Sure, sure style is born, but today, style is easily bought. If you have money, you can throw an Amex down and hit twenty stylists before you even have the opportunity to make the worst dressed list. If you don't have money, you can buy the carefully merchandised contents of the windows of the hippest "fast fashion" stores and probably look just fine. The fun is gone - everyone - everyone is dress-by-numbers.
Photo credit The Tulanian
I moved to Manhattan in the nineties, minutes after graduating from Tulane University and having spent the last four years in New Orleans, a city known more for its style of cocktail pour than its fashion sense. I lived in neon-colored sweatshirts with tags that boasted about their "reverse weave," interspersed with ballgowns, being entrenched in the Deep South and its Greek system. Jean shorts morphed into Cyndi Lauperesque tafetta pouf dresses at costume formals on old plantations in Mississippi. Primary colors were best as they didn't show the grain alcohol punch stains.
When I landed my first PR job, a mere two weeks out of New Orleans, hair only starting to de-frizz from the below-sea-level humidity, I didn't know what the "H" on the leather clutches was, even if I did know how to pronounce it. I looked around and realized the Flashdance look wasn't going to work while seating designer fashion shows. Somewhere along the way between quizzical looks from the fashion publicist who employed me (who had lots of bags with "H's" on them) and the front-row, fashion show attendees, I discovered the Donna Karan bodysuit; it just simplified the lines and then my fashion brain.
Alison today with her favorite star-lebrities
My scunci did not have to match my outfit and my lipgloss, I realized, and I started looking around me...on Fifth Avenue, Paris where I traveled for business, and vintage photos, of course, and started to take mental notes of women whose look just "worked". And I began to copy them. When I couldn't afford retail Chanel, I went to second-hand stores. Once I finally was able to get a look down, then it was time to develop personal style.
Everyone was wearing grunge. I didn't even own a pair of jeans and I still don't and I went against the trend - determined to stand out and also, knowing my own body. The models could wear flannel and jeans, but I needed tailored shifts and boucle cropped jackets. Having spent more of my life in the South than the North, I gravitated towards feminine color, even in the winter. I became known for wearing dresses and Pucci and then when I needed to decorate my 10,000 square foot office and didn't want to buy fine art and hate cheap art, I began to frame vintage Pucci scarves and have pillows made.
Whitney Port in Alison's Pucci World
Sometimes, my dresses would actually match the walls and I was as camouflaged as a leopard in the jungle, except that jungle had magazine editors and voracious clients. Now, I suggest finding a few styles that work and buy that style more than once. I no longer buy something just because I like the print or the design if it doesn't look good. I have a tailor and have learned that good style lies in individual discretion and good fit.
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