When it really comes down to it, style of any sort is only ever about tension.
Art, food, fashion, music… it's always the same. It's the pull between components that gives something the creative equivalent of an electric charge. Style is somebody who is artful, or clever, or just naturally good at it and in the right light asking your brain to rectify two (or more) if not contradictory then certainly counterintuitive things at the same time. Like simultaneously patting your head and rubbing your tummy, this creates just enough cognitive dissonance to momentarily silence a person's ever-chattering monkey brain and gift them a few seconds of blissful nirvana. This, incidentally, is why dressing nicely is a highly generalised type of kindness.
During one pitstop in my illustrious and varied showbusiness career, I had the good fortune to interview a sandwich expert. "All 'classic' sandwich fillings," he informed me gravely (doing inverted comma fingers), "are just a combination of fat and acid." He considered cheese and onion the apotheosis of this truth – and as such it was his favourite flavour. As well as forevermore making the words FAT and ACID flash across the back of my eyes, unbidden, when I eat or select a sandwich, this exchange pretty much taught me everything I have subsequently needed to know about style. Let's take a look.
FAT and ACID, by which I mean:
1. Do two things, a bit, at the same time.
2. Don't do one too much more than the other.
3. Don't try to do too many things.
This really is all you need to know to get dressed quickly. These are the reasons great outfits work and bad ones don't. They're why boots go with dresses, boyfriend jeans suit that jacket and why Kate Moss is more stylish than Kate Middleton.
Here are a few fashion new releases, ripe for playful juxtaposition. Boots and dresses are a classic combination whether your look is young and modern or grunge revival. For delightfully contradictory accessories try Tom Binns safety pins and pearls, John and Pearl's gold and neon necklace, or contrast pieces you already own. Cotton and leather are a great combination – try Phillip Lim or Whistles – and a slick of precious-looking footwear will bring well-worn denim to life.
I'm not one for rules, but reasons can be useful. So, if you'd like to play with the push-pull in your existing wardrobe, shake yourself out of a rut or perhaps just walk the daily tightrope that keeps you looking acceptable rather than plunging into a pit of soul-vapourisingly bad aesthetic decisions (this last one might just be me), all this might be food for thought.
Camille Paglia once said: "Beauty is our weapon against nature; by it we make objects, giving them limit, symmetry, proportion. Beauty halts and freezes the melting flux of nature."
It's not as neatly put as FAT and ACID, but I think I know what she means.
Follow Lauren on Twitter @LaurenLaverne
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