Writer and elegant lady Janina Matthewson figures out that style isn’t about imitation – it’s about dancing.
You are probably not a style icon. I might be wrong about that, after all I can’t see you, but you probably aren’t. There are, in fact, precious few around; although almost every celebrity will be dubbed that at some point in their career, few manage to keep the label indefinitely. Style Icon status can’t really be ascribed until years down the line, long after a person’s ceased to care much about style at all. When someone says, long after you’re gone, “that dress is very so-and-so,” then, I think, then you truly deserve the name.
For most of us, of course, being a Style Icon is unimportant. We’ve other concerns, like what to have for lunch dessert and whether anyone can see last night’s red wine stains on our lips. But we definitely want to feel stylish. We want to feel that undefinable sense of looking good; looking different somehow, in an excellent way; looking like some fascinating being. We want people to fall in love with us at first sight, even if we believe that to be a myth. We want to be admired.
But how do you become an Audrey or a Marilyn, even on a domestic level? Because it’s not really about dressing fashionably. It’s not about dressing well. It’s about dressing as yourself. As the best yourself. It’s about stocking your life in such a way that every morning, with little thought, you can throw something on that’ll have you walking down the street confident in the knowledge that the world can see a little bit of who you are, and that they’ll like it.
There is, of course, an entire industry dedicated to trying to teach you how to be stylish. There are magazines and newspapers and websites. There are catwalks and red carpets. There are personal shoppers waiting for you at your nearest high street fashion store. But at the end of the day, it’s something a person has to figure out for him or herself.
One of the best pieces of shopping advice I’ve ever come across came courtesy of Helen Fielding in her Bridget Jones follow up, Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination. The advice was this: “Only buy clothes that make you feel like doing a small dance.” Now, you may or may not be the dancing kind, you may not even be the feeling like dancing kind, but it’s an easily translatable feeling. We’ve all felt it about something or other. The trick is, and it takes effort, to train yourself to expect it as a matter of course, and to hold out until it comes.
So down with buying jeans that are little more than “perfectly fine.” Down with dresses “that’ll do.” Down with “all right shoes,” and “passable tops,” and, “suitable skirts.” We will be dancing in our changing rooms or we’ll be remaining naked.
Follow Janina on Twitter @J9London