We loved it. Then we hated it. Then we loved to hate it. Then we hated to love it. And back again. “Street style” has seen its Google Trend graph spike into the blogo-stratso-sphere over the past decade, and has established itself as the competing event outside Fashion Week tents around the world.
But it’s gotten a bit out of control. Lately we’ve noticed an alarming trend among street stylers of changing not once or twice, but three or more times a day. Ladies, let us remind you: The best street style gives the lie that your outfit is simply the natural combination of the first three of four items that you threw on this morning, and that you have a sense of magic and verve that makes the whole thing creative and effortless. To preserve this illusion: 1. Never admit to the pile of rejected outfits in a heap on your bed; 2. Don’t change your outfit more than once in broad daylight. Keep it real and make the moment last. For a change, put a coat on or take your jacket, scarf, stole, propeller hat, whatever, off. Transitions are natural; pulling on an entirely different outfit at 2:00 p.m. in the back of an Uber is not.
Want more street style advice? We’ve compiled a few guidelines, notes, best practices, and forget-me-nots on the subject.
1 / 10
Rule 1: If You’re Dressed All in Black, You Will Go Unnoticed
In PR corner offices, Chelsea art galleries, and Milk Studios casting lines, All Black Everything is the standard uniform. But what works in real life doesn’t always pop on camera. Of course, the opposite is true, too, which leads us to Rule 2.
Photographed by Phil Oh
2 / 10
Rule 2: Flattery Will Get You Nowhere
The usual ethic of slimming and figure-flattering is out the window. When it comes to street style proportions, bigger is better. Wide legs, enormous coats, layer upon layers—think large and in charge. People will take your word for it that ClassPass is changing your life. No need to prove it.
Photographed by Phil Oh
3 / 10
Rule 3: Stay High All the Time
Shoes are getting risky again. After years of Stan Smiths and bedazzled Dior sneakers, heels are back, which means an element of danger is returning to the streets. It’s good for us style recappers and analysts—we get to crack our knuckles and break out words we haven’t used for years. Teetering, hobbling, tottering, towering: It’s going to be a good season for fashion journalism. Get as high as you can (while still being safe—nothing’s worth a sprained ankle), then get out there and wobble your way to stardom.
Photographed by Phil Oh
4 / 10
Context is everything. And if you look like you’re part of the context, you’ll be part of the background—i.e., the setting for some bird of street style paradise to stand out against. You want to look like you don’t belong, that you’re out of place. But in a chic way. You could also work with “out of time” (via vintage) or up the ante like Anna Dello Russo and look out of this planet. It’s about contrast, so if you’re going for a lovely springtime picnic in the park while everyone else is sun-dressing away, do your best Saint Laurent Hedi tribute and look like you were just pulled through a manhole from a secret underground rave. If you’ll be somewhere with lots of steel beams and chain links, break out your frilly pink pinafores.
Coordinating with your BFF has moved out of middle school closets and into the streets. Nobody wants to look like a clone, but looking like a perfectly in-sync soul-sharing style twin, well, that’s top on the street styler’s bucket list. It works when it’s purposeful, matchy-yet-varied, and when your BFF actually looks like your twin. Double up.
That’s the thing about vintage—there’s more of it made every season. If the word conjures up only moth-eaten, musty-smelling overcoats or polyester caftans, you need to broaden your remembrance of things past. Vintage can also reference very recent history, and throwing it back just a few seasons (instead of decades) can make you look like a connoisseur, not a thrift store vulture (not that there’s anything wrong with that). In ensemble terms this means, say, head-to-toe Balenciaga from seven years ago. It makes a more interesting statement than just raiding your grandmother’s attic, because it speaks to a current fashion conversation, not ancient history.
There are a few poses and moves guaranteed to get you noticed. The little jump from street to curb when your skirt is too tight for you to step all the way up—that little airborne moment is pure gold. Or you could try deep stretches—sit on some metal steps on Prince Street in a flowy skirt, stretch out your legs long and casual-like, and flip through your Instagram. A camera will appear shortly.
In an unstable climate, it’s nice to have one fail-safe brand-of-the-moment you can turn to in a crisis. Céline has ruled the streets with a free-form, genteel fist for most of the past decade—if you wanted to get noticed, all you had to do was sell everything you own and buy top-to-bottom Céline. But Queen Phoebe Philo has company this year. Vetements is everywhere, and a full sweat suit (hoodie and pants) is the new Rihanna-approved street style uniform. The good news is that it’s never been easier or comfier to be fashionable. The bad: It’ll still set you back a bit.
There’s a lot of shady behind-the-scenes garment-bag maneuvering these days. When a brand offers to let you borrow a down-payment-priced fur coat for an afternoon, it will practically come with a tracking chip and helicoptering PR rep. These are offers to be turned down (politely), not accepted. Why? Because while new, impressive, and possibly eye-catching, these clothes are not yours. Street style should be about the things you own, the clothes you love, and the sensibility you have to put them together. Play the authenticity card.
Shiny, bright objects and dazzling patterns are the only things that will hold their attention for more than three seconds. If a child passing by in a stroller wouldn’t reach out for your studded, candy-colored bag, neither will the blog brigade. Go bright, go big, or go home. Tiny bags, slogan sweatshirts, dainty ruffles—indulging in your little-girl side will get you further than doing a Steve Jobs impression (see Rule 1 about avoiding the color black). Remember, Jobs had to invent the iPad to get kids’ attention.
By TRACE BARNHILL