“Fashion is about dressing according to what’s fashionable. Style is more about being yourself.” -Oscar de la Renta
Oscar de la Renta, the gentlemanly designer who loved to style and bring out the best in women, died this past October at the age of 82. When he passed, this quote was buzzing around social media. Reading it for the first time made me smile. In an industry where the latest fashion trend is on the runway, replicated in a sweat shop, on the racks at the local box fashion store, and then “so over” in a nanosecond, de la Renta’s wisdom is refreshing.
I have never been fashionable in the trendy sense of the word. I never had that kind of dough, and the pressure to keep up seemed silly to me. I did however, have a style. It was plain, earnest, and granola. Ok to be fair, I was a hippie teaching outdoor education and volunteering in places like Ghana, as you can see from the my photos. I blended-in to my peer group with a non-descript hippie uniform. But deep inside my introvert-self was a desire to stand out. I wanted to have a style that was more reflective of the bold person I wanted to be.
Around the time I turned 30, I had a chic awakening. Maybe it was that I had enough life experience to feel confident and take some risks. I got inspired by good friends with brave style. I also had a professional income, which helped break me out of my compulsion to only buy practical clothing and shoes that “went with everything”. (Black, brown, grey, blue, boring!)
Fast forward to today. I am still a hippie. A more grown-up, experimental, and chic hippie. I haven’t changed inside. It’s just that my outside is a more authentic match to who I am. I wear purple suede heels to cycle to the grocery store.
I now help friends and clients connect with that same kind of transformation. It’s super fun!
Feeling the itch to get a more authentic style? Here are 4 tips to get you started:
- Look within. Picture ideal self three years from now. What are your character attributes, and what does that look like? Brainstorm words on a blank paper. Use colour markers and pens. Or cut and paste images from magazines that inspire you to create a vision board. Now, what little steps can you start taking to make your vision a reality?
- Do some research. Go to the library. Look up style icons that you admire and pour over their life in pictures. (Audrey Hepburn is one of my personal faves.) What style tricks can you replicate? You can also look up style guides, such as one from the hilarious duo from TLC, Stacey London and Clinton Kelly, Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding a Style That’s Right for Your Body. Or, Colour Me Confident: Change Your Look, Change Your Life!, by Veronique Henderson.
- Go shopping for FUN pieces that match your vision. The key here is cheap(er) and cheerful. These are meant to be pieces that push your boundaries. Until you find your style stride, you might not want to invest a great deal of dough. Try H&M, or preloved at TrendTrunk.
- Go shopping for QUALITY pieces. These are items that tend to be classic, or timeless (not the same as boring!) e.g. a well-tailored pencil skirt, or a leather motorcycle jacket. They can be worn through different seasons, with many outfits, over many years. Just accessorize with the latest colour or jewellery trend, et voila, you have a fresh look. If you wear it 10 times a year for 5 years, the cost per wear can be even cheaper than fast-fashion! I love my local Lafontaine, in Whitby, Ontario, for these pieces. Everyone has a version of Lafontaine somewhere close. It’s great to support local when you can. You can also shop quality online. Modvanti is my current favourite.