Given that this is primarily a blog about retro-inspired style, you might not be *too* surprised to learn that I'm not much for keeping up with fashion trends. I know what I like (full skirts, the color red, anything and everything space-related, sparkly brooches) and I'm totally a creature of habit.
This outfit includes many of my sartorial faves: red, full skirts, a fun print, sparkles, and more red!
[Sidebar: what is *up* with my purple prose today?]
By contrast, style is about the aesthetic choices one makes in dressing and presenting her- or himself. More precisely, I'd say that style is the set of design principles that shape those aesthetic choices. Style is the underlying preferences that draw you to certain pieces and make you run like the dickens from others. While fashion is a set of "what's:" what's hot this season, what you should add to your wardrobe to stay current, what you need to 'update' your wardrobe, style is a set of "whys" and "hows:" why you like certain things, and how you put things you like together.
Ever hear anyone call someone a 'style victim?' Yeah, me neither.
One other way I see this distinction: fashion is about the creator of a garment, while style is about the owner. Fashion reflects the vision of designers, stylists, and retailers: it's the way they've pictured people at that moment in time. Style is about how the owner sees their clothing working together to reflect their self-image.
When I dress like myself, I'm happy enough to make the silly faces that come naturally to me!
I realize that this definition is a little bit reductive, since it ignores the ways that fashion and style influence one another. Prevailing trends shape what the consumer can use to express their personal style. Have you ever walked into every store in the mall, seen nothing but the same four or five colors that you can't stand, and walked out empty-handed? That season's color fashions are working against you. But fashion isn't all bad: it can introduce you to silhouettes and ideas that you never knew you'd love.
There's one more major difference I see between fashion and style, and that's the economic forces at work. Market research and trend forecasters play an enormous role in shaping fashion, and this brings up a very important point: fashion can be quite expensive. Style doesn't have to be. Fashion changes with the seasons because retailers need to convince people who already own plenty of clothing to buy more things. Lately, this has been an uphill battle for many retailers. A must-have trend, like the recently-omnipresent off-the-shoulder look, is a greatway to convince people to get out there and spend money.
In trying to be a more ethically-conscious consumer, I've tried to refocus my attention on honing my personal style, rather than following trends. While I still wind up doing a little too much shopping, I've found that focusing on hunting down pieces that express my personal style has left me a lot happier with my wardrobe. I have far fewer of those 'omg I have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear' early-morning meltdowns, and far fewer things that I just don't ever wear. Instead, I have a wardrobe that's filled with things that make me genuinely excited to get dressed, and this feels like a really positive development.
How do you feel about fashion and style? Do you tend to focus on one more than the other?
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