5 Elements (of Style)

At its best, the wisdom of the ages is here to help us break down the vast, pulsating cosmos into more manageable parts. We then look at or through the the smaller sections to find a greater experience of the whole.  It's funny because we use different words, ideas, and practices to approach a territory that is pretty non-verbal... But this spiritual stuff is full of those kinds of contradictions. 

In the interest of doing something fun and seemingly contradictory, I'm going to use the ancient and esoteric idea of the 5 elements as a springboard for some super-cool, contemporary discussion of style. 

First I'll give you a breakdown of the five elements (the essential abstract qualities that manifest in form to make up the entire physical world as we know it), then I’m going to include suggestions for fashion inspiration that can help you DRESS YOUR ELEMENT.

Which element are you? Which of these do you vibe with?  Most great looks have a combination of two or three elements which is great! I've pulled images that lean in the direction of just one. For extra fun, and maybe even a little healing revelation, if you are excessively feeling the qualities of one element you can adopt the look of the opposite element to balance out your ish... 

How to Dress Your Elemental Self

The element of air is connected to wind, the breath, the mind, the mental body and the experience of the intellect. The air signs are Libra, Aquarius and Gemini. Air is active, cleansing, expressive, insightful and high frequency. Air travels far and fast, so Air people tend to quickly induce and reveal new and different perspectives. When untempered by other elements Air can be finicky, fickle, distant, detached and cold. Its complements are water and fire, its opposite is earth.

Harry Stiles banging your eyes with beauty and geometry, Diane Kruger playing with proportion and feathers.

Dress for cleverness, cleanliness and unique, intellectual combinations of stuff. Get clever about it, play with stuff, overthink things. The idea here is not lightness or breeziness, that’s more connected to water. With air outfits it’s about clarity, simplicity even severity. Minimalism! Tech! Sharp, sleek, and so put together. Air represents the mind and intellect, so high concept understatement and stuff that tricks the eye are key. Air also crosses boundaries, so androgynous looks are airy automatically. The lofty, detached perspective of air means “Even if it seems like I want you to look at what I’m wearing, the way I’ve styled it is so interesting to me I don’t really care what you think.” Ladies: Super sleek tight topknot, a cropped neoprene cardigan, a high waisted trapeze skirt with tights and lobster boot heels.  Gents: Tech-influenced pants, white high tops, a thigh length deep v-neck shirt, a cropped leather vest, a floor length trench. Go for high concept, low flash, ideas over emotions.

The element of fire is connected to heat, warmth, energy, the actual spark of life and fire of digestion, and therefore the experience of the transformative power of the soul and spiritual body. The Fire Signs are Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Fire is active, dynamic, and self-sustaining. It provides light and so can be supportive but can be indiscriminate in what it uses for fuel. Fire is hard to control, and likes to burn through whatever is in its way, so Fire people can be relentless in their growth and expansion, becoming destructive if left untempered. Its complements are air and earth, its opposite is water.

Jane Fonda is always on fire, Jeremy Scott definitely wants you to look at him.

Dress for drama, effect, and rebelliousness. Think bright colors, especially those that are warm and even reflective - reds, yellows, oranges and golds. Rather than sensuality, go for sexuality, with pieces that are tight and even revealing- fierceness, ostentation, cleavage (boob, butt, or basket). This is not about finding your inner self (which is more of a water thing), fire is about wearing something that will unleash your inner maniac and turn every head as you walk by. Accessorize with seriously high heels or flashy colored kicks, and jewelry that is even a little ridiculous. Don’t be cerebral about it, go for effect. Let your freak flag fly. “I am on fire in this outfit. I am DTF but approach with caution because I decide whether you get some or not.” Examples: Ladies - A dead-sexy dress with a plunging neckline, a matching Louboutin heel, accentuated multicolored eye makeup, a gigantic enameled cocktail ring. Gents:  Navy suit, open collared brightly colored shirt, unbuttoned to show some sex, a crazy clashing pocket square, and something to make you feel like a rooster - a bizarrely vivid gold shoe or a super sexy tilted hat. Go for slinky, sexy, flashy, colorful, jaw dropping glamourousness.

EARTH: The element of earth is connected to soil, stones, and minerals, as well as plants, wood, the physical body, and the experience of structure, support, growth and physical manifestation. The Earth Signs are Capricorn, Taurus, and Virgo. Earth is passive, solid, nurturing and dependable. Earth doesn’t move much, so Earth people tend to provide more in the way of practical, enduring actions and bare-bones assessment of experience. They are so solid, but can become stagnant, stubborn and immobile if left untempered by the other elements. Earth's complements are fire and water, its opposite is air.

Alexa Chung and Stavros Niarchos III looking expensive, but down to Earth.

Dress for texture, weight and heft. Think lush, heavy, thick knits, leathers, tweeds, wools, cashmeres. Pants with structure, but not architectural lines (architecture is a little more visual/cerebral, and therefore air element). Also, bold statement pieces that are hefty but not ostentatious. Metals and raw looking crystals. Big cuffs, gemstone necklaces and and thick boots. “I feel so safe and secure and strong and deliciously grounded by what I’m wearing, You probably want to touch me.” Examples - Ladies - Lush leather jeggings, a big warm textured sweater, chunky heeled ankle boots and pounded metallic drop earrings. Gents: Quality jeans, cable knit sweater, a tweed coat and motorcycle boots. Emphasize texture, weight and quality.

Water is the element associated with the oceans, lakes and seas, all the moisture in our bodies and on the planet, the emotional body, feeling, love, empathy, exchange,, sexuality, passion, intuition and creativity. The water signs are Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. Water is passive, fluid and incredibly adaptable, filling space, changing form, ebbing and flowing like the tides. It can be calm and reflective or thorough and solvent, depending on its state and container, so water people are usually just as malleable, adapting to their circumstances intuitively. They are sensitive, easily overwhelmed and tend to spill over and flood with feeling if left untempered by the other elements. Its complements are air and earth, its opposite is fire.

Kanye feeling his oats alongside Alicia Vikander in a fabulous, flowy, super sweet maxi gown.

Dress for sensuality, flow, motion, and the feeling the clothes give you (as opposed to the actual feel of the clothes in your hands which is more Earthy). You could go for a bluish or green pallette, but you don’t have to be that literal about it. Instead go for stuff that changes the way you feel - things that make noise or change shape when they move. Things that feel like you’re swimming inside of them - oversized anything, grandpa sweaters, lush (faux) furs, maxi-dresses or Anything that has an effect that seems to transform your state of mind. You can also play up the sensitivity of a look - it seems like lightness and innocent might be airy - but demure, delicate and fragile looks are actually more akin with water and its stillness and sensitivity. "It doesn't matter what I'm wearing... all that matters is how it makes me feel."  Ladies: A really pretty big pleated a-line skirt, a buttoned up lace covered peter-pan collar blouse, hair half-up-half-down, jangly earrings and a lovely little ladylike wrap. Gents: Pinwhale corduroys, a sueded button-down, a silk cravat and an oversized cardigan with Clarks.  Prioritize sensuality, flow, sensitivity, sweetness and subjectivity.

The quintessential fifth element of ether is associated with space, silence, connection and Mila Jovovich. Ether is invisible, unknowable, and neutral, without characteristic other than space and maybe consciousness. It is beyond all physical manifestation and is the space in which the other elements manifest. There are no signs associated with it, Ether is the element of the enduring immortal soul.

J-Lo and Leto, impossibly etheric in looks that might even blend ALL the elements but are somehow beyond...

This is the most important element as far as I’m concerned, because it represents that certain invisible something, without which none of the rest of this stuff would be possible. In this case the ether is your invisible x-factor. Etheric looks make my eyes pop out of my head. You don’t know why they work - they seem like they shouldn’t EVEN work… and yet they do, oh geez do they ever!  "I am what I am," says the etheric look... All I can say by way of example is whatever element or combination of elements your decide to work with, to bring in ether, make sure everything supports that invisible something that is 100% YOU.