There’s a considerable difference between being fashionable and being stylish.
Thinking about your clothing solely in terms of fashion confuses and undermines your sense of style and ability to achieve style success.
It leads you to lament that you have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear.
Fashion (whether it’s fast, luxury or somewhere in between) has many commendable aspects and shapes the culture we live in. But when it is used interchangeably with the word style, it leads to confusion and makes the task of deciding what to buy and what to wear feel like an extreme sport that you haven’t trained for.
Only when you understand the true meaning of each, and therefore the difference between them, can you dissolve this confusion and overcome your dressing woes.
Fashion is defined as when a society at large agrees to a style, aesthetic or cultural appreciation for a period of time.
Importantly, it’s not exclusive to dress and the fashion industry is not the only source of fashion. It occurs in any realm of human endeavour including art, music, political discourse, architecture and design.
And of course, there are some very real positives of fashion. It serves as a useful marker of time and has been used effectively by groups of individuals to call attention to various social issues. A recent example, when celebrities and stars of the big screen dressed in black at the 75th Golden Globes Awards in a sign of solidarity with the Time’s Up movement.
But at the very heart of fashion is its transient nature. Its fad-like appeal. As Coco Chanel said: “Fashion is made to become unfashionable”.
The brutal cycle of ‘it’ to ‘s#@t’ begins with a highly sought-after trend that enjoys an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for a short time, only to be relegated to the back of the wardrobe once the craze is over. We need only remember with a mixture of mild affection and utter loathing the mullet skirt of Spring/Summer 2012. All high in the front and sweeping length at the back. And now languishing as landfill, after having enjoyed a brilliant but brief appearance on fashion’s cruel stage.
Not only does this furious fashion cycle lead to enormous waste and unsustainable practices, but as individuals we can often become slaves to the fashion industry’s take on what is fashionable in a way that can undermine our true sense of style.
This is primarily because fashion has an external origin. It’s all about the ‘it’ factor of the clothes, the designer and the model or influencer chosen to market them. The clothes get noticed, not the woman buying and wearing them.
Trends can distract us from developing our long-term sense of style and achieving wardrobe ease. The constant novelty and pressing need to buy and keep up to date coupled with a desperate desire and hope that the next piece will ‘fix’ our style undermines the real work that needs to be done to develop a style solution that works for us not against us.
Developing your natural style is about understanding you. Style is self-knowledge and self-confidence expressed through what you choose to wear. Unlike fashion style comes from within, connects you to self and is focused on the woman wearing the clothes not the clothes themselves.
While fashion is a reflection of a society at that time, style is a reflection of self.
Now I’m not dismissing fashion outright. It is important and has it place. Seasonal trends help you to maintain a style that is fresh and contemporary, inject interest and flair and ensure your style continues to evolve.
But fashion is style’s wing woman.
Style first, fashion second.
Partner with your style, play with the fashion.
When women approach me to work with them, they sometimes have concerns that I’ll only take them to the shiny end of Chadstone. Others are adamant that they won’t set foot inside a fast fashion chain.
Both approaches point the spotlight firmly on fashion not style. This is because both fast fashion and luxury are tied to fashion. What each delivers is someone else’s take on fashion at that time.
What I help a woman develop is her take on her style. It might be Channel. It might be Zara. It might be a mixture of both. Or neither.
Taking fashion out of the style equation might sound counter—intuitive but it is the very thing that will help you achieve style success and satisfaction with your wardrobe.
Do you ever wonder whether you’re fast fashion or Chanel? Do you find it hard to navigate the fashion landscape? If the answer is yes, I invite you to start framing your thinking in terms of your style identity first and fashion and seasonal trends second.
If you’d like an easy and effective tool to help you do this, please email me at email@example.com and I’ll send you my complimentary Style Identity Starter Checklist. Or here’s an idea! I can do the heavy lifting for you. All it takes is a phone call to get started.
I’m Nicole, and I’m a personal stylist obsessed with helping women in business and corporate roles to experience effortless, stylish dressing, allowing them to stand out for all the right reasons. I bring strategy, solutions and expertise to my clients. I fully understand the challenges women face when trying to achieve a wardrobe that actually works and I take the pain out of shopping for clothes and deciding what to wear. I transform something that feels fraught and complex into a streamlined solution expertly tailored to you.
Image: Fi Mims Photography