To be relevant in the fashion industry, one must have a grounded strong sense of self, a quality that informs a woman’s personal style
We knew it was coming. And if we didn’t we have yet to learn the predictable nature of fashion. I am talking about the royal engagement. Meghan Markle caught our attention years ago if the Suits fans I have met are anything to go by.
Playing a role not dissimilar to what it appears her real life persona is — level-headed and uber smart — her rise as a fashion icon has been so swift she is the current cover of Vanity Fair, the magazine we forget about when it comes to pop culture and society.
We can now forecast the soon to be Duchess-something or other will be on the cover of Vogue. But it really won’t matter. She has already earned her street cred. Her engagement dress has sold out, but, naturally, it has been reissued.
There is already the inevitable: The Meghan Markle Effect. Remember it? It was first the Michelle Obama Effect, then there was a Kate Middleton Effect. Now it’s another woman’s turn.
It wasn’t always this way for Meghan. In as much as style magazines documented her Suits style — personally I have always preferred Jessica’s power suits and potent, alpha female sexual presence — she had a nice enough reputation until news broke that she was Prince Harry’s girlfriend, aka the world’s most eligible bachelor.
Then it was realised she is biracial, with a black mother and white father. She does not particularly look it. So it was a surprise to a lot of people. It was also hostile fodder for social media who turned it into a race issue. Never mind that she was American and not the least bit British or royal, and that she was in fact, a divorcee. She had a lifestyle blog filled with intelligent, thoughtful pieces that she has since shut down.
The explosion of Meghan’s style leans heavily on her beauty and her Hollywood career. But, it is also the result of what led to the Michelle Obama Effect. Meghan is generally rather unfazed by the attention. She is 36. She considers herself a fully formed woman. Her style is not just what she wears, it is who we all think she is.
What do these three women have in common, aside from the ability to make fashion viral as prolific personalities? For one, they have a very grounded, strong sense of self, a quality that informs a woman’s personal style clearly.
Having spent time meeting with and interviewing women for magazines over the years, it became obvious the older a woman was, the more aware she was of her personal style and how she wants to look and be dressed, and the younger a woman is, the more malleable and trusting of a stylist she tends to be.
Of course that can also make it difficult to work a look for women on either sides of the divide. Sticking to a look can date a woman, so if she has style flexibility, she is a rare species indeed.
This mix is what the three women have. Despite their established fashion sense they are also willing to surprise and be surprised. How can one acquire or maintain this quality? Well, isn’t that the great mystery. It does start with a youthful spirit. Julie Gichuru embodies this quite beautifully, her petite frame changeable with every outfit without working too hard to look her age or to try and look younger.
So many women in their 30s, if single, believe their lives are over because they are given unsolicited advice by everyone from relatives, male opinions insistent their ideas on aging women must be heeded, their own inner voices weighing them down turning them into old women before their time right down to family who underscore how fast time is running out.
If a woman believes any of this it will stain her soul, and believe it or not, it will affect your sense of style. One day you will realise you look just like every other forlorn face because you dress just like them and stopped grooming, enjoying your life, playing with other people’s children who get to go home to their parents and not buying that red dress that makes your booty pop.
In her 30s and 40s a woman is in her prime. Your career is rising, you are earning more money, you finally have an idea of the things you desire and you have earned an independent mind - if you made good use of your 20s.
There is this rich, delicious, formidable and/or interesting quality you possess at this point in time. It need not be wasted fobbing off alternative perspectives. Instead, it ought to be spent on the joy of being alive at a time like this. Now go buy yourself those red four-inch pumps. No 26-year-old will wear them the way you do.