Is going from, let’s say, a Courtney Love to a Grace Kelly look, from tawdry to graceful (pun intended), is this even plausible? Well, Love actually did, for a brief shining moment when she attended the 1997 Oscars in an ivory white Versace dress, immaculate makeup and a platinum bob hairdo. What she didn’t do was accompany the new look with a new mindset, and soon the chanteuse was back to the disheveled heroine grunge look and callous antics, going as far as throwing a compact powder at Madonna during a live MTV interview. Her reinvention was an incandescent opportunity that crashed and burned.
Brickell-based Psychotherapist Jane A. Torres expounds on this notion: “We grow up with an image of ourselves which may or may not correspond to how others see us. Unfortunately too often we have a negative self-image that we picked up in childhood,” she says. “An individual’s style will not change until that individual changes the internal image he or she has of themselves.”
This sort of proves that the clothes might make the man, or woman, but the change of ethos and disposition is what will truly bring your new creation to life. Clothing initially was intended to help shield humans and keep us warm in extreme climates, with ornaments that included shell, stone and teeth fragments hung from the wrists, neck or ankles. In early hierarchic societies, they were to be worn by priest and kings as symbols of rank, just as in our present society individual’s tote around the newest Hermés bag or Patek Philippe watch as a means of identifying with a higher class.
John Byron Page, a Professor of Anthropology at University of Miami believes style and identity are very much interwoven. “Style carries the cues that other people interpret to make a ‘second call’ on one’s identity, after they have already assessed phenotype: skin color, hair and eye color,” he says. “In whatever cultural context, people respond first to what they see and then to what they hear. First impressions are very important, especially for gaining access to certain social contexts.”
Luckily, it’s never too late (particularly in these times when most are attempting to brand themselves) to take a look at your style and the image you project…and, if need be, clean house and start from scratch. But first you must decide on what your new style will be. Do your homework by watching films, reading books, checking out fashion blogs and skimming through magazines. Your new image has the potential to unlock doors previously closed to you. Get a clear definition of what rings true to you. Observe with the eyes of an anthropologist the individual or individuals that have a style you seek and begin your Kafka-esque metamorphosis.
It’s at this point that you’re ready to move forward with your new wardrobe. The basic archetypes of style still remain: classic, trendy, boho and vintage — often merging into the fashion of the season. For Miami’s very own “Fashion Poet,” a Style & Beauty Blogger named Annie Vazquez, style is whatever you want it to be. “It has to do with the outfit, but it’s also about personality — people stand out because of both,” she says. “In this world, we judge people first on the way they look, and clothes and attitude speak volumes.”
Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy agrees. “Our non-verbal body language can predict really meaningful life outcomes: from who we hire, to who we ask out on a date,” she says. Cuddy’s research shows that powerful people take on power stances with arms outstretched above the head or akimbo, while powerless people wrap themselves up and coil in, not wanting to take up too much space.
Once you’ve decided on the style and look you want for yourself, you need to address the attitude and body language that will accompany it. It starts from the inside out. We either go big or we go home. You can’t borrow Angelina Jolie’s leather getup in Tomb Raider and carry yourself like Reese Witherspoon’s character in Legally Blonde, or try to pull off a 007 look with the silliness of Jim Carrey.
As Vazquez acknowledges, there’s plenty of people who dress great, but only a handful who become personalities. “You have to claim your look,” she says, mentioning Coco Chanel, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Lady Gaga.
But don’t worry: You don’t have to go bust at the bank to do it. Expensive brand names are not as important as well-fitted and properly tailored clothes, along with good grooming, posture and the internal conversation you have with yourself. The most important step doesn’t start with your wardrobe — it starts with how you feel about yourself — it begins from within. How you feel inside determines how you conduct yourself and the vibe you put off. As Cuddy concludes: “Our non-verbal actions govern how other people think and feel about us,” she says. “You can fake it ‘till you make it, but it’s better to fake it ‘till you feel it!”
Check out these stylish resources sure to help you take your fashion choices to a whole new level.
Pin That Look
Pinterest is an ideal starting point to sort through images for your new style revamp and get some ideas on the perfect look; Pinterest.com.
This is a great site for all things fashion, beauty & design, and there’s much more you wouldn’t expect to find anywhere else online; Refinery29.com.
Support upcoming designers while finding one-of-a-kind limited fashion pieces that will accentuate any new look; MuUse.com.
Just Like Coco
If somebody is going to teach you a thing or two about fashion, or life for that matter, let it be Coco Chanel with The Gospel; Amazon.com.
Under The Gunn
Style Guru & Hollywood go-to man Tim Gunn calls it like it is in his latest book: Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style; Amazon.com.
Style For 305
This wonderful site is sure to keep you on the up-and-up with runway looks & fashion trends for every season and beyond; WhoWhatWear.com.
An absolute must-have that will help you find the new you is a book on etiquette — a great classic to thumb through is The Etiquette Book; Amazon.com.