By NIKKI HUANG
What is style, readers? Everyone has it, whether you care about style and all things fashion, or not. Style is something cultivated out of the way people live, a manner of existing that constantly evolves as you go from one life experience to another.
People often wonder about what it takes to develop a sense of style in terms of fashion. I’ve been asked about who my “style inspiration” is for many magazine features, or how I’d describe my style. I’ve also been asked about what advice I’d give girls or guys trying to develop their own personal style.
While I don’t necessarily think I’m the go-to style expert (I have just, after all, turned 19) I do believe the outlook with which I regard “style” has greatly helped me along the way. So I thought that I’d explain my own personal style philosophy for this week’s article. I hope you enjoy!
Generally, readers, I see style as internal and external. Internal style is how I like to refer to everything that happens within the core of who we are: It is made up of our morals, values, beliefs, goals, deepest traumas, and utmost joys. Our inner style is who we are no matter what our clothes, hair, makeup, income, fitness level are, readers…you get my point. And I am of the belief that once this internal style is reflected in our outward appearance (a.k.a., external style), “personal style” is achieved.
I know. It sounds a little contrived. But hear me out please! I have written before about my basis for putting together outfits, hair, and makeup looks. I think the strategy I have devised for myself is the same advice I’d give to anyone looking to elevate their own sense of style.
First and foremost, I create looks based on my internal situation. On any given day, when styling myself, I ask these questions: What am I doing today? What are my goals? How am I feeling? Who am I seeing, and who do I want to be around the people and places I’m going to find myself around today? Once I have answered the questions above, I then examine what seems to be most suited to my situation in terms of clothing, accessories, hair, and makeup. Do I need to look simple and polished? Time for my favorite Chanel slingbacks, straight cut denim jean, a crisp linen button-down, and a sleek ponytail to keep my hair out of the way. Do I need to be comfortable and ready for anything? Probably not the best time to wear my highest heels. Or do I want to try something bold, catch attention, and make a statement? Balenciaga knife boots, skin tight sparkling dress, and dark eye makeup it is. Do I want to have fun with my look or is it the time to be taken seriously? It is with these questions in mind that I style.
At the same time, I think it’s important to remember that the relationship between internal and external style (who we truly are vs. how we look/appear to be) is bidirectional. It is equally important to use our external style to influence our internal, should the need be there. Let’s say you’re feeling down and not ready to face the world, reader.
The reason could be anything: Having just gone through a stressful time at school or work, fresh from a breakup, in the throes of illness, or reeling from a fight with a close friend. This is the time to use your style to influence how you feel. Dress in a way that makes you feel powerful, comfortable, and most confidently you. Take extra time on your makeup, enjoying the act of caring for yourself and being creative on the best canvas—your face. Trust me when I say enjoying the process of dressing up, getting ready, fixing your hair, and doing your makeup is, in fact, not vanity. Us women are conditioned to believe “fixing” is something that should be a hidden affair, lest we be considered full of ourselves. The reality is that caring for yourself is liberty you are entitled to.
It is an art that, when mastered, enables you to be the best version of yourself you can be. I know it’s an art I’ll be working on my entire life, inside and out.
That’s how I see it, readers. Outward appearance—and all that we do to alter it—is a means to an end. It is a vessel for communicating without speaking, for expression that is simultaneously subtle and overt. It is a way to equip ourselves to interact, engage, tackle, and accomplish. The way a man or a woman deals with day-to-day life, both in his or her inter and intrapersonal interactions, is what I consider to be the truest definition of personal style. Style in terms of fashion is a subcategory of this, and often the visual aspect of this broader “style” that I refer to.
So the next time you find yourself struggling to choose an outfit, just think of it this way: Who are you, truly, inside, and how do you want to showcase that for the world to see?