I have been thinking lately of what we might mean by the word style. I sometimes get comments on all my platforms saying that anyone can be stylish if they wear expensive clothes. In a comment like that style and monetary value is conflated and I suppose it might come down to how we define “style”. There are two ways to think about the definition I suppose. One way is very prescriptive in that it involves rules about what you should or should not wear. It also implicates trends. It is also usually dictated by someone other than ourselves. This seems to be the definition that may then be more dependent on cost and class. It is probably more related to marketing and status rather than a creative act.

In the many beautiful and expressive comments in response to my last post, The Language of Clothes, it is clear there is another definition of style; one that is most liberating and in our control. This is the definition of style that suggests it is the very personal way we say who we are through what we chose to wear and how we put the pieces together. This is the definition of style that to me is personally empowering. It is not dependent on the cost of a garment or the name of the brand or designer. It comes from inside.

As you know my tastes run the gamut from high to low. I have mentioned here before that my mother came from privilege; a highly educated and wealthy family that can trace back to signers of the Declaration of Independence. My father is from an immigrant. working class and public servant heritage with no college in the picture. So for me, I contain both these classes in my DNA and can move easily between them. As a public servant for much of my career, I did not have the budget to indulge my designer taste and so found ways to express who I was or aspired to be in my style that met it. Because of this ability to cross class, I do not apologize for the privilege I now have of designers allowing me to wear their clothes or the rare moments when I personally decide to buy something that I think is a lifetime treasure. I also do not apologize for putting together an outfit for a shoot that is from a thrift store nor do I have any shame about wearing consignment or second-hand clothes. Because for me style is not about money.

I use the two pictures above as an example. One outfit cost $2,700. The other outfit $95.00. Can you tell which is which? The interesting thing is for me I feel exactly the same when I am wearing them and I feel they equally convey something about me and who I wish to be. There is an element of the Accidental Icon in both that is recognizable. That to me is style.

Let’s weigh in here. What are your thoughts about the definition of style and the relationship to cost?