“I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men.” These are the words of Marlene Dietrich. Who knows better than her on how to become an icon of style? Fashion and style. These two words are always together, like an inseparable couple. To me, they are like sun and moon, black and white, fire and water. They cannot be together and they cannot be without each other either.
The simplest definition of fashion is ‘a popular trend’ and style, ‘a manner of doing something’. I always went with these specific definitions of these two words. In my personal opinion, to be popular and wear what is popular would not give me a sense of satisfaction. I always wanted to be affiliated with a style that is specific to me and up to date. It does not always mean to wear exactly what is fashionable during that time.
I started my journey as a child by watching. I watched everything and everyone. I was curious how specific outfits fit different types of figure. Sometimes it was good, sometimes – a disaster. It made me very interested in fabric. I was thinking that depending on a fabric used, some disasters could have been prevented. What a smart child I was… I especially liked watching what my mom was wearing. I loved going through her clothes and picking what would suit me the most. I would always finish the ensemble with the appropriate hair, make-up and shoes. Just like my mom did. And still does.
Soon after that, as my body was changing, my understanding of what I wanted to wear and how I wanted to look changed too. Maybe, it was not a change itself. It was more likely a transformation. I started understanding what made me look better and what looks were not mine at all. I started developing that feeling or sense, which made me happy or not at all by the way I looked. And later on- the way I lived. Very quickly, I understood that to dress nicely and act poorly was not my style at all. I did not like inappropriate behavior and it was clear to me that it has to be part of that satisfaction that I received from my appearance. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t have fun. I did. I just did it with my own understanding of how it should be done. I guess that’s when I started working on my own style. That part of my journey brought me to the 18th century, understanding of tea parties in England, research of my mother’s relatives who were Russian nobility. And again, I was amazed by my mother. I started believing that whatever she knows was in her blood. Nobody had to teach her how to be stylish and always look fabulous. It also gave me hope that I might have inherited at least some of that wisdom.
I continued experimenting, and it brought me to different TV shows and fashion books. I was amazed by how many resources are out there. And the more my knowledge grew, the more I was thinking that not many either had access to these resources or thought they needed any guidance. I could not afford spending thousands of dollars on something I would wear once or twice. And I didn’t expect it from others. But I knew that there were affordable great options and I could not understand why not everybody would want to take advantage of those. There were only a few I would look at and appreciate their style sense. It made me think of Albert Einstein’s famous quote all the time : ‘A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?’.
Finally, I was smart enough and had this conversation with my mom. I was afraid at first that she would not be able to understand my concerns. But as always, she made me feel so comfortable and content. I asked her many questions, and I remember all her answers so well. The most important was the advice she gave me: Not to run after fashion, but adopt fashion to my own needs and style. At first, I was confused. I could not understand the difference in those terms. And even more – how they applied to me. That is when it hit me. I finally understood that whatever ‘sense’ I developed was my own, personal style. I knew how to be fashionable and I did it in my own way. I didn’t have to like what I saw and now I knew what I didn’t like. I didn’t like that everyone was wearing the same things, the same way. And it didn’t matter if it was not complementing their complexion, skin or hair. It was a very inspiring realization. I understood that I could make a difference by encouraging them to personalize their style and their lives. And all I had to do is be myself and keep developing my own style.
Understanding of your own style comes with a lot of work and experience. This challenge is everlasting. But that is the beauty of it. It is a personal achievement that can be shared with others. Style is something that can be shared and passed on. But at the same time, it is something very personal and individualized. It includes all the human characteristics. You might not like someone personally, but you might respect them for their sense of style. In case of doubt, search for inspiration. Do your research. Ask questions. Educate yourself. And the most important, do not be afraid to experiment. Fashion style will always be part of our lives and as the amazing Yves Saint Laurent once said: ‘Fashion fades, style is eternal.’