Style vs. Fashion

Style vs. Fashion

Style vs. Fashion: Did these two finally file for divorce, and what have we lost from it?
Coco Chanel once said, fashion goes out of fashion, style never does. Yves Saint-Laurent often made an opposition between style and fashion and considered style as a woman’s unique expression of her inner nature. The fact that runway models are capable of fitting into any conceivable piece of designer garment — not to mention the infamous burlap sack/dress! — and wear it with style— is clearly not the definition of style.

Let’s not forget that models are transformation experts. Just like actors, the most talented among them know how to lend their bodies to a fashion designer’s vision. It should not come as a surprise that in real life, few models, if any, can pull off any look advantageously and that, I think, is sure proof that style stands above fashion and that, as Coco Chanel said in substance, when a woman is dressed with style, one sees the woman, not the dress. What is fashion really and was it invented? Did Frederick Worth, who introduced the concept of a collection in the second half of the 19th century, invent fashion? Style for one is natural. Fashion is by essence cultural, but the problem is, it is not just that any longer. Not all the designers who have shaped fashion over the last 150 years have been trapped in economic, social or cultural rules. We know for sure that Coco Chanel never surrendered to fashion!


In practical terms, fashion is merely about fabrics, colors, patterns, shapes, proportions, and the mixing thereof. However a new component of fashion has emerged over the last 30 years and for me, it is probably what killed fashion. I am talking about BRAND NAMES. Designers have been turned into brand names and it does not make any difference that fashion editors still celebrate the likes of Phoebe Philo or Hedi Slimane—or Karl—for their talent! These designers are merely employees of a brand. Today, fashion is primarily and almost exclusively about creating and maintaining a desirable brand name, even a brand of cheap clothing (mostly copied from high-end designer creations) that is mass produced by an exploited labor force in the newest (or shall I say, hottest) emerging country. Fashion has nothing to do anymore with who we are. Actually, it has become just the opposite. It is about what we believe we are, regardless of what others think but not in a good sense! It is more and more self-delusion, not independence or freedom. What a step back!


Style or the absence thereof should allow one to actually see, to some degree, the real person behind appearances. Nowadays a majority of people who dress fashionably have no sense of style. Let’s not be deceived by the multiplication of fashion blogs like the Sartorialist or Garance Doré. They do a great job of showing the diversity of urban styles throughout the modern world and it is these excellent bloggers and their readers’ capacity to somewhat tell between fashion and style that makes those blogs still interesting and fresh, as opposed to magazines that mostly show branded images.


When fashion editors talk about new trends, they should recognize that style is absent from consideration, but, hey, their job is really to sell magazines and create a desire for novelty to buy (generally a rehash of a few seasons back). That is how editors sacrifice style to fashion. Style cannot be dictated by others simply because one person’s style cannot be duplicated; style is not even cultural. Style makes people stand apart whereas fashion only demonstrates their tendency to be blind followers.For me, that undeniably tells something preoccupying about the state of our evolution after decades of self-introspection (“knowing thyself”, “finding oneself”, etc).


Although an individual’s style can vary over time, we each have one style at a given time, not a multitude of styles. Fashion editors would have us believe otherwise for mere economic reasons.


For a long time, being fashionably dressed essentially meant looking stylish, not the other way round.

Why? Because style was an extension of one’s personality, the translation into their clothing that the wearer knew themselves physically and mentally and how to dress accordingly, whereas fashion was the result of a designer’s conception of an ideal woman or a man relayed by style influencers. That distinction seems to have generally eroded as more people like to dress similarly and regardless of fit, for various reasons that all point to the loss of people’s ability to define their style.


Is it a significant fact that women are more avid fashion magazine readers and more prone to accepting fashion flimsy diktats than men? Most men, however vain and addicted to fashion, never seem to have completely fallen prey to fashion rules. Women, who struggled for freedom of opinion and independence and fight to maintain them, still so readily accept aesthetic standards (only to complain about them) that we need to wonder honestly if it’s the genetic or culturally engrained need for a “master” that makes women so hopelessly addicted to fashion.


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