Speaking of Style: Fashion vs. Style

| By JeanAnn Taylor |

For the month of January, I wrote about the importance of determining your personal style and gave a few pointers on how you can use your signature style to make a positive impact. The February piece was about our First Ladies and how their style has influenced fashion throughout history. This month, I think it’s important to understand the actual meaning of the terms “fashion” and “style.” You can then use this knowledge to create a look that is both fashionable and authentically you.

JeanAnn Taylor | Photo: Sophia’s Perspective

These terms are often used interchangeably, and incorrectly, as they have different meanings. The first thing to understand is that there is nothing personal about fashion. Fashion is simply the trend of the moment. It is what fashion designers and buyers selfishly want you to wear. A particular ‘fashion’ can be flattering on most or unappealing on all.

Style is defined as a distinctive characteristic or expression. Personal style is determined by which look (bohemian, preppy, etc.) best expresses your personality. A particular style remains the same whether it is currently fashionable or not. For example, a slinky spandex catsuit was trendy in the 1970s. This ‘disco’ style is no longer ‘fashionable’ but it is still disco. Classic styles endure the test of time while fad-styles are short-lived. The cardigan sweater and shirtwaist dress exemplify classic style. Large shoulder pads and wearing ankle socks with heels are fads. Some fashions eventually become so accepted and commonplace, they become a style. An example is the Sweet Lolita* fad that became a Japanese style phenomenon.

It is generally true that people who dress in a similar manner are more approving of each other, and more critical of those who dress differently. Our craving for acceptance explains why many people adopt a particular fashion as their personal style even when it doesn’t resonate with their personality, lifestyle or body shape. While this is understandable, it is not desirable. A lack of authenticity can produce feelings of inadequacy and failure. Most of us would like to dress fashionably while also expressing our individuality. The essential key to this quest is knowing who you are.

To begin your journey of style-awareness, consider clothing you have worn in the past when you felt confident and authentic. Try to determine the elements of those garments that gave you the positive feelings. Was it the color, the silhouette, or the texture of the fabric? What were you doing when you wore them? Were you able to move freely and comfortably? Next, consider garments you have worn that made you feel as if you couldn’t wait to get home and change. What was it about those garments that took away your comfort and confidence? Was the blouse too tight in the bust, or the skirt just a little too short?

As you continue your quest to determine your personal style, consider your interests, hobbies, where you work, where you live, how athletic you are, how you like to socialize and how you like to relax. Add in your skin color and body type. All of these factors and characteristics weave together to create the real you and will help determine your signature style.

We make a statement and project an image every single day by our choice of clothing. If the labels in your closet say Channel, Dior, and Oscar de la Renta, your style is high fashion. If you choose to wear t-shirts with jeans everyday, your style is casual. Your style is not right or wrong, it is simply who you are. Staying true to yourself will give you confidence and leave a positive impression.

Getting dressed is something you do each and every day, so make it fun! When you look into an organized closet full of clothing that brings out your best features and true personality, you can fearlessly face the world.

*Sweet Lolita – A fashion subculture originating in Japan. Worn with opaque tights, the ruffled and lacy high-neck dresses are typically pastel colors of pink, peach, mint or lilac. Pretty ribbons and bows are used to accessorize this whimsical, girly, and sweet style.

JeanAnn Taylor is a style expert and home organizer. She can be reached at jeananntaylor119@gmail.com.

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker