Fashion v. Style

Brunette floral dress

As a stylist and personal shopper, I hear the terms ‘fashion’ and ‘style’ used interchangeably, but they really shouldn’t be. They have distinct meanings.

Fashion is about looks and images that are popular in a specific time and place. Remember when bell bottoms were “in”? Did you go through that camouflage clothing phase? Fashion tells us what is trending. Trends might involve favored fabrics, hem lengths, color palettes or silhouettes. Although you might be attracted to the look of the latest skinny leg pant or floral midriff, these items may not be flattering for your body shape. Ultimately, dressing for your body shape should always take precedent over wearing trends.

Style is more specific and personal. It is about expressing your individuality through the clothes you wear and how you put them together to create ‘looks’. Great style is about staying within your true clothing personality so that you feel comfortable and beautiful in what you’re wearing. By dressing to express who you are, you will exude confidence and draw compliments. Our eye usually dwells a bit longer on women who exude style. They catch and hold our attention.

Personal style may be influenced by fashion trends, but not driven by them. Here are some ways to go about developing your personal style:

  • Seek inspiration – Pull inspiration from several sources to determine what you like and dislike. Consider style icons and celebrities, work colleagues or girlfriends whose style you admire. Identify words that capture these looks (feminine, bohemian, classic, edgy, etc.) and keep these descripters in mind when you shop.
  • Clarify your persona – Consider how you want to present yourself to the world and how you want to be perceived (powerful, confident, sexy, sweet, sophisticated, etc.). Does your desired persona change based on the various roles in your life? Do you make age-appropriate choices? The clothing and accessories you choose should align with and convey your persona.
  • Consider your lifestyle – Think about the various situations and activities you’re in during a given week (career, socializing, special occasions, gym, parties, etc). Each of these situations require clothing decisions. Boundaries established by your own lifestyle impact your style choices, but you don’t need to be totally constrained by them. Find ways to express your persona in each situation.

So, when you clean out your closet or shop for new clothes, consider those style descriptors, your desired persona and your lifestyle before you begin. You will become a more effective shopper with a unique personal look that others admire.

© 2017 Beyond Basic Black and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Fisch and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. I considered my friend Wendy Selig-Prieb my “stylist” when she worked in Phoenix and sold the Worth Collection. She would tell me, “You have a great style, Lisa.” I never thought about my own personal style before meeting with her. I love watching fashion trends and do draw inspiration from them, but have learned that not all fashion trends suit my personal style. You’re so right – you have to feel comfortable in the clothes you’re in for it to work, and I’ve also learned to step outside my comfort zone to try new things – some which work quite well with my personal style.

    Thanks for the inspiration to keep looking to fashion for inspiration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *