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The Difference Between Style And Fashion

Empire Dress

New York women are among the most fashionable women on the face of the earth. They are also among the least stylish. Confused? If so, you aren’t alone. You’re just among the many people who confuse stylish with fashionable.

To have a personal style is to have a statement you want to make with your clothing. You use your body as a palette and try to make your outfit into a work of art. Thought goes into a personal style. There are three “yous,” you as you see yourself, you as others see you, and you as you want others to see you. The aim of an impeccable personal style should be to bring these three yous as close together as possible. Questions to ask include: does this outfit match the personality I’m trying to convey? Do I have the attitude and mindset to pull it off? Is it showing the right amount of originality, yet is it not so out there as to become a freakshow? A good personal style takes into account the right amount of risk vs. safety for any occasion. A good personal style also takes into account what works for your body, especially your weight, skin tone, height and muscle tone.

nmx012s_mh.jpegWhich brings us to fashion. There is a reason why the term “dedicated follower of fashion” exists. Because being fashionable is strictly about following. It doesn’t matter if the trend is ugly, if it doesn’t go with your personality, if it’s not flattering to your body shape, if the color that is in season does not go with you at all….all that’s irrelevant when you’re trying to be fashionable. Fashion is about checking your mind in at the door and slavishly keeping up with what other people are wearing. You’ll rock the ugliest, hard to match handbag if it has the right name splashed on it. You will rock Audrey Hepburn skinny jeans despite having a pear shape. You will put on the latest revealing low cut jeans despite having huge muffin tops. You will wear ballet slippers to work even though as an adult working in an office it makes you look like a child no one should take seriously (then you cry sexism).

For example, look at the dress at the top of the post. That’s an empire dress. It’s a high waisted dress that starts right under the breasts. I don’t know a single straight man that likes those dresses, and if there is one, I’m willing to bet he’s partially in the closet. Men may find women beautiful in spite of such dresses, but I’ve yet to meet a guy attracted to them. They look like maternity dresses and give even the best bodies the most unflattering or at best bland bell-like shape. Yet almost every woman in NY had these dresses over the summer, whether they were fat, skinny, short, tall, shapely or thin.

At the height of the empire dress craze, I saw a lot of women looking frumpy and bell-shaped in the big billowy while walking around in nasty flip-flops. Anytime I saw a guy try to point out how unflattering the whole look was, I’d hear the same indignant response: “You don’t know anything about fashion! This is what they’re wearing on the Paris runways/in Soho/in Hollywood!” as if that alone was a good enough reason, or as if the fact that it was fashionable somehow refuted the accusation that it was ugly. Basically, the fact that everyone else was wearing it was its own justification. None of the NY women would ever try to address the meat of the actual critique, which was that the dresses made even good bodies look bad and bad bodies look worse. Or that the flip-flops looked ratty made the bottoms of their feet black after riding the train and walking around Manhattan. Even worse, they didn’t realize they were ignoring the actual crux of the criticism. Their critical faculties checked out at the words “It’s in fashion now” and proceeded no further. Popularity is its own justification in the minds of the fashionable.

A stylish person cares about what flatters their skin tone, hair color and body type, regardless if it goes against what’s in fashion. To me, it shows a great ability to balance individuality with conformity, a good grasp of their body’s strengths and weaknesses, and most of all, intelligence and a strong sense of self. The image they project is congruent with the image they are trying to project, which is also congruent with how they view themselves. All of which conveys great knowledge of self and social intelligence. A big turn on.

I used to not get the big deal about Jackie O., but after grasping the difference between fashion and style, I realize Jackie O. was not overrated after all, she was stylish. And currently the most stylish celebrity to me is Nicole Kidman. I did an extensive google image search on her to find her in an empire dress or flip-flops and I couldn’t find it. She is always more conscious about being true to her personal style rather than to what’s fashionable. It actually makes her look hotter than she actually is. She knows how to highlight assets, hide flaws and convey taste better than any female celebrity out there I think. Cate Blanchett to me exemplifies this trait too, but not as well as Kidman.

Nicole Kidman

Nicole Kidman

Even dressed down she’s always stylish and playing to her strengths:

Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban

I was trying to think of an example of slavish fashion follower for contrast, but honestly, there are too many to pick just one or isolate the worst offender. Suggestions are totally welcome of course, so feel free to provide them in the comments section. But here’s one I can think of offhand, Siena Miller:

Sienna Miller


Sienna Miller


Sienna Miller

Sienna Hot Mess

Damn bitch, just quit it already!

Sienna Miller rocking the Uggs, another “fashionable” item a few years back that NY women somehow couldn’t realize were ugly as hell. They’re called “Ugh!”s for a reason.

Sienna YuckOh hell no

Oh hell no. Just. No.

Technically every item she owns is currently in fashion at the time she is wearing it (the Uggs photo is from 4 years ago). People call her fashion-impaired but that’s wrong. She’s style impaired. She has no idea what looks good on her or how to slap it together. She just knows what the latest trends are. And even worse, she seems to be a dedicated follower of hipster trends to boot.

Sienna, you’ve got a NY state of mind all right, babe.

15 Responses to “The Difference Between Style And Fashion”

  1. for the life of me i still can’t figure out the Uggs phenomenon. I really don’t get it.
    Tthe things is…I don’t think girls dress to attract guys. I think they dress to look “good” to other girls. There’s no other explanation.
    most heterosexual men don’t even notice half the things a woman is trying to pull off. A woman will ultimately spend 100% of her fashion-talking time with other women.

    all dudes want is to see your boobs spill out your top and your jeans struggling against that ass.

    Smash’s last blog post..The Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All-Time!

  2. I think the myth that women dress to impress other women is some crap invented by the gay men and straight women in the fashion industry to convince straight women to buy hideous clothes. I think it also ties into how the easiest way to market anything to liberal women nowadays is to dress it up in an self-empowerment message. I think this Onion article hilariously captures it perfectly:

    Click for Onion Article

    Even choosing Secret as your deodorant somehow empowers women. So yeah, I think for modern progressive women, admitting that impressing men plays a role in how they dress is somehow an indication that they are not that enlightened or empowered as they want to be. But honestly, women dress to impress everyone, with a special emphasis on men. For example check out this study that shows women dress most to impress when ovulating and at their most fertile:

    Click for Daily Mail Article

    I personally think that women left to their own natural instinctive devices dress to impress men, but in more advanced, progressive circles the gay men and radical feminists that run the fashion world, neither of whom really care about impressing straight men, have convinced women to dress for the opposite effect. Another one of many reasons that more and more American big city women are chronically single these days.

  3. wow i didn’t think a man would know the difference between style and fashion, great post!

    Ava V’s last blog post..Providence College

  4. Fantastic post. Wow. I could not agree more. Especially about Nicole Kidman. She knows how to dress to perfectly accentuate her positives and she has a definitive sense of what she likes.

    Another one with personal style is Jennifer Lopez. Regardless of what is in, she is always true to her own glam style. I love it.

    Sienna Miller–Good lord, she is beautiful but I hate her style.

  5. i love the onion but there’s only about a 27% chance i’ll read that article.
    it would require my going to either another browser window or tab.
    not gonna happen.
    and Yes…i am THAT “internet-lazy.”

    Smash’s last blog post..The Greatest Hip-Hop Producer of All-Time!

  6. Ava – Thanks. Now that I reread it, I guess this post was unoffically for the ladies.

    Kassy K – Yeah, some of J. Lo’s ghetto-nouveau-riche ways can be grating, but she does know her own style. And sets trends too. Every Puerto Rican chick in the Bronx was rocking that big-brimmed dumb hat after J. Lo busted it out.

    Smash – My links automatically pop open new windows for you, saving the trouble of right-clicking. My links are that gangsta, dude. Go ahead…left-click that shit.

  7. Man I got to send you a pick now, towards this post…. check your e mail

  8. Let me disagree with you for a minute. Nicole Kidman, SOMETIMES is very stylish. But, she is also fashionable to a fault. Like, for instance, the blonde hair. Despite beign a natural redhead, she rocks blonde hair that is so flaxen, it completely washes her out (the pics you put up aren’t bad, but she’s been blonder to the point where she looks like she has white hair). ALSO, a few years ago “nude dresses” were all the rage for hollywood starlets. She wore one to some fancy award show (again fashionable). The thing is she is sooo pale that this also made her appear to be one of the walking dead. So yeah, she sometimes loooks good, but for every “stylish” photo you have of her there’s one of her looking a hot mess.
    I think Cate Blanchett was a better choice to prove your point.

    Desiree’s last blog post..Wow.

  9. She’s done the empire waist thing a few times, like here in the light blue Prada dress at the Oscars:

    Of course, she’s tall & slender, so she doesn’t look bad at all.

  10. Very good post. I lived in New York for a while and being the snobby Londoner I am, it always baffled me why NY is deemed one of the fashion capitals of the world. According to whom exactly? It’s a stretch. I find very few people there to actually be stylish. It’s like there’s a uniform; white people wear Banana Republic, black people wear Rocawear. But every second girl in the city has a freakin’ Coach handbag. Puh-lease.

    And I do disagree with the Nicole Kidman thing. Check out my blog for my comments on what she wore to a premiere this week. Simply atrocious. She looks decent when she keeps it plain, but by no means should she ever make it onto any best dressed list. Especially not when she’s dressed down! Same goes for Gwyneth Paltrow – utterly, utterly bland.

  11. Des – I think Nicole’s stylishness far outweighs her fashion faux pas. Plus I’m probably in the extreme minority on this but the pale blonde hair with extremely pale skin is kind of hot to me. The ghostly zombie thing looks sexy to me on some women. There was some blind chick on an old America’s Next Top Model (yes, I’m looking gayer by the minute here) named Amanda Swafford who was super-pale, they gave her ice-blonde hair and she just got hotter, it really made her blue eyes pop:

    AG – didn’t know about that, but you’re right that her height and frame help her pull it off better than most (short, stumpy women look the WORST in the empire). I also give her a pass because everyone knows that the choices you make while with Tom Cruise fall under category “temporarily batshit insane.”

    B and B – Just saw the pic you’re talking about on your site….you’re 1000% right, not even going to try to defend that one. Kidman must have been gone on a crack binge with Amy Winehouse before getting dressed that night.

  12. T- I agree about Amanda on ANTM ( I won’t even ask why you watch), but Nicole doesn’t have the same piercing blue eyes. generally red heaeds should keep their natural hair color going, kind of like Lindsay Lohan trying to go blonde…she looks like a 40 year old Long Island soccer mom. Terrible…but hey, i’m not a guy so what do I know of female beauty?

    Desiree’s last blog post..Re: The Healthiest Relationship She Was (N)Ever In…

  13. Oh 100% agreed on Lohan, she’s a train wreck with blonde hair, way too ginger for it to work. Then again her lifestyle and new cracked out looks have made it so that I think she’d still be a wreck even if she returned to the red hair now.

  14. Good article, and I think you’re spot-on with Sienna. It’s nice to have a mix of such dressers as Kidman and Miller, though. And the only person who really comes close to combining the two is Kate Moss.
    .-= Annie´s last blog ..10 =-.

  15. i have to comment on the lohan stuff (since i live a town over from the family). they are a complete disgrace to long island.