What is Style? A Prelude

What is Style? A Prelude

You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.
— Diana Vreeland

It feels like we are inundated with the topic of style— street style, celebrity style, French style. Magazines, fashion blogs, and a crop of online services are constantly nudging us towards some kind of style. What kind of style exactly seems less relevant than the notion that style, broadly, is something we should be in perpetual pursuit of. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to suggest that popular culture is, if not obsessed, at the very least fixated on the matter of style. How fixated? A Google search of “personal style” yields 534 million hits. Googling “climate change” nets 161 million hits, and “gender equality,” 27 million. If that’s any indication of mental real estate, we’re clearly thinking about our style a lot.

But when we are thinking about style, what is it that we are really thinking about? New clothes? More clothes? An expensive pair of shoes that our favorite blogger is wearing? A celebrity look we want to replicate? Or are we thinking about how to capture our individual essence? How to project those things that make us unique?

Here’s my contention: we might be fixated on style, but we’re very often pursuing stuff. Stuff is easy. Style isn’t. By clicking here, or copying the look, we’re taking shortcuts that we think are helping us develop style, but they’re actually bypassing a crucial part of the process of getting there. That’s because discovering our personal style is really about knowing ourselves. And there’s no buy-it-now button for that.

Let’s hold aside for the moment the universal truth that if Diana Vreeland said it, it’s a fact, and let’s consider her musings on style. She gives us three indispensable insights: you have to have it, it’s a way of being, and it has nothing to do with the size of your closet. Finally, some sound advice to guide us on our journey.

What do you think? What is style? Is our modern relationship with style helping or hindering us from developing it?

 

Feature image Diana Vreeland photographed by Priscilla Rattazzi, 1982. 

Margaret Thatcher's Style Got Dissed

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