Styling v. Wearing—Is There a Difference?

There  certainly is a difference and it’s something I’ve wanted to write about for a while but never got around to it.  Until now.

If you aren’t familiar, I post on Instagram.  A lot.   I post on a mostly-daily basis of outfits that I’m wearing.  Overall, how I wear the ensembles oftentimes showcases my style.  And basically, style is how you wear clothing:

Almost every morning I post on Instagram the outfit that I am wearing for the day.  I’m not styling a thing. I’m merely wearing clothes!

Style is defined (as a particular way  of doing or saying something), or refers to a unique form of clothing or way of arranging your appearance.

As quoted above, it pretty-much describes what I’m talking about. What I find daunting is the misuse of the word style when it comes to fashion.   It is up there with my chic pet peeve. Chic is another term that is ridiculously misused. There are very few women who truly personify the description of chic.  It is elegance and sophistication blended with style.  That’s a tough mix to come by. I’m veering off topic…

I have no idea who this woman is, but she personifies chic in it’s essence. Check out her hair. It’s gorgeous and styled without looking like a “do”. She’s elegant while being casual. Nothing fussy.  She is both chic and stylish. On to the subject matter.

“Style” as a noun is used to describe the kinds of clothing and the way someone wears those clothes.

A little look-see at my personal style for work. blazer, heels (MUST BE POINTY TOED–that’s my style) and a scarf. I wear these clothes. This is my style but I don’t style any of it.  Kabeesh?

For example:  My personal style, I would say is more of  classic-with-an-edge. A  sort of preppy-going-outside-the-lines. And my style is literally based on the school uniform I wore for many years.  Shirt. Skirt. Blazer.   And I play off that. It could be jeans, tee shirt and blazer. Or pants, shirt and denim jacket. Or skirt, shirt and blazer. Or skirt and sweater. It’s very simple. But—it’s my style. My mode of dressing.

…or plaid kilt (PLAID is my favorite color) with sweater and tights (tights only in winter otherwise I’m bare-legged) with ballet flats.

And my three-season favorite weekend outfit (Fall, Winter, Spring when the weather is still chilly)  Jeans, tee, scarf, blazer and loafer on sockless feet.  It is my style–and again, I haven’t styled a dang thing!

 My summer style is the dress.  I would call it “”Lazy Lady Style”simply because I can’t be bothered wearing a lot of clothing  during the warmer and heated months.

I’m a big Lilly Pulitzer fan for summer dressing.  The bright colors are fun–it’s what I like to wear..

And when it comes to summer travel, I’m all about the dress. This photo was taken in St. Tropez in 2017. I just took this dress out of the storage bin and hung it in my closet. I paid ten bucks for it at Old Navy–this will be the fifth summer I’m wearing it.  And it wears well–hmmm maybe my style is frugal!

“Styling” as a verb is where the over-use and misuse of the word comes in.   Throwing on a pair of shoes is not “Styling”. It is “wearing”.  Adorning those same shoes with embelishments such as bows or ribbons or gemstones is styling the shoes then placing the embellished shoes on your feet is still wearing.  Sliding into a pair of heels or sneakers or flip-flops is not styling. It’s wearing and again, so many get it wrong.

This plain pair of pumps has been embellished. They have been styled.  The owner of these shoes worked on styling them and she will wear them.

And don’t even get me started on this look.  First of all the young woman is gorgeous.  However, I’m tired of this look and even more tired when influencers say they are “styling” with accessories such as the hat.  For the love of Pete, will someone PLEASE tell these women the hat is supposed to be worn lower on the forehead.  This is not styling. It’s a trendy look that will be dated by next year.  Oy vey!

And basically, I wear clothing.  Sadly, I’m not much for styling and it’s mostly because I just don’t have that certain “thing”.  I’m lousy at accessories. I’ll wear the same earrings until they lose the gold plating or they break. I have a necklace of big fake pearls that were purchased a few years back at J. Crew Factory. I wear them on repeat all year.

Quite honestly, these fake pearls have been worn so many times I cannot believe they aren’t discolored.  My jewelry style is purely costume but I don’t style my fake jewelry–I wear it.

Scarves?  I wear the basic double loop or tie it up on my neck to hide the turkey wrinkles!  In fact, this winter I mostly wore but one scarf. It seemed to go with everything I wore and I wore it more than often!

My most-worn scarf this winter. I didn’t exactly style it but I did manipulate it to cover my turkey neck!

And the only other way I know how to wear a scarf is the double loop. 

But here’s the thing—I wear clothing well. Trust me I’m not bragging or being full of myself. I know my body. I try to wear clothing that fits me well when I gain weight and when I lose weight.  But as far as a unique ability to make a simple frock or pair of pants look unique, by styling– I’m not gifted.

Presently I’m in a “heavier” stage that has remained in place since February. But because I know how to wear clothing, these paper-bag waisted pants look okay.  Nothing on this outfit is styled. I’m wearing the pants with a fitted knit top and pointy toed leopard shoes.  

And therein lies the issue on social media. Wearing a pair of jeans with a shirt and sneakers is not style. It is simply wearing clothing.  I see this all the time too.  Women wearing clothing and telling how they’ve styled it—throwing on a pair of slides is not styling an outfit. Donning a sweatshirt is not styling.

Looks such as this are splayed all over social media–especially by the mature woman as “styled”.  I’m sorry but this is not a styled look.  It is a fine outfit for raking leaves or running errands but I would not say it the very “styling” is appropriate!

I’m going to show you two examples of proper styling:

Last week I was perusing through my Instagram feed and came across a little video post by Susan of Une Femme du Certain Age Blog.  She showcased how she took a pair of jeans and a tee shirt that she was wearing and she styled it.  The video is on the blog which I’ve linked.  The addition of a Chanel-esque tweed lady jacket, a chain bracelet, earrings and white driving loafers changed the simple look into a stylish ensemble.  And the little extra was the front tuck of the shirt.  Honestly, I was so happy to see a bona fide style video I practically did a happy dance.  She got it. @susan_unefemme

Oh look! Susan is wearing jeans and a tee! (Sorry about the blurred image).

Now she takes a Chanel-inspired tweed Lady jacket..

..and she STYLED her look.  The use of a lady jacket with jeans is unique.  The little front tuck of the tee shirt is that little nuance that adds the extra.  The driving loafers and bag complete the styled ensemble. It’s taking that one element and styling a look.  Had a barn jacket or windbreaker been worn with the tee, jeans and sneakers replaced the loafers, it would not have been a styled look.

Another Instagram true styler is my friend Josie of  I honestly have never seen anyone work the magic that Josie does with a scarf. Her knack, knowledge and ability put her in a class of her own.  It’s crazy. She simply does not wear a scarf. She styles them.  She gets it. And I swear to you I’ve tried to copy her scarf looks and I just can’t do it.

One scarf, two looks…

..oh wait–there’s more!

Can you believe this? I can barely loop a scarf around my neck. THIS is how styling works with a scarf! 

My big style moment came last week.  I have a Dr. Fauci basketball tee shirt that I ordered from Regis High School, where he was a student.  (Dr. Fauci is my hero).  I wore it with a pair of black leggings.  Simple enough—right?  But I decided to turn those two items into suiting.  I took a black J. Crew Schoolboy blazer and a pair of heels.  Voila! I styled otherwise ridiculously casual items into a more professional style.

My bit styling moment from last week.  I styled my Dr. Fauci tee and leggings into  suiting.  I tell you this tee shirt is epic greatness!  I only wish it had been delivered before I had my second vaccination!

So, there you have it.  You can wear clothing without styling—but the way you wear those clothes can be stylish.   And when an outfit is styled to the true meaning, thought goes into the look.  And it becomes unique.

I don’t think this counts as styling, but I love wearing a blazer with shorts. It reminds me of my high school days. 

What are your thoughts on this?  It’s been a while since we had a long comment discussion.  You think I’m on track?  Do you agree with my wearing v. style.  I’m really curious because I’m wondering if others feel the same way!  Don’t be shy now! Let’s hear it!

About Catherine

Far from perfect, but enjoying life as a non-perfect and flawed individual at 60 years young. I'm still wondering what I'll be when I grow up! The characters in my life's screenplay include my better half. He is a refined Frenchman who grew up in Paris and summered in St. Tropez. I grew up in Long Island and summered in Long Island. I am not refined. My three grown children are also a big part of my life. For their sake, they happily live where their careers have taken them! But I can still mother them from a distance! I write about the mundane. I write about deeply shallow issues. But whatever I write or muse about--it'll always be a bit on the humorous and positive side! It's all good!
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28 Responses to Styling v. Wearing—Is There a Difference?

  1. Momcat says:

    I understand what you are getting at. Nothing is more annoying then an ‘influencer’ stating she has ‘styled’ a pair of jeans with sneakers and a denim jacket. On the other hand, bloggers that style a simple tee shirt and jeans with over 1500.00USD worth of clothing and jewelry and proceed to link these items…sorry that’s shilling. Tucking a tee shirt into jeans is a free hack that’s pretty ubiquitous these days and I am not sure still qualifies as styling but kudos to Susan, she didn’t link it!
    Honestly I am tired of ‘of an age’ fashion bloggers. First of all they presume that the ‘of an age’ gang all have bank accounts ‘of a certain size’ and that we never wear the same thing two days in a row …(third day of my Lands End red and black fleece styled with my Zulily joggers and my acid green Crocs ( we’re in a six week stay at home order, this is as stylin’as it gets) If I pay 900.00 for a &*$# bag that damn thing will be styling me to my grave..with my hospital gown French tucked into my link required!
    I like that you do show items on repeat with maybe a new accessory or top to update. That’s wardrobe building with style. That is the way real women roll.

  2. Suzi says:

    Well here goes. No I don’t agree with you. For the simple reason you don’t even know you have style or are styling clothes because you do it naturally. (However, I understand what you are saying. No, sweats and an old hoodie is not styled.) Its a struggle just trying to dress my body in clothes that fit properly. I find it difficult to understand and dissect why an outfit actually looks good on me. You have never appeared in an outfit that wasn’t absolutely adorable and sophisticated. I just discovered my true body type and that my “style” is actually minimalist. I just thought I was lazy. Who knew??? Keep it up Kathy, you inspire style. Thank you!

  3. vavashagwell says:

    Another thought provoking post, thank you! Wow, the woman with the scarves – I sure wish I knew how to do that!! You look adorable in your Fauci t-shirt. He’s my hero as well!!!!

  4. Cyndy says:

    Of course, you are spot-on. Even as a farmer, wearing clothes suitable for mud, I try to be faithful to my style. Honed since high school, when I was immersed in real feminine style in Brazil. Even in high school, I refused to wear sweats (or sweatshirts) or sneakers. (I make an exception for boat shoes.) My style has always been Sloan Ranger/American prep/haute hippie. Because of the pandemic. I am “retired”- not by choice-so I have a beloved wardrobe, curated over decades, and no where to go! Except church – my church family gets the effect of my sartorial choices. So mnay clothes-not enough life to wear them all!

  5. Susan Blakey says:

    Hi Catherine, thanks so much for your kind words! Don’t sell yourself short, though…just because you’ve developed a personal style that feels natural and unforced doesn’t mean you’re not “styling” an outfit… 😉

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks so much Susan! I’m late to replying because it’s been a busy time at work but I appreciate your words so much! Thank you again! XOXOX

  6. Denise says:

    Isn’t that first woman Catherine Zeta-Jones?

  7. Catherine says:

    Hey Al, Everything you are sayting is so on point! I’m insanely happy that Susan didn’t link anything. But the good thing is you don’t have to have $1,500 plus to find a cute jacket to style a tee and a pair of jeans. At home, I’m in total slob mode but it is when I leave the house that I want to look a ladder rung better.
    I can’t wear crocs because about ten years ago I almost broke my foot getting out of a car with them! LOL!! And I ALWAYS wear clothing on repeat –I can’t afford a different outift every day! XOXOXOXO

  8. Julie F says:

    I need a Fauci T-shirt! He is a god!

  9. Lise says:

    You have great style Cathe, I miss seeing more of your outfits (not on Insta). I agree some bloggers throw together everyday clothes and they are definitely not styling anything.

    • Catherine says:

      Hi Lise! Thank you! It has been such a challenge trying to get out a blog post lately. My job environment is toxic and I’m just so exhausted at the end of the day but I’m trying to overcome it and am trying to write more!! XOXOXOXO

  10. You know Cathe, you get it together and have a great look. I dress to my body. I’ve never even thought of styling my clothes.I love accessories and putting stuff together but I never think that I’m styling. I think that’s what I like about your look. You know what looks good on you and you don’t try to style yourself. You just look good and know what works on you. And if someone wants to get your look. It’s easy and straight forward. You look good so just go with it and not worry about who knows what.PS. Got to buy the Fauci t-shirt.

  11. Juliet says:

    I have a question…. why do these “influencers” all look the same – if they were influencing anyone except themselves surely they would look erm… a little different from each other? Confused. Anyway interesting points about style or styling an outfit. Some women always look great – smart and well presented and totally together, but really stylish or chic??? Such over used words. To me stylish and well styled have that little indefinable kick like a magic ingredient, you can see how great they look but there is that unique take on something that is very core to that person, a bit of spice or a technique – just the tiniest amount. Not sure I would ever say most of these (mainly) young and very desperate “influencers” come across as stylish – too needy, too desperate for acclaim (for what?) and too tickbox in their concept. Its such a sloppy use of language I think, I feel a bit sorry for these females as sooner or later they will lose their self appointed role to younger, equally generic young women.

    Love Susans’ look and general outlook, another woman I really like is Greetje (No fear of fashion) she is a total blast too

    • Catherine says:

      Juliet–we are definitely of the same mindset. There is absolutely nothing unique with most influencers. And it is more upsetting that we have millions of young women with absolutely no sense of true style or fashion because they copy these bland young influencers. But on the other hand, I’ve seen older influencers who lack style. An outfit from Chico’s is not style. It is an outfit from Chico’s. A true stylist makes it her own and inspires.

      I need to check this Greetje out. Thanks for the heads up! XOXOXOXO

      • Susan D says:

        You are so right with your definition of “style” and “styling”. Unfortunately you either have it or you don’t and you certainly do.
        I also recommend check out Greetje on “No Fear of Fashion”. Whether or not her sense of “style” is the same as yours her blog is so happy and funny. Do have a look. She posts every Sunday.
        Susan D

  12. Liz McGarry says:

    You’re a wonder of the world, Cathe…always looking hip and put together but NEVER mutton dressed as lamb. one of my favorite descriptions. I love the Fauci shirt because it’s cute, Fauci’s my hero and my brother was a Regis graduate…I think it’s in the cards for me to “wear” one soon.

  13. MC Wynne says:

    Somewhere along the way I stopped thinking about clothing and makeup. I think it might have started back in January 2020 so it’s pandemic-related. And 20 pounds of weight. I realize from reading this post and the one on BOOM makeup that there are no excuses for going out looking like a bad lady. Your post was an inspiration to try, even just a little. I dressed more mindfully, really looking at what I was pulling out of the closet and added a scarf, makeup (from the eyes up) and some cool shoes. It wasn’t that hard. Thank you for helping me realize that I’ve got to keep trying. Sometimes it seems like such an uphill battle with my 70s looming in the distance.

    • Catherine says:

      I hear you twin with my same maiden name! I’m still struggling with the extra weight gained during the pandemic and the piggy bits are just hanging on. Still, I march on by getting dressed, putting the beauty products on and remaining positive. Hey. We’re both there with 70’s looming in the background.It is far better to reach them than to not! XOXOXO

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