Even if you dislike the fashion industry and all of its excess, it's tough to deny the role clothes and makeup play in shaping the impression you make on the people around you. Like it or not, your appearance is the first thing people see and respond to. And the sad reality is that some folks don't even look past your appearance when deciding who you are.
What you're wearing is always sending a message. And yes, that message could be, "I'm tired and cold and reached for the warmest, easiest garments I could find." Or, your look on a given day might have a more pointed meaning. Something like, "I'm a powerful woman, and you don't want to mess with me."
Personal style is really the art of being strategic about the message your look sends. Critics of fashion will say that's petty and superficial, but I say it's practical.
Here's a crash course in style by way of 16 quotes from smart, accomplished women who know/knew how to make a point.
1. Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. -Fashion Designer Coco Chanel
We can all thank Coco Chanel for turning the tide of style towards simple elegance and away from corsets and excess. Simplicity is elegant mostly because it's a statement of confidence. You're telling the world you don't need extravagant details. Being yourself is enough.
2. There is no cosmetic for beauty like happiness. -Scientist Maria Mitchell
Maria Mitchell was the first female professional astronomer in the U.S. and the first women to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her sentiment here predates the advent of highlighter, but I'd bet she'd stand by her words today. As corny as it sounds, the real glow comes from within.
3. The runway isn't just about showing fashion, it's about gaining confidence. And I really believe that once you've got your confidence, you can wear anything, you can do anything. -Model Ashley Graham
Words to live by from ground-breaking model Ashley Graham! Confidence is the accessory that makes every outfit work.
4. Aging doesn't mean giving up on style and individuality; it doesn't mean abandoning fashion and living in comfy slippers and flannel knickers. -Model Twiggy
You can be sexy and fierce at any age. If someone wants to judge you for showing off your legs or wearing v-neck tops after a certain age, so be it. Judginess is always about the judgor and not the judgee.
5. There are days when I want to feel cool, sexy, goofy, and at these times, fashion helps me define my mood. -Actress Disha Patana
Fashion works like a spotlight. You can use it to draw attention to the parts of yourself -- physical or emotional -- that you feel like featuring on any given day.
6. Fashion has always been a repetition of ideas, but what makes it new is the way you put it together. -Fashion Designer Carolina Herrera
Herrera reminds us that garments, colors, and silhouettes are building blocks. Find your own style by arranging those building blocks in clever ways.
7. Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions. -Fashion Designer Coco Chanel
There are entire books written on how to dress for your body shape, but this Chanel quote sums it up perfectly. The secret is in creating porportion and balance. Want your hips to look smaller? Wear a top with puff sleeves. Want your hips to look bigger? Add a thin belt at your waist.
8. I'm really interested in fashion but at the same time I find it quite competitive. Second-hand stuff leaves you more open to whatever your own personal style is rather than feeling dictated to by shops. -Singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor
Fashion trends can inspire you to try something new every season, but they can also be restrictive. If you want something different than what's offered by the fashion gods in a given season, shop secondhand.
9. Being happy never goes out of style. -Fashion Designer Lilly Pulitzer
Lilly Pulitzer made her mark as a designer by selling the happiness vibe. Her bright, floral prints are as cheery as they are recognizable.
10. Everyone has their own style. It's unique. No one person's style is wrong. -Singer Justine Skye
If you ever feel intimidated by fashion or unsure of what to wear, remember that your style choices are never wrong. Just wear what feels right.
11. Whether I'm wearing lots of makeup or no makeup, I'm still the same person inside. -Singer Lady Gaga
This, from the lady who once wore a dress made of raw meat. Lady Gaga knows that your style is a costume. Even when you use it for shock and awe, it doesn't change who you are.
12. To me, eyewear goes way beyond being a prescription. It's like makeup. It's the most incredible accessory. The shape of a frame or the color of lenses can change your whole appearance. -Fashion Designer Vera Wang
Don't overlook the power of your eyewear choices. Same goes for jewelry.
13. When someone tells me that I look great, I say thanks and then share a secret: It's not the clothes or the makeup; it's my posture. -Fitness Icon Denise Austin
Sometimes, you just have to put fashion in its place.
14. Whether you are 16 or over 60, remember, understatement is the rule of a fine makeup artist. -Cosmetics Entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein
There's a lot of talk in fashion about statement pieces. The thing is, those statement pieces are only effective when you also know how to work the understatement. Said another way, if you want those smokey eyes to make an impact, pair them with a nude lip color.
15. Gorgeous hair is the best revenge. -Ivana Trump
I like to think Ivana's gorgeous hair is a metaphor for confidence after tragedy. The revenge message gorgeous hair sends is, "You can't break me."
16. Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak. -Rachel Zoe
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