Fashion v. Style: Not the post I thought I’d be writing

When I started writing this post, I was going to write this whole long manifesto about Style and Fashion; how they’re different, and why I think “having style” is better than, “being fashionable.”  Then I looked in the dictionary.  “Crap,” I said.

The first few definitions for style are kind of recursive.  But if you look farther down the page, entries 4 and 5 in’s definition of style read:

4. an elegant, fashionable, or luxurious mode of living: to live in style.

5. a mode of fashion, as in dress, esp. good or approved fashion; elegance; smartness.

This made me pause, because, well, it appeared that these two things I’ve considered different are pretty much the same thing.  But then I reread the definition, and wasn’t so sure.  Meanings 2 and 9 seem to indicate a separateness of “style” and “fashion”:

2. a particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode of action or manner of acting: They do these things in a grand style.
9. a particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode or form of construction or execution in any art or work: Her painting is beginning to show a personal style.

What this says to me is that, basically, if you are fashionable, you are always stylish.   But you aren’t always fashionable if you are said to have “style”.  Or, put another way, if A is being stylish, and B is being fashionable, all fashionable things have style, but not all stylish things are fashionable.

B is entirely enclosed by A.
What do you mean, "this is nerdy"?

In essence, Style is the way that one expresses oneself.  It might be through things that are “In Fashion” (e.g. skinny jeans, hooker boots) or through things that are unique, interesting, and fit your personality, but aren’t necessarily a popular type of clothing at the moment (e.g. these shoes).  Personally, I think that it’s better to have style than be fashionable.   However, I am terribly biased because, although I can be said to have style, I will probably never be “fashionable” (except by accident).  Nevertheless, I will, from time to time, post things that I think are stylish and/or fashionable on this blog, with commentary.  I don’t think I can be single-minded enough to make this a “fashion” (style?) blog, but I will probably post about clothes here.  The hope is that this post helps to clarify what I mean when I talk about stylish things.



  1. Diana/Mom says:

    November 1, 2010 at 8:52 am

    Originally, my own diagram would havebeen overlapping circles rather than one inside the other. There are looks that are fashionable that are not particularly stylish, I thought. “Grunge” might be in fashion, but it is not stylish. Then I realized that in your terms “grunge” might be A Style that is also fashionable. So perhaps the distinction I make is more “elegance” or “lasting” or even “personal acceptability” than “style.”
    Fashion makes it possible for a person to have “style” without spending a lot of time thinking about it. The designers have done the work for you.
    Interesting and provocative post!

    • Kat says:

      November 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm

      Thanks Mom! Glad you like it. I guess they’re kind of unusual definitions, but they work for me. YMMV. On the other hand, my personal style (when I’m choosing to by stylish *cough*) does often aim for timeless/elegant. That gives me some food for thought. Hmm…

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