Style is defined as a distinctive appearance and can vary from person to person. According to a survey of business leaders published in 2012 by the Center of Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania, two thirds of the respondents stated that when it comes to getting ahead, image makes a huge impact. Style can vary based on one’s area, social demographic, economic income and myriad other factors.
Florence, Ala., for example, is an area of historical significance and cultural value. As a college town, the area surrounding campus holds a diverse multitude of students. In terms of style, the diverse campus population has influenced several different styles of clothing, from vintage thrift store items to designer items with a price tag of four figures.
Local university fashion student and sustainability activist Sophia Tran describes her style as “very experimental.” Tran shops at local thrift shops and enjoys the up-cycle of clothing in a time of major environmental concern.
“Style is a form of identity,” Tran said. “It should represent you as a person, and suit the lifestyle that you live.”
Tran enjoys yoga and writing and her style is dictated by her daily actions,
“I have a very active lifestyle; therefore, I dress to meet those requirements,” Tran said.
Style can reflect one’s day-to-day life, but is a relative term and means something different from person-to-person. Emily Morgan, a fashion student and sales associate at high-end designer boutique Lilly’s Sportswear, describes her style as “sophisticated, leisurely athletic and most important, open.”
“I have so many different sides to me, I’m very open minded,” Morgan said.
Morgan works for one of the most prestigious and high-end boutiques in the city of Florence, with some items priced up to four figures, but her wardrobe is not limited to the clothes she sells.
“I have to be presentable for work of course, but I love to dress very open minded,” Morgan said. “Fashion is how you project yourself and how you are feeling. My style has a lot to do with my confidence and represents who I am as a person.”
Style and fashion mean different things to different people and the importance or relevance of style remains a matter of personal choice. However, can style honestly be relevant to one’s everyday lifestyle?
Lifestyles can impact a specific style, whether one is going to brunch on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or going to yoga at a studio in Florence, Ala.
If lifestyles do dictate one’s style of dress, how important is it? It can indicate one’s social status or cultural belonging. For instance, in India the men and women are draped in embroidered textiles in honor of their cultural and religious background. Or in the privileged setting of Manhattan, as Wednesday Martin once said in her book “Primates of Park Avenue”:
“By chasing Birkins we’re not just making ourselves into chasers of Birkin bags. These women are reminding men, society, and themselves that they inhabit a privileged, identificatory relationship to those bags.”
In the rarefied world of the Upper East Side, a Hermès bag is an item of status and importance, a true identity signifier and status symbol.
Style and fashion allow a person to define themselves when words are absent. It can be meaningless to some, important to others, but it is relevant to one’s daily life experience and can only be interpreted by the one who wears it.