Gemma's adventures in shopping: That oh-so-important 'personal style'
Gemma Cartwright writes...
Recently I came to a realisation. It doesn't matter how much I know about fashion and how long I spend delving into the world of underground chic, I'm never going to be cool. I could never get away with skinny red jeans or quirky dresses found in charity shops. I don't listen to random bands I discovered on MySpace. I don't go out in Shoreditch, I don't have funky hair and I don't 'get' Gareth Pugh. On the contrary, I find myself drawn to things in Marks and Spencer, I have a dedicated 'dress wardrobe', I love Diane Von Furstenberg, Anna Sui and Matthew Williamson, I use hot rollers more often than hair straighteners and sometimes I get the urge to put on a pair of nude tights. But I'm ok with all that.
I suppose I'm a little bit safe. Not boring - thanks to my childlike obsession with all things tacky - but I'm definitely no boundary-pushing fashion maven. The thing is, I have no desire to dress like a homeless person dipped in neon paint, hiding my best bits with oddly shaped clothes that 'make a statement'. Why is it so bad to wear stuff that just looks nice? I always add a bit of interest with a mad print or five, but apart from that, I'm always going to go for a classic over a fad. Neon leggings with my calves? Asking for trouble. Much safer to go for black tights.
Luckily for me, fashion attracts two very different sets. For every Anna Piaggi there's an Anna Wintour. And though I wouldn't dare compare myself to Ms Wintour (talk about having a high opinion of oneself) if I had to pigeonhole myself into one camp, it would be the 'safe, classic and classy' and not the 'outrageous and OTT', just like her.
It's taken me a long time (and a lot of fashion blunders - with plenty more to come) to define my style. Now I know what I like; tea dresses, wrap dresses and shirt dresses, 30s - 60s influences, boots, thick tights, cinched waists, high heels (particularly with peep toes), hand knits, bold prints, sheer floaty tops, bootcut jeans, pencil skirts, cocktail dresses and bracelet sleeves. I also know what I hate; boy-cut anything, yellow, leggings, shoulder pads, lace-up shoes and boots, masculine tailoring, socks, the 70s and 80s, spandex, airtex, crocs, dungarees, assymetric hems and visible underwear. I have very few rules, but I try to avoid things - no matter how 'in' the are - if I know they don't suit my personality, and I will continue to wear styles, shapes and prints I love even when they go out of favour with the fickle fashion crowd.
I think it's important we're not lead too much by trends or the pressure to be cool. Some people live to make big, bold statement and I applaud them for that, but it doesn't mean you can't be stylish and safe at the same time. Trends will always lead us in some respect, because shops sell stuff influenced by the catwalks each season, and the longer you're surrounded by things, the more likely you are to succumb (come on, how many of you laughed at footless tights at first and wear them now?). But some things will never go out of style, and adding a few of those to your capsule wardrobe shouldn't be seen as 'playing it safe', more covering all your bases!
Gemma Cartwright is Fashion Editor for Shiny Media. She wears lots of dresses and looks crap in neon