting credit, but that rarely happens.

Kylie’s outfit in this photo is exactly what the writer of the Vogue article hates; cut-outs, bodycon, neutral.

If I were rich and famous, I can’t imagine that I’d want a stylist. It would probably make things easier for calling in looks for events but then again there are some celebrities who do it all themselves and still manage fine: Diane Kruger, Dita von Teese, Blake Lively (for the most part), January Jones. Dressing yourself every day should be straightforward and actually fun. However, maybe if you’re getting photographed everywhere you go you’d want to look photo ready at all times. Perhaps that’s why celebrity personal style seems manufactured.