How to Be Stylish Without Following Trends

How to Be Stylish Without Following Trends

 The latest buzz encircling the Fashion Industry is on the ‘state of the circus,’ as legendary Fashion critic Suzy Menkes has coined it. There has understandably been an uproar amongst the blogging and street style community – the alleged ‘clowns’ altering the industry. That being said, it does bring up an interesting point, less on the topic of fashion’s new direction and more on the subject of what constitutes genuine style versus disingenuous ‘preening’ for the cameras.

 If Coco Chanel were alive, it is almost certain she would be the first to comment. After all, not only did she revolutionize the Fashion Industry at the time (much like bloggers are doing now) but she did it in the exact opposite way. She championed simplicity and classicism without the frills of the early 20th century style. Paris, pre-Chanel, saw high society women, actors and the rich and famous highly adorned with lace, bustiers, obnoxious hats and added fabric to unnecessary places. She walked in, tore the details from their seams and fashioned beautiful new clothes allowing for the woman to be complimented by her outfit, not controlled by it. As with anything new, there was an even mix of criticism and delight, affording her the perfect conditions to charge on as the most influential Fashion force of recent history.

Based on her own example, it seems she might be more aligned with the Suzy Menkes point of view, though perhaps not for the same reason. Ultimately, Chanel never seemed to care about the exclusion or inclusion of people into the world of Fashion as Ms. Menkes does in her article; she simply believed there was a better way to dress, period, ““Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” (Coco Chanel, So, if the person in question – be it a blogger, editor, etc. – abides by her established laws of good dressing regardless of end product, she would likely approve of it as she also believed that “in order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.” (Coco,

This tells us that for Chanel, style was not just about catching the eye with clothes; it was also in charming others; in having something to say and creating a life to be proud of. It was in essence a fashionable lifestyle and not something confined to her wardrobe. Perhaps that is what Ms. Menkes is trying to get at: not just that the street is a circus of ‘peacocks’ but also that the essence held by Chanel has been lost in the shift caused by the blogging and street style crowd.

At one point, Suzy Menkes argues that the so called ‘democracy of fashion’ is the element that removes the artistry from Fashion itself. If everyone is in on it, and if newbies can be considered style aficionados just by being a famous face or by shopping at Zara’s then does it not undermine the need for Fashion schools and specialized study? Does it not matter if the clothes are great so long as they are popular? Does the availability of trends to the masses remove the ability to have true original style in place of a contrived, copycat ensemble based off what absolutely everyone else is wearing? Perhaps she makes a point.

On the other hand, perhaps there is also the problem of assuming that because the current style is very trendy and highly patterned that it must be somehow disingenuous. That the only reason street style stars and bloggers are dressed this way is because everyone else is doing it and it’s the best way to get noticed. Maybe it should be considered that, just like in the time of Chanel, people are creating a new path through Fashion, one that says you finally have all the designer trends at your fingertips, why not make something of it?

Ultimately, it opens up many questions that seem to be more subjective than anything. Truly, can you claim to know what intention is behind how someone is dressed? Can you presume that this person before you is a wannabe peacock who only dresses in crazy current fashions just to be ‘spotted’? Or is it that they coincidentally happen to like the past 2 season looks? Or maybe they had that style all along and now everyone has caught up to them? Or, if one wants to dress in a simple outfit, a blazer + a thin blouse + black pants and pumps, does that make them style-less because there is nothing more to it? Whose decision is that to make?

Perhaps in the end, the people that become the sought after style icons are the ones that define and live by their own rules – and that stick to it season after season. Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, Jackie O: these people never deviate from their look and never follow trends. They set them, but they do not follow them. That is where the ‘essence’ of style comes from – having your own uniform. If you truly have style you’ll know because after 50 years has gone by and countless new styles introduced, we will continue to refer to a style of clothing by your name, as we continue to do with the eponymous Chanel suit.

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  1. April 7, 2013 / 6:04 pm

    I am so in love with this article! I have always wanted to express the feeling put but i cant seem to find the right words to it. I am reading this for the 3rd time now.

  2. Jon Miller
    April 7, 2013 / 8:14 pm

    Yes. A lot of the discourse on this topic is very classist at its core. Fashion only has value as defined by the way it excludes lower income people. Great article!

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