On Personal Style

As a style editor who lives in New York City, my biggest inspiration comes from the streets of my Brooklyn neighborhood and all of my favorite style spots from the West Village to the Upper East Side. You can come for me on this, but this is the most stylish city in America, so it was with interest that I reviewed the recommendations of one writer’s take on “how to dress like a New Yorker” and not a tourist. Spoiler alert: White Reeboks and Lululemon belt bags ain’t it.

Because an essential part of dressing like someone who lives in the best city in the world is a deep DNA of personal style. Because New Yorkers have it in spades. From subtle minimalism to effortless casual chic to an elegant scarf tied at the neck, we do it right here.  And as we age, it’s a potent secret weapon in our resilience and longevity arsenals. I can’t tell you how many women and men I speak with that struggle with style as midlife hits. To avoid sartorial malaise, you must know thyself. And I have never felt stronger in my style than I do right now.

I know my body has changed, but that’s ok. I may wear a boyish Zara blazer and my favorite baggy Raey jeans, while the next day I’m in a metallic platform sandal and a pretty printed dress. Because when your style is notched up, you can go seamlessly between genres like a haute Highlander. More on that.

When your style is notched up, you can go seamlessly between genres like a haute Highlander

Good for those of us no longer looking at trends to determine our daily vibe. My biggest concern for younger folks is the “core” effect, or how TikTok micro trends create a big black hole in personal style. There is an excellent piece about it here, and by the core effect, I mean the naming of trendlets like Regencycore, Normcore, and Cottagecore. One day you may be in a corset; the next, you are dressed like Mark Zuckerberg; and the next, you may be in love with Laura Ingalls. This fashion fragmentation, coupled with our consumption problem, is diluting style to a great extent. I see it in young people all the time; to me, they all look the same, and many wear things that don’t suit them. 

For most of you reading this, we came up when influence meant something very different. We looked forward, in my home, to the March and September editions of Vogue, which my mother called “The Bible.” Within those hefty tomes, vs the printed pamphlets we see now, were all the looks for the season, curated by experts. We saw Sharon Stone do a red carpet in a Vera Wang ball skirt and a tee shirt from the Gap, the beginning of my love affair with high and low looks. I have always loved how a white tee is basic yet it can be a blank canvas for personal style. 

A part of me loves the democratization of fashion and creativity in general. After all, I wouldn’t be here with you if blogging and social media did not become the force they did when I decided to become a full-time writer. But I also miss real taste vs TikTok taste. Add in an endless serving of “must haves” on Instagram, and you are probably feeling burnt out and overstimulated and further away from what suits you than ever before. One TikTok influencer, celebrity stylist Allison Bornstein, gets it. Her three-word method (and hashtag) has gained millions of views on TikTok and advises you to choose three words that best describe your style. Consider it your personal-style elevator pitch. I’ll share mine at the end of this post.

Personal-Style Commandments

Regardless of your three words, I have some personal-style commandments you may want to check out as you seek your holy grail:

  1. It’s transcendent and trend resistant but resilient.
  2. It’s unique and wholly one’s own based on your body and sense of self.
  3. It’s iconic and has a signature look informed by lifestyle and stage.
  4. It incorporates the high end and the high street.
  5. It’s personal. This one is obvious, but it must be your story, never someone else’s.
  6. It’s referential and all about enjoying each era’s best and making it last.
  7. It’s not nostalgic and never dated or tired.
  8. It’s effortless and never feels forced or uncomfortable.
  9. It’s confident and self-assured.
  10. It’s never based on money. It’s not about your bank account, it’s more about your belief system. I know many people who are not rich but look like a million bucks.

As for my three words, they are cool, creative, and confident. And if I had to pick three celebrities as my style icons, I’d probably go with Kate Moss, Jenna Lyons, and ’70s Keith Richards, with Mary-Kate Olsen as an understudy. These peeps embody my three words perfectly and have wonderful personal style that’s elegantly sexy in spades, with nary a white Reebok in sight.

Oh, and if you’d like to work with me to help define your style story, email me at [email protected]. I’d love to chat about how I can help.