The woman with "style" is not necessarily the woman of fashion. In fact, the notion of fashion may be one of the biggest pitfalls of the woman who wants to achieve a unique personal style.
I certainly have nothing against fashion per se. In fact I love it. It's great fun to leaf through the pages of Vogue and Bazaar and Women's Wear Daily. It's marvelous to discover a new fashion look that suits me and the way I live. But I think it's a mistake to take Fashion (note that capital F) too seriously.
When an issue of vogue says, "This is the season for magenta," make a note of it. But for heaven's sake, do not go out and invest heavily in magenta if it's not one of your favorite colors and you do not look well in it. Because as sure as I'm setting here writing this, one of the next few issues of vogue will come out strongly in favor of some other color. It's the same with everything else that falls under the heading of Fashion. You know it: the "in" thing this season will always be supplanted by next season's "in" thing.
It's not that the people in the fashion business are fickle or trying to put something over on the consumer. Not at all. It's just that the men and women who design, manufacture, and sell fashion are in the business to make money. (And why not? Is not that what any business is all about? And is not a healthy fashion industry part of a healthy national economy?) But they can not make money unless they can come up with a selection of new fashion looks each season – and create a demand for those new looks.
As for the men and women who edit the fashion publications, their job is to report on those new looks. For the most part, they do a marvelous job. I do not believe for one moment that the columnist are trying to con anyone; they're simply keeping people informed of the latest fashion news. It's up to us – to decide which of those new fashions we're going to buy and wear.
Unfortunately, to many women confuse style and dressing well with the idea of always being frist with the latest fashion looks.
You see this kind of woman practically everywhere, but she's especially visible at fashion shows. I do not go to many fashion shows myself, but when I do go to one, I often find myself paying lots more attention to the show going on in the audience than to the clothes on the runway.
A top-designer fashion show is almost guaranteed to bring out in droves the kind of women I'm tempted to call the "tragedies of fashion." They're a fascinating breed.
Let me give you an example. I went to a summer showing of fall collection. The show was scheduled to start at three in the afternoon. What with errands, and running my granddaughter around, I'd had a busy morning, and because the weather was very hot and muggy, I'd been rushing around town in a linen skirt, sleeveless T-shirt top, sandals, and no stockings (it was too hot for them anyway). I dropped my granddaughter off and went on to the show. I arrived just as it was about to begin, waved to a few familiar faces, settled down gratefully in the air-conditioned cool, and looked around.
It was 95 degrees outside on that sunny August afternoon, and would you believe that half the women in the audience were dressed for November? Many were wearing boots, sweaters, wool gaucho pants, or heavy midcalf skirts. I even recall seeing at least one fur suit.
Why. you may be wondering, were these otherwise attractive and sensible women wearing fall clothes on a blistering summer day? You can probably guess the answer. Because the clothes they were wearing were not just any fall clothes. They were "The new Fall Fashions," probably ordered from other fashion shows held earlier in the season. Each woman was wearing her new purchases in the hope of being first with the latest.
Being first with the latest may give some women a great sense of satisfaction. The trouble is, it my also make them look ridiculous. And if there's one thing dressing with style is not, it's ridiculous.
Fashion, as I said before, can be great fun. But the woman who follows fashion blindly, without ever stopping to think about whether this or that look is really right for her, will never be well dressed.
Being well dressed starts with using your head. Figuring out who you are. How you want to look. And then choosing your clothes accordingly. It means saying "yes" to some fashions and an emphatic "no" to others.