Fashion Trends vs. Personal Style

One weekend last year I was enjoying a bit of window shopping with my family when I noticed something peculiar.  My daughter, who was about ten at the time, was wearing her favorite combination of T-shirt, jeggings and fur-lined Ugg boots…and so was every other girl on the street.  It was as if all the young women in Los Angeles had gotten up in the morning and tweeted: “Today I’ll be in Old Town Pasadena wearing my skinny jeans and Ugg boots. Hope to see you there!”

What is it about fashion that makes so many people, myself included, desire to look like carbon copies of everyone else?

Clothing is a language. We express who we are and who we want to be with our wardrobes.  In our sartorial autobiographies skirts and shirts are nouns, accessories adjectives, shoes and purses verbs. As a fashion student I wore black, black, and more black, just like all the other fashion students. Later my career took me to a large corporation where I experimented with suits and toted around a large organizer as if attending meetings was a status symbol. When I was a stay-at-home-mom who spent her days watching over toddlers at the playground I wore the uniform of all mother hens; jeans, sneakers, t-shirts and sweatshirts. More recently I have returned to my career as a designer and have started a fashion blog.  As a “style blogger” I spend a lot of time on my appearance, carefully crafting each outfit to make a statement and express my personal style while modeling current fashion trends. Gee, can you tell?

Clothing choices are also a form of social advertisement.  We tell those around us what group we belong to by what we wear.  If Ugg boots and jeggings meant “young, cute, trendy girl” on that chilly day last year, then certainly my comfortable flared jeans and t-shirt meant “mom with young children” to all around me.  Back when I took care of my children full-time I could always tell a working mother by the way she was dressed. A delicate fitted blouse, smart trousers and low heeled pumps said “the nanny called in sick” before a word was spoken.

I like to think that I’m beyond all this and that my personal style is unique and uninfluenced by the world around me, but I would just be lying. Currently I’m craving a new clutch bag so strongly that I might just have to sew one if I can’t find one I can afford.  This isn’t because I love clutches.  In fact I’ve always found them rather silly and impractical. The leopard one I’m toting around in these photos has sat, unused, in my closet for twenty years. (It belonged to my mother, otherwise I’m sure it would have made its way to the Goodwill long ago.) No, I want another clutch because all the other personal style bloggers are posing with clutch bags.

There are trends, of course, that have never made their way to my wardrobe.  I enjoy the “hippie-bohemian” look on other women, but peasant tops have never really been my thing no matter how in fashion they are. There have been years where I couldn’t find any new clothing because everything looked awful on my shape. I’ve found my personal style by navigating the choppy waters of current fashion trends, deciding upon pieces that speak to me and flatter my figure, and avoiding the ones that don’t.

Our sartorial vocabulary is limited by the pieces of clothing in our closets. We can add to our vocabulary with new purchases and DIY projects, but even those are limited by availability. I find it to be a sticky situation.  I neither want to be a slave to fashion nor oblivious to its charms. I want to look current without being a carbon copy of all the other women who do what I do and like what I like.  The trick, I think, is to mix new trendy pieces with older items you love.  Take for instance the my hat I’m wearing in these photos. I’ve had this little beret for over 20 years.  It’s very “me”. The plaid coat is new, but the flared, swing shape is a returning theme in my wardrobe.  Years ago I owned a black leather skirt very similar to this inexpensive vinyl one I recently purchased.  I’m not entirely sure the black turtle neck t-shirt is part of a fashion rut or my “signature style”, but I do know that I currently own almost 30 black t-shirts and wear them with almost everything.

True personal style can only come by knowing who you are and what you want to say.  My advice? Enjoy current fashion trends by adding new pieces to your wardrobe from time to time, but mix them with older pieces that you’ve loved for years. Make sure everything you wear fits well, looks great on you and is something you really love. Try new shapes, colors and textures as you never know what will tickle your fancy, but if a certain style doesn’t look good move on to the next trend. There will aways be a new one coming along.

Now about that clutch bag…

  • Beret – Laurel Fenega
  • Plaid Coat – Kensie
  • Scarf – a gift
  • Turtleneck T-shirt – The Gap
  • Vinyl skirt – Zara
  • Leopard Clutch – Vintage
  • Boots – Lou

What do you consider personal style and how do you craft your own?  Ever been somewhere and seen a whole bunch of people dressed all alike? Do you agree that clothing is a language?

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22 Responses to Fashion Trends vs. Personal Style

  1. Ofelia December 9, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    I just find your blog from Bella’s post.
    You do have your own personal style; I think its very modern and sleek.
    My personal way of dressing is influence by my background, my love of color and prints and my love of accessories.
    Have a great weekend,

    • Heather Fonseca December 10, 2011 at 9:38 am #

      Hi Ofelia! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I checked out your blog and noticed that you have some wonderful printed dresses and gorgeous beaded necklaces too. It’s fun seeing everyone’s personal style, and I like it when I see people creating their own look rather than wearing what everyone else wears.

  2. Leslie Miller December 9, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    So funny–I also crave a clutch, badly, even though at 54 I have never used one and also consider them ridiculous… I am “clutching” at the idea of finding the perfect one, and enjoying the search. (the search is always half the fun!)

    I didn’t really know where the craving came from, but I think you are right–it’s because every actress, supermodel and blogger is being photographed looking chic with a clutch–I simply cannot resist the allure of chic-ness. Even though I keep telling myself I have nowhere to use it…

    • Heather Fonseca December 10, 2011 at 9:33 am #

      I think like you I cannot resist the allure of chic-ness, and the search is ALWAYS half the fun. Although clutches aren’t very practical for every day now that I’m dragging around the vintage leopard one I do find it nice for evening outings. I hate putting my purse on the floor or hanging it on the chair in a restaurant but the clutch is small enough to fit on the table or in my lap. So maybe they can be practical some of the time.

  3. A Brit Greek
    December 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Really enjoyed this post, and that remark about skinny jeans and Uggs made me chuckle. It seems that this is the current uniform for laid back style adopted by many cities all over the world!

    I love your Bonnie and Clyde style in some of these shots. I can’t believe that clutch hasn’t been on more outings!

    As much as i’m influence by fashion and what goes on around me I still dress for me and what makes me feel and look good. Plus re-inventing and outfit with accessories is so much fun!
    A Brit Greek recently posted..Festive sparkles: What I woreMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca December 10, 2011 at 9:30 am #

      I love reinventing outfits with accessories too and I’m so glad you liked my look. I didn’t think of it as Bonnie and Clyde but now that I look at it again it does have that feel!

  4. Alexis of NorthOnHarper December 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    I think personal style is something that is developed. Like you said it is some that come from years of collecting pieces that speak to you and adding to wardrobe thoughtfully.

    This has influenced my current attitude of trying to buy investment pieces over throw away fashion. Of course there is the occasional throw away piece.
    Alexis of NorthOnHarper recently posted..Seasonal StressMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca December 10, 2011 at 9:28 am #

      I’m trying very hard to buy better quality pieces from small, independent stores, but most of what I’m wearing in this post came from a few big establishments: Loehmanns, Zara and the Gap. I can’t seem to help myself, but of course by purchasing from the big places we tend to look like everyone else who purchases from the same big places. I think investing in quality garments from smaller companies will help us to create a more unique look.

  5. brandy December 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    the skinny jeans/ugg boot combination is the uniform of all women and girls in Düsseldorf right now and it’s soooo boring to me. I think most people just like to fit in, don’t want to make their own choices and just follow the others. But worst thing is that 99% would never admit that
    brandy recently posted..NUNCMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca December 10, 2011 at 9:18 am #

      In L.A. the uniform has switched from skinny jeans and Ugg boots to skinny jeans and knee-high or above-the-knee boots. Like you I think it can be really boring and wonder why young women, who can really wear whatever they want, don’t try some other looks. But it’s the fashion I guess. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment!

  6. Paula December 9, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    We all like to think our own style is original–but lets face it; its all been done before. I just like the process–and hopefully the result may give someone pause…
    on the clutch–had one for the summer and agree; so impratical! great for cocktials–but not for everyday~
    Paula recently posted..Tunic Vest and Skin CareMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca December 10, 2011 at 9:15 am #

      I agree – I like the process too!

  7. Sylvia
    December 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    How interesting that you write about this topic. I had scheduled in a similar topic as well! I agree with your opinion that it should be a mixture of trends and your older pieces and unique style. I love trends but lately found that everyone seems to have the same things, and then I feel that I look like everybody else and move to something else. That’s probably why trends are so short lived. I think it’s interesting to develop your own personal style and incorporate something of a ‘signature look’. A style that can be flexible, yet recognizable and clearly communicates the real ‘you’. So yes I agree that clothing is a language and it needs to give the right message.

    I love the outfit and the pictures! You look really chic! You should add one of them to Sunday Style!
    Sylvia recently posted..Sunday style: black, white and red with hatMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca December 12, 2011 at 10:56 am #

      I can’t wait to read your take on the subject Sylvia!

  8. Stacey - Total City Girl
    December 10, 2011 at 9:58 pm #

    I was thinking about this today because I was with a friend of mine. We both had tables at a holiday market. She sells fun button jewelry and crocheted hats. The style of her creations totally matches her own personal style She has a casual thrift store style – wearing mostly muted colors. I love it and I love how it caries over into her work.

    I was in my typical “uniform” – dark boot cut jeans, charcoal grey top and black boots. I sound so boring don’t I?? I’m so into charcoal grey these days!
    Stacey – Total City Girl recently posted..{Holiday Mini Session} Laura & FabioMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca December 12, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      I think our own fashion sense has as much to do with our personalities as where we are in life. When my kids were little, like yours, I wore boot cut jeans and charcoal pretty much every day too!

    December 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    I love that skirt, well I love leather anyway! hhhm, I don’t do carbon copy very well, but I see what you mean and have seen loads of people in the same thing in a setting. I do think there’s a way of wearing some trends without looking like a mannequin, lol.
    I believe personal style is very much a craft, for me it’s like composing or playing a song … in each piece, and each layer, we craft it to fit our individual rhythm. And with time it becomes even more personal and finely tuned. Enjoy your weekend.
    FASHION TALES recently posted..Ahem … A Birthday-Thank YouMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca December 12, 2011 at 10:53 am #

      Totally agree! It is like composing a song or even a piece of art.

  10. M
    December 20, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    I love this post! One of the reasons I started my blog actually was because in my neck of the woods, most women are carbon copies of each other and there isn’t as much “street style” as in bigger cities like NY and LA. No matter what, we’ll all be influenced by the trends but the key really is to take it and make it your own, whatever that may be.
    P.S. Think of the clutch this way-you won’t have to rummage a huge bag to find things!
    M recently posted..Holiday sparkleMy Profile

    • Heather Fonseca December 21, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      Believe me, here in LA a lot of women are carbon copies of each other. I don’t know if it’s availability of clothing or a societal need to fit in, but it’s definitely a phenomenon. And I like your thoughts on a clutch. Might have to just take the plunge and purchase a “day” version for myself.

  11. Monica February 20, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    Personal Style is BACK in Fashion!

    • Heather Fonseca February 20, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      I don’t think we have much choice but to let our own personal style shine through. Fashion is so all over the place these days. Even though I wrote about the impoverished look, there are lots of other ones out there too.