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