How to have style

howtohavestyleI love browsing through fashion advice books, but it’s always out of curiosity. I like to see a different interpretation of what women should look like – and how that changes through time . I never follow the advice contained in those books because I forget the specificities. And they are so different in every book.  I just enjoy the visual imagery and the interpretation  of the role of women in society expressed through that advice: do they have to make themselves attractive, do they have to learn to  be practical or conform to some rigit etiquette?

I never thought such a book would be liberating, feminist or useful for me, for what it is worth. After all, they all imply that women undeniably have to change something about themselves or to adhere to rules on how to conceal problems and boost merits. That’s hardly liberating. It is more a constriction than freedom, just as a sculptor friend of mine expressed it through her metal corset creations.

But this book was a revelation. Instead of compiling a list of rules to follow in order to have style, it is a case study of 12 real women who are reinventing their style with the assistance of designer Mizrahi. Still, it’s a conceptual book. Mizrahi starts with the advice for women to define an ideology for themselves in terms of their self image, which they would want to present to the world. Because, instead of the trite notion that women should dress for themselves, he proposes the idea that they should dress, if not exactly for the world around them, then according to the message they would want to send to the community they live in through their cloting. That ideology, embodied in a self-image, will be then the guiding principle  in choosing their style and specific clothing.

For that reason, the book is inspirational. In fact, the first step in discovering one’s own style is the inspirational board, a space in which women display photos, mementos and images related to their cherished memories, moments of happiness, favorite objects (not necessarily related to fashion), inspiring paintings and visual art, words of wisdom and treasure-box ephemera. It is the self discovery necessary for defining one’s own image personality.

Based on that collection of images and inspirational ideas, Mizrahi then proceeds to offer women real-world looks, clothes and accessories that would be faithful to each one’s personality and “self-image ideology”. Instead of restricting women within some canned advice, he encourages them to experiment, to be bold and regard clothes as works of art, not as consumer goods.

But if women have to see themselves as art collectors, that does not imply that they have to buy expensive designer numbers; it actually implies that clothes are not regarded as one-season items to be constantly bought and discarded; it means that even old clothes deserve appreciation and care. There are no wrong clothes for any body type: if a woman feels something does not sit well on her, it’s because it sends a statement she does not believe in.

Ironically, How to Have Style is not a book everyone should keep on their dresser. It’s not a reference book to be consulted before going out. It’s an empowering insight. It’s about women paying attention to themselves and loving themselves while asserting their personae. It’s a reminder that they control the message they send through their clothing, which in reality is self expression outside of the convention and what we know as fashion.


5 responses to “How to have style

  1. Pingback: How to have style |

  2. Nice post, as always. I used to have “style,” I think, but have been so busy recently (well for the last few years) that things have drifted by the wayside. This week, as Dean is going to a spoken-Latin conference, I am thinking of cleaning out my closet, so he won’t be able to comment on my choices. Is that funny? Then, I will buy new clothes for the new school year … hopefully.

    Maybe I should check the book out of the library.

    Are you going to remake *your* style?


  3. Pingback: Fort Worth on the Web for Wednesday — Part I | Fort Worth Renaissance

  4. I’ve had similar thoughts lately about presenting myself as a representation of my “art”. I’d always been anti-style until forced to conform somewhat at my work place, but I’ve never really got the knack of it. Style just seems like an uncomfortable uniform; I’d rather wear a Dickies work shirt.

    I finally traded in my khaki hiking hat for a straw cowgirl hat. Yee haw! It fires my imagination when I wear it. The fashion police are really going to be watching me, now.

    Think I’ll check for this book at the library.

  5. Dickies work shirts are also a style! If they represent who you are. That’s what I like about the book (which I have to say I read portions of at the bookstore, didn’t buy it).

    @Sonja, yes, I did start being more thoughtful about my style – did not remake it, because I was already comfortable with what I projected through clothes. But more thoughtful and happy with myself, yes!

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