From “Minister of Fashion” to Stylist

Fashion today has turned into a vivid carnival of colours, cuts and styles, where individuals are supposed to find their own personal voice.

style,history of style,Rose Bertin,history of fashion,fashion marketing

The “Supermarket of Style”. Photo credit: Joaquim Homrighausen

For some of us identifying personal “style” is an amusement but for others it is quite a challenge. According to Oxford English Dictionary the word style inter alia means

  • a distinctive appearance, design, or arrangement, and also
  • elegance and sophistication.

Fortunately, there is such professional caste as stylists, who, for a certain reward, would bring elegance, sophistication or whatever you like into your wardrobe and hopefully into your soul as well.

The Trumps are about to watch the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Élysées. Photo credit: AFP

Stylist as a public concept became popular in the early 1980s and bore the title “Image consulting”. From being a discrete service concept acquired by politicians, TV personalities and celebrities, image consulting now went public.

“Dress For Success” cover (1989). Photo credit: http://www.thedressforsuccesscolumn.com/?page_id=21

John T. Molloy’s books “Dress for Success” (1976) and “The Women’s Dress for Success” (1977) became bestsellers, popularising the concept of “power dressing”. Awareness of the importance of personal appearance for a successful career started striking its roots in the society.

Working Girl, 1988. Photo credit: 20th Century Fox

A decade later “business casual“, influenced by high-tech companies, was here to stay. Employers started to switch over from formal dress code to business casual, what gave rise to a huge portion of confusion concerning where to start and where to stop. Thus, image consultants were there to reduce the confusion by introducing dress codes and standards.

Rose Bertin, 1747-1813

However, glancing back in the history we can clearly see that the issue of personal styling is not merely the phenomenon of the modern times. Under the Old Regime in the 18th Century France the fashion merchants, headed by Marie Antoinette’s “Minister of Fashion” Rose Bertin, “endowed stylishness on their clients’ dresses by selecting the right colour and pattern of ribbons, lace or decorations”. The interesting fact is that those women referred to their occupation neither as a “profession” nor a “skill” but as a “talent”, consisting of sewing and arranging daily styles.

Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), “Rue Saint-Honoré, Afternoon, Effect of Rain”, 1898.

In the second half of the 18th Century, when the fashion merchants opened their boutiques on the rue Saint-Honoré and in the galleries of the Palais Royal, the large windows could transmit new expensive styles to a wider public and thus inspire less privileged women to imitate those.

Vetements AW 2017. Photo credit: http://vetementswebsite.com/fashion-show/fall-2017/

Has the concept changed since then? However, not much. The stylist role is highly demanded as on the personal lever as well as in the fashion industry as such. Vetements and Balenciaga for example are intimately connected with their muse Lotta Volkova, who creates all the esoteric shabbiness in each look, making the public gaze after each garment shown in the lookbook or on the catwalk shows.

PFW Fall 2017. Photo credit: Christian Vierig/GettyImages

Consequently, the stylist is and has always been a certain dream seller, who gives us what we ask for. But do we know what we want? Do we hear that personal voice in us, especially today when all the rules and dress codes seem to be more or less mixed up or abandoned?

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About TheStyleFibula

I am a lawyer, who all of a sudden has become a fashion and marketing student at Stockholm Business School. This is my free space, where I let my inner inspiration create a symbiosis with a genuine passion for art, scientific curiosity for fashion and profound interest in the anthropology of style.