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Everyone has one—whether it’s inspired by a pop celebrity or a handmade hand-me-down. Many of us are obsessed with it. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be tens of thousands of blogs, articles and shows about the industry and so much money thrown at it.
I’m talking about style. But style isn’t some sort of secret encryption to decode. And when approaching your own style, you don’t have to subscribe to clichés like “Boho Chic” and “Nautical”. I couldn’t put a finger on what my style would be. I wear scarves all year around and frequently combine paisley with Art Deco-ish prints. After many years of morphing and transforming my garb, I’ve learned that it’s totally OK. Last I checked, there were no real style police around—although there are a few who imagine themselves to be.y favorite part of pulling off a look is the accessories. Their well-chosen presence can truly enhance and embellish a look. From the daring individual looking to stand out of the crowd, to the quaint, polished personality that prefers a finished appearance, a common denominator to essentially every style is the right piece. Polishing off a look with accessories is like the cherry on top of a hot-fudge sundae. A casual knit top is just blah—until you wrap up in a Moroccan-style pashmina. The shock of a fire-engine red oversized bag, swinging alongside the wearer of a simple black-and-white dress? Oohs, ahhs and compliments abound. It’s fair to say that most famous icons were known not only for their work; they can be pointed out from afar by just that one accessory.
“Style is how you put something together,” says Kelly Brock, co-owner of newly opened Verdé.
Think Diane Keaton’s “Annie Hall” vest. Think John Lennon’s frames.
For those who wear frames, this could be a good place to start with style—especially since they’re almost always with you. It wasn't until I donned my first pair of frames—thick, leopard print Oscar de la Rentas—that I even glimpsed my unique sense of style. Who knew that a small accessory like eyeglasses would boost a look?
It's all about the details, says Melinda Rosenthal, optician and manager of Pearle Vision at Hamilton Place. Melinda has spent the better part of 22 years helping the fashionably challenged see their individuality clearly through a wide selection of eyeglass frames options and sunglasses.
This includes my sister, who has a collection of spiffy frames and, like her jewelry and shoes, always changes them out depending on the outfit and the occasion.
“We try to give people different looks,” Melinda shares. “We like to find out about everything about [our patients].”
Those in pursuit of a fashionable frame should consider both form and function, as one pair doesn’t always meet every need. Purchasing more than one frame to suit your lifestyle and activities would be practical—whether it’s staring at the computer screen at the office, working outdoors or relaxing on the coffee shop patio on a Sunday afternoon.
And this idea translates well to pretty much any accessory. Having a wide assortment of accessories can make your wardrobe look bigger than it actually is. Simply swapping, mixing and matching purses, scarves and cardigans in an array of colors and prints can really freshen up a modest collection. The trick: the more “toys” you have, the more you can play.
Style isn’t a sixth sense. And being fashionable isn’t a superpower bestowed only on a lucky few. Instead, style is a discovery…or reaching a destination.
Morgan Griggs, owner of Fredonia Provisions for Women, agrees.
Morgan recalls coming up with the name of her Southside shop, partly because of her love of vintage women’s names, but also because it sounded like a location. “Like you arrived…at the store,” she says.
But the eclectic retailer is beyond labels, curating a diverse collection of ready-to-wear merchandise that helps women dive into their individuality. Her racks are lined with a variety of textures, solid staples and feminine prints—including a pair of blue leggings with wolves printed on them. I loved them. I would also never wear them.
“[The items] are not for everyone,” Morgan says, “but there is something for everyone.”
She suggests that the best way to identify the right piece is to simply be curious and open, offering a few simple tips to cultivate a taste that is uniquely to the wearer.
tyle should be comfortable. Although friends, family, TV shows and pop style icons can be helpful advisors, they can’t help you with how fabric feels when it drapes against your body. You are your best judge and only you know when a piece doesn’t fit your body frame, skin tone, hairstyle, vibe or personality. Yet don’t forgo the help and expertise of the salesperson helping you. “We really try to listen to what people say they like and don’t like,” says Kelly Brock. “But we often gently coax people to try things on they might not choose for themselves, based on our knowledge of how they fit and drape.”
Style should be easy. Keeping a few staple basics in your wardrobe can take the guesswork out of planning outfits. A great pair of jeans, blouses and knit tops, jackets, cardigans and accessories are definitely your best friends.
Style should be personal. If you are gravitating towards something, put it on. Does it fit? Does it feel good? Does it speak to you? If you answered yes to those three questions, congrats! You’ve figured out what you like. “You learn [style] by picking out what appeals to you, then trying what you like on,” Morgan Griggs advises. “Style is an outward expression and it shows in the pieces that you choose.”
Style can be found everywhere. From department stores to small retailers to the flea market, thrift stores and yard sales, if you’re looking for the right piece that is uniquely you—don’t forget to look in your backyard. Give local, handmade clothes and accessories a chance for a truly individualized look that also supports the creativity of those in the community. Not only are artisan accessories and apparel charming, you never have to worry about bumping into someone who is wearing the exact same piece.
One of my favorite accessories was made by a former coworker here in Chattanooga, a pair of wooden earrings with a tiny rendition of the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa (a testament to my affinity for Asian-style flair). But I lost one earring. Fortunately, I know the creator and plan to ask for another.
That’s what I adore about Chattanooga it’s a city that’s home to a wealth of talented, crafty locals who share their creations with their community.
If you have never been to the Chattanooga Market, you’re missing out big time on your local style watch. From cozy, multicolored knit headbands, fuzzy crochet scarves and delicate metalwork jewelry to full-on apparel and collections, you can’t walk out of there empty-handed because it would be foolish from a fashion standpoint. If you can’t make it down the First Tennessee Pavilion one Sunday, but still want to support local, Etsy.com allows you to search online stores of local crafters. Also many boutiques, like Fredonia, Frankie and Julian’s and others, support local designers and crafters, proudly featuring their works on their racks and jewelry displays. Some local artisans even have their own websites, Facebook pages and blogs; all it takes is a search.
Speaking of search, you can lose yourself in a vast colossus of fashion content by way of online magazines and social networks like Pinterest or POPSUGAR. Personally, I’m interested in the anecdotes of friends and locals who are making their own mark. For those in need of a bit more confidence, I recommend taking after the style cues on the blog She Wore it Anyways—a blog started by two funny fashionistas who are all about breaking runway rules and living out loud through their looks. The duo’s mantra: “it doesn’t matter what you want to look like; the way you look matters,” sounds like something Confucius would say if he had had any fashion sense. But there is wisdom in the words, as curating a personal image can’t be defined by what’s on a magazine cover. The tabloids can talk all they want. If those blue wolf-printed leggings rock your socks, pull on a pair. It doesn’t matter if anyone is laughing or admiring. If you look in the mirror and can’t help but strike a pose and crack a smile, honey, you’ve got style.
Style alert: For those folks who like their look fun and funky, Collective Clothing is doing a Vintage Pop-up Store during Mainx24 this year on Dec. 7, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., 1601 Rossville Ave. Stay tuned for more on that!