Entertainment Style Any woman who sets her own style is better dressed than red carpet stars
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Any woman who sets her own style is better dressed than red carpet stars

Brooke Cotchin Brownlow
Brooke Cotchin got Brownlow help from her husband plus a stylist, makeup artist, hairdresser, jeweller and photographer. Photo: Getty
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Posting to Instagram one of the zillions of photos taken of her on Brownlow Medal night this week, Charlotte Ennels – newly-minted fiancee of the AFL’s youngest captain, Jack Viney – said it best (and all in capital letters): “It took an army.”

The ravishing model is, according to her management, “a viral sensation” and “the next big thing”, as well as being (thanks to her “sun-drenched holiday snaps”) the “epitome of a modern muse.”

How terrific is that? Well done you, Charlotte. But, and I hate to rain on anybody’s red carpet or gilded life, it all raises one question.

If looking presentable at a big event takes someone as genetically gifted as Charlotte – and every other Brownlow or Dally M WAG who dressed up a storm this week – an army to get dressed, are they really muses?

Are they inspirational, or just beautiful women who rely on a stack of other people to spray them brown, tell them what to wear, how to do their hair, how to stand – ‘Gorgeous, babe!’ – for their social media feeds?

The rise of the celebrity stylist is a vexed issue for me. Yes, it means almost everyone looks fabulous at glitzy events or riding their bike to lunch in the Maldives (stylists also do holiday packing, because Insta) but they look like someone else’s vision of fabulous.

They don’t look like themselves. Which means they don’t trust their own taste. Which doesn’t make them muses. It makes them live shop front dummies, albeit conventionally perfect ones.

In its simplest form, all personal style involves is asking yourself how you feel on any day and going with it. Could be stripes or bike shorts or Converse. There’s no wrong answer. Two-year-olds do it. It’s easy self-expression.

I miss the years when stars turned up for red carpets in whatever they damn well felt like wearing, the years before it became an actual job for people to control what everyone looked like. The Cher era. The years when Celine Dion was cool, before she hired someone to decide what she felt like putting on on any given day.

My theory is that anyone who doesn’t have enough innate taste and maturity to dress themselves is insecure and cares too much what other people think of them. And that’s okay. But it’s not stylish. It’s not what I want in a muse.

Instead of admiring cookie cutter WAGs, check out the social media accounts of Iris Apfel and Lyn Slater. One is in her nineties, one in her sixties, and they are fashion perfection – unconcerned with the vision of others, bold, unpredictable. Original.

Apart from accessories maven Amanda Briskin-Rettig, who I once saw slay at a fancy wedding in jeans and great shoes, my personal style heroes are people you’ve probably never heard of but could learn from.

Nicola McGaan and Inge Turpie, from Melbourne homewares shop Sedonia. Brunswick secondhand dealer Sandy Carr. Knitwear designer Maureen Fitzgerald. Adelaide’s Amanda Blair, who among other things drives an op shop bus called Dulcie. Artist Carolyn Cardinet. Kindergarten teacher Jessica Johnson, who never uncorks champagne at her 1970s caravan without red lipstick and matching tap shoes.

None of them buy many new clothes. They pull something years and years old from their wardrobes and add a whole heap of confidence and a feathered collar or a 1990s belt or insouciant scarf.

All would be startled at the odd idea of paying someone to tell them what to wear.

I work with a fellow who wears old jeans, a short sleeved shirt and a hat every single day. With Rossi boots. He wears that to work in the heart of Melbourne’s cool city, and I’ve seen photos of him in the same kit in the canyons of both New York and Yosemite National Park.

Jeans, shirt, hat. Last week he sent a snap of his Rossi bootprints on the sand of the Gold Coast. That’s style, because he’s always being him.

You, hopefully, are too. And the next time you go to school pickup or the supermarket or the office, if you’re wearing clothes you chose all by yourself, then you’re better dressed than anyone held up by mainstream and social media as an inspiration.

Kylie Minogue, if you’re reading this, that last bit doesn’t apply to you. My love, you were at your fashion best when stylist William Baker was sticking you in those gold hot pants. You should seek help again.

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