Fashion Fades But Style Is Eternal Essay

“Fashions fade, style is eternal”. This famous quote by Yves Saint Laurent illustrates what both Anne Hollander and Elizabeth Hawes implied in this week’s readings. Fashion, being ephemeral with its trends and fads, is compared to style, which “doesn’t change every month or every year.” (Hawes, 5)

I think this quote from French designer Yves Saint Laurent was quite appropriate to reflect on, especially because Jeremy Lewis also brought up the designer’s name in his lecture. According to Lewis, “Saint Laurent doesn’t do fashion”; instead, presents variations of the same in every collection (his example was the biker jacket). This relates to the concept of ‘style’, aligned with the “French standards of refined elegance.” (Hollander, 50)

For Hawes, ‘style’ is a product of made-to-order haute couture, whereas ‘fashion’ is the ready-made clothing bought through a manufacturer or at department stores. But going back to YSL, albeit the French fashion house doesn’t do Haute couture (made-to-order) since 2002, its ready-to-wear collections thus show the possibility of ‘fashion’ that has the true elegance of French tradition, with “absolute technical perfection” (Hollander, 49).

Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s, Museum of FIT

(left) Halston, dress, printed knit cotton, c.1976, USA, Gift of Ms. Gayle Osman; (right) Yves Saint Laurent, dress, printed silk chiffon, 1971, France, Gift of Lauren Bacall.

Recently, I attended the exhibition Yves Saint Laurent + Halston: Fashioning the 70s at the FIT museum, which juxtaposes their (ready-to-wear) work, highlighting similar aesthetics during the decade. With themes that vary from menswear to exoticism and historicism, it is a dynamic explosion of creativity and changes per season. However, most of the ensembles at the exhibition are still so relevant today, that they could easily be found at Bergdorf Goodman’s window display. Silk dresses, safari jackets, and his classic smoking suit portray ‘pure elegance’ and finesse in the design. Perhaps this is precisely how he is able to achieve ‘fashion’ that is also “timeless”. In this sense, even in his ready-to-wear, Yves Saint Laurent does style.

In her article, when talking about “millions and millions of women [who] go shopping year after year”, Hawes posed the question “Can they buy style – or must they buy fashion?” (Hawes, 5). Realistically, the majority of the population cannot buy couture. In my opinion, ready-to-wear collections such as Rive Gauche give women the opportunity to buy style through fashion. Clearly, it is not the democratization of fashion just yet, however, it does make style more accessible and fashion less ephemeral.

Like this:



Who decides what is considered ‘stylish’? Dina Toki-O believes that everyone’s style is unique and it is yours to define.

‘Fashion fades, but style is eternal’

If you’re a blogger, fashion fiend, lover of all things pretty, and/or a social networking enthusiast, you’ve likely come across that wise little quote at some point.

It makes a whole lot of sense to me, personally – fashion comes and goes; there are always trends being plucked out of nowhere every other week, and you are either a follower or a trendsetter. It doesn’t matter if you have all the money in the world and can afford all the latest designs, thinking that you’re keeping up to trend, because if you don’t know how to put an outfit together, those pricey pieces will mean absolutely nothing.

I’ve come across people who wear designer gear, literally from head to toe, but they have no sense of style whatsoever – well, at least to me. They’ve simply gone to a store, picked up what’s on display and wear it because the industry has effectively told them:

That is style’

That’s in fashion’

‘If you wear it, you’ll be hot

Which leads me to my next point: just because I think a certain individual has no sense of style, it doesn’t mean that it’s true. I may not particularly like a person’s style, but others may find it interesting, pretty, daring and so on.

So who’s to decide who has style and who doesn’t?

Being active on social media like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Blogger, I’m clearly in the firing line for criticism. It comes from overnight ‘style experts’ or fashion gurus with a sudden urge to share their ‘professional’ opinion that my style is ‘no style’.

‘This is what fashion has come to in today’s world,’ they lament.

I find that many people tend to misunderstand my style, and I’ve come to notice that the ones who do understand, appreciate, enjoy or simply respect my style are those who have a similar creative character or background to me.

If I’m comfortable, confident and happy in it, then who’s to say it’s ‘ugly’ or not stylish?

There are a lot of ‘fashion snobs’ out there with very close-minded ideas on fashion. Some follow whoever rules the roost, while others simply stick with the norm. If something is slightly different, then it’s not accepted. People just want to see ‘pretty’ and if it’s not the generally accepted definition of ‘pretty’, then it’s deemed ‘ugly’.

I’ve been contemplating this for a few months, and it has led me to try out new things – things that were judged to be ‘ugly’ or completely out of fashion/style. This frustrates me; I mean, if I’m comfortable, confident and happy in it, then who’s to say it’s ‘ugly’ or not stylish? Even H&M, one of the biggest high-street stores internationally, had a caption on their walls the other week which went something like this:

‘Who cares about the rules; if it makes you happy, wear it.’

And that’s the quote that inspired me to vent a little through writing this week’s column.

All ideas stem from others. So a new idea – a new trend – is always just an interpretation of something seen elsewhere. All of this ‘who copied who’ is therefore invalid, unless, of course, it’s an exact replica.

I wear what I think looks good on me, and I wear what I feel represents my personality

Inventors and creators get inspiration from just about anything. So, if one day I look at a plant and suddenly get an idea, that doesn’t mean I’ve copied the plant. Nor does it mean that my creation will necessarily have an obvious relation to the plant.

To me, style is synonymous to individuality. I wear what I think looks good on me, and I wear what I feel represents my personality. This happens automatically with anyone – you shop using your personality as a guide, whether or not you realise it.

Everyone has their own individual clothing preferences. Let’s say you walk into a shop and you see a short skirt – the first thing you might think is: ‘not for me, it’s not hijabi’. Whereas someone else might look at it, love it, and imagine a whole look with it that’s still suitable for a hijabi.

Ultimately, it is you who decides your style; if you’re confident that you can pull it off, then it will be timeless.

And, as they say at H&M: Who cares about the rules? THEY’RE MADE TO BE BROKEN!


Tags: character, individuality, personality, social network, style, taste, trendsetter

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