We’re In It: The Era of Personal Style — but What Does That Mean?
We’ve talk a lot about this new era of personal style. We say that trends are dead. That in order to be a successful designer today, you’ve got to be reactive; no longer do members of the upper echelon dictate what we want to wear so much as they do respond to our hankerings. The most compelling proof of this concept is Vetements, a label that exploded into fashion last year, whose creative director is already so respected that he’s been tapped to take over at Balenciaga.
But that’s the conflicting thing about the death of trends. They aren’t actually dead. Personal style is just the trend that we’re leaning into right now.
But what does that mean?
If you think about a designer like Dries Van Noten, a man who has been consistently lauded for the styling at his shows, you get to see a solid case for an interesting definition of personal style. At Dries, personal style is what happens when you put average stuff together and suddenly, it’s extraordinary. Standout pieces exist: bras made entirely from paillettes, brocade coats enveloped in palm trees — but outside the statement stuff, when pulled apart, what you get is a lot of well made clothing that’s remarkably unremarkable.
I was recently at Miu Miu’s shop thinking that the impact of the new clothes on display were best represented at the show six months earlier where they were piled together to evince the spirit of a sort of a personal style pioneer: The Eccentric. And per this eccentric, who better to define the modern day version than Gucci’s much talked about Alessandro Michele? Ditto that for Prada’s most recent fall collection. The most common criticism among the reporters and market editors for Miuccia Prada’s show was that once taken apart they’d just look like regular clothes. But to argue this is to miss the point.
We’re not supposed to feel like our clothes put us in boxes anymore. They don’t say everything about who we are or who we’re not. Something I have always admired about the aforementioned Dries Van Noten is that when you walk into his world, what you find is that the dress you’re eyeing as a twenty-something has just been sold to a middle-aged blonde woman with a bob in town from Alsace. Those are clothes that pack a punch — that speak to your personality, but also to her personality, and they do it for completely divergent reasons. Isn’t that power? To appeal to so many kinds of women at so many different junctures?
Women were never Just One Thing, but we were made to feel that way by the clothes that we elected to define us.
AYR’s Maggie Winter put it well when she said, “There’s nothing today’s woman can’t do — she isn’t limited by a label or a logo.” This is true of a silhouette or garment color, too. That a look by Gucci, or Prada, or Miu Miu or whomever could feel like it speaks so accurately to “the era of personal style” because of how kooky it looks is a surface way to interpret the clothes. I only realize that now.
It’s really when you break apart these collections to learn that they consist of tons of regular garments that appeal to tons of regular women that you see real personal style on display. And that personal style, by the way, isn’t about the clothes or how you wear them. It’s a sort of political statement that rejects our being typecast and articulates our relationship with choice. Not just our ability to choose, but also our right — a choice! — not to.
Runway images via Vogue Runway; collage by Emily Zirimis.