this: you somehow wrangle an invite to an exclusive gala with the city’s
wealthiest, most influential people. You are so excited to see everyone
done up in their finest things, mingling with ice cubes tinkling and
diamonds jingling, but the most fabulous person you see all night is
the homeless man in a polyester suit with a windbreaker over top, an
eye patch and a smile.
Well, maybe “fabulous” isn’t the exact word I want to
use — but my point is about style. Money, first and foremost, does
not style make. Even if your income isn’t in the six digits — you
can still be the swankiest! Note to the wealthy types — take heed — you
may find a few tips in this story.
Just what is style?
Back to the man with the eye patch: what he had was — in his own
humble way — style. You may not envy it, but you can’t deny
Style is an essence, a mystery, even an allure. To say style is just clothing
is inaccurate; real personal style is not nearly so superficial as what
Really stylish people have an air about them, whether they have money or
not. Not a holier-than-thou air, but the grace of a sort of self-knowledge.
Their style gives us a glimpse of who they are, who they are becoming or
who they would like to be. When you meet someone stylish — you’re
immediately drawn in — you want to know more about them. Their clothes,
grooming, personality and demeanor, all bundle together to make a fascinating
package you’d like to peek into.
Conversely, a person who goes to Neiman-Marcus on a daily basis, buying
clothes as if they were deluxe Garanimals, putting outfits together using
this month’s GQ or W like a biblical guide look like what they are:
a mall clone and boring, boring, boring!
The same goes for trips to the hair salon. If your mane looks like you
just finished a hair show everyday, 24/7, despite a hurricane or a death
in the family, you may be focusing on it a bit too much.
Looking like you work too hard is always the death of style. Personal fashion
should be effortless and easy-going. It should not be an affectation, but
a true barometer of who you are.
Have some fun, wear your hair a different way — don’t let people
guess the year you graduated from high school by the way you wear your
To be stylish today is to be versatile. Ideally, you should feel confident
enough not to have to wear one uniform or look day in and day out. Confidence
is the hottest thing anyone can wear. Love yourself. Embrace what you’ve
What I said about the salon goes quadruply for plastic surgery. Teeth that
glow in the dark, lips plumped to sausage proportions, a face expressionless
with botox — despite what some tend to think — are not attractive,
nor do they demonstrate the devil-may-care attitude we all find so hot.
Clean out that closet and go shopping!
Everyone should give his or her closet a seasonal shakedown. Purge anything
you don’t really, really love, even if it broke the bank or is brand
new. If it doesn’t say “this is the real me,” it should
Add a few new items to the mix from a variety of sources: it’s okay
to visit a mall upon occasion, but also check out boutiques, thrift stores,
your granny’s attic or wherever the budget allows.
Stick to acquiring only pieces you love so much, you’d be buried
in them. A signature piece is a great way to define style for a season
and begin to build a wardrobe. It could be a skirt, boots, a piece of jewelry
or even a pair of sunglasses. Create different outfits around that piece
as a focal point.
Never buy something to wear once. Anything worth the dirty cash is worth
multiple wears. Seek out items you can use multiple ways and for more than
one season. For example, blazers are great because you can dress them up
or down: with jeans for casual, or dress pants for more formal events or
work. You can justify getting a more expensive piece if you can see yourself
using it for years to come, for instance, a wool sweater, leather jacket
or silk blouse.
Blend deluxe items with tees, tanks or vintage finds to create a high/low
balance that is perfectly postmodern. Choose real fibers — cotton,
cashmere, leather — over synthetics and blends when possible, and
real jewelry — gold, silver, semiprecious stones, bakelite — over
costume pieces. The eye can discern quality, adding cache points to your
style quotient. If you shop vintage with this in mind, you can often get
stuff twice as good at half the price.
Today’s premium designer goods are only on-par with products that
were moderately priced mid-century. A comparison of vintage and modern
cashmeres will prove this point immediately, as will a look at how today’s
Prada suits stand up against a ’60s vintage Penguin.
Wear the things you love
Antiquated rules about age appropriateness should be thrown out the window.
At any age, you should be able to wear the things you love — with
a reality double-check in the mirror as you leave the house.
If you’ve still got great legs, wear a mini dress — just don’t
rock it like Jessica Simpson would unless you’re Jessica’s
If you’re blessed with hot pecs and abs, sport that button down tight.
Fashion should be fun, not frumpy. Baggy clothes can make people think
you have even more to hide than you probably do.
Finally, never shortchange yourself on accessories. Jewelry, bags and shoes
(if you take proper care of them) are the best investment of all. Accessories
are the wardrobe stretcher. You can wear the same jeans and tee everyday,
but if you tweak your accessories, you’ve changed the look. They
also last longer than clothing and are not as likely to go out of style.
All these goodies, carefully chosen and worn with confidence and wit, will
become the building blocks of a life’s wardrobe and a style all your
Hope Nicholls is the owner of the fashion and accessory store Boris & Natasha,
located at 1214 Thomas Ave. in Charlotte. She can be reached at 704-375-0079.