In September 2016, I wrote a blog post titled ‘Lost your personal style? Here’s how to get it back’. I’m not sure what qualified me to be giving such instruction, but I went on to suggest looking back at old photos to see what you love, and - can you guess what’s coming? - to start a Pinterest board of inspo images. *le sigh*
Later in 2017, I wrote ‘Dress for your style, not your shape’, a piece which, alongside declaring a big fuck you to the Trinny & Susannah era of determining what should be worn based on whether you’re an apple, a pear, a triangle or square (I used the same rhyme in my original post and I’m not ashamed), celebrated choice and confidence in the arena of everyday dressing.
Fast forward once more to 2018, and here we are discussing personal style again. I’d like to start by saying that in both 2016 and 2017 I had no idea what my personal style was, let alone anybody else’s, and I have to confess that I still don’t. In fact, I’m not even sure that personal style is a ~ thing ~. And does it matter if it is anyway?
I often get asked to describe my personal style in three words or less, and I tend to default to the same old faithfuls: simple, comfortable and classic. But actually, I don’t think those words summarise me well. For one, simple really means lazy. I’m a lazy dresser, and if the styling goes much beyond ‘I guess I could put this top with these trousers?’, then I’m lost. Secondly, I like to be comfortable, but I persist in wearing shoes that give me blisters when I know a pair of trainers would be much, much kinder to my feet. Thirdly, when I say classic, I think I’m circling back to simple and guessing that if I wear a plain black tee most days, I won’t look back on photos of myself and question whether I’d been let loose on the balloons before getting dressed.
I'm of the belief that we all cycle through a number of different personalities. Sometimes I feel like an extra lazy bastard, in which case I'll put on the same jeans I've been wearing for four days and any t-shirt that doesn't smell faintly of fake tan or armpit sweat. Sometimes I feel like a rich divorcee, and I'll put on a maxi dress with some bougie pearl earrings and a neck scarf. Sometimes I feel like Shoreditch personified, and I'll put on wide leg trousers, a baggy jumper from Keiran's wardrobe and a phat pair of ugly trainers. What I wear is so dependent on my mood and the weather and what I'm doing and who I want to appear to be on any given day, that having a consistent sense of "personal style" seems difficult. And a little bit pointless, too.
This is probably why I hate choosing clothes for other people. I'm great at finding options online (I spend a lot of time in the New In sections of all of our high street faves, as you can imagine), but when it comes to actually suggesting a style or a colour or a combination of items? I'm useless. A little bit of me panics inside whenever I'm asked 'what do you think would look good with this?', mostly because I routinely default to black with everything (there's that lazy dresser coming out again), but also because if I don't know what my own personal style is, I'm really shooting in the dark trying to guess somebody else's.
Clothes have this amazing transformative power to help you feel and express certain aspects of who you are as a person. They can act as non-verbal communications to the world around you, boost your confidence, help you form relationship with other people - they're quietly incredible.
On the other hand, however, sometimes they're just clothes. What you wear doesn't have to be an eternal representation of your identity at all times - it doesn't even have to relate to it. If you traditionally stick to monochrome but one day your head is turned by a fluorescent yellow t-shirt (lol hello me), then you aren't compromising on your "personal style". You're just wearing a really fucking bright t-shirt. And if you look back on it next week and think 'what on earth was I doing?', then so be it. There simply isn't such a thing as a fashion faux pas - it's just fluidity of taste and the natural desire to try different things.
This is probably about the seventh time that I've written a post about how style doesn't matter and how you should just wear whatever the heck you want, but amidst all of the bougie Instagram shots, meatier think pieces and round-ups of my favourite New In bits, sometimes I just want to repeat that. I think there's an unspoken hierarchy amongst fashionistas and influencers that sees those who have a more defined "personal style" as somehow being more attuned to themselves; a little more chic, a little more mature. But I think that's bullshit. There's nothing wrong with trying a trend, deciding you like taffeta tutus one day and then changing your mind the next. It doesn't mean you're any less at one with who you are as a person, just that person you are is as complex as the Government Gateway Self-Assessment portal.
So to summarise: no, I don't really know what personal style is, no, I don't think it matters, and YES, you should buy that entirely out-of-character midi dress adorned with bells and sequins. The beautiful thing about clothes? You can just take them off, anyway.