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Personal style versus society: A style story

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Denola Grey

Denola Grey

The thing I enjoy the most when writing about fashion is that for every article topic, I have a story for reference and of personal relevance. Mention a topic relating to fashion, and the chances are that I have experienced something closely related to it. They say experience is the best teacher, and I am inclined to agree. Furthermore, it takes what you learn from personal experiences to form lasting opinions and exact actions that can have far-reaching effects and consequences. This article and all that will be in it, is a result of a single personal style moment and all the intangible parts attached to it. Lets begin.

As a media presenter, I am constantly shooting on different sets and each set has a unique vibe and feel. I style myself for any on-screen appearances, as you can imagine, I go through a lot of pieces. It is quite easy to fall into a style rut when you shoot for television, because you feel like you are wearing the same things over and over again. Luckily, I get my inspiration from perusing look-books and collections from designers all over the world. I take comfort knowing that at least, in every quarter of the year, there will be new fashion and style inspirations for me to try out. This is the only way I can stay on top of trends, and it serves as a cheat-sheet for quick wardrobe emergencies.

Sometime in July, I was about to get dressed for another on-screen appearance when I decided that I desperately needed to switch up my style as I was in a severe rut. I remembered looking at the men’s fall/winter16 collections online and noticed that the forecast for the later part of 2016 and the earlier half of 2017, would be belted looks. The two collections that struck a chord with me were the suave, clean belted looks from Brioni and the more playfully deconstructed, urban belted looks from Haider Ackerman. Suddenly, inspiration hit. I had all the pieces I needed to make a hybrid look happen and I did just that. I was, and still am still, obsessed with the final results.

What I hadn’t anticipated was other people’s obsession with the look. As I tend to do, I chronicle most of my looks on my Instagram feed (@denolagrey), Facebook and my personal style website; www.denolagrey.com . This outfit was no exception. I went for it, I tried something new and I was, and still am, happy with the way it came out. Soon enough, the feedback starting coming in through the ‘comments section’ and that’s where things got interesting. I noticed there was a great divide. There were a significant number of people who loved the look and reveled in its originality and bravery, and then there were others on the opposite side of the spectrum, who had comically intense feelings about the look. Some went as far a denouncing the outfit and even me in the process, with some rather hilariously colorful language. Whatever the case, everyone had an opinion about this one look and to this day, the picture is still making the rounds on digital social media, with a caption under it , giving the audience the option to decide if they hate it or not. Ironically, that picture got me the most likes on Instagram. Everyone loves controversy right?

I thoroughly enjoyed how far the outfit went. You see, one of the most important things to me is individuality. The best way to celebrate individuality and creativity is through personal style. There is a liberation in it that is uniquely priceless. The other thing I love about fashion and style is that it makes people think. An amazing outfit garners reactions and starts conversations. Most importantly, it makes people ‘feel’ which I think is amazing in its own right. I looked at the comments and I appreciated every single one of them; the good, the bad and the unsavory. Usually, I don’t pay attention to negative comments but in this case, I found the comments rather interesting when I looked a little closer, and here is why.

Most of the comments were based of the underlying hetero-normative patriarchy within our society. Men and women alike could not reconcile my belted look with masculinity. I totally understood why they didn’t get it. After all, belted shirts and blazers were a huge fashion trend for women a couple of years ago.
This goes way beyond my personal experience. We have attributed so many things to gender in fashion and while I am critical of that predisposition, I have to admit that to a certain degree I am somewhat subscribed to some of the ‘rules’ we have purported. So what does this mean for personal style? Is our personal style really that personal, or is it dictated by our society? Can we truly be free to explore our limits in a society so insistent on maintaining the status quo in regards to gender roles in fashion?

Living and loving fashion, I have taught myself to be fearless when it comes to trying new trends and looks. With all my adventure, there are still some limits and boundaries as you have to still dress appropriately for what an event or situation may call for. Decorum aside, what are the new-age limits that we are allowed in Nigeria? Is our individual style truly celebrated? Or is society saying, “ Dress how you like, but in a way that isn’t so much you, so that you don’t offend people”?

I personally believe that personal style should be celebrated. I also believe that initially, controversial looks are easily written off by the masses, but then come back and become the trend. My call to action is that we go out there and live fearlessly but also responsibly. There is a fine line between being daring and being fashionably reckless. Fearlessness should also come with responsibility and adequate receipts to back it up. We are living in a generation where we have transcended our immediate society. The status quo is changing and I strongly believe that sooner or later, everyone will have to get on board with the new structure. Try out new things. Androgynous or unisex fashion is fast becoming popular and while it may not be for everyone, the people that love it should indulge in it as they please. Variety never hurt anyone.

I mentioned earlier that my findings in this article came from a single style moment. That is what I love about fashion and style. Bravery in both can lead you somewhere pleasantly unexpected. Something as simple as a daring look can hold a mirror up to society’s face and say, “these are where the blemishes are. What can we do it fix it?” I don’t know about you but I’m determined to affect a change one belted look at a time.


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1 Comment
  • Dibia Valentine Nnamdi

    I think more than fashion, style is a physical representation personality, it is an expression, a statement, an art. There is a limit to which you can control a musician’s lyrics, a poet’s verses and the way an artist chooses to bring his pieces to life. Personal style is also an art, as such it should be expressive and not particularly normative.