People often comment on my style, sometimes with admiration, often derision and occasionally outright alarm. An old lady once stopped me in the street to ask if I was going to a ball, I told her that no, I wasn’t attending a ball – actually a barbecue. She was so befuddled by my answer that she accosted some passers by to ask then if they thought I looked like I dressed for a ball, they agreed with her. The only way to placate the old dear was to change my story and say yes, I was indeed attending a ball, with a six pack of Magners under my arm. True story.
My inability to dress appropriately for any given occasion should deter me from dolling out unsolicited style advice, but what I should do is rarely what I do do. I was going to title this post ‘The Five Fashion Commandments’, but that feels altogether too despotic, so I’ll opt for the more humble, less dogmatic term ‘suggestions’.
1) Firstly and fore-mostly, don’t fret about what others think of your clothes. If you like it, wear it and do so with unequivocal conviction. This doesn’t just apply to fashion; society will always want you to conform to it’s view of what is acceptable – don’t. The reason people do this is to satisfy their need for uniformity. If someone stands out, even for good reasons, it makes the people around them skittish – society (i.e. your family and social peer group) want the status quo to remain un-molested. Their normality is their’s and not yours – don’t be dragged down by the tyranny of ‘normal’. Remember, haters gonna hate.
2) Never wear one look, by this I mean dressing head to toe in one designer or trend. You’ll look like you’re in costume, or a clone, or both. Mix it up: be it sequins and ripped denim, leather with silk or tartan and taffeta – contrast is what keeps style interesting. Keep the colours vaguely in the same tonal family and you’re good to go. It can be as simple as adding an unexpected flash of colour or a quirky piece of jewellery. Be vibrant and brave, not dull and generic. Coco Chanel once said ‘In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.’ Far be it from me to dispute that kind of iron clad wisdom.
3) There’s no such thing as effortless chic. People who seem to have fallen out of bed, picked up a some rumpled clothes off the floor and miraculously look great have actually spent hours perfecting their artful dishevelment. Don’t ever be conned into thinking that people with great style don’t work hard at it – they do. The trick is to appear that you’ve not tried – the key here is not to aim for perfection, if an outfit is entirely immaculate it looks contrived and unnatural. Allow a little scruffiness in, it softens the edges and makes you look more approachable.
4) Buy vintage and second hand. Lots of people aren’t into vintage because they associate it with musty smelling jumble sales. That’s not an entirely inaccurate preconception, however, when you unearth a fashion gem from the detritus you’ll come to realise that vintage shopping is awesome. I’ve bought lots of stuff over the years that’s brilliant, unique and cheap as chips. However vintage shopping can be overwhelming, particularly when the good stuff is interspersed with tatty rubbish. The best way of losing you vintage virginity is by starting small – vintage jewellery or accessories work beautifully with a modern look.
5) Spend wisely. It’s better to have fewer, great pieces than piles of poorly made junk. In the age of throw away fashion we’re encouraged to constantly buy new stuff, as a result our wardrobes full to bursting with sub-standard clothes. There are a few key pieces that are always useful – a tailored blazer, a chic blouse, perfectly fitting jeans, a black dress, a pair of boots and a classic handbag. The basics are never the most inspiring clothes, but they’re sound investments that can be used as a back drop to statement pieces. They don’t have to be expensive designer items but get the best you can afford, you’ll thank yourself for it.