Every great style icon had a trademark. Chanel had her pearls and suits, Jackie O. had her sunglasses and sheaths, Bardot had her headband. Catherine Deneuve was lucky enough to have bespoke suits by Yves St. Laurent as her trademark. And Jane Birkin was known for carrying around a large, ugly bag until Hermès designed a bag for her that was big enough to hold everything she needed. Now that’s a trademark!
Such style trademarks are wonderful things as they allow us to stay inside our comfort zone while looking effortlessly stylish. I myself have a few trademarks that I rotate or use together to their best advantage.
My first, and possibly most important trademark, is my large, black purse. It has gone through many incarnations over the years, but it is always large and black. Like Jane Birkin, I carry too much with me to fit in a dinky bag, so my trademark bag is big enough to hold my essentials, plus a couple of books and notebooks, and it can even double as an overnight bag if needed. I found my current bag at a resale shop last year and I rarely am without it. It has a structured rhombus shape that just screams classic and chic. That’s an essential part of trademarks: they should always be classic, never too trendy or you’ll end up dating yourself once that particular fashion fades away.
Another trademark of mine is a leather jacket (well, a few leather jackets in varying colors). Worn with jeans and a t-shirt, they make me look endlessly cool and classic in that James Dean way ( … so I like to think). Or, I can wear them over a dress for a feminine look with a bit of a hard edge. Colored leather jackets also work very well over cocktail dresses—I’m always borrowing my mother’s purple jacket to wear over a LBD with purple shoes. And a red leather jacket over a black dress with complimenting shoes is stunning. It’s an edgy, yet feminine look that makes me feel great.
Perhaps my favorite trademark (though by far the least practical) is my pair of hot pink, round-toed, Mary Jane heels. With their banana heel and 1940s retro look, they make me feel feminine and flirty whether I pair them with a skirt, trousers, or jeans. They always turn heads and I adore the compliments. They’re a relatively new addition to my style trademarks as I bought them just this year. But that’s the beauty of having style trademarks—it’s great if they last forever but our personal tastes change and so can our trademarks. We can leave them behind as we grow out of them.
However, some trademarks last us for years and go through different incarnations, such as my black bags and my silver and blue sunglasses that I’ve been wearing since I was sixteen—they’re so much a part of my image that when my first pair started falling apart, my brother scoured all the sunglass stores he could in order to give me a new pair. He, along with most of my friends and family, can’t imagine me in any other pair of sunglasses. What else would I pull my hair back with if it weren’t for my shades?
Having a trademark is easy, and that’s the beauty of it. Think you don’t have time to find one? Too busy doing all the things a modern woman needs to take care of? That doesn’t mean you can’t look stylish and follow your own fashion while living your life.
Style trademarks allow you to set up a style comfort zone that will leave you feeling relaxed and sexy even on the most hectic days. If you’re always running to and fro but still want to look classic and put together, try using non-iron buttoned down shirts as your trademark. Thrown on with jeans and a pair of comfortable flats, the shirt will allow you to be comfortable yet exceedingly stylish as you shuttle the kids, shop, or run your errands. You’ll be that mother that all the others are jealous of because you look so stylish and immaculate. In reality, you may be as frazzled as the rest, but your style trademark will see you through. And if you need to have a business meeting, throw on a pair of black slacks and nice shoes with one of your shirts and you’re set. Your new trademark is extremely versatile. Non-iron shirts are such a fabulous invention—I once got off a plane at the end of an eleven hour journey to discover that the non-iron shirt I was wearing was crisper looking than the one I had packed in my bag! They’re a great way to always look calm and sorted, even during your most hectic and trying moments.
Other trademarks are easy to find once you start looking and get to know your own personal style. One of my friends has a fabulous trademark: the little black dress. She’ll wear it with a sweater and sneakers for a casual look and then slip off the sweater and slip on some heels for a night out. It might not work for everyone, but if you can pull it off, go for it! Sheath dresses work in much the same way—just think of how classic Jackie O. always looked in them. They’re comfortable yet stylish and can take you from the beach to a boardroom—just what a trademark should be able to do.
Jewelry and scarves can also make wonderful trademarks. I used to wear multiple silver bangles everyday and they always seemed to pull together any outfit, no matter that they were a mix of family antiques and cheap buys from a market stall. From a formal party to a night in with the girls, they worked for everything. A classic necklace will have much the same effect. And scarves work in the same way. If you don’t want to deal with tying them around your neck, try using one as a belt or in your hair. Or, just tie a scarf to the strap of your handbag for an effortlessly chic (and French) look.
Style trademarks are an easy way to bring together both an individual outfit and an overall look, which is why every great fashion icon has had one. Trademarks don’t define us as people, but they do let others know that we have our own personal, classic style that will withstand the test of fashion fads. Style trademarks let us feel comfortable and confident at the same time. We get too look great while also feeling great. Bardot might have had her headband, but I have my sunglasses and I’m not afraid to use them.