Style is a friend; one of my oldest acquaintances.
I discovered Style in my dressing-up box, lid heavy, catch permanently broken. Then, Style had meant princess dresses, in all the colours of the rainbow, glass slippers and sparkle-shadowed eyes.
Though the garments and trimmings are changed, some fundamentals of style endure.
Style means expressing your identity. Style was a favourite mint green wool cardigan, knitted by Gran and sent in the post in brown paper, tied with string, the handwriting an illegible scrawl. Style was my matching mint green trousers, with black polka dots. Style was posing in said mint, a pink silk carnation in hand, on a box covered in shaggy white fur, for a photographer with a shopping centre stall. Style means making the best of what is available to you.
Style means the lengths to which I went to make my school uniform more appealing – the skirt made shorter by surreptitious twists of the waistband; the open-necked blouse worn tight across budding breasts; the shoes higher than all-girls school rules allowed. Style was not what the headmistress had in mind.
Style means finding an item you love and wearing it to death. Dressed up or down, sharing it with your best friend, wearing it two nights running when nothing else looks quite right. For me (and my best friend) that item was a simple black vest with a brown nymph silhouette and black and gold sequinned stars, stitched in a sprinkle, crossed at the back in such a way as to preclude a bra of any sorts. I remember the nip of those sharp stars, digging the flesh of my upper arm as we crushed to the bar of our favourite club, week after week.
Style means comfort. It should fit perfectly, no matter shape or size. At university, Style and I often favoured bed over lectures and library. Style was pyjamas on the sofa, dressing up to stay at home, ice cream straight from the tub and Sex And The City marathons. It was bleached hair, heavy eyeliner, jingling bangles, fake tan. When my student-self did venture out – usually to indulge Style’s insatiable shopping habit – it was leopard print pumps, boyfriend jeans (distressed blue to match the heavy Scottish skies and their scudding clouds) and university hoodies declaring the legends ‘Edinburgh lawyers – Guaranteed to get you off’ and ‘Edinburgh lawyers never lose their appeal’. Or else skinny jeans and sequinned blazers, £5-a-piece cocktail rings in pomegranate rubies, oceanic sapphires, milky opal.
Style means individuality. Adding your own touch when everyone around you looks the same; standing out, even if you are the only one who knows it. Four years after those first pyjama days, Style was there on graduation day. We all wore long black gowns with blue silk sashes, fur-lined hoods, mortarboards off-centre, French beret-style. Style convinced me that barely-there-black hold-ups were a good idea, a nod to sartorial frivolity on this most intellectually sacred of days. They hugged my thighs tightly, itching in the dry heat of the ceremony hall as the graduation service droned on.
And now, here we are, Style and me in the Big Wide World. In scented drawers, on satin hangers, tissue-wrapped between seasons in boxes labelled and sealed. I consign Style to the back of the wardrobe, to the dustbin. And I shop. A virtuous cycle.
Style is a mirror, reflecting every mood. A mirror showing glimpses of past, present and future. Style is an expression of who I am and who I hope to become. Or an expression of someone entirely different, if but for a day.
Style means juxtaposition – it is frivolous/serious, sexy/straight-laced, erudite/charmingly uneducated.
Style is exquisite.
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