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defining style | part I

28 February 2010

Preface | I’ve received numerous emails, especially recently, of girls, women, and boys alike asking for advice on how to find, and define, their own style. What is style, they ask. How are you so sure of your own? How long did it take you before you knew what you liked, and what you wanted to show the world? Does everyone have “an eye for style?” The likes. And then, they were all concluded with: “When will you show your face; let’s see outfit posts!” Coincidental? I think not. It’s all a conspiracy to have me remove my mask of anonymity… but I digress. I do hope this helps, and enjoy. I had quite the time writing this series!

Among Coco Chanel’s numerous quotes, many of which were frivolous comments upon costume jewelry or on the importance of perfume to a woman’s future (for reference, the exact quote would be: “A woman who doesn’t wear perfume has no future” – exaggerated, of course, but surely holds some truth because we all know the key to attracting and alluring  men is to appeal to their olfactory sense), one was uttered with wisdom.

“Fashion fades, and only style remains.”

And that, mes chéries, is quite true.

{miroslava duma | image source: t h e  f a s h i o n s p o t }

The words “fashion” and “style” have been used interchangeably almost ubiquitously. But in doing so one is mistaken; the words are hardly synonymous. Their connotations are similar, without a doubt, but their denotations differ quite extensively. The former speaks of change. Fashion inevitably changes as trends fall to the wayside, and a “new black” emerges along with the next “it” handbag every season seasonally. (My conscious implores me to mention that there is, and will never be, such a thing as a “new black.” Never. Ever.) Fashion cycles in the path of the infinitive figure eight. Case in point: the last year or so was dark, Baroque, heavy with depression. Grunge-rock made studs, lumber-jack plaids, and Doc Martens all the rage. Enter spring of 2010: the softer, romantic side of fashion has resurfaced, with ethereal peaches and beautifully draped dresses. Et cetera.

Style, however, remains the same. But “same” does not mean it is stagnant or flat – style is ever evolving (quite different from changing, mind you), dynamic and dimensional. Style constantly undergoes evolution. It develops and gains through experience. There is depth to each facet, a depth that extends beyond what is seen. That depth is the story behind each personal choice – perhaps this icon or that stranger influenced you, however minute, or a certain piece was a family heirloom. Style is not what is taken off the racks because it so happened to be the trend of the season.

Style is an aesthetic emotion. It is what appeals to you – ethos, pathos, logos – the whole lot. There may or may not be a known reason for the attraction. Regardless, that something about it pulls you in. The question is, however, whether or not it is innate. Is it learned, conditioned from what you have always seen? Or is it just there, inexplicably there?

It’s largely debatable, like one of those which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg arguments or like the many psychological perspectives of behavior: psychodynamic, behavioristic, humanistic, biopsychological, cognitive, the likes. I do believe that your personal aesthetics, or eye for style, is intrinsic (I do love that word!). The reason for that phase of trying and shedding new things is merely part of that path of self-discovery. For some style comes quite easily. For others, it requires a bit more of trial-and-error to see what feels right before they find that consistent look. It then evolves, developing as it adapts to your growth as an individual.

Part II next, tout de suite.


La C.

P.S. | I realize I am being fussy with words; I’m well aware. Regardless, I find it fascinating how such similar words can mean so many things! I’m such a nerd. There, I beat you to it.

P.P.S. | Tweet me, email me, follow me, and read me! Err, s’il vous plaît!

21 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 February 2010 9:53 pm

    That picture of Miroslava is just perfection. The oversized top, the clutch, hair tightly pulled back. So so chic, and so so inspirational for our upcoming winter

  2. 28 February 2010 10:36 pm

    I agree with you about the fine (but ever important) distinction between fashion and style. My style has evolved enormously in the past few years, but every change has felt intrinsic, natural, and meaningful. Can’t wait for Part II!

  3. 28 February 2010 10:38 pm

    I forgot to add – love the new sidebar! Our styles are very different, but we share so many favorite runway collections. Blumarine, Fendi, and Versace were some of my favorites! (I also loved Cynthia Steffe, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Milly, and a slew of others.)

  4. 1 March 2010 1:25 am

    Love this post!

  5. 1 March 2010 4:25 am

    your posts are simply the best

  6. Heather permalink
    1 March 2010 8:54 pm

    Another excellent post, definitally the most wordy post I’ve read of yours. You’re absolutely correct about the difference between style and fashion. Everybody should find their own style, even if it’s variety is very large, it should still feel right on you. Just because you wear boho one day and look like a vamp the next does not mean that it doesn’t all fit into your own personal style. Ultimately if you are comfortable and confident in it you will look and feel incredible.

  7. 1 March 2010 11:40 pm

    wow i love this post, so beautifully put

  8. 2 March 2010 12:16 am

    Nicely put.
    Eventually, and I’m talking from experience here, it all comes back to you. Most of us look back on a lifetime of fashion faux pas. When you are finally secure with who you are, and you have the experience to lock that security into place, your style comes into sharp focus.

  9. 2 March 2010 12:18 am

    amazing post! and I really like the way you write ( I stayed here reading a lot of previous posts!lol)

    xx Bru

  10. 2 March 2010 1:53 am

    style is simply innate. i think people just have it or don’t, but style is also what makes you who you are. that’s why it makes sense to stick to what you know and not try to imitate too much because it doesn’t translate.
    xoxo alison

  11. 2 March 2010 8:42 am

    Love your very delicate disengagement of style from fashion. Without fashion, style would be a series of rules – but fashion is not all there is to style. Maybe style is a ‘sensibility’ rather than a theory, as Susan Sontag says in ‘Notes on Camp’. ‘For taste governs every free — as opposed to rote — human response… Taste has no system and no proofs. But there is something like a logic of taste: the consistent sensibility which underlies and gives rise to a certain taste. A sensibility is almost, but not quite, ineffable. Any sensibility which can be crammed into the mold of a system, or handled with the rough tools of proof, is no longer a sensibility at all. It has hardened into an idea.’ Duh. That’s my theory anyway. And I’m conducting my own experiments this month over at

  12. 2 March 2010 5:05 pm

    Love her look!

  13. 2 March 2010 9:57 pm

    you’re fussiness with words is a breathe of fresh air to this word-fuss free, visually reliant blog world.

  14. 3 March 2010 1:15 am

    beautifully written. I must agree, fashion and style are two very different things. Style, is something innate, uninfluenced by trends.. it’s all about individuality and creativity and wearing what makes you happy 🙂

  15. KateSouth permalink
    3 March 2010 11:29 pm

    I love Miroslava Duma, she is radiant and whatever she wears always suits her. I completely agree with our description of style versus fashion. It’s sad when people wear trends simply because they are current without regard to how they feel in the clothes – the clothes end up wearing them instead.

  16. 6 March 2010 9:51 pm

    This was amazing! I love a good outfit of the day post but this is something different in the fashion blogosphere. I guess what intrigued me the most about this was that you defined style in psychological terms (i’m trying to get my master’s in psychology…!) and that it’s not just about the newest Chanel bag or if harem pants are in or not. I cannot wait for part 2!!

  17. 7 March 2010 4:38 pm

    I know just what you mean darling! I wrote something about fashion/style and th differences also. The way I say it is simple: style doesn’t equal fashion, style is what you make of fashion!


  18. Tom Tuttle from Tacoma permalink
    8 March 2010 10:31 pm

    i asked some of the same questions too and have long since stopped to think too deep into it. but i agree with most of what you’ve said. looking forward to part two.

  19. 14 March 2010 12:22 pm

    i like this post, and the style of Miroslava

    xx from Paris



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