It seems that every week, I come across some article, blog essay, or social media post praising a style icon from the past. It might be Audrey Hepburn, it might be Jane Birkin, or it might be Grace Kelly. Our admiration for these icons of decades past seems to endure, and it also seems much stronger than for most modern-day celebrities.
Sure, some of this is down to nostalgia. It’s harder to see a contemporary person as “iconic” until they’re recognized by the public, and their influence over fashion is clear.
But I think there’s another reason we admire these icons so much. It is their ability to create a simple, defined vision of themselves and present it consistently to the world.
These days, we have an abundance of choice in what we wear and how we dress. As the decades have worn on, particularly in the last century, women’s clothing has become ever more varied and diverse. Not only do we have access to a huge array of styles, the norms around what’s acceptable for a woman to wear in public have become more and more loose. Today, take a walk through the grocery store and it’s not unusual to see women in business suits, women in casual dresses, and women in gym clothes. In fact, the same woman might wear each of these things out, depending on the day.
Perhaps this is why we so admire women whose style displays a consistency that comes from within, that represents something about them. Making that choice—to represent yourself fully in what you choose to wear—has become more and more difficult as we are overwhelmed by choice.
We look at Audrey Hepburn and we see a grace and simplicity that was reflected in her work and her attitude. Jane Birkin’s style in the 1970s represented an ease and sexuality that was part of who she is. Grace Kelly had a restrained elegance that clearly fit her like a glove.
This consistency sends a message to the world, and it’s a result of conscious choices these women made about what to wear and, maybe more importantly, what to ignore. That in itself communicates a sort of poise and self-awareness that is instantly appealing.
Clothing is a language
To get a message across to people, one of the best techniques is repetition. Whether you’re trying to impart a lesson to your five-year-old or make a point with your boss at work, simply underlining and repeating the same message in a few different ways helps people to understand your point of view.
The same is true for the language of clothing. Underscoring the aspects of yourself that you want to express, and doing it thoughtfully and consistently, is how you take the words and feelings at the heart of your style and present them outwardly.
This doesn’t necessarily mean wearing the same thing every day (unless you want to) or ignoring any new ideas or styles you want to try out. It just means adopting a few key aspects of your style that stay consistent, because they represent who you are.
Think of these as your style signatures. By repeating them, you tell a story about yourself over time.
Your style signatures could include:
- A particular color or type of color you wear often. For one woman, it could be a commitment to neutrals, for someone else it could be a love of bright red.
- A type of jewelry, or even lack thereof.
- A particular type of garment. Think about Katherine Hepburn’s trousers or Lauren Bacall’s sweaters.
- A hair color or style.
- A particular type of print you love to wear, like florals or stripes.
Not only does developing a list of your own style signatures help you feel more like yourself each day, it also makes choices much easier. When presented with the abundance of options you have before you, your signatures offer a firm style base to start from.
These signatures might also change over time as you evolve and change yourself. But consciously deciding on just a few elements of your style that represent you will also help you make more intentional decisions about how your style might adapt, rather than allowing it to be buffetted solely by trends.
Last month, we talked about defining your style verbally and visually with words and a mood board. To come up with your style signatures, you simply need to take a look at the intersection of these two tools. Ask yourself:
- Which visual elements of your mood board represent the words you chose? Does wearing a particular color mean “elegance” in your mind? If one of your words was “sexy,” did you define that visually with clothing that showed a lot of skin, or did you define it with slinky and luxurious dresses?
- What types of things do I already wear consistently, and why?
- Are there certain things I want to avoid wearing, in order to convey the style I’ve visualized?
Once you’ve thought about these things, make a list of your handful of style signatures. These simple, consistent aspects of your style will give you a way to translate your personality and sense of self every day, through what you wear.
Join the conversation!
Share your thoughts with our community on Instagram! Use the hashtag #seamworkwardrobe and tell us: What are your style signatures?