Fashion, Inspiration, Licentiate Columns, Subculture

Licentiate Column 24/05/12: In Praise of Style Mavericks

There’s always that one person who can make any insane combination of clothes look relevant and unique and totally cool, without having to rely on their looks or their figure to make it so.  Consider Alexa Chung.  If she was five foot nothing and a size fourteen, those little-girl dungarees would look less gamine and more elephantine.
Or Gwen Stefani.  Would she still look so stylish if she wasn’t a carbon copy of Jean Harlow?  Would the mid-nineties bindi-and-braces look, paired with pink and blue hair, really have become such a style statement?
We are led not just by style, but how a person looks.  The true style maverick, the person who cares so much about aesthetics that she ironically doesn’t care about trends, considers beauty a bit of a crutch, a smokescreen to the true look a person is trying to convey.  How are we supposed to appreciate who a person really is when her looks are getting in the way?
More useful to her is being jolie laide – the beautiful ugly.  A large Roman nose, protruding eyes, even a unibrow, becomes your unique selling point.  Anyone can be pretty.  It’s better to be striking.  You look like a frog?  You’re a lucky, lucky woman.
As for clothing, the style maverick lives in her own bubble,  Her choices are a reflection of the little world that she has built for herself.  They are  a reflection of her tastes and interests, and if her tastes and interests include bowling, Japanese art and WWE Wrestling, then her outfits will reflect that and damn the consequences.
Along with ‘panties’, no other word will set my teeth on edge and make me shudder with primal disgust than ‘fashionista’.. It’s a stupid word that doesn’t really mean anything – the tagging on of ‘ista’ at the end of fashion makes me want to hop back in time to early ‘00s New York and slap the wag who invented the world with a nice, slimy, cold mackerel.
However, I found myself reading a book called ‘Fashionista’ today.  It refined stylish women by their sartorial tendencies; the rebels, the artists, the modernists and so on.  There was no space for the maverick.  The closest type was the eccentric group, who included Bjork, Anna Piaggi, Grace Jones, Isabella Blow and Diana Vreeland, all of whom I admire but are style anathema to many others.
Not everyone is going to love Bjork’s infamous Swan dress or the fact the she routinely performs with hundreds of crystals glued to her face.  Isabella Blow deliberately wore so much lipstick that it would smear on her teeth and Grace Jones transformed herself into an intimidatingly sexual, bald Disco Amazonian with the help of her unique wardrobe.
Not everyone will like the maverick’s style.  She’s no Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn. She doesn’t fit conveniently into the categories that we manufacture to define women; tomboy, classic, trendy, bohemian.  She could be all and none of the above.  The only thing that mavericks have in common with each other is that they are different.  In a world that grows increasingly smaller and more homogenous – how great is that?
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