There is a definitive science to every institution of study, including fashion. Within this realm of information lies the concept of Universal Styles. There are seven Universal Styles and each one has its unique set of strengths and inherent message(s) that it sends to our surrounding world. Each of us falls into a one, probably two and sometimes a combination of three personal styles. Below is the 101 (source: What’s My Style, by Alice Parsons).
See if you can find yourself in one, two, three or even four of these!
SPORTY: friendly and casual
Messaging: Through this style, you’re communicating a friendliness, energetic, natural, casual, happy, and optimistic message. Typically people who are all or mostly Sporty in style are easy going, unpretentious, relaxed, value ease in their wardrobe and are often in “people oriented occupations.”
Easily recognizable elements of the Sporty Style (not to be confused with athletic wear) are:
- All American look with functionality, semi-structured characteristics in neutral (not striking or overly-bold) colors and patterns in natural fabrics.
- Brands that exemplify sporty are: Polo, J Crew, Gap, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Old Navy, Timberland, Talbots, American Eagle Outfitters, Levis, Kate Spade, Lacoste
- Celebrities that are Sporty: Ellen Degeneres, Rachael Ray, Jane Fonda, Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton
TRADITIONAL: Conservative and Businesslike
Messaging: Through this style, one is communicating messages of trustworthiness and loyalty, accuracy, credibility, maturity, responsibility, organization, and honesty. Typically those who fall into this category are in financialy, government, real estate, education, admin, or insurance-related fields. Easily recognizable elements of Traditional Style are:
- A business-like image, always polished, neat and tidy; conservative with tailored lines, structured fabrics and shapes, in neutral and dark colors without a any “flash” or bold details. (Think suits, straight trousers and blouses, skirts and classic shoes with no embellishments).
- Brands that exemplify Traditional are: Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Jones of New York, Talbot’s, J Crew (some), Pink
- Celebrities that are Traditional are: Barbara Walters, Hillary Clinton,
ELEGANT: Refined and Stately
Messaging: With an Elegant style, you are communicating an air of confidence, flawlessness, timelessness, distinguished, grace and are always polished, restrained and dignified. Those who fall into this category are often times in high-profile, public positions (PR, politics, etc.). There is an element of formality and prestige to this sense of style.
Easily recognizable elements of Elegant Style are:
- Suits are a definite key element and clothing is simple and exceptionally-made. Garments are elongated gently showing the female form with slight definition to the body
- Colors are monochromatic or “tone-on-tone” and fabrics are lightweight natural, expensive
- Brands that exemplify Elegant style are: Ann Klein, Donna Karen, St. John, Valentino, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Pink
- Celebrities that are Elegant are: Jackie O, Diane Sawyer, Audrey Hepburn, Kristin Davis (as Charlotte in Sex and the City), and Nina Garcia (Project Runway)
FEMININE: Soft and Romantic
Messaging: This style often projects a sense of lady-likeness and delicacy, is approachable, warm and caring. Women who fall into this category are often good-natured caretakers, soft-spoken or mannered and have interest in more traditionally feminine activities and professions (teachers, nurses, counseling, intimate apparel or home-related industries).
Easily recognizable elements of Feminine Style are:
- Loose hourglass silhouettes with modesty but still acknowledging the feminine shape, lengths are longer, colors are softer and pastel, light neutrals. Fabrics are soft and touchable, lightweight or cozy and patterns are floral, paisley, dots or can even have a “wallpaper feel to them.”
- Brands that exemplify Feminine Style are: Eileen Fisher, Anthropologie, Laura Ashley, Jessica McClintock, Ella Moss, Free People, Betsy Johnson Nanette Lapore, (some)
- Celebrities that are Feminine are: Princess Diana, Melanie Griffith, Nicole Kidman, Lisa Kudrow (as her character in Friends)
ALLURING: Sexy and Glamorous
Messaging: This style is captivating and sensual, flirtatious, and seductive. The woman who has this style is comfortable with her body, revels in her feminine shape, is bold and outgoing, loves glamour and is likely social. They often fall into industries such as entertainment, fitness, media, or fashion/style.
Easily recognizable elements of Alluring Style are:
- Fitted, body-conscious fabrics that make the figure obvious, hourglass silhouette with little or no detailing; colors are vibrant and rich and fabrics are stretchy/knit and can range from leather to silk.
- Brands that exemplify Alluring Style are: Bebe, Versace, BCBG, Guess, Kenneth Cole, Diane von F
- Celebrities that are Alluring are: Eva Longoria, J-Lo, Sharon Stone, Heidi Klum, Beyonce, Kim Cattrall (on and off screen)
CREATIVE: Original and Artistic
Messaging: Creatives are seen as imaginative and free, inventive, unique, spontaneous and sometimes quirky. They often do work in creative fields or have creative hobbies and interest; fashion, arts, dance, stylists, writers, design, music, etc. They take risks and their wardrobe is often a function of their creative urges.
Easily recognizable elements of Creative Style are:
- Mixing of anything and everything, unpredictable or unique combination of fabrics, textures and styles. Garments can be layered, very colorful, and silhouette isn’t a focus but often a result of the combination of pieces. Outfits often will have “themes”. All patterns, textures, and colors are used in a creative’s wardrobe; no limits or restrictions.
- Brands that exemplify Creative Style are: Betsy Johnson, Anthropologie, Agnes B, Issey Miyake, Nicole Miller, Jean Paul Gautier
- Celebrities that are Creative: Whoopi Goldberg, Olson Twins, Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker (as her character in SATC)
DRAMATIC: Fashionable and Sophisticated
Messaging: Dramatic dress is perceived confident and self-assured, assertive, bold, urban, powerful, fashion-forward, and have an intense attractiveness about them. They have a commanding presence and are easily intimidating, charismatic and unapologetic in their dress. More often, they populate the fields of entertainment, fashion, marketing, art, media, consulting, PR, etc.
Easily recognizable elements of Dramatic Style are:
- Non-classic style but with some structured shape, exaggerated lines and silhouettes, colors are the darkest darks and lightest lights, saturated color with high-contrast combinations (black and white). Garments are often large scaled and make “statements.”
- Brands that exemplify Dramatic Style are: Karl Lagerfeld, Donna Karan, Christian Dior, YSL, BCBG Maxazria, Prada, Missoni,
- Celebrities that are Dramatic: Kim Cattrall (on-screen), Iman, Paloma Picasso, Diana Ross