Style vs Fashion

The terms “style” and “fashion” are typically used interchangeably; however, the two actually have their own distinct meanings. While it may seem like a petty point (you might be saying “who cares, anyways? They seem the same to me”), I believe this difference is actually quite significant. In fact, because of importance of these terms, and the general tendency to confuse the two, I’ve decided to dedicate a post to an elaboration of the style-versus-fashion dialectic of State of DisDress.

The difference between style and fashion was succinctly delineated by Yves Saint Laurent; to quote his own wise words, “fashions fade; style is eternal.” At heart, “fashion” is the clothes we buy, while “style” is how you, uniquely, put an outfit together. Here’s the breakdown: fashion is dictated by trends, which come and go by season. Past fashions are often recycled and refreshed for current looks (think: the recent re-surfacing of slip dresses, mom jeans, chokers, and denim skirts that look as if they’re straight out of an episode of Friends). Fashion isn’t unique to the individual – for the most part, big retailers sell more or less the same thing, so you’ll see comparable items of clothing on basically everyone. It can good to pay attention to fashions if you’re aiming to look current; however, if you want to have real style, dressing trendy head-to-toe won’t do the trick. Here’s why: style isn’t just the clothes you buy, but how you combine individual pieces together to cultivate a cohesive look that’s unique to you. Fashion in and of itself is just clothing; style is the entire outfit.

What’s cool about style is that it is your own distinct vehicle of genuine self-expression. You get to show the world a little of yourself every day simply by getting dressed every morning. This is the reason that appareling oneself solely in trendy items doesn’t achieve true style: trends are by definition what everyone else is wearing, so it isn’t an accurate reflection of your own unique tastes. After all, this is why they’re are called “trends” in the first place, right?

The fact that style is not fashion’s equivalent is good news for two reason. First off, fashions change. A LOT. If you dressed only in all-trends-all-the-time, you’d have to buy an entirely new wardrobe every time a new season rolls around. I don’t know about you, but there’s seriously no way I’d be able to afford that (#brokepostgrad #someonepleasehireme). However, we’re all in luck: fashion can cost big bucks, but style is free to everyone. Second, style is great because the process of developing your own style is fun! At least I think so, and I assume you do too if you’re here (and if not, then we’ve got ourselves a whole different discussion; but at risk of turning this into a dissertation we’ll save that one for another time).

One note that absolutely needs to be added here is that trends are not all bad. I’m not purporting that one must reject fashion point-blank and go all ~counter-culture~ in order have style. In fact, updating your wardrobe with a few fresh picks every season can be a wise way to keep your closet looking current. However, those who are comfortable in their own sense of style will pick and choose from current trends so as to select those that align with their personal aesthetic. Pulling certain trends to augment your look is an example of style; wearing ONLY trendy items because you don’t know what you like is merely a way of substituting fashion for style.

So there you have it. In essence it all boils down to this: fashion can be bought; style cannot. But the best part (in my opinion) is that while style can’t be purchased, it can be cultivated! I’m excited to share and develop my own style with all of you, and look forward to seeing and learning about your style as well.


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