Fashion is a funny thing. Sometimes you love the latest new styles and you dive right in and adopt them from the bottom up. Other times you can't stand them, or they simply don't suit you.
It isn't a new thing, either. Oscar Wilde had a lot to say about the subject. "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months" is one of his, as is the contradictory quip, "You can never be overdressed or over educated".
Coco Chanel was less acerbic, saying that "Fashion changes but style endures". She knew it was entirely possible to look fabulous without slavishly following trends, a woman after our own heart. Then there's Orson Welles, who once pronounced, "Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say and not giving a damn."
Fashion tips - Knowing what you want to say... and not giving a damn
Taking a tip from Welles and Chanel, can you avoid fashion altogether and go your own way?
Some brave people don't give a stuff about what's hot and what's not. They wear what they like no matter what's in fashion at the time. And it's a growing trend. Take the vintage clothes revolution, evidenced by Dawn Porter's hugely popular Channel 4 TV show, This old thing. It's all about breaking the mould, rebelling against the status quo and wearing what makes you feel happy rather than slavishly following what's on sale on the high street.
Other people take the middle route and mix 'n' match high fashion items with unusual, eccentric, vintage and hippy classics to create a unique style all of their own, a happy medium between being on the button and about as far off it as you can be without disappearing over the edge of the known universe. So how do you mix and match to perfection without looking as though you've lost the plot?
How to create your own unique style statement
If you're not quite bold enough to ignore fashion completely, there are a few simple ways to make sure you look amazing by meeting the high street half way.
Stick to on-trend shoes
First, shoes. Shoes are one of those items that send out a clear and unmistakeable message. You can wear the most weird and wonderful clothing combinations, but adding a high-fashion pair of shoes brings your look bang up to date.
Take this summer's trend for flat shoes. Flats are huge, after a few seasons of back-breaking, foot-killing, agonisingly high heels and brick-like platforms. You might be dressed from head to toe in hippy clothes, which come in and out of fashion every few years in one way or another, but when you throw on a pair of pretty flats you update your look and keep it current.
Get the shape of your jeans right
Second, jeans. If you're a man who's still wearing massive, over-sized hip-hop inspired baggy jeans with the crotch around your knees, no matter what else you wear you're going to look very dated compared to everyone else in their knacker-crunching skinny versions.
If you're female, wearing low-slung dark denim flares is going to look pretty strange when everyone's starting to wear stonewashed high waisted jeans again, a real throwback to the 1980s but a look that's fresh and new if you weren't born back then.
To cut a long story short, when you get the shape of your jeans right, you can wear more or less anything with them and still look on-trend.
High fashion colours
A couple of years ago mustard was the colour. It made many of us look like death warmed up, but that's another story. If you want to find out which colours are the biggest hitters this season, there's plenty of advice online including this from the Bath Chronicle, whose reporter has analysed this season's most popular shades:
The basic building blocks seem to feature black, navy, white and grey, think stormy neutrals and you're there. Ralph Lauren, Victoria Beckham and Armani are using this palette extensively in their collections. This stormy pallete is lifted through accenting with pink, electric blue or chartreuse. In the transition into autumn you can get your pinks from Whistles, electric blue from Hobbs and the chartreuse is already in French Connection. If you like designers then Armani is the collection to go to. A major colour is red, you can go from primary all the way to berry red but it its definitely one of the big colours of the season. Finally the biggest come back kids on the block are camel and tan.
If you base your outfit on one on-trend colour, say by wearing a berry red skirt, you can team it with anything else you like and it will often be enough to refer subtly to the current trend.
A haircut says a lot. It indicates you know what's in fashion, whether or not you choose to follow it blindly. In essence if you have a trendy hairstyle you can more or less wear anything you like and you'll stay on the 'right' side of the fashion tracks.
Mix and match high street, hippy and vintage styles
All of which brings us to the fine art of mixing and matching: take one high street fashion item then dress it up by wearing a funky mix of items with it.
According to Metro.co.uk, autumn/winter 2014 is all about structured A-line shifts, knee-high shiny leather boots and luxe polo necks, brown leather A-lines paired with ruffled leather shirts, bright printed tunics, pointed 1960s flats and mini boxy handbags, a profound change from the monster-sized handbags of recent years.
Some of our customers love to go the whole hippy hog, dressing from top to toe in gloriously colourful threads, smothered with embroidery and intricate hand-crafted decoration. Others prefer to take it easy, mixing and matching our clothing with high street staples like cutting edge-style jeans and fashionable footwear. And many are also bringing retro and vintage pieces to the party.
What does 'vintage' mean these days?
A quick word about vintage fashion. When I first came to live in Brighton as an art student thirty years ago, 'vintage' meant 1950s Levis 501s, sharp 1960s ladies two-piece skirt suits, cute 1930s dresses,1940s utility wear and even beautiful beaded 1920s dresses. Now, according to my good friend Jane who runs the best vintage fashion store in the north east, Disgraceland in Middlesbrough, 'vintage' includes clothes as recent as the 1980s and even way into the 1990s, a bit weird since she and I wore it all the first time around!
So... if you mix cool vintage classics, our gorgeous hippy clothes and high street items together, what do you get? A look that is yours and yours alone, a unique statement that isn't so far 'out there' that you end up looking weird. Yes, you give a nod to the catwalk and tip your sartorial hat at this season's hot styles. But you add just enough of your own personality to stand out... in a good way.
What about you?
What's your favourite mix and match outfit, why do you love it so much and where did you buy it?