What are your first thoughts when you wake up in the morning? Is it the million items on your to-do list, or is it what you’re going to wear for the day? Do you ever consider that your personal style, whether defined or undefined, is a conversation with the rest of the world?  Humans are amazing creatures and have numerous ways to communicate in this day and age; however, we often forget to include “style” and appearance in that equation. It’s one of the few areas that doesn’t yet require technology or a Wi-Fi signal, and it’s still difficult for most of us to master. 

Defining Style

Nicole Gordon

Style and Language

Often when we get dressed each day, we don’t put much thought into the actual language we would use to describe a particular look we’re trying to achieve. I certainly don’t! But these descriptive words have many implications. For instance, if you describe a shirt or accessory as either “pretty” or “ugly,” “polished” or “messy,” you’re aware of how each word is defined, the feeling it sparks, and the visual it implies. There are multiple components to how we define style verbally, whether or not we’re fully conscious of them.

What about beyond our individual definitions—have you ever considered the actual sound of an adjective? Listen to the words as they roll off your tongue—the hard and soft sounds they make. Do they sound like the things you’re describing? Choose any word and think about not only the description it conjures, but also the sound it provides. Even though for most people, creating style is an intuitive, visceral process rather than an analytical one, thinking like this can remind us of the powerful communicative role language plays and how it affects us in ways we don’t always consider.

One of the best things about style that it also allows us to communicate nonverbally—though nine times out of ten, we’ll still end up talking about it because that’s what we do! We’re human, social creatures. We LIKE to talk, communicate, and connect, and style is one of the best ways we can share ourselves with the world. Whether or not we realize it, we truly introduce ourselves into societies’ conversations without uttering a single word. Of course we’ll talk about it afterwards, but an unspoken impression, whether intentional or not, will still be made.

So, what’s the point of considering all this?

Defining Style

Nicole Gordon

What Does Your Style Say?

Define your style based on your personal viewpoint. Decide on the statement you want to make and the impression you want to create. Defining style doesn’t require a homogeneous day-to-day look, it just means being mindful about whom you’re portraying or how you’re being perceived. I firmly believe there’s a time and place for every style “personality” you want to communicate. Just make sure it’s the one you intended.

Defining Style

Nicole Gordon

The foundation of what I’m wearing here is fairly basic, yet the look is still glamorous: jeans, t-shirts and a casual handbag, by themselves, would equal a somewhat “undone” look. So what makes this outfit glamorous? The style elements generally identified with that definition: a bold lip color, big oversized sunglasses, and most importantly, an animal print coat.

Just like using new words, don’t be afraid to experiment with new style statements. We grow by learning new skills and being open to new ideas. Style is a powerful force that changes how you connect with the world. Whether you’re defining, observing, creating or just discussing style, remember the impact it carries and the ideas it conveys.

Fashion and style are fun and exciting! It’s a wonderful place to exercise our imaginations and it shouldn’t be super serious all the time. Many things have the power to influence, but when it comes to personal style you have an ability to change the conversation. Create an image for yourself that you want, and consider what elements will help you define it. Today, I decided to be a little glamorous, but tomorrow, who knows? Who will you decide to be? Cliché as it seems, the choice is yours.

Nicole Gordan

Excited by style in all its forms, Nicole Gordon is the author and creator of the blog Manners and Moxie, where she documents her style journey with travel photography and anything else capturing her fancy. Her career has been spent in the travel industry and as a stylist in San Francisco, where she currently lives. Nicole grew up in South Carolina surrounded by antiques, but is also enamored with clean lines and architectural details. Drawn to the juxtaposition of opposites, Nicole is both Manners AND Moxie! She believes what you wear should reflect who you want to be, and that much like travel, discovering style should be an exciting adventure.

Nicole is part of The Opener, an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, culture, and innovation writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey.