Know first who you are and then adorn yourself accordingly - Epictetus

28 March 2011

The 10 Golden Rules of Great Style

According to Vogue Australia that is. I don’t agree with everything in the article but it presents some interesting ideas that mesh quite well with my current efforts to redesign my wardrobe and my thinking about clothes. These are what I found to be the most interesting ideas:

1. Hit the Trenches
Simple and elegant, yet with that all-important mystery, the trench is the polar opposite of the fur coat, as it is all about underplaying your hand.

2. To thine Own Self be True
It was the Greek philosopher Epictetus who said: “Know first who you are and then adorn yourself accordingly.” The first thing we can all do is be honest about our body shape. Plum Sykes, contributing editor at US Vogue, says: “Fit is fundamentally more important than fashion. It’s much better to accept how you look and retrain your eye to dress accordingly.” Averyl Oates, fashion buyer at Harvey Nicols, says: “Everyone has an icon, but it’s important to develop your own look. True style is about not letting the clothes wear you.”

3. Shoes should be Made for Walking, as well as Talking
According to shoe maestro Manolo Blahnik, there’s only one shoe style that no woman can live without: perfectly crafted stilettos. Shapes aside, the right shoes should always make your life more, not less, graceful. When it comes to flats, always invest in the best as they will pay for themselves on a cost-per-wear basis.

4. Make the perfect T-shirt your New Best Friend
Whatever your choice, the ultimate symbol of laid-back cool should be uniquely you. Look for a neckline to suit your shape, a thickness that feels comfortable, sleeves that you can roll and a cut that drapes beautifully below the bust.

5. Memories are the Real Diamonds
Never underestimate the talismanic quality of jewellery: every piece should evoke a certain memory of your life. If you want style to last, choose a piece that is unique and original, rather than expensive. Says jeweller Tom Binns: “Style is something you pick up; taste is inherent.” And as Coco Chanel proved, get the jewellery right and you can wear the simplest of clothes.

6. When it comes to Tailoring, Raise the Bar
Every woman needs at least one great jacket. “It is the full stop. It defines as much as it completes the look.” Says
[now ex] Dior designer John Galliano.

7. Choose a bag with Character
While a bag should never scream with logos, it does set the tone of your look and, as such, should be shorthand for luxury, elegance and aspiration. As Karl Lagerfeld explains: “Everybody knows the 2.55 is Chanel. It is an instant identification wherever you go. It is the easiest thing to wear: like jeans, it is never a problem. It goes with everything at every age.”

8. Stay Interesting
Fashion loves its style diktats, but they should never be at the expense of your individuality. Every look should have at least on surprise or talking point. Be receptive to ideas, regardless of your age.

9. Ensure your Wardrobe is Polished, Pressed and Pristine
Elika Gibbs, founder of Practical Princess wardrobe service, believes disorganised clutter and hoarding comes between so many of us and great style. “Only when a wardrobe is organised can you see what’s missing and ensure it functions properly,” she says. “Get everything out and go through it. You will soon be able to spot the repeat buys and what is lacking. Be disciplined.” She suggests photographing your outfits for your very own look book, to make dressing more efficient and your wardrobe work harder.

10. Remember, Nothing is Forever
While we are all in search of the eternal classic, it’s worth remembering that when it comes to fashion nothing is forever. Style never stands still, so neither should your wardrobe. As Plum Sykes says: “Without change, you can never be truly stylish. Women who wear the same thing over and over again might look chic, but they won’t have real style.” So finally, take Lagerfeld’s advice on the golden rules of dressing: “Lots of people have great style, but the most important thing is to have your own style.”

I don’t know how I feel about this last idea. I think that keeping the central elements of a look or ‘uniform’ are how you cultivate personal style. Sure accessories can change, but a simple Breton top and cigarette-cut pants, for example, look just as chic on a girl my age as they do on someone my mother’s age and even older. It is about styling the overall effect. I go for top-knots or the slightly unkempt long French-girl style hair while my mother has a chignon or neatly styles her shoulder-length hair. And then there are accessories, I might stack on a few of my favourite plastic bangles or some red beads whereas my mother has a few gold chain bracelets and necklaces that she wears religiously. 

Surely this is the mark of true style: the ability to take classic, basic elements and make the look uniquely yours with minimal additions? Thoughts?

image source: tumblr


  1. I disagree with the last rule.. in my opinion, true personal style is when you know what works for you and consistently stick to it. I absolutely agree with what you say, that a uniform cultivates personal style.

  2. Yeah, I think we can agree that, as this was written for a fashion magazine, the contributors all have a vested interest in selling us trends and the latest fashion items :)

  3. I agree with you on the breton top and cigarette pants looking ageless. Your exactly right, being able to uniquely interpret classic items is the mark of good style. Lovely blog by the way.

  4. I completely disagree with Plum's last statement. I think once you know what works on you, you should pretty much stick with it. Yes of course you can still try some new things to freshen it up, but I think someone who's "style" lacks some form of consistency doesn't really have a style, they are either victim or mannequin. Unfortunately I don't wear my trenches as often as I used to because I got sick of hearing snide comments about it--I've substituted them for boyfriend cardigans instead. And I love the Epictetus quote.

  5. Couldn't agree with you more. I think that with fresh accessories any look, no matter how much of a 'uniform' you choose to wear. That's awful about your trenches :( I would love to tell you to stand tall but the snide comments always get to me too. People can be pretty horrible. The quote is now my personal mantra :)


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