Wait, is “Trying” Finally Back in Style?
07.26.17

When I wrote about Gigi Hadid’s newfound penchant for matching her shoes to her outfits, I mentally dismissed it as nothing more than a cool development in her personal style journey.

Only recently did I become aware that it was, in fact, evidence of a much bigger style movement.

The realization hit when I was clicking through photos of Céline Dion’s outfits over the past year. The crescendo of her reentry into the fashion spotlight (which began sometime around couture week last July) has been remarked on at length, and for good reason. She’s been crushing it harder than a grape in Napa, sartorially-speaking.

Celine Dion (by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

I started to think critically about why her looks were titillating the entire internet. It then occurred to me that my unconscious use of the word “looks” was significant, because they weren’t just amalgamations of clothes that looked cool together, they were full-on LOOKS, a.k.a. “outfits.”

Here are the qualities I ascribe to a true “outfit”:

+ Unabashed matching
+ Complementary proportions
+ Coordinated accessories

Much like an ensemble coming down the runway, every aspect of an outfit is carefully considered. True outfits are the Broadway musicals of clothing combinations: dramatic, a little bit corny, massively entertaining and not at all casual — a well-oiled, premeditated style statement that epitomizes what it means to try.

Kendall Jenner (by Marc Piasecki via Getty images)

And therein lies the exclamation point at the end of this observation, because for what seems like at least the past four years (ever since fashion re-discovered irony, really), trying has been rendered somewhat taboo. Looking cool was cool, but only if it looked like it happened by accident.

Wearing a full outfit ignores that sentiment completely. It has “deliberation” written all over it.

The more I thought about it (and the more I Google-searched), it became clear that Céline and Gigi weren’t the only people propagating the full outfit movement. Other members of the A-list fan club include: Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner (100 points for matching your biker shorts to your headband), Rihanna, Zendaya (who happens to share a stylist with Céline), Winnie Harlow and Selena Gomez.

by Edward Berthelot via Getty Images

But the club isn’t limited to celebs. I did a deep dive into street style photos from July’s Paris Couture Week and confirmed that fashion industry folk were climbing on board as well.

SO WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN? I’m glad you asked, mainly because I’m not quite sure what the answer is and I want to talk about it in the comment section. My working theories are as follows:

#1 People are tired of trying to look like they’re not trying and are ergo going balls-to-the-walls in the opposite direction, celebrity stylists included.

#2 With the internet and social media, there’s no such thing as “off duty” style anymore, because you’re never really off duty when your photo can and will be taken at any time.

#3 The fact that anyone who wants a platform can have one means there is A LOT of noise. You know what’s not going to cut through it? High-waist jeans and a tank top. You know what is? A head-to-toe ivory ensemble complete with a matching cape and wide-brim hat.

Add your theories below. I’ll meet you there.

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  • Chrissey

    I can’t do effortlessly cool, I have, and will always be that person that tries. I’ve learned to embrace it.

    Chrissey
    http://unabridgedsass.com

  • Akosua Adasi

    I think you’re 100% right about people trying to cut thru the oversaturation, but it’s also so much more exciting to actually put effort into an outfit–it’s what makes getting dressed fun. When we’re trying not to look like we’re trying that’s when the real pressure starts and we become trapped in a cycle that saps the fun out of personal style

  • Vezilka

    Finally, someone is talking about it! First of all, kudos for the article, it was a delight. My theory kind of puts all of your theories together: Why shouldn’t we try? And why shouldn’t we look as if we tried, I mean really, really tried? A well thought through outfit says a lot and reflects on so many more aspects than just a sense of style. Putting together an outfit, an ensemble, is an art form and not everyone who “wakes up like this” is an artist. A great deal of the appeal of old Hollywood glamour and 90’s supermodels was the effort behind their looks. Although I’m all for being comfortable, I do like looking good and being applauded for the effort.

  • Lindsay D

    Trying is so amazing to me! I always try, I think fashion is fun and trying is part of the fun. I also hope that athleisure starts being less cool. I am all for cute gym clothes but keep it at the gym!!!!

    Celine you are a goddess

  • meme

    I can appreciate it on others, and it’s so fun to look at, but I think the appel of “effortless” was that it allowed us to look undone with intent. I need something to look off in order to feel confortable. I can hear my dad saying that looking overdressed is the worst possible offense when I asked for his opinion on an outfit. And also, you need time, a budget, a great amount of commitment to try.
    So have at it, enjoy it, and I’ll enjoy watching you, and maybe try it on small doses to go to weddings or something.

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    Thank you!! Always speaking my mind. Whenever I try to not try (?) it always seems so obvious I still am. Also, Kendall Jenner has been killing it lately. Thankful for you guys for calling out minimalism.

    Liz
    http://www.pantseatair.com

  • Kate

    The irony of the effortless chic movement is that it takes a great deal of planning/trying to look perfectly undone. I find it looks more difficult to look like I haven’t tried than to be honest about the fact that I have!

    • Danielle Cardona Graff

      I completely agree! Part of the reason is that it’s my natural inclination to try-I love decadence; gold, jewels, animal prints, etc etc, so for me “trying” is more fun and requires much less thought and speculation than trying to look like I didn’t try!

      • Sam Lewis

        So much this. I’d rather just match my colorful shirt with my colorful shoes and move on with my life then try to figure out how to do a version of “effortlessly minimal” that doesn’t make me look like I’ve given up.

        • ladle

          I swear, what is the point of looking effortless when it takes such people more time to get dressed than it takes my slow butt?

    • Amber MB

      Yes! I’ve spent the last eight years working hard to avoid letting anything match, because that was too “proper” and not “cool” enough. Well.

    • You’re absolutely right. It takes too much time looking effortless so I actually try.

  • Carolina

    Not trying is exhausting; might as well try.

    • Harling Ross

      hahaha

  • I feel like this is the natural progression away from the minimalist look that dominated the past couple years. People want to stand out instead of blend in. I know I crave color and pattern after taking a very deep dive into minimalism, Everlane swallowed me and wallet whole. Love the article!

  • Danielle Cardona Graff

    #3!!!!!
    And I absolutely LOVE what Celine is doing! Love her or hate her, love the looks or hate them, she’s doing something exciting that we haven’t seen in a while, and it’s totally inspiring!

    • Harling Ross

      agreed (love her)

  • Farton Bink

    Not trying have saved my interest for fashion. Women get so much unnecessary critique and harassment for our looks, and I feel like not trying gives me a free pass. I can wear what I want, and as long as people think I didn’t try, they don’t really bother me. Why, I have no idea. I only use the try-looks when I’m with close friends in privacy. And I love trying!! But with not trying, I can still have fun with fashion and try (just don’t look like I tried) and I don’t get as much shit about it from dudes. Anyways, I am happy trying is back in style, Celine Dion is slaying it, and the world will have less harassment in it for every day that goes.

  • Inaat

    Loved this story. I think people are just starting to get bored, I know I am!

  • Kaaren Bedi

    Confession: I never really stopped trying. It does take less effort to try than look like you don’t. It also ends up looking more polished and appropriate in most professional situations. I think it’s more fun too. So- 💞 To Celine for leading the way for the rest of us to come out of the closet as it were.

  • the fox forgot

    Yes queen! Trying is good, great in fact! Take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to show it.

    When I get dressed, I mainly think about flattering proportions and the best colors for my hair/skin/eyes. The result is sort of… Harijuku meets Pin-Up. This effort is extended to casual wear, gym wear, everywhere!

    It’s actually quite easy – instead of following trends that don’t suit me, I just buy tons of colors in the styles that look best on me. Hoping to be able to rock over-the-knee socks into old age.

  • Alex

    Love this article. I’ve spent the last 8-10 years of my life trying not to try, trying to look effortlessly cool, trying to look like I just rolled out of bed and happened to throw on an amazing look with clothes that just happened to be lying around. These last 6 months all of that has changed. Suddenly I’m matching shoes with my lipstick, handbags with dress colours, coats with my trousers, and jewelry, jewelry, jewelry… It’s fucking liberating. I’m celebrating being a woman and there’s something empowering about that. I haven’t had this much fun in, well, I guess it’s now a decade. Time to embrace the fact that I do actually care, not just about clothes but how I’m wearing them.

  • Kelly Jenney

    This is good. 🎣

  • nyalycat

    Hallelujah! I am so over the “effortless” look. I’ve always found it refreshing to be able to put on a shapeless dress and flats and just be, but its never been an everyday look. That it had become so ubiquitous was puzzling. I am a grown woman. Why am I wearing what is in effect my husband’s pajamas to work? I am ready for the backlash- slingbacks, ball skirt and all!

  • Cindy

    I think there is more going on here than reverting to trying. The self-consciousness is still there. These are all “looks” that don’t just try, they announce “I try!” In other words, there’s just enough exaggeration for the irony to still be there. I actually don’t think that’s what celine dion is trying to do. But I do think that’s why the internet is eating it up. in a totally different sense, it works well for our collective fear that most of the world has gone off the rails with great bombast and fanfare. Being effortfully effortless seems out of step with this great opportunity to say, screw you all. I do what I want.

    • “Being effortfully effortless seems out of step with this great opportunity to say, screw you all. I do what I want.”

      Snaps, Cindy. Fashion reflects the moment – either as a mirror or railing against the madness or utterly confused. Here’s to couture chaos!

    • Marta Rondon

      Right. A woman does as she wants . she dresses up or down for her own purposes or pleasure, not to please the patriarchy. Celine Dion is a queen. She looks like a queen. Good for her.

    • Becky Jantzen

      I agree with this sentiment more than any others- because really, we know everyone is trying and that we are trying to look like we are not, so this is the tail chase- and while we don’t really know if Celine is trying to look like she’s trying or if she’s just wearing what someone told her to with unabashed gusto and therefore carrying off the “over try”- it works because confidence carries off anything- including a headband and biker
      shorts- arguably one of the worst possible combinations I can think of

  • ‘Trying’ or ‘tossed together’ are fairly synonymous…when qualified as DE RIGUEUR. And that’s no contradiction – exactly – if the definition of de rigueur holds as “etiquette, protocol, or fashion”. What first drew me to this site was its title: Man Repelling. Here was a respite from wardrobe choice to please patriarchal bull that defines ‘feminine’ chic. Authentic style comes from the depth of personal expression where one’s body aligns with one’s closet content as one’s very own daily canvas. To create. What we are creating is the visual manifestation or sartorial articulation of our insular sphere which can be as nebulous as visceral. Until? A Diane Keaton tie or Georgia O’Keeffe kimono. I doubt such women ‘try’ but neither are their ‘looks’ effortless. Whatever either means, really. There’s thought there. Even when irreverent. That’s not ‘not’ caring. But also not surface preoccupation. That’s dressing for The Self – and not anyone else – because The Self is the most amusing audience, the most critical, the most intimate, and the most deserving of being ‘heard’. Which can be deeper than being ‘seen’. We all see ‘looks’. But how many are crafted – and carried off – so that we hear this woman or non-binary person, loud and clear, not telling US who they are, but rather, simply listening to themselves and sharing what they are in the process of discovering?

  • Shoshington

    It’s how we dressed in the early 2000s. I always used to match my belt to my shoes to my handbag. I even made sure my underwear matched if I could!

  • Tony L.

    And the cycle continues… This move towards complete ensembles is aligned to what I have been telling my friends… For the evening wear deco will be strong. Next move from here will be fashion with a statement. Big bold type that serves a charity or cause… Think the 80s with “choose life”. But I could be off the mark completely. Thoughts anyone?

  • Carmina Lola Kolakowski

    Stylists gained fame, and their efforts can be seen now. It’s not the star only, it’s the team. Celine went very public about her team’s efforts.

  • Mappx Low

    “True outfits are the Broadway musicals of clothing combinations: dramatic, a little bit corny, massively entertaining and not at all casual — a well-oiled, premeditated style statement that epitomizes what it means to try.” <<<- The shock of recognition at this!! My worldview from the age of 12 has been defined by musicals and put-together outfits, and being the girl who tried her best. As a burnt out 25-year-old who's made up her mind to pick her battles and not try so hard at everything, I've noticed my outfits relaxing too. Hmm. I'll take this as a sign that a second wind could be on the way? I miss putting together looks, and the on-top-of-everything feeling it gave me.

  • alarmallama

    Dressing like man repellent has become my coping mechanism because I’m in law school and the best days are the ones when no men attempt to speak to me (my collection of plaid flannels is getting a serious workout/expansion, I’m living all my dreams) but my approach to work wardrobe has always been about trying and tactical colour coordination, so I’m thrilled to be on the bleeding edge of fashion. I never got the appeal of the ironic “did I dress in the dark or is it laundry day?” approach. If I could afford to step out in labels and I knew my picture was getting taken as soon as my foot touched the sidewalk every day, I’d go full Celine. My personal style would be “what’s up, motherfuckers?”

    Capes. Capes for days. Let’s stay in this moment forever.

  • ladle

    I have never really cared for the ‘effortless’ thing. I like looking nice, and I don’t want to add ‘but not like I’m trying too hard’ to that. I also, despite being an extrovert, have a hard time with making things about me, since I feel rude, and trying helps me get out of that.

  • Senza Tempo style

    I think it’s also a bit of a reaction to the (way overdone imho) athleisure and casual trends we’ve seen in fashion. Spending that much time and money to look like you rolled out of bed, just got back from the gym or pulled your outfit from a pile of moth-eaten clothes headed for the rag pile (often due to the incredibly cheap fabrics and construction) has simply gone too far. There are only so many ways you can style leggings or any type of athleisure, it all looks the same after a while. Constructing a “look” is a commitment to personal style, which there isn’t much of these days scrolling through so many bloggers’ Instagram profiles – everyone looks the same or outrageous. None cultivate a consistent look in the way Jackie Kennedy or Audrey Hepburn dressed. It’s a completely retro approach to getting dressed – it’s how our mothers and grandmothers dressed. They wouldn’t have been caught dead outside of the house in leggings.

  • padutchchick

    I am old, and though my day to day is rather simple, I plan for any going-out event I have–from something truly splendid to a small dinner by the pool with friends. I can’t not. My friends, who are mostly men who play for the other team, think I am a bit extra but I don’t care.

  • Claire

    Is it trying? We were always trying. I feel as if this is along the same lines as being paid to wear head-to-toe designer. And let’s not fool ourselves to be thinking these women are scoring their closets to curate something interesting, not with stylists at their beck and call. Perhaps some are—I wish I could tell. So whether this is a trend or not, we still can’t rely on these stars to have done it themselves anyway. I think it’d be more interesting if they chose what they wore themselves, but it’d be damn difficult to market, huh? Trying…”not trying”…does it make any difference?

  • Katie M

    “She’s been crushing it harder than a grape in Napa, sartorially-speaking”
    Laughed out loud on the train reading this line. Love your work Harling.

  • Arles Arquitecta

    Effortless is boring. It has always been. The problem is that fashion magazines have been detating norms and electing those who were “cool” for too long. Now, with the “democracy” of social media, people choose what’s cool, so being wild in style is ok and is more fun. I totally agree with the article that the lots of noise in social media makes people to go deliberately bold in style in order to stand out in the crowd