What is style?

Those of us who are avid fans of pop culture- or rihanna, same difference these days- will be well aware that yesterday the music video for wild thoughts by DJ Khaled ft Rihanna and Bryson Tiller dropped yesterday. Directed by Colin Tiley the music video takes on a cinematographic life of it's own. Which could be largely attributed to the fantastic styling on the video in addition to the fact that the song sampels Carlos Santana.

In awe of Rihanna in the wild thoughts video (just watch it) ,I wondered what makes her style as iconic as it currently is. This in lieu of a person posting an advertisement for the dress she wore (as seen above) , captioning it "This dress should thank Rihanna". In all honesty, the dress owed RIhanna both thanks as well as a double gin and tonic.


Well, in the advert the dress gave me sound of music-dresses-made-out-of-old-curtains, meets Ariel under the sea colour palette- and euphemism is kind.

As easy as it would be to accredit Rihanna's style to her wealth, as well as an array of personal shoppers and expert stylists- I think that's a cop out, and here's why:

Rihanna lives in the public eye which comes with the expectation of maintaining a public image. Which has become the ever iconic "bad girl Riri", and if my memory serves me correctly when she came out with good girl gone bad-not everyone was a fan. Her daring fashion choices, as well as explicit nudity resulted in a lot of public criticism. Criticism lodged against her by faux neoliberals : claiming that she was a bad influence on their impressionable children- as if the burden of creating good role models lies solely upon her shoulders. As well as the slut shaming "feminists", the usual slut shamers, patriarchs as well as loyal fans who felt as if her newly crafted look was a betrayal to the innocent girl in pon de replay.

In recent years, she has proven an exceptional muse to some of the fashion industries biggest players such as Dior, Chopard as well as Gucci. Let's not even speak on the fact that she single-handedly revived Puma out of the dust of the early 2000's. Rather let's speak on the trust she has in her body, and clothing's ability to communicate intention.

Rihanna has become synonymous with ingenuity in the fashion industry, championing pop culture and progress with bold statement items, colour as well as well tailored silhouettes. Recently, Rihanna came under fire for gaining weight, with tabloids and bloggers alike chalking up her weight gain to a potential pregnancy. Which is not only hurtful, but demeaning to label someone who is a size 8 as being fat, as well associating weight-gain to becoming less unattractive. For women, the body shaming never ends but I derived great comfort from the fact that one of the worlds biggest style icons is currently the same size as me- and owning it. Whether we'd like to admit it or not, representation matters.

It's easy to equate style and the achievement thereof measured against pre-established (often unhelpful and unattainable standards) such as:
- BODY : a preferred body shape- almost every women I know can categorize her body shape into some kind of a fruit or inanimate object. Are you pear, apple or peanut shaped? Hour glass or nah?
- BIGNESS : most of us know our size in ZA sizes, UK Sizes, as well as USA sizes. Which is supposed to be practically helpful. Unless different parts of your body are different sizes. Forcing you to dig, right to the back on most racks for pants. Fighting jeans. Jeans fitting your calves, fighting against thick thighs (as if they don't save lives), and rejecting that peach emoji a**. Thank God for jeggings
- BRANDS ; The ability to dress in particular brands: a trap that not everyone has fallen into. Some of us (me), are like Cardi B- we ball on a budget. Which unfortunately often means compromising the integrity of trends- e.g. are they soviet or yeezy's? who knows?

Judging solely on this criteria- I should have no style, but I feel like I'm swimming in my low budget sauce if you know what I'm saying (she says modestly). Based on the above criteria, Rihanna in this dress also shouldn't have any style. She's a size 8, the dress is ... upon researching it a designer Alberta Ferretti dress which costs $2455 . BUT, if you're someone who doesn't equate price to style then... the dress is still a flop. The dress, is hideous in my opinion- but not on her.

Which got me to thinking about what is style really?

Is it a combination of the aforementioned factors, well balanced into a visually appealing aesthetic? Is it a luck of the draw, or rather a lucrative relationship with a great bank balance (#cantrelate)?

Or is it rather how much we like ourselves in what we wear?

Have you ever seen someone wear something that would otherwise be, awful, look fantastic?

You see I've started to think style is just a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves, and our bodies- especially as women.

Do you see yourself as a peanut? Hour-glass? Cabbage? or whatever the f*ck else some unthinking editor pasted into their magazine quizz section.
Or do you see yourself as a living breathing thing, like a flower in bloom your season may be so beautiful but hard-earned, labored for. It was a process, is still a process. Home to someone's memories and your parents wildest dreams, you've accepted that you're more than the number looming on a scale, or the harsh comments that you whispered to yourself every time something you loved didn't fit the way you wanted in the fluorescent- lit change rooms. Do you love yourself more than what the world has taught you to?
I think its the state of this relationship- body and soul, that is reflected in a persons style.

She hates herself, thinks that her legs are too thin, teased that she looks like a mosquito shes' come to hide her legs in long skirts and longer jeans.
Style? covering an insecuirty she believes everyone can see.

Hates the stretch marks that line her hips since puberty?
You won't be catching her in a crop top any time soon.
Style? Well, modest - but not for the reasons you'd think of at first sight.

Hates the fact that she feels like her feet are too big despite the fact that she's tall enough to be a model?
She'll be wearing neutral coloured shoes- not drawing unnessecary attention. Never high heels.

See we're all insecure about something, and I think that often shapes our style. Instead of our shape, being in healthy communication with ourselves should shape our style?

Oh it doesn't fit? F*** it.
Baby let's get a bigger size.- She said to herself.
A fluid, simple relationship between body and clothing.

When the communication between the two is in sync, I think it can be called style. Because a women who likes herself will hold herself, upright, without question regaurdless of what she's wearing.
Rihanna, size 8 Rihanna, holds herself with the same confidence as size 4 Rihanna. A confidence that exudes In a dress that would otherwise be a nice table cloth on my aunties coffee table.

So there it is, my synopsis of what style is- a healthy relationship with your body,creating a boldness which makes you back yourself in your clothing choices.

Top 5 Tips for fostering a healthy relationship with style and fashion?

1. Don't speak to yourself in a way you wouldn't speak to your friends.
Would you tell your best friend that their thighs are too big for those shorts?
Arms too skinny for that top?
Stretch marks too obvious for that bikini?
no, highly doubtful. Be your own best friend.

2. Do you like it?
Does it fit? ( be kind here... Kinder still.)
Can you afford it?
If all the answers are yes- buy it. It doesn't matter what they think, they don't live in the home that is you.

3. Do you like it in the store?
Because if you have doubts in the store you'll never wear it in the street. But take this with a pinch of salt, because I'm not writing this for the girls (and boys and non-gender binary persons as well as queer bodies) who've got it all together. I'm writing this - for the insecure ones.
As a profound whisper to those doubts that creep in to your mind in the fitting room. Are you doubting the item because of what they'll think, or the insult someone blurted out two years ago that still haunts you?
Or do you dislike it because you actually don't like it.
Not everyone's going to like your choices, that's not only fashion- it's life,
If you life your life pleasing others above yourself, you may not have lived at all because a cautious life is not doing justice to this wonderful life you've been given.
Take risks- start with your clothes, because if you're brave with the small things, the big ones just won't be as daunting.

4. It's a celebration of self- expression, first and foremost.
You're letting others in on a private conversation between your body and your cupboard - Make it glorious. There is so much to celebrate, so much worth celebrating about that small victory. You are worth celebrating, celebrate the communication that your outfit will have with those around you, without you having to say a word. Also it's about self-expression. Self, meaning you.
Dress for you.

5. Remember :

You are not your age,
Nor the size of clothes you wear,
You are not a weight,
Or the colour of your hair.
You are not your name,
You are not your sweet fake smile.
You are all the books you read,
And all the words you speak,
You are your morning sleepy voice,
And all the smiles you try to hide,
You are the sweetness in your laughter,
And every tear you’ve cried,
You’re the songs you sing so loudly,
When you know you are all alone,
You are the places you have been to,
And the one you call home,
You are the things you believe in,
And the people you love.
You are the photos in your bedroom,
And the future you dream of,
You are made of so much beauty,
But it seems that you forgot,
When you decided that you were defined,
By all the things you’re not.

-Tyler Knott Gregson

He said it best, you are not your style, you are so much more than your style,
but that's no reason for your style to be less amazing than you are.
Your style is a culmination of all of those things- celebrate it with a style that matches your hunger for life, the love you have for yourself and others.
Style is as fluid as you are, play with your style,
it will grow with you. Unafraid of a challenge, maturing through trial and sometimes horrid error.

Have different conversations, and allow yourself to be brave enough to do so because we are all waiting with bated breath to hear what you have to say.

One thought on “What is style?

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