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Saturday, 7 January 2012

Tumbling Bay Ponders: Style

I’m sitting at a café overlooking the busy suburban streets.  I’m watching a woman wearing the furriest gilet imaginable as she’s tugging along her two small children, and sporting many carrier bags at the same time.  Take the children away and the carrier bags and this woman looks spectacular.  Her black jeans tucked into high-heeled tan boots, her black roll neck jumper underneath the stuffed chinchilla, teamed with her long, brown hair are a picture of style perfection. On its own, this is stunning.  However, mix in two toddlers, one hundred chores and a sprint to beat the traffic warden to the car, and this fashionable item turns into an impractical mess.  The gilet is what really makes the outfit and is bang on trend, but even I can see she’s sweltering underneath it.  It’s stylish, but not quite right.

When I was younger, I used to think that in order to be deemed as stylish you need to follow what’s on the catwalks and change make-up styles accordingly to what’s in, to reveal a model perfection conclusion.  You soon realise how wrong this impression is.

Right across from me is a group of three girls – all fabulously stylish as if they’ve walked out of the set of Gossip Girl.  But not one of these young ladies is dressed the same as the other.  In fact, on closer inspection, they are all completely different.  A style that looks spectacular on one, does not mean it would look just as magnificent on someone else.  What’s apparent is that personality overwhelms style.  It just can’t help sticking its nose in it.  And rightly so.  Whether we’re an Audrey Hepburn or a Lady Gaga, personal styles give strangers that precious ten second impression of you without handing over a 500 page biography of yourself.

What made my style develop was university.  Living in a predominantly high street town, it’s difficult to find clothes that most other girls don’t own.  In a valley of Topshop dolls you have no choice but to find cute, little boutiques that others haven’t discovered yet.  Either that or learn to sew.  It turned out that learning to sew was much easier (and cheaper).  It’s when you start customising clothes that you realise just how much personality reflects your style.

Fashion is ever-changing.  Each season brings us new trendy presents to play around with, and as the years roll on styles are grouped under the ‘decade’ umbrella. The twentieth century contains some of the most diverse and iconic styles – some classic and timeless (the 1920’s) and some that only the brave and/or drunk have enough courage to master (the 1980’s).  As soon as we mention to people which of these fashionable decades we prefer, they automatically have our personality sussed.  The 70’s represent a free spirit, while the 50’s represent a feminine elegance.  Here alone portrays how much style is truly tainted by personality.

As children we love dressing up, whether we opt for the pink, glittering princess or a boyish pirate, delving into costumes (that years later our mother finds incriminating pictures of to show our boyfriend of two weeks) is part of any child’s life.  And even as adults we never truly let go of that.  Be it the gothic or the floral prints, fashion and style let us revert to those innocent childhood days, allowing us to be anyone we want.  Granted, some of us actually take this literally and never let go of the glittering princess look (girls on a night out waving children’s fairy wands spring to mind), but for the most part stylish dress-ups are pretty sane.

To me this is what style is; having the opportunity to be something different.  Erasing the punky look of yesterday and embracing the nautical look of today.  Style says that there’s no need to play it safe or stick with one look.  You can be a story book of different characters.

At fourteen I used to think I was truly blessed to be female.  Girls get such a choice of alternatives from hair colour, to mix and match outfits, to different make-up.  And what do boys get?  A shirt and jeans combination, a stick of deodorant and some ‘wet look’ hair gel, and even that with all its simplicity they somehow get wrong.  I love how one day we can play it safe with skinny jeans and a boyfriend blazer, whilst the next we can throw on a sophisticated, little black dress look. Different styles allow the opportunity to be creative without being a Picasso or a Mozart.  Style is art, and everyone expresses it differently.

I have a friend whose idea of being risky is changing her hair colour from chestnut brown to mahogany brown and that’s as far as she’d go.  But for fashion junkies, style can be a cocktail of adrenalin – each outfit, colour, pattern gives that quick fix.  For some, there is nothing like the feeling of stepping into a room, all eyes averting to their eclectic mix of fashion.  For others, what’s truly pleasing is wearing a style that allows them to fit right in with the rest.  Whether we’re risk averse or desperately craving that fashion adrenalin boost, different styles allow us to be a chameleon; to select from a vast palette of disguises.

Style is something that everyone has, it’s just that some people let it flow freely, others hold back, too risk averse to embrace it.  No matter how you express it, there’s no style that’s wrong.  Unless it’s an oversized fury gilet on a boiling, sunny day.

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