Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "My style"

Style is such a personal thing, nothing that can be pinned down and defined… and yet it’s probably the most discussed topic in fashion-centric non-cerebral circles – or cerebral ones too, who knows. I can’t claim first-hand knowledge of either. Sartorially speaking, my style is probably best described as “comfortable” – or maybe practical. (In all other respects, putting it in the style of the immortal Popeye, I yam what I yam and that’s what I yam.)

I’ve always been curious, in a desultory, idle sort of way, about what makes a person stylish. Not having that characteristic myself, I keep looking for it in others. And of course I then need a second opinion to see if I have correctly identified “style”.

Even given the basic fact that one person’s style is another person’s shock-horror, the parameters of judging style vary tremendously. I simply love the glossy magazines which regularly publish photos of celebrities all dolled up for the red carpet, then declare some as fashion victims and others as fashion divas. Unless the dress is particularly hideous – and to be fair there are a few which are immediately identifiable as such – my usual reaction is “Why”. Why is this dress considered a hit, and why is that a miss? The celebrities are usually perfectly slender and there isn’t much to criticize in the way of size. So why is one person stylish one day for wearing a baker boy cap and capris, and why is another person a victim because of her baggy trousers and baseball cap? Is it just the opinion of the fashion editor for that issue, or am I missing something deeper?

For similar reasons, I rather like the “America’s Next Top Model” series hosted and produced by Tyra Banks. I’m not usually a fan of reality shows, but this one intrigues me and has done from the start not just because it’s so slickly produced, but because it revolves around looks, style and fashion. Some of the girls who are picked for the show are unattractive to my eyes, and yet the judges heap praise on their looks. I like to compare my opinion on the models’ photo shoots with that of the judges… and more often than not, I’m way off the official mark. Perhaps it’s because I’m ignorant of high fashion and “edgy” looks and prefer the more traditional - or normal - hairstyles and body sizes.

I have friends who can effortlessly carry off clothes that would make me look like a clown if ever I had the courage to wear things like that in public. (In private, it doesn't matter. If nobody's there to see your clothes, does stylishness exist?) I’m not talking about revealing tops or butt-crack jeans. In this instance I’m referring to multi-coloured loud checked cotton trousers (which were purchased at one of the seconds outlets in Mahabalipuram), rubber chappals and a tank top – which my friend wore to go to a posh mall in Bangalore. Her hair – gorgeous thick shiny black hair, granted – was piled up messily in a style that I normally sport at home when I’m alone and grubbing out. I wouldn’t have been fit for human eyes in an outfit like that, but she was her usual confident self, and that came across as incredibly stylish. She didn’t expect to be treated any differently than if she was wearing the hautest of couture - and she wasn't. I deeply, deeply admire that sort of casual confidence.

What I find amusing about fashion advice is that this or that model or celebrity is pointed out as uniquely stylish every time she's out in public. Then various items of clothing and accessories similar to that model's, but far cheaper in price (obviously), are also set out. "Be unique in your style, be different" is the bottomline. Yeah, unique and different, in clothes just like Kate Moss's.

Which brings me finally to seasonal fashions. "Purple tulip skirts are the 'in' thing for this autumn" says someone in the fashion industry, and immediately thousands of women rush, lemming-like, to the stores to get the latest purple thing and look like water balloons. What's the point?

And somebody should try telling Goth teenagers that it really isnt unique to dress in black and metal like all the other hundreds of "unique" Goths out there. At least if you're yourself, you're unique - but if you look and dress just like hundreds of your peers, where's the exclusivity there? Or is style not style until everybody is wearing the same type of garment?


Anonymous said...

I loved what you wrote about the friend- I've often yearned for that confident attitude myself. I do 'carry off' the jeans-and-ikkat kurti-look, though ;-)

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Style is overrated as a topic me guesses, but it's one of the main elements in the fashion world. I think it matters not what's in fashion but what suits you or rather, how you carry it off. If you are comfortable in your own skin, that itself is half the style! The clothes come next. Er, this is probably just a lot of BS about style and fashion because I guess am clueless about the latest trends and styles (all in the family, eh?)-- completely indifferent to what's in vogue!

Am I EVER going to be able to carry off a bright yellow handbag, or checked trousers, OR a tank top? UH UH.

umm oviya said...

as long as ur comfy and parts of your body are popping out in an unintended fashion. teesu, it's fashion that is over-rated. style is what each individual has...

Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

Oh, so we are ALL stylish?!:) Cooool.