Fashion Trends vs. Personal Style

Fashion continues to captivate us throughout the decades, and taking a fashion course or just spending a little time observing the culture will teach you that nothing is truly new.  Trends come and go as they are dictated from one season to the next, and the pendulum of obsession will swing from one style to another.  But every new look is a recreation or combination of things that have already been established in the fashion world.  So, if nothing is new, but each person is unique, how can we develop our own sense of personal style?  First, let’s clarify what we define as style and trend, shall we?

A trend is a created desire for a particular silhouette, pattern, accessory, or combination of these things dictated by those who influence our culture.  Designers, celebrities, fashion editors, and now bloggers all possess the power which they exert to highlight the looks that soon catch on and the public becomes insatiably hungry for the next “new” thing.  In the fast paced, high fashion world, trends tend to run for one to two seasons as that particular item enjoys its proverbial 15 minutes of fame and those with influence show us the variety of ways to use that trend.  However, trickling from the runway to the streets of America, a trend can run in one to three year cycles of popularity among the population, later fading into fashion history or becoming a staple element to a group’s personal standard of fashion.  For instance, we associate the 1950s with A-line midi skirts, cardigan sweaters, and the classic red lips and red nail polish that was the main color women had to accessorize with.  For the 80s, the most memorable fabric pattern was tie dye and permed hair was often styled with barrettes.  In the 2000s, synthetic fabrics, chokers, frosted lip gloss, mini skirts, and crop tops were riding the wave of re-engineered popularity.  And now, in the 10s, we are experiencing modern takes on many of these contemporary trends.  For instance 80s tie dye has evolved from those nostalgic radial patterns into the various binding and dyeing techniques of Japanese shibori.  From decade to decade or classic standard to ingenious recreations, a trend will ebb and flow throughout our culture with the tide of fashion’s vast sea of creative ideas.

While trends come and go, style is a personal possession of fashion sense with a longer-lasting statement that expresses one’s personality and preference.  Most often, it is typical to blend more than one style for a complete expression of one’s taste, while some choose very particular lines, patterns, silhouettes, and accessories that make a distinct expression.  By personalizing these fashion styles, we express our inner selves.  Here is where we make our marks and express who we are to the world.  In order to illustrate a portrait of the characteristics of style, here are two examples of very different and distinct expressions of personality: preppy and bohemian.

Preppy is often described as tailored, groomed, and classic.  In fact, upon entering the term “classic fashion” on Pinterest, most of the images returned are easily recognizable preppy looks!  The preppy look is often associated with monograms and pearls, ballet flats and riding boots, tailored blazers, button-ups, knee skirts, plaid scarves, and perhaps some distinct fabrics and prints like seersucker and gingham.  Although the particular way of styling this look might change with age, varying from bows in her hair to an Ann Taylor rewards card, the preppy woman is a distinct and classic lady that knows her preference for clean lines, close fits, and bright colors.

Bohemians are on the other end of the spectrum, often described as free-spirited and earthy.  A boho girl will prefer over-sized garments such as tunics and a flowing silhouette like a maxi dress, and if you peer into her closet, you will find earthy tones, funky accessories, and maybe even a jewelry dish filled with moonstone, druzy, or turquoise.  Her favorite shops might include Lucky Brand, Free People, or Anthropologie, where she incorporates her style in her fashion as well as her home. Floral prints, neutrals, and understated, cool colors are her forte, and her laid-back style makes her stand out as a woman all her own.

So how do you shape your personal sense of style?  Remember, it isn’t about what you must or must not do according to someone else’s rules.  The entire point of fashion is to be yourself. While a trend is an inspiration to recreate and reinvigorate your creativity, your personal style should never be capitalized on whatever is the current trend.  Your personality isn’t a trend; you are a unique and gifted individual, therefore your style should be, as well.   Lilly Pulitzer expressed it perfectly: “Being happy never goes out of style.”  If you’re happy and confident, you will show it in your sense of style!

As we all know, the fashion world and trends are set up such that designers create new looks that hit the runway, and celebrities, fashion editors, and other fashionistas then begin to use their influence to dictate what will trickle down to the general public.  But where do these influencers get their inspiration or make their decisions?  You got it: their personal taste!  There is no difference between you and Anna Wintour or the movie star that everyone wants to emulate.  The runway or fashion editorial’s true purpose is to generate new ideas to inspire you The runway, color of the year, and trending articles are ALL to give you inspiration on a new way to express yourself.  Imagine your style as a canvas — no one likes to paint the same picture over and over for years!  Your personality is your paintbrush and technique of styling yourself, and the changing trends are ways to constantly inspire your creativity and add color and dimension to your personal style canvas!

So what is the framework for navigating the world of trends and style?  If you want to know how to command your own sense of expression and how to use a trend to inspire your own style, then remember these important tips:

The first step to possessing personal style is to know what looks good on you.  There are numerous silhouettes and styles that I adore (pencil skirts, peplum tops, and pants with stripes or floral patterns), but once I put them on, I’m not excited at all about the way it looks on me.  I begin to notice the areas it over accentuates or does not flatter, and suddenly it isn’t as appealing as it was on the hanger or in the photo.  Shopping online is especially tempting to make you think, “well maybe THIS one will be different.”  But trust yourself!  If you repeatedly have found something to not be as exciting to you on your person as it was in theory, save your money or go buy something fabulous that has proven to be tried and true for you!  Don’t get hung up on what doesn’t work for you, and start channeling your creativity towards styling the looks that DO work for you!

This second tip modifies the first: know what works for you, but don’t let an area of insecurity shadow your confidence and creativity!  If you want to be stronger, sleeker, etc, then do whatever you can to strengthen your confidence in a healthy way!  But don’t let a garment be your motivation.  Your health and beauty far outweigh the “need” to fit into those skinny jeans, and that size 2 romper is too small and narrow a goal for you to live for!  Life is too short to hide in your closet, afraid to be bold enough to wear something unconventional, and unconventional creativity is where style really begins!

So tell me… what style would you like to see more of?  How would you describe your personal style?


~ A note from the author, Sydney: Thank you so much for visiting Walker Boutique’s blog!  This topic is close to my heart, because after studying fashion as part of my college degree, I learned quite a bit about the sociology of fashion.  Although I can nerd out over silhouettes, construction, and my favorite designers (Hi, Jenny Packham!), what has stayed with me for years is the battle to enjoy trends without sacrificing our dignity or who we are in our own personalities.  It is innate in women to make things lovely, whether that means decorating our homes or styling ourselves, and far too many live in confusion about the “rules,” or become frustrated in navigating the trends.  My hope is that your inner beauty, wonderful personality, and distinct perspective will embolden you to dictate your own expression of fashion and to feel the freedom to be who you want to be.  Wear the outfit, don’t let it wear you!  Have a wonderful week and come see us next Wednesday for our next topic!

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