‘The clothes don’t wear you, you wear the clothes’; this phrase can be dissected in many ways, and is a stepping stone in deciphering the essence of style. It may be true to say that when we think of the word style; we immediately draw associations with people and how they dress. Fashion icons like American actress, Audrey Hepburn, and the late, Grace Kelly (actress turned Princess of Monaco), are frequent and noteworthy names that spring to mind when thinking about physical images of style icons. Although Audrey Hepburn could, arguably, be described as the pioneer of the little black dress, there is never a time she is overshadowed by it; the LBD comes after her and not the other way around.

So what is style? The Webster dictionary has several definitions for it notably ‘a distinctive appearance’, ‘elegance and sophistication’. Already these words give us an insight to the attributes of being stylish.

In today’s society, where anything goes, there are really a few people that can truly be deemed as stylish. As it seems like the phrase ‘less is more’ is being taken to literal lows and you find more people being pictured or mentioned for what they don’t wear as opposed to what they are wearing.

On one hand, attaching the tag ‘stylish’ to a person may be subjective, because you may ask what the criteria for being stylish is and if the person truly meets the standard. On the other hand, having observed a number of stylistas (borrowed from the phrase fashionista), it is safe to say that there are some common threads that weave together to form a stylish persona. These include confidence, carriage, the ability to combine clothes and accessories (and this does not mean the shoe and bag to match combination or matchy-matchy poo poo as Oprah so aptly put it), but having varied looks (i.e. from skirts, dresses, trousers to  accessories like hats, scarves etc) and also the ability to make something common look different. In addition, the ability to wear different outfits and have distinct looks whilst maintaining the air of not trying too hard. Nevertheless, this also means that your style ability is not just based on the article of clothing you are wearing but the image you project.

An example of the latter can be seen in the American show, Styled by June, which features celebrity stylist June Ambrose; who helps celebrities change their image from unflattering to dazzling. Personally, what’s most fascinating about the show is not the transformation of the celebrities but the host herself.  Whilst she wears very fashionable clothes and accessories she’s also confident, her looks are always different and she exudes other features of a stylish person; therefore it’s not hard to see why she is good at what she does.

Love or hate her, but singer turned designer Victoria Beckham has had many stylista moments; granted she has alsohad a few clothing mishaps, in the past, but she still remains a worthy contender. Another classic example is the Middle East’s Queen Rania of Jordan.

Even if we want to bring it closer to home, I daresay Nigeria’s Juliet Roberts, Genevieve Nnaji demonstrates some stylista potential, I can’t remember any time she has stepped out of place; from casual to dressy she always manages to up her (fashion) game. With these ladies the words ‘simply chic’ can be used to describe their sense of style.

Whilst it can be argued that those mentioned have a bevy of staff and millions in their bank accounts, to help them create effortless looks, money can buy great clothes but not great looks so it boils down to the person’s ability to work the outfit.

Nevertheless, we mustn’t forget to give the real kudos to the regular lady (non celebrity), who works round the clock (either working for someone or running their own business)/cares for kids/takes care of the home/ and still manages to pull it all together and make it look as easy as pie. As noted earlier, being stylish is not solely based on what you wear but how you wear it. So, there you have it; seems we may have decoded the essence- its Effortless, Elegance, and Exceptional.

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