Michelle Harper and the illusion of universal individual style

Michelle Violy Harper is a delight. Her quirky, oftentimes whimsical personal style is a celebration of…. yada yada – the articles have been written, Vogue, Style.com, etc. The tributes are effusive and entirely deserved. She’s spectacular (period).

We are inspired, millions of us, but to do what? Theoretically, we’re supposed to dig into our own psyches, moods, and fave cultural/fashion references to root out an individual style that best expresses who we are and/or how we wish to be perceived. Pretty straight forward, right?

Individual style is an illusion. For every time, for every trend, there are those who lead through exaggeration: Grace Kelly’s 1950s elegance, Kurt Cobain’s layered grunge jeans, Louis XIV’s Sun King ornamentation. Costuming these characters differently is unthinkable because their style is so closely linked to their psychologies. Their brains demand an outward expression of their eccentricities – they have no choice. To dress differently would be a betrayal of self, cause chaffing personal conflict, and render them invisible within their time.

Culture is pulled ahead by powerful personalities and powerful innovations. Fashion’s game changers are innately sensitive to the evolving culture around them and engage in a (often unconscious) back and forth influencing that, when successful, aligns them perfectly with the moment, even as they effectively pull it forward – making them inspirational touchstones to the public. Such sensitivity, combined with an exaggerated, ambitious personality, is a rare and sometimes dangerous mix (eg: Cobain, Leigh Bowery). The personal costs are high; it’s not often worth being envious beyond the clothes.

A brief stint working at Michaels Arts & Craft Superstore made something very clear: there are those who innovate, those who adapt ideas, and those who simply emulate. At Michaels, the innovators bought loose beads, those who needed inspiration bought kits, and the emulators preferred kits with full patterns/instructions. The same follows for fashion, and there is nothing wrong with it! This is the world! But this trend (and yes, it IS a trend) for universal personal, individual style is a philosophical fallacy.

Michelle Harper, born with a driving need to explore and experiment with her physicality, should be held aloft as inspiration. Because she, out of dozens of street style stars, is one of the very few able to transcend the trends hidden in plain view within the individuality movement (as patterned over time on sites like TheSartorialist.com – eg: fedoras, cameos). She is our latest, brightest touchstone – leather paillettes for all! ~wink

One thought on “Michelle Harper and the illusion of universal individual style

  1. Pingback: Viable Worlds Theory – Why philosophy is more than mental masturbation | Blank Canvas Living

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