In truth, these are all factors. But whilst some may think these are ‘gifts’ you’re either born with or you’re not, style is something that can improve and develop. Because the above are all underpinned by one thing: confidence.
Confidence is that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ that can take a look from drab to fab. Forget the rules about what’s right or wrong: if you believe in the outfit then others will. You will hold yourself differently and ooze poise.
Conversely, no matter how great an outfit is, if you’re not carrying it off with conviction, then that will show. It should be you wearing the outfit, not the other way round.
Does that mean you could literally wear a sack of potatoes and still be stylish? As absurd as it sounds, the answer is possibly, yes. Just think of some trends that you thought you’d never deign to wear…. Someone else wore it first and somehow convinced everyone else it’s stylish. And all it took was confidence.
There’s a reason there’s a difference between being fashionable and stylish. The former entails following trends determined by others, whilst the latter means having the courage of your conviction to set your own rules.
A few years ago, I went to a public event hosted by Vogue. The room was packed with young fashionably dressed women, but none more distinctive than the next. However, there was one person who stood out: a woman dressed in clashing bright floral tones, wearing a backpack with 90s cartoon badges on it. I noticed the clones sneering nastily at her, but I thought she was one of the most stylish in the room. Whilst her personal aesthetic wasn’t necessarily for me, I admired her sureness to wear what she wanted and, unlike the others, her personality shone through.
So, confidence is that key ingredient to style. But there’s only one problem: what do you do if you currently lack it? Whilst many women grow in self-confidence as they get older, their image confidence may decline. Body changes, ageist advertising and fashion campaigns, a different life style…. If this sounds familiar, you shouldn’t be ashamed as there are so many contributors. Perhaps you’re a mother, and you feel you’ve lost your sense of ‘self’, with other priorities taking over? Maybe you’ve been ignored or dismissed in clothing shops, making you feel invisible? Whatever the reason, it’s extremely common, and often results in getting lost in a style rut.
There are two phrases I hear more often than others:
1. “I stick to black and navy because it makes me feel safe.”
2. “I love that! But I could never wear it.”
Unfortunately, these phrases are rooted in a lack of confidence, and create a vicious cycle of feeling inadequate. Wearing something because it makes you feel safe indicates an unhealthy, anxiety driven relationship with your image. Similarly, by not allowing yourself to wear what you really want, you’re reinforcing the self-belief that you don’t deserve to look and feel better, crushing your self-esteem further.
So how do you address this?
The first step is to readjust your mindset. Try to stop telling yourself negative phrases or comparing yourself to someone else. Even be careful with saying “that’s not me”, because you may have unfairly put yourself in a restrictive box. If something left field catches your eye, give it a go. Because you could find yourself pleasantly surprised and, if not, you can just take it off again – no harm done!
Next, invest time in yourself and your wardrobe. Clothes are often dismissed as something frivolous and superficial, but there are proven psychological benefits to wearing pieces that make you feel good. Style is emotive, so what you wear really can lift or sink your mood. You may feel somewhat guilty for dedicating time and energy to your wardrobe, but you shouldn’t.
If you don’t know where to start, just think about someone whose style you admire. Don’t compare yourself to them, just think about what aspects you like – for example, that they wear a certain colour, or that they like to try different silhouettes. Try to refrain from emulating their look exactly; after all style is individual and what works for them may not work for you. But they can provide inspiration. And the next time you go shopping or put together a look, keep that in mind.
Once you’ve done that, start to build in inspiration from elsewhere. Take a look at your favourite brands’ websites and see how they’ve styled pieces in photographs. Follow some style (note: not trend) related hashtags on Instagram such as #agelessstyle or #styleover40 to discover different people. Then head over to pinterest to explore new ideas and create a board of looks you can refer to both for tips and reassurance.
Some people suggest creating a ‘signature look’, but I generally discourage this because you can end up right back where you started, putting yourself in a box and sucking all the fun out of it. It’s better to be flexible with your style and have an open mind. You’ll probably end up intuitively developing a framework, but the lack of defined restrictions will free you.
Finally – and this can be a difficult one – consider leaving your normal shopping partner behind and venturing out on your own. Whilst you may trust their taste, they too will have subconsciously developed an idea of what’s ‘you’, and therefore may unintentionally discourage you from stepping outside your comfort zone. For example, lots of grown up children still struggle to see their mum in another light – certainly a sexier one. Additionally, remember that everyone’s taste is different, so your shopping partner may reject something that would actually make you feel amazing and let your style confidence soar.
So never resign yourself as someone who isn’t stylish, because that can change. It may take time but gradually your confidence will grow, and you’ll start having fun with clothes and experimenting with style. And eventually YOU will become that person others admire for having that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.
Jacynth Bassett is the founder of the-Bias-Cut.com - the first pro-age online independent fashion boutique – and the movement Ageism Is Never In Style. She was inspired to fight ageism after growing frustrated at seeing women being treated as invisible by the Fashion Industry, largely due to their age.
Named as an “Ageism-Fighting Trailblazer” by Global Health Ageing, Jacynth is swiftly becoming recognised as one of the leading pioneers of style at every age.
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