The Building Blocks of Style

The Building Blocks of Style
Building Blocks of Style
Harajuku Girls 29 October 2006 by Peter Van den Bossche [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I’m fascinated by Harajuku style at the moment. At first glance, it’s a random collection of stuff screaming in your face, but take a closer look, and you’ll see all the building blocks of style in an ever-changing arrangement.

In case you don’t know, Harajuku’s a playful mix of styles and colours, most commonly seen on teenagers hanging out at Tokyo’s Harajuku station (thus the name). In its most familiar form, it’s a variety of anime cosplay, but even if you don’t recognise the characters, the variety of colours and shapes are intriguing.

While your style might not be that extreme, every garment you choose and the way you build it with others to make an outfit says something about you, what you think about the world and your place in it.

So let’s look at how the building blocks of style.


Colour is often the most visible element of your style, and the reasons you choose them can be quite complex. Though it’s mainly to do with the emotions and feelings you associate with them.

Take black for example. For some, it’s the epitome of elegance, and others fit only for funerals or deep mourning. Some see it as the colour of conformity, while others think of it in terms of power, evil or mystery.


On a related note, patterns create interest by combining colours. They can introduce positive and negative spaces that suggest movement or change the viewing perspective. Or simply change the perception of colour depending on the scale.


A garment’s silhouette is a two-dimensional rendering of a three-dimensional form. They often capture the spirit of an era, for example:

  • 1900s pigeon breasts; corset moulded bodies with the breasts thrust forward and the hips pushed backwards.
  • 1920s flat chested bodies in loose boxy dresses.
  • 1950s wasp waists; corset created extreme hourglass figures

In modern terms, it’s not just your garment, it’s your body within the shape too – trapeze top with skinny jeans, crop top with an A-line skirt, big floppy hat with a sheath dress.

Design Line

The design line is more about a garment’s construction – where the seams, darts and pleats are located to create curved, straight or asymmetrical lines. Just like in art, they can be used to attract or deflect attention.

Design line can also relate to the application of additional decorative materials such as ruffles, swags, fringes. Or treatments such as ribbons or embroidery to add visual interest.


Texture is not just the way a garment feels on your skin but impacts the drape and movement of the fabric. Lighter, smoother textures have more movement while heavier, rougher textures have less.

The most common way you’ll see this is with a lighter top and a heavier bottom, or a faux fur trim.

Building the Blocks of your Style

If you’re not sure how to put together your building blocks of style, just do an internet search and you can find plenty of people who are more than happy to tell you what to do.

Or you could take a leaf from the Harajuku book of style, and put together the blocks that make you happy at the time. If that scares you, as well it might, consider Ingrid Fetell Lee’s finding that colours change the way you feel. And if you’re feeling tired and cranky, then a splash of colour might just be what you need.

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