Growing Up -- and Out of Trends: How Style Evolves With Age

cameron diaz seventeen cameron diaz bazaar

[quote]Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.[/quote]

—Orson Welles

From pops of neon to jeans all colors of the rainbow, half shaved heads to summer tribal prints, it’s fun to spot current trends. And whether praising or criticizing a trend, it could be observed that the greatest connoisseurs of trendiness are commonly teens and twentysomethings. And considering the relationship between identity and self-presentation, perhaps that is how it should be?

Trendiness is a right of passage for youth because they are experimenting by literally trying on different identities. But starting around your late 20s, you start to notice patterns in all facets of your personal history: Professionally, you start so see a pattern of core strengths and weaknesses. Personally, you start to see relationship patterns. And your personal style will also have a cumulative history that ebbs and flows (for better or worse) through the years.

runway overalls

Left: TLC at the American Music Awards (Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage)

Turns out, the cliche, “what goes around comes around,” is actually true, particularly when it comes to fashion trends. Denim overalls are an example of a trend that has already been recycled within my generation’s lifetime. The difference is that when I wore them in the late 1990s, they had a faux-grungy appeal, whereas today they offer a much more tailored presentation. Recalling my history with overalls, I may be reluctant to try them again, thinking it’s “way too 90s,” or I could embrace the reinvention of one of my adolescent favorites. Either way, I have a style history to fall back on when making decisions on what’s right for me, instead of just falling blindly into the “newest” trends.

Streamlining your personal style is also a great way to gain “identity capital,” as 20something expert and author Meg Jay recommends. In her TED talk,  “Why 30 is not the new 20,” she explains that the defining decade of your twenties should be used not only to experiment, but to start building your identity. As you mature, learning to create a visual identity will build confidence as the years roll by.

Another downfall of failing to learn your style as you age is that you can get stuck in a rut. Far from being a trend victim, failing to develop a personal style can horribly date you. The trends of a youth long gone look unflattering and express an identity that hasn’t matured past a certain point in time. Know when to retire a look or update it.  And some trends, like the (sometimes controversial) mullet, are just better left to hibernate indefinitely.

Here are some tips for helping you define your personal style and build confidence right now, and for the years ahead:

whats my style book I love your style book

Read: Feeling a bit clueless about how to define your personal style? Study up on different styles and then learn how to achieve them at any age with What’s My Style? and I Love Your Style: How to Define and Refine Your Personal Style.


Download: Need a style boost? Look to your own closet. You can store your entire wardrobe and snap photos of outfits you love for future use with the free iPhone and Android app, Cloth. Get inspiration from a community of “Cloth-ers,” and even submit your own outfits.

confidence quote

Do: Always trust your gut! Do you feel uncomfortable in skinny jeans? No worries. Feel awesome in a trendy top-knot? Then rock it with confidence. The first step in defining your style is building self-assurance. Find out ways to do that here.