Inspiration Image Source
I'm consistently amazed just how little it takes to create something classic. There's really something to be said for the "less is more" approach, and I think Audrey Hepburn stands as a brilliant example of it. Extraordinarily self-aware, yet ever humble, she embraced and honored her beauty with simple, elegant acoutrements.
So how do you own your style, instead of letting style own you? I think there are three main principles behind a signature style like Audrey's:
1) Proportion, proportion, proportion. Proportion is something I've only come to name recently, but in some way or another I was always conscious of it. It's the hurdle we face when we try on that trendy over-sized sweater in the dressing room -- the one that hits at the widest part of our thighs and makes us think, "Why does this seem to work for everyone but me?"
As a unique woman (or man), you have your own unique body proportions. The necklines, silhouettes, heel heights, and jean cuts that work for your best friend may not work for you too. Contrary to what magazines would have you believe, there is no perfect pigeonhole (or fruit shape) into which your body will fit. My friend and I are both hourglass-shaped, but where her curves were love a shift dress, I lack the lovely lady lumps to make them look anything but dumpy. And dumpy just ain't my style.
The only way to master proportion is through trial and error. Take your time in the dressing room. Observe what makes you feel uncomfortable and ask why. Ignore trends, and go with your gut.
2) The art of confidence. Nothing will make your style soar like good posture, eye contact, a genuine smile, and a positive personality. I was recently introduced to a woman whose work and beauty I'd always admired. In a single conversation, she managed to insult a mutual acquaintance, disparage someone else's romantic felicity, and complain about the shape of her own face. I quickly lost sight of why I esteemed her in the first place.
3) Practice your signature (look). Remember when you were eleven and destined for fabulousity and you actually practiced signing your name? (Please don't tell me I'm the only one who did this...) Fashion requires the same practice. In his book Acting on Film, Michael Caine describes the process by which he became, well, Michael Caine:
I was a Cockney boy and obviously didn't fit anybody's idea of what an actor was supposed to be, so I decided to put together elements that added up to a memorable package. I got myself seen around the "in" spots, wearing glasses and smoking a cigar. I became known as "that guy who wears glasses and smokes a cigar." ... It was the truth, but I had consciously assembled that truth so nobody could miss it.
The moral of the story? Decide who it is you want to be -- what style you want to project -- and put it into practice. Sooner or later, myth will become reality.