Fashion forward: Fashion versus personal style

Personal style can incorporate favorite wardrobe items, but doesn’t have to be trendy. Photo Courtesy of Ashlyn Kittrell.
Personal style can incorporate favorite wardrobe items, but doesn’t have to be trendy. Photo Courtesy of Ashlyn Kittrell.

Love was in the air last week, but not for the reason most people think. It was pure coincidence that New York Fashion Week fell on the same week as Valentine’s Day.

While romance between people was surely at play in the fashion capital of the world, editors, bloggers and buyers were all falling in love with looks for the fall 2014 season.

Whether it was runway shows or thematic presentations of the new pieces, the fashion industry’s elite got a chance to rub elbows with one another while dissecting the trends to come.

And I barely took any notice.

While I do realize the impact that the top designers have on the mass retailers due to the trickle down effect, it’s not something I usually find myself worrying about.

After all, I won’t be able to afford any trends until they are in stores like TJ Maxx, so I’d just as soon not look as the fresh, new items are being released by high-end designers.

That’s not to say that I don’t have a deep appreciation for what the more luxurious brands do for current trends.

Miranda Priestly, the aloof editor-in-chief character played by Meryl Streep in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” famously described this effect best in her monologue about the color cerulean. Miranda remarks to her new assistant Andy Sachs, who calls fashion “stuff,” that “it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”

In order for fashion trends not to affect my personal style in any way, I’d have to live in a cave where my personal style would probably consist of much more practical clothing choices than it does now. But I always tell people I don’t care about fashion so much. It’s personal style that interests me.

The difference is pretty simple. Fashion is what you see in the stores while style is what you see in your closet.

Fashion is pretty much always chosen for you, as Miranda Priestly would say, but you have a distinct choice when it comes to style.

For example, it’s when everywhere you turn, you see retro style dresses, but you’d rather just keep wearing your boyfriend jeans. That’s personal style.

There’s a reason why starlets of old Hollywood are known as style icons rather than fashion icons.

When Katharine Hepburn obstinately refused to wear dresses as she favored a sharp pair of trousers, she was exercising her right to personal style. Who cares if dresses and skirts were the fashion of the time? She preferred pants.

I don’t intend to bite the hand that feeds me. When it comes to style, I know it couldn’t exist without the idea of the fashion industry. This industry, as a matter of fact, is one in which I’d like to work.

But it wouldn’t exist without a trend-following market to cater to. If people stopped incorporating a few trends into their personal style each year, things would get old fast.

No matter how stalwart people are in their efforts to maintain a personal style devoid of trends, all elements of personal style were once fashionable. In fact, the items that the industry deems classics (think a striped shirt, leather jacket, well-fitted blue jeans, etc.) are given the title because they never go out of fashion.

Instead of thinking of fashion and style as rivals, I prefer to think of them as codependent buddies.

Whereas style is a pure form of self-expression, fashion is a way to track and forecast trends alongside pop culture and even the economy.

Style is individual while fashion is a movement.

But in this friendship, if a trend doesn’t jive with style, fashion never gets offended. It knows it’s nothing too personal.

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