FRINGE: Effortless beauty is the natural way

Courtesy of W.W. Norton

The typical objective of modern fashion and beauty is to let it come across as effortless — as if the way you choose to style yourself, from eyeliner to shoes, is a physical manifestation of who you are and not a carefully arranged costume. Essentially, the goal is to look natural and original as opposed to a reproduction of someone else.

In reality, however, this is not an easy thing to achieve. Even those commended for their unique and creative style can usually point to their fashion influences and inspiration, from vintage movie stars to their own friends and relatives. Archetypal hipsters, who like things before they become cool, can buy something resembling their entire look from Urban Outfitters — even if they really bought it from a really cool underground thrift store you’ve probably never heard of.

In Chuck Palahniuk’s “Invisible Monsters,” a former fashion model who sustained a gruesome injury argues, “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined product of everyone I have ever known.” This hints at the process everyone goes through to one degree or another in becoming themselves: In trying to satisfy social pressures or simply trying to emulate that which we admire, we build our identities based on people and things around us. We synthesize in an attempt to create.

As a result, it becomes difficult to call anything truly original or say that anyone’s style comes naturally. That said, even art is nearly always inspired by something else. “Steal Like An Artist,” the coffee-table book by Austin Kleon, is based on the concept that all art is a reproduction of some prior source, but gives advice on the proper way to “steal,” asserting that even though nothing is truly original, art, literature and other creations can still be great and eventually serve as a source of inspiration for the next artist.

Courtesy of Workman Publishing Company

Theoretically, the same principle applies to fashion. It’s true that fashion is cyclical, and nearly anything can be described as reminiscent of a particular era past, but that doesn’t mean novel and interesting alterations and combinations aren’t being created. As long as culture keeps growing and changing, there will always be many sources to draw from.

In styling oneself, it isn’t necessary to sew your entire wardrobe or shop only in obscure shops in foreign countries just to look different from everyone else. Even doing so would still mean relying on primary sources of inspiration. Creating an original look that represents who you are can mean anything from pairing quirky pieces from a thrift shop with your favorite, inexpensive finds from Forever 21, to wearing only hand-me-downs from your fashionable aunt. Overall, it just means wearing what you like — whatever  naturally suits you.

Ariana DiValentino is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]