Monday 5 December 2016

How to nail (or steal) your signature style

Finding a definitive look that suits you is the holy grail of fashionable dressing. Fear not, Lisa Armstrong is here to help you crack it for good - with the help of a few friends

Published 29/07/2016 | 02:30

Keeping it real: Miriam O'Callaghan
Keeping it real: Miriam O'Callaghan
Diall up the glamour: Diane von Furstenberg
Minimalist: Grace Coddington
Structured siren: Sonya Lennon. Photo by Tony Gavin
Masculine femininity: Stella McCartney

Ever wondered how women manage to find - and stick - to a signature style? Heck, ever wondered what a signature style actually is or why it might be advantageous to cultivate one of your own?

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Developing a signature - in whatever field, from cooking to dressing - has become the modern day emblem of a life efficiently lived. It's time efficient, disciplined and budget-aware. It may seem constricting, but in eliminating all the distracting flotsam from your options, can be exhilaratingly liberating.

How to set about it? Lauren Santo Domingo, co-founder of online fashion retailer Moda Operandi, and a contributing editor at 'Vogue' - a woman who is always turned out picture-perfect - offers this excellent advice: "Find your celebrity doppelganger - someone who's your shape and size and looks great. Don't be embarrassed about copying their proportions, silhouettes and colours. They probably have a very expensive stylist getting it right for them."

The absolute first thing to realise is that silhouette is key - which means being realistic and honest about your body. We so often fall in love with things which are wrong for our size. The best way to work out what shapes work for you is to head to a big department store and use their (free) personal shopping suites.

Get them to bring you a version of everything - tops, bottoms, skirts, dresses - and ask them to help you clinically assess what works and what doesn't.

Some general points: If you're petite, it's about controlling volume and keeping items in proportion. If you are very up and down, find pieces with a pronounced, slightly higher waist to give you definition (Kate Middleton always favours a waist line which sits slightly above her natural waist - it's a neat trick). If you're hourglass, avoid swamping yourself in tents - having boobs and a bum means that you need to nip in at the waist. Something which falls straight down from your boobs will make you look enormous - a cocoon shape is your nemesis.

Signature style doesn't have to mean sticking to the same outfit formula every time. This is where silhouette is so important. Try out different colours, patterns and hemlines, but ensure that they fit in with your shape requirements.

Keeping to a uniform can be as proscriptive (see Grace Coddington) or as liberally observed (see Stella McCartney) as suits your life. But it shouldn't be boring. Erin Beatty, designer of the off-beat but always striking label Suno, is a fan of tunic-style tops and trousers.

"It's my favourite outfit, it's a little bit more covered up but still has a bit of a twist." That tunic top for example, could have a dramatic sleeve, or be in a wild and colourful print. It's the shape rather that style that is important.

Sometimes a single note becomes your signature. It could be a hair style, make up (sticking with one lip colour is basic, but no-brainer) or accessory trick (Theresa May's leopard heels). Always adding in that frisson that you adore is a powerful tool of confidence. Not only will you always feel (and be) pulled together, but when you feel most like yourself you'll be bolstered in even the most fish out of water occasions. © Daily Telegraph

Dial up the glamour: Diane Von Furstenberg

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This is the woman who describes her fashion collections as the "friend in the closet". And given that she's been making friends for more than 40 years, it's worth assessing how she does it. DVF has a clever formula of always appearing sexy and playful, without revealing much at all (take note, famille Kardashian). Big hair, big glasses, big earrings are classic DVF signatures, and she sticks to a fail-safe dress formula - T‑shaped, scoop-necked, just below the knee. She's also clearly found her shoe - a mid-heel strappy number that crosses over on her foot to visually elongate her leg and flatter her ankle.

The minimilast: Grace Coddington

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In the early years of her styling career, Coddington was known for her repertoire of flamboyant looks. But as the 70s waned, she became increasingly influenced by the minimalism of Calvin Klein. Then she moved from London to New York, first to work for Klein, then at Anna Wintour's 'Vogue'.

Blessed with unfettered imagination and, in those days, unfettered budgets, restricting her own wardrobe to black allowed her to focus on the colour and drama of her photoshoots. For some, it's a rigidly constraining diet of trousers (always long), shirts (generally worn loose) and blazers, but she keeps it relevant by tweaking it constantly with current shoes, bags and jewellery.

It's probably true that without that startling pillow of red hair, the self-imposed uniform wouldn't work as well, but then true style is about taking your physical attributes into every equation.

Masculine femininity: Stella McCartney

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McCartney's signature is less obvious than some, being more of a mantra than a set of constructed boundaries. At the start of her career, she made her name mixing Savile Row tailoring with feminine, vintage pieces. The masculine-feminine conversation goes on, but it's been infiltrated with sporty elements. Whether she's wearing a silk mini dress or deluxe jogging pants, flashing cleavage, 70s-style, or cosying up in one of her oversized turtlenecks, she always looks at ease.

Keeping it real: Miriam O'Callaghan

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The broadcaster is always sophisticated with a glam edge, and isn't afraid of a splash of colour. We usually see Miriam in red, blue, or green skinny pants with a sharp tailored blazer, cutting her off at the waist - perfect for her 5ft 9in frame.

What we love about Miriam though, is that she can interview the most high-profile politicians on 'Prime Time' looking the part in a structured trouser suit, but her strappy sandals suggest she might whipe that blazer off and party in her diamante-encrusted blouse. She's had her far-out fashion moments onscreen - her famous black leather biker jacket being one - but you usually know what you're going to get with the veteran broadcaster: an outfit that is smart, elegant, and 100pc Miriam.

Structured siren: Sonya Lennon

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Designer and stylist Sonya is queen of the structured dress: she's fond of a sleeve, nipped in at the waist, and never goes higher than below the knee.

Sonya is a sucker for quality fabrics - which is just as well, in the bright colours she favours in her frocks she wouldn't get away with anything less.

Her clothing range with friend Brendan Courtney - Lennon Courtney, which is stocked in Dunnes Stores - has Sonya's minimalist style all over it; from long-sleeved separates to pencil skirts with wrap-around bows. The collection takes inspiration from the 1930s and 40s, with great emphasis on the woman's shape, something Sonya herself has said serves as inspiration for her own personal style.

Irish Independent

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