Fashion Versus Style

Main Entry:

1 a: the make or form of something
2 a
: a distinctive or peculiar and often habitual manner or way b: mode of action or operation
3 a: a prevailing custom, usage, or style b (1): the prevailing style (as in dress) during a particular time (2): a garment in such a style c: social standing or prominence especially as signalized by dress or conduct
Main Entry:
2 a: a distinctive manner of expression (as in writing or speech) b: a distinctive manner or custom of behaving or conducting oneself style of the court c: a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed
4: a distinctive quality, form, or type of something
5 a
: the state of being popular b: fashionable elegance c: beauty, grace, or ease of manner or technique

OK, I’ll admit to tidying up those Meriam Webster definitions, since the definition of “style” that pertains to the reproductive organs of flowers is irrelevant to this little ramble. But take a look at the leftover bits, if you would, because they call out a subtle difference between these two terms.

Fashion and style aren’t often used interchangeably, but they are often uttered in the same breath. And – both in sanctioned dictionary definition and casual common use – they are quite different concepts.

Fashion has to do with prevalence, as is highlighted above. Fashion is popularity, acceptance, and prominence. Fashion is impersonal and distant. It is lofty and untouchable and not really for you, but instead for a select few creators and wearers that you may never encounter in real life. And although the word “fashion” can also describe a way of doing things, that’s not the usage we see on magazine racks and televisions and websites, is it? The usage linked to clothing and beauty and women – the usage we hear almost daily – is the one that encompasses “social standing.” To me fashion is an unfriendly, unwelcoming term that has no room for personal expression. Instead, it signifies following orders from a group of bossy mavens far, far removed from the desires of regular human women.

I am much more interested in the concept of style. As the definitions above point out, style is about distinctiveness, expression, and technique. Style may be influenced by fashion, but it’s much more active and personal. Style is a manner of doing. Style is the way you chose to present yourself to the world. Fashion is following, but style is choice.

If you are aware of your own personal style, you probably don’t feel the need to run out and purchase every single item that the clothing, shoe, and accessory industries demand you own. You’re able to evaluate trends based on how they will or will not suit your own distinctive look. You control your image, and adjust that image based on your own judgment, not mandates issued from famous people and corporate entities that know nothing about you.

Learning to know yourself is a lifelong process, and has more to do with personality and relationships than it does with skirts and necklaces. However, exercising control over your style can be a very tangible, artistic, and deeply personal way of expressing your inner self to the outer world. Even if you feel stifled in other areas of your life, hopefully, you are able to choose what you wear each morning. You shop for yourself and choose items that you like, items that suit you, and items that make visible statements about your likes and dislikes. What you wear and how you express yourself through your personal style reveal a tiny little slice of your inner self
to the observing world. And it’s worth contemplating which slice that will be, and how you want it to manifest.

So forget fashion. What’s your style?

Originally posted 2008-05-04 20:43:00.

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