When did I become that fashion victim? Was it when eighties' style, a period which I had previously detested, returned? What goes around comes around, but this was a bit much. Maybe it all began when I looked at those teal platform sandals and thought 'They are gorgeous'. Or when someone labelled Paris Hilton "a style icon" and I failed to be mortally offended by the assertion (I mean, seriously? That velour tracksuit she insists on sporting may be Juicy Couture but it is still a tracksuit. A VELOUR TRACKSUIT, people).
Anyway, it got me thinking. Thinking that, sometime around the creation of SuprÃ© and the introduction of American Apparel as the uniform of every indie fashionista, we lost ourselves. We forgot that, as Yves Saint Laurent put it, "Fashions fade, style is eternal". That, according to John Fairchild, "Style is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma. Fashion is something that comes after style". Discovering one's individualism takes courage, the spirit of a pioneer to take oneself in hand and go on a journey of self-discovery. And to then wear our discoveries 'on our sleeve', as it were, takes a whole new level of daring.
Some navigate that journey well, emerging as shining examples of self-actualized individuals. Yet some find it too challenging a mission, an undertaking of insurmountable obstacles. So we turn and follow the pack like sheep, forgetting freedom and returning to the norm.
Why do we do it? Why do we, style-savvy spirits, seek inspiration in what everyone else is already wearing? Why not nature, street signs, or paintings? An artist would not eschew sketching an original in order to repaint the Mona Lisa, yet the sartorially inclined take mimicry to a whole new level with whole sections of magazines dedicated to copying other people's looks, forgetting that the very reason for fashion is expression (and of course, avoiding charges of indecent exposure).
Coco Chanel said "Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening", yet we have limited it to runways and magazines, to making an impression rather than a form of expression.
Fashion is supposed to be the mode of articulation through which we all become artists, painting pictures of our inner selves with fabrics and stitches, swathing ourselves in silks and organza, velvet - and, for the Paris Hiltons among us, velour (I shudder).
Seriously though. We should be free! Free to make our expression in whatever fabric we want, and not be judged by the colour of our thin covering.
Rather than joining Marlena Dietrich, who said, "I dress for the image. Not for myself", we should be proudly marching towards a world where I can wear purple pants, an orange top and silver shoes (for the right reasons, not just because colour blocking is in right now. Which it is), and you can wear a Grecian gown or a business suit and we can still be friends.
Instead of limiting our personal interactions on the basis of gravitating to those who dress like us, let us rather be open. Accepting. And in our own little way, vulnerable, as we show the world who we truly are through the choice between pants or skirts – a choice which is not afforded to most men, so for you it could be skinny jeans or trousers.
This might all seem a little superficial to you. However, even Napoleon Bonaparte had something to say on the subject: "Fashion condemns us to many follies; the greatest is to make ourselves its slave". And I believe it was the classic American author Mark Twain who said, "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society".
Yet in all this, here's something to ponder: the most famous of all garments was the robe that soldiers threw dice for.
Grace Mathew is a Sydney-based writer and recent graduate of Politics and International Business at the University of Sydney.