How to Have Style

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I would like to thank Polly from my French Chic group for bringing my attention to this article from I think this is an amazing article that really defines style and how it is different from fashion and not a superficial, stupid characteristic to possess. Many times I feel I have to apologize for having a blog about style, thinking people find me to be materialistic and silly to care so much about such a subject. But style is not stupid, materialistic, or silly and Hara Estroff Marano defines style quite perfectly in this article. Enjoy!

How to Have Style
Unlike fashion, a sense of style comes from within.
By: Hara Estroff Marano

It’s clear to me from the many people I talk to that there is a great misunderstanding about style. Style is not a price. It is not an age. It is not a size. And it can be learned.

Style is one part self-knowledge and one part self-confidence. In other words, it’s an attitude. It is a life-affirming expression of your character and spirit, a conviction that you are worth knowing, worth looking at and can present yourself well. It is knowing your strengths and weaknesses so that you can accentuate your strengths, not hide real or imagined shortcomings. Feeling good about yourself is a sine qua non of looking good.

There is one more element of style, and that is clothes, but style should never be confused with fashion. Fashion is synonymous with clothes, but style is merely expressed through clothes. Fashion is IN the clothes. Style is IN the wearer.

Style is nothing if not a celebration of individuality, of individual variability. It glorifies the fact that we are all different. It exposes as preposterous the notion that there is an ideal body, an ideal woman—that there is only one perfect way to look, that any one way is perfect for all
women. Style always delights because it is a revelation that the possibilities for originality are limitless.

Style rejects ideals. It goes its own way. In fact, style is nothing if not a triumph of the fresh and unusual.

Style is democratic. It assumes that every woman has the potential to create an identity that’s unique, and to express it through how she carries herself, how she grooms herself, what she puts on.

Yet style is aristocratic. It sets apart those who have it from those whose dress is merely functional, utilitarian. It announces to the world that the wearer has a sense of herself and has assumed command of herself.

Style is intelligent, because it requires self-knowledge. Style hugs the self closely, even though it never represents the whole self at one time. The self is too complex to be represented by any one way of dressing.

Style is optimistic. It is optimism made visible. Style presumes that you are a person of interest, that the world is a place of interest, that life is worth making the effort for.

There is no style without taking risk, without exploring new sides of the self, without saving what works and discarding the errors. Style, then, is a springboard for personal growth.

There are those who criticize style for its trendiness and materialistic consumption. But they are confusing style with fashion. Fashion is preoccupied with change merely for change’s sake, to stoke consumer purchases.

Style is in fact a way of avoiding the clutter of stuff. It is a way of sorting through the crowded marketplaces, a way of selecting, making choices influenced not so much by pressures such as advertising but by internal considerations. This kind of style no more requires change from season to season that does your character. But neither is it completely static. Ideally it should evolve over time, as character does.

Style is really self-knowledge applied selectively—selectivity is its essence—to the material world.

for Success, 20 November 2003
Last Reviewed 29 Mar 2006
Article ID: 3123

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Great post–for those of us without model perfect bodies and too much cash to throw away on trends, this makes so much sense. I have always tried to focus on style rather than fashion, since I’m 5’0″ and round-ish, and now over 40 (talk about the Death Valley of clothing: if you don’t want to look like one of the Golden Girls or simply frumpy, you are spot out of luck!). By the way, take a look at the most recent post by The Frugal Duchess: she talks sense about trends, toxic chemicals in cosmetics, and body image in ads!

  2. Love this article because in the last year or so I’ve really “gotten” this concept. I edited my wardrobe mercilessly, and now I’m very picky about what I add. I ask if it’s “me,” if it’s functional, if I truly want to live in it or if I just liked the ad. I walk out of a store more often now without buying anything, and I feel so great that I am finding my own style and sticking with it.

    Also, on the subject of style/fashion being frivilous–it’s true that it’s not as important as food or shelter, but clothing transports me. It makes me feel like a 40s bombshell or a Grecian goddess. And that’s just plain fun.

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