If you take a quick look at the person sitting right next to you, without even waving “hello”, you can guess whether they’re daring or boring, creative or uninspired, happy or sad, hurried or patient. Because that’s what style is — it can reveal more secrets about you than your mother.
I take style so seriously that on some days, I’ll let my clothes (and writing) do all the socialising for me. I answer all the “what’s ups?” with the colour of my clothes. If I’m happy, you’ll see me in bright purple or turquoise heels; if I’m angry, you’ll see me vampy with red lips and a long black, cloak-like kurta; if I’m sick, my hair will be unwashed, clothes unironed, wearing a pukish green top — a bit extreme, I know! But that’s what fashion is for me and I’m sure for a lot of young women it’s the same. It’s an expression of who you are and what you’re feeling right now.
But mastering a signature style that speaks volumes about you is something I’m still struggling with. With malls flooded with expensive brands and boring three piece lawn suits everywhere, it gets hard to narrow down what you really like as opposed to what is being pushed down your throat as ‘fashion’.
Here are a few tips to help you truly stand out without looking like something the cat dragged in.
1. Assess your best asset
Tina Turner knew her legs would turn heads forever, so for every performance she flaunted those babies. Cher in the 70s, Madonna in the 80s, and Lady Gaga today have one thing in common — they know their brand of crazy works. So they displayed their craziness upfront and center. It’s important to know, understand and love what makes you different and embrace it. If you think your collar bones are brilliant, show them off in a strapless dress; if your waist is teeny, parade it in a corset top.
2. Look around for inspiration
Take cues from your surroundings; from your taste in music to your favourite actors, inspiration is everywhere. Find a flower on the floor with the most vibrant colour, pick it up and get your dyer to dye it in the exact same shade. If you like a writer or artist, look for images of them online when they were younger but don’t just blindly copy them — give it your unique twist and make it your own. Take for instance Lana Del Ray, who embodies Priscilla Presley but in a beautiful, modern way.
3. Tweak and tailor with time
Just because you’re looking fab, doesn’t mean you should get stuck in a style rut. Alter it a bit every month, or you’ll get bored very soon. If your look is long, messy beachy waves, evolve it the next month and go in the direction of extreme curls.
4. A style pin board and defining terms
Collect all the inspiring swatches of colour, print, buttons and images together. Assess the shades, prints, eras, personality and styles of your icons. Come up with terms that tie all these things together. Be inventive!
On some days, it’ll come out as confusing as Boho-bold-meets-exotic-classy-princess. But with more time and as the objects increase, you’ll come across one theme. Once you have it, run free with it.
Who has signature style today?
Style defining terms: Chic sophistication
Accessories: Jackie O shades, statement handbags
Shoes: High heels
Clothes: Crisp collars, sheath/shift dresses in monotones
Era inspired by: 60s
Movement inspired by: Mod
Hates: Prints, busy looks, over-accessorising
How she alters her style: By experimenting with hair lengths
Pakistani women with signature style
While her heavily padded shoulders and big suits on shalwar kameezes isn’t exactly my thing, Benazir still had a style which defined her. You could tell from just looking at her back, that it was her.
From her haircut to her monotone tops, she has the classiest, cleanest style. It doesn’t try hard, it’s not in your face, and yet it’s always current — even when she’s crossed 40.
Hina Rabbani Khar
Politically, she might not be my favourite person but her style is inimitable. She doesn’t rely on big ugly coats to look conservative — yet still looks elegant, covered up and classy.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2012.