Personal Style Is Not Dead

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I’ve read a lot of articles recently discussing the relevance and authenticity of street style. In fact – LOL – a picture of me was used to illustrate an article published on Vogue.com by the eloquent Maya Singer, which, as revealed by the hyperlink was initially titled ‘Is There Anything Authentic About Street Style?’, but currently goes under the gentler and more anodyne title ‘What Do You We Talk About When We Talk About Street Style’? The funny thing is, I had already written this article, when I read Singer’s piece. I went back and re-wrote my post to include the commentary, as it shows how topical street style is – or rather, if there is a genuine expression of personal style in street style. You following?

Singer’s article is ostensibly about street style, but the two are inexplicably interwoven. There have been other great articles written recently on the subject of street style; the undercurrent to which is that street style – in its manufactured, peacockery – has, in essence, killed individualism. Cindy Sherman turned street style into ironic performance art with a series of ‘satirical self-portraits’ for the February issue of Harpers Bazaar US – “I [know] it’s business but there’s something so dead about the whole thing” – The Village Voice wrote a persuasive piece at the end of last year, where the writer logs how many of the same pieces she sees during one morning commute, before ruminating, “[h]ave we all become too cool, too plugged-in, too consumption-savvy, and thus completely homogenized in the way we dress?” and most recently, Man Repeller  upchucks the notion that street style aside, ‘personal style’ is mere nomenclature – sartorial linguistics, if you will, in that it’s the wording that we are into right now as a way of describing the clothes we put on our backs.

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To be clear of the difference between street style and personal style: street style is the act of parlaying, photographically, those people entering and exiting shows over fashion month. Personal style is merely the clothes you choose to plonk on your person. So has street style killed personal style? Was personal style already already dead as a dodo? OR – hold your breath – is it all just semantics?

It feels a bit like the time three years ago and then six months ago, again, when everyone said personal style blogs were dead – but here you are, reading this piece on a duh duh duhhhhh style blog. A more pertinent question might be: why do we we feel this exhaustive need to revive and slaughter things, often simultaneously?

I don’t think personal style is dead, obviously. There will never be a dearth of independent thought, you may just have to look further afield. I found Singer’s point about street stylers editorialising an outfit interesting – but I am not sure that personal style is compromised by having your picture taken. In the very picture used to illustrate that Vogue.com article, for instance, I am wearing what is a perfectly normal combination of blouses, for me. The crucial part of that sentence is for me. Because it might not be a normal combination to someone else; it might be downright editorial for someone else. But for me, it’s my normal.

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That’s where we get into the nitty gritty. How do we know what’s authentic for one, and artificial for another? I can’t speak for everyone – the Perminovas, Della Russos and Ferragnis of this world – but I would say that on a personal level, if anything, being an occasional street style subject has actually made me look into my own taste more searchingly. I think my style has got better over the last few years (chain belt! Chain belts are very classy and befitting of a 29-year-old woman don’t you think? Don’t answer that), because of it. Not just because I can afford more expensive clothes, like this incredible leather coat from young British brand Rroma – there’s a mix of high street and designer in this post, because that’s the way my sartorial cookie crumbles – but because I know better as to what suits me. I more accurately know what makes me feel like me for me. And that might sound trite, it might sound artificial, but baby – that’s the truth.*swings away dramatically and dabs at an entirely dry eye.*

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I’m wearing a Rroma leather coat, Loewe knit, Raey jeans, Topshop belt, Claire’s Accessories hoops and Erdem flats | Three Graces London shirt, Staud corduroy flares, Gucci loafers and Amulette de Cartier malachite necklace | Supertrash blouse, vintage necklaces, Topshop Finds slip dress (sold out; similar here), Kurt Geiger heels (coming soon) and vintage Louis Vuitton bag.

Pictures by Eva K. Salvi and my own.

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