Impersonal Elements of "Personal Style"

Image: Elle Magazine

          Image: Elle Magazine

There are few things in life that cause me mental angst; a kind of worry that builds up in my jaw, like a tightly wound rubber band. With each straining thought and it feels like whole thing might pop! “This … is your brain on drugs.” No, actually this is more like my brain clearly over analytical as a young lady over important issues, the vain things in life: style and clothes. What can I say, I’m a woman. You could say we women are entitled to stress over such insignificant matters, right? Okay, well obviously not to the point of resembling someone with a methamphetamine addiction. (Speaking of addictions, clearly someone has been spending too much time catching up on a certain show on Netflix.) Initially I wasn’t sure what the root cause of such heightened concnern was, but when it comes to a woman’s style and her sense of worth, well let’s just say we have issues. OK, I have issues. When physical tension was becoming the result of endless worry over what to wear , what I “needed,” and what was currently “in,” clearly it was time to deal with the issue. There came a point I had to ask myself, “Who am I dressing for?” 

While fashion changes every year, one thing doesn’t: our female awareness of what’s in fashion and what’s in our closets. Even worse is our acute awareness of what other women wear and what they think about what we’re wearing. (Yes, we care about these things.) Style, first intended to be a means of self expression, has become more of an expression of who others might accept us or admire us to be. Expressing our “true self” typically falls somewhere far below meeting the current trends and norms to gain the attention we desire.

In college it use to be that I solely based what was “in” by what Johanna was wearing (our campus’ fashion-forward, blonde, barbie-doll-of-a-student) or by studying the latest J.Crew catalogue. Now with thousands of style diary blogs, shopping guide magazines like Lucky and InStyle and daily fashion updates on our Tumblr and Apps, how can we go wrong, right? While this new world of fashion news (now holding up it’s own section in The New York Times) should make today’s woman feel equipped and dressed-to-kill, it ultimately leaves many of us with more to want and more to base our self-worth on.  There are bloggers all around the world (their hobby now turned to full time careers) who continue to defy what was thought to be “fashionable” and define what ought to be “fashionable.” Such “Satorialist” (a person who practices or is interested in the tailoring of clothing) communities, who’s style-stalker photography blog is like eye-candy for anyone like myself, moves as rapidly as a New York Fashion show; it comes early in September 2012, to tell us what to be ready-to-wear by next Spring 2013. 

Since our economic decline, this new wave of “Personal Style” has taken off with the flood of such style sources online. In many ways it has allowed fashion to become more accessible to us. Designer’s are now eager to collaborate with lower distributors like Target, Top Shop or J. Crew (though not all might be so low-end to some of us) giving more of us a chance to wear trends that wouldn’t have been in our reach ten years ago.  But how is my “personhood” being expressed if I’m so highly concerned with meeting current trends? Maybe I make the whole fashion-thing more complicated an issue than it should be. (Though I would personally take the Baroque Flourishes.) Let me rephrase that earlier suggestion: I do make fashion out to be more difficult than it should be. While it is the idea that your individual characteristics shine through your wardrobe, the basic elements of “Personal Style” are inevitably based a trendsetters, making closets like my own, along with middle-class-can-barely-pay-my-bills women of the world, feel inferior. But do we choose to feel inferior, not only by sizing up ourselves by what we wear, but wearing what we do to impress other women? 

This “Personal Style” should be much more appeasing to women, but we like to copy what we see, attempt to wear “what she was wearing” in an attempt to look “like her” or gain “her” approval; “her” being this mammoth awareness of fashion in our current culture, or the women we covet and desire envy from. (Yes, women desire to be envied; a conniving component of our sex that certainly would lead to other questions and discussions.) Women love to watch other women. Maybe as much, or more than men do, though for entirely different reason. I mean to refer to straight women checking out other women, gawking out of jealously, disgust or whatever have you. It’s like an unspoken disease many of us carry, as is our “need” to follow what is “fashionable” to maintain acceptance.

We can us allow this thing called Fashion, a personal expression, to become a pressure that brings unnecessary worry to our lives and unwanted lines to our faces; concerns over amount of likes on Instagram and hunger for comments on Facebook, are becoming a rating system we enable for our self-worth. Females are funny creatures, that seemed to be more concerned with dressing to impress women more than express themselves, more than even men at times. If women were to get to the root of why we work so hard to maintain a certain image, and began to dress for ourselves, truly catering to our own personas and tastes, we may find our style would look entirely different from what “she” is wearing. But, if it’s “personal style” who cares what “she” thinks.