opposite of stylish

  • GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    alahay said:
    I think you have to be careful about many of these synonyms because when used to describe a person, many take on a meaning that goes beyond simply "non-stylish." Some don't fit the description of an unstylish person, rather unstylish things, or clothing.

    For example:

    Someone who is:

    bedraggled iswearing clothing that is tattered and worn.
    frumpy is disheveled, not put together, slovenly.
    homely is plain. mousy and not very outwardly attractive as a person.
    run-down is physically run-down and tired-looking.
    tacky is someone who exhibits poor social manners.
    tasteless is someone who exhibits poor manners and is probably not very cultured, nor has refined taste.

    Not many others apply to people directly.

    An unfashionable person could be described as a frump or a slob. They can also be described as declassé.

    I'm sure there are more "modern" colloquial terms as well. Unfortunately, I cannot think of any at present.
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    cirrus said:
    Tacky for me is more about places and situations rather than people.
    To me, "tacky" can describe just about anything. A painting can be tacky, but it's pretty tacky to mention it to the curator who's giving a tour. Her jeans may be tacky, but maybe she just has a tacky grandmother who sent them to her.

    What would constitute a "tacky situation," though? :confused:
     

    krafty

    New Member
    Ukraine, Russian
    Instead of unstylish or unfashionable, could you use plain to describe a person's way of dressing, or are there are more colloquial words?
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    krafty said:
    Instead of unstylish or unfashionable, could you use plain to describe a person's way of dressing, or are there are more colloquial words?
    Absolutely. Although, I would say it depends on the context.

    Plain does not necessarily mean unstylish, just unadorned. You can be wearing a very simple business suit, yet still be "in style."

    Here are a few examples using plain:

    She is dressed very plainly.
    He was dressed in a very plain manner.
    Their clothes were very common and plain.
    She has a very plain look about her.

    In any of these sentences, the reader can get a sense of the person being dressed in a manner that is simple, not at all extravagant. Generally, the idea is also expressed that the people described are generally not stylish.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    elroy said:
    To me, "tacky" can describe just about anything. A painting can be tacky, but it's pretty tacky to mention it to the curator who's giving a tour. Her jeans may be tacky, but maybe she just has a tacky grandmother who sent them to her.

    What would constitute a "tacky situation," though? :confused:
    A tacky situation would be one where things don't feel right. For example I work with children, imagine if you on a trip to the zoo with primary school children and a parent started making a joke about porn. It isn't that it is completely out of order - chances are most of the children would understand - but it wouldn't be appropriate because some of the children would want to know more and you don't want to be talking about that sort of stuff around children because it feels tacky.
     

    ElaineG

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    A tacky situation would be one where things don't feel right. For example I work with children, imagine if you on a trip to the zoo with primary school children and a parent started making a joke about porn. It isn't that it is completely out of order - chances are most of the children would understand - but it wouldn't be appropriate because some of the children would want to know more and you don't want to be talking about that sort of stuff around children because it feels tacky.
    I think that's different from American English "tacky" which is more like gauche or declasse.

    To go back to the opposite of stylish, if you're saying it perjoratively, then "dowdy" or (w/r/t to women's clothing or personal style) "matronly" work. Also, frumpy. Or schlumpy -- although this is someone who's a mess, where as you can be very neat and clean, but still be dowdy and frumpy.

    If you're trying to say not-a-la-mode in a positive way, you can say "classic" or "timeless".
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Why no positive terms for people who aren't all wrapped up in superficiality and "style?"

    How about unpretentious or unaffected? Things that are "unstylish" can be down-to-earth, no-frills or, to us style-related words, basic or even classic.

    Slightly less positive in connotation, but not really derogatory: non-label, off-the-rack or generic. If your adjective pertains to clothes they can be everyday or casual.

    I guess to me there's a sticking point about the "opposite of stylish" as a concept. A tacky or chav-like sense of style is not the opposite of some other stylish mindset, it's simply a different style. Kitch and camp were parody styles or "anti-styles" that came into vogue, then went out (I assume).

    So can you simply lack "style?" Or are the things you want to describe in opposition to "stylish"-- simply no longer stylish? In that case you want slightly less value-laden terms like outmoded, out-of-fashion and the like.

    Or does your concept have more to do with ineptness? Stylish but badly stylish? As nonsense goes, one term is as good as the other. So maybe the opposite of stylish is "put together by a committee?"
    .
    .
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    cirrus said:
    A tacky situation would be one where things don't feel right. For example I work with children, imagine if you on a trip to the zoo with primary school children and a parent started making a joke about porn. It isn't that it is completely out of order - chances are most of the children would understand - but it wouldn't be appropriate because some of the children would want to know more and you don't want to be talking about that sort of stuff around children because it feels tacky.
    Interesting - I've never heard "tacky" used that way; in the scenario you propose, I would probably just call the situation "awkward," or maybe "icky." It could be an American-British difference. Anyway, I don't want to get too off-topic, since this thread is about "the opposite of stylish" and not "the various shades of meaning of the word tacky," so I'll just reiterate that in my lexicon "tacky" can indeed be used to describe clothes; in fact, I think it can work quite well as an antonym of "stylish."
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    elroy said:
    in fact, I think it can work quite well as an antonym of "stylish."
    In one sense, I completely agree. Someone who dresses in a completely inappropriate manner for a specific occasion (cut-offs and a wife-beater to a formal dance, for example) would be considered as "tacky."

    However, if someone simply is "lacking style" does that mean they are necessarily tacky?
     

    elroy

    Imperfect Mod
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    GenJen54 said:
    In one sense, I completely agree. Someone who dresses in a completely inappropriate manner for a specific occasion (cut-offs and a wife-beater to a formal dance, for example) would be considered as "tacky."

    However, if someone simply is "lacking style" does that mean they are necessarily tacky?
    Of course not - that's why I said "can work." Besides, "style" is quite a subjective term. Who determines what's "in style" or what's not? The hosts of the party, or Vogue? Based on who/what you're using as the gauge, something tacky can be "in style," and vice versa. I know I've had discussions with my sister about the difference between what's "in style" on a wordly, Vogue-type scale and what simply suits one's own, personal, unique style. Neither has to have anything to do with the other - and I think that further complicates the question of finding an antonym for "stylish." On a most basic, neutral level, I can think of the following antonyms:

    not stylish according to Vogue --> out of style
    not stylish according to one particular observer --> not my style

    To those innocent-enough descriptions one can add a whole slew of subjective, colorful epithets.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    FFB has introduced an important distinction.
    The question asks for the opposite of stylish.
    The answer could either be totally-out-of-stylish, where stylish then requires a definition of some kind (Chavs have a sense of style).
    It could also be careless-about-stylish.

    In the latter sense, it used to be considered a peculiarity of the British aristocracy when relaxing that they were supremely indifferent to style, thus creating a style that is impossible to emulate. In fact this is astylish rather than unstylish.

    The distinction is equivalent to the difference between amoral and immoral.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Has anyone mentioned "common" as the opposite of "stylish"? "He's very common" = "He has no style". Inevitably, with a word such as "stylish" and its opposite, class prejudice creeps in, in the UK at any rate (and even if it is a very bad, bad thought and it is very, very un-PC).
     

    GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    James Brandon said:
    Has anyone mentioned "common" as the opposite of "stylish"? "He's very common" = "He has no style".
    The thought of that very much crossed my mind when I wrote my "plain" post above. Like you, however, I found there to be a pejorative relation to one's class.

    In the US, I don't think "stylish" has so much to do with social status, as even the chain discount stores sell "stylish" clothes. However, the word "common" certainly evokes the idea of someone being "common folk," which to some may carry an unwarranted prejudice.
     

    Mr X

    Member
    Australia, English
    Another colloquial expression for someone who's unfashionable could be 'daggy'.

    eg. 'He was wearing really daggy clothes'
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Mr X said:
    Another colloquial expression for someone who's unfashionable could be 'daggy'.

    eg. 'He was wearing really daggy clothes'
    "Daggy", I think, is Australian slang. I immediately thought of that, but I don't think it's used anywhere else in the world. :D
     

    francies

    New Member
    British English
    Can you really say "tacky grandmother"??? That just sounds... wrong to me. I really wouldn't use that. Tacky painting, yes, but actually any of the other three sound silly in my opinion.

    Daggy is definitely not used in England- I've never heard of that before- but it sounds pretty cool so maybe I'll start to use it!

    To describe somebody with no fashion sense I'd just say 'unstylish' or perhaps follow it by saying the clothes she wore were old-fashioned, frumpy, inappropriate or whatever.

    Hope this helps!
     

    francies

    New Member
    British English
    If we're getting into slang though, you could say somebody was minging, or call them a Chav, mosher, goth etc. If it's just the clothes you're insulting, rather than the whole look, common is a good one. Or you could say somebody looks like something the cat dragged in! Heheh.
     

    nycphotography

    Senior Member
    American English
    Yes, there is definitely a difference between POOR STYLE and an general lack of concern for style.

    Unconcerned with style:
    As FFB offered: unpretentious or (a synonym) unassuming

    Some more that may fit: unadorned, practical, functional, workmanlike. then you can move on to building a phrase that brings personality and intent into the picture: "Dressed without ragard for fad or fashion" or any other descriptive phrases that may fit.

    For BAD style: TACKY, chav (in BE), gettofab (ghetto fabulous)

    For some particular flavors of bad style:

    Label whore
    Walmart chic
    Dressed like a million dollar yard sale
    Her flea market imitiation of style

    And my personal favorite (which probably nobody will understand): Shenzen Gucci which I reserve for people with absolutly no concept of style but who are trying very hard all the same.

    OK, I'll explain it for everyone: I started using the phrase in Hong Kong because the tourist books all mention an outlet mall in Shenzen (the commercial DMZ between Hong Kong and mainland China). But the designers all know that its not really an "outlet mall" meaning factory seconds of real designer goods. Rather, its taking whatever cheap TACKY stuff they can find or make in China for 50 cents, and tacking a logo onto it as an afterthought. Like a plain velour pantsuit with "phat farm" screen printed on the back in COURIER font!!!

    The image was so, so... it was... just awful. I still have terrible flashbacks. I may need therapy for PTS. ;)

    I suppose in NY it would be chinatown gucci even though they mostly knock off Louis Vuitton and Prada bags. I also say "all the latest fashion from the chinese flea market".
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    We speak of "fashion do's" and "fashion don't's." Ex. "White stockings are a fashioin don't."
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Never heard "daggy" before! Insofar as class and other prejudices are concerned, I think that avoiding those will be tricky when defining "style" - originally and, in essence, an upper-class notion in Europe. (If you were poor and filthy, you had no time and no money for style in Europe round 1450 for instance...) As for the notion that "style" can be bought on the cheap in downmarket shops, that is of course a 20th C invention aimed at boosting the mass market in consumer goods while making "the common people" feel good about themselves. Meanwhile, the rich buy (real) designer clothes and antiques... Then again, wealth and style are not synonymous - many movie and other stars wear expensive clothes; yet, do they have style? But this is no longer a translation problem - it's a social thing and a cultural issue!
     

    mora

    Senior Member
    Canada, English
    Hello

    For the opposite of stylish, I would use the word 'dowdy'. It could refer to an item of clothing or to a person, without reference to class.

    Mora
     

    sundroplets

    Member
    English-USA
    I personally like frumpy as it doesn't seem like such an insult.

    Colloquial, I hear "tired" a lot in relation to a look that isn't "with it".

    As for tacky, I think most ultra-trendy things are tacky! And anything that is over-done I think is tacky. Try going to Las Vegas you will see plenty of grandmas made up like a clown that would definitely fit the bill. So I think that is different from being up-to-date fashionably or not.

    So I vote for:
    not in fashion
    not a trendy dresser
    frumpy
    tired (as in his wardrobe is tired)
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    francies said:
    Daggy is definitely not used in England- I've never heard of that before- but it sounds pretty cool so maybe I'll start to use it!
    Before you start using the word "daggy" you might want to know where it stems from. It means,:warn: "like shit", and comes from an Australian slang word, "dag" which is a bit of feces that hangs off a sheep's backside. :D
    british_intelligence_meaning_of_australian_term_daggy.wow
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Ah, daggy means something raggety or messy, like sheep dingles.

    You know you wouldn't have that problem if your shearsmen didn't shy away from that area-- just because it isn't marketable wool doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken clean off. Or maybe you're docking tails in half-assed fashion, like a Lowlander.
    .
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    daggy Australian origin.
    adj. not stylish, out of fashion, not trendy, not cool, untidy, unclean, not neat.
    v. to have no style.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    foxfirebrand said:
    Ah, daggy means something raggety or messy, like sheep dingles.

    You know you wouldn't have that problem if your shearsmen didn't shy away from that area-- just because it isn't marketable wool doesn't mean it shouldn't be taken clean off. Or maybe you're docking tails in half-assed fashion, like a Lowlander.
    .
    How is shearing that area going to solve the problem of "dingles" as you call them, or am I being obtuse? Sheep are sheared generally once a year. Animals expel feces every day. Anyway, as far as I know, every part of the sheep is sheared here.
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Charles Costante said:
    How is shearing that area going to solve the problem of "dingles" as you call them, or am I being obtuse? Sheep are sheared generally once a year. Animals expel feces every day. Anyway, as far as I know, every part of the sheep is sheared here.
    If you do a search on mewlsing which I think has been mentioned elsewhere on the forum you will get the idea.

    As for dag being australian in origin, I am not that certain. I come from a sheepraising area between Manchester and Sheffield and the farmers use the word in dialect for the clag around a sheep's bum.
     

    You little ripper!

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    cirrus said:
    If you do a search on mewlsing which I think has been mentioned elsewhere on the forum you will get the idea.

    As for dag being australian in origin, I am not that certain. I come from a sheepraising area between Manchester and Sheffield and the farmers use the word in dialect for the clag around a sheep's bum.
    I wasn't speaking of mewlsing. That obviously does help with the dag problem. I was speaking of shearing the sheep in that area. That isn't going to solve the problem.
    As for "dag" originating in England, you're probably right. I just said that it comes from an Australian slang word. I didn't say that it originated in Australia or that they invented the word. The word "daggy" which comes from "dag" originated in Australia.
     

    river

    Senior Member
    U.S. English
    cirrus said:
    If you do a search on mewlsing which I think has been mentioned elsewhere on the forum you will get the idea.

    As for dag being australian in origin, I am not that certain. I come from a sheepraising area between Manchester and Sheffield and the farmers use the word in dialect for the clag around a sheep's bum.
    Whatever the origin, it is definitely not stylish.
     

    joanpeace

    Senior Member
    Canada - English
    I would say the opposite of "stylish" is "conservative." It doesn't have a positive or negative connotation, it simply means that the person is not swayed by trends.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Isotta said:
    Interesting point. For that matter you could say "classic."Z.
    Brilliant! That must be why two other great minds thought of it simultaneously and cross-posted it (#9 and #10).
    .
     

    Isotta

    Senior Member
    English, Hodgepodge
    Oh right.

    Incidentally, what would you call Edith Sitwell's style? Or Simone de Beauvoir? Eclectic? Worldly? Artifactual? It's what the old ladies wear to provincial art openings. It's not stylish, not classic, not anti-stylish...

    Z.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    Isotta said:
    Incidentally, what would you call Edith Sitwell's style? Or Simone de Beauvoir?
    I couldn't tell Edith Sitwell from Edith Bunker-- or from "Vinegar" Joe Sitwell, to tell you the truth. If I were that competent about stylishness, I wouldn't define its anthesis in such positive terms.

    My own style is unmistakable, though. My #2 son was here for Thanksgiving, on leave from the Navy, and I noticed he was wearing a "wife-beater" (sleeveless undershirt) as he stood at the stove, doing the lion's share of putting the feast together. I wondered if it was one of my own old ones he'd made off with when he left home, or did he have to pay good money for it.

    He determined it was one of his own, storebought but at PX prices-- the ones he stole from me were all frayed at the top of the shoulder straps. He thought I wore them out in that way because of my broad shoulders stretching them-- I thought a bit and said no, it's likely the wear and tear from the braces on my overhalls.

    Now that's the "opposite of stylish"-- and yet a pair of overhalls is the last thing a chav would be caught dead in. Or Simone de Beauvoir for all I know-- Nina Simone, on the other hand? The whole subject baffles me.
    .
     

    Isotta

    Senior Member
    English, Hodgepodge
    nycphotography said:
    Yes, there is definitely a difference between POOR STYLE and an general lack of concern for style.

    Unconcerned with style:
    As FFB offered: unpretentious or (a synonym) unassuming

    Some more that may fit: unadorned, practical, functional, workmanlike. then you can move on to building a phrase that brings personality and intent into the picture: "Dressed without ragard for fad or fashion" or any other descriptive phrases that may fit.

    For BAD style: TACKY, chav (in BE), gettofab (ghetto fabulous)

    For some particular flavors of bad style:

    Label whore
    Walmart chic
    Dressed like a million dollar yard sale
    Her flea market imitiation of style

    And my personal favorite (which probably nobody will understand): Shenzen Gucci which I reserve for people with absolutly no concept of style but who are trying very hard all the same.

    OK, I'll explain it for everyone: I started using the phrase in Hong Kong because the tourist books all mention an outlet mall in Shenzen (the commercial DMZ between Hong Kong and mainland China). But the designers all know that its not really an "outlet mall" meaning factory seconds of real designer goods. Rather, its taking whatever cheap TACKY stuff they can find or make in China for 50 cents, and tacking a logo onto it as an afterthought. Like a plain velour pantsuit with "phat farm" screen printed on the back in COURIER font!!!

    The image was so, so... it was... just awful. I still have terrible flashbacks. I may need therapy for PTS. ;)

    I suppose in NY it would be chinatown gucci even though they mostly knock off Louis Vuitton and Prada bags. I also say "all the latest fashion from the chinese flea market"
    I understood your reference "Shenzen Gucci," but it doesn't make sense to me. When you said that you "started using the phrase in Hong Kong," do you mean that you lived there? Did you ever go to Shenzen?

    I ask this because in Hong Kong among expats, locals, whomever, Shenzen is known for good shopping, not to mention for its made-to-wear options. You could have anything made there--bathing suits, shoes, anything. None of my friends from Hong Kong who took shopping trips to Shenzen ever returned with knock-off items; you could find those easily and cheaply enough in Hong Kong at the Stanley market, where the tourists go.

    It's true that in Asia you find clothes with nonsensical or even misspelled English words on them, but the same can be said for clothing items with French, Italian, Chinese, etc., on them in the Anglophone world. We even have things like this in our own language, for example, writing "juicy" in gothic letters on the seat of a velour jumpsuit.

    Perhaps I simply think directed fashion comments often contain value judgments and can be unkind rather than funny. I don't mean to say that yours were offered as such, but I note this for the non-native members of the forum.

    Z.
     

    nycphotography

    Senior Member
    American English
    foxfirebrand said:
    Now that's the "opposite of stylish"-- and yet a pair of overhalls is the last thing a chav would be caught dead in. Or Simone de Beauvoir for all I know-- Nina Simone, on the other hand? The whole subject baffles me.
    .
    It's unassuming. It's not stylish, not good style, not bad style. And certainly not tacky, unless you lack the good sense to not wear them to the opera.

    Now if you wore them with one strap hanging, over a black turtleneck, with chrome timbs... in other words, if you were TRYING to make them stylish, now THAT would be dead chav.
     

    nycphotography

    Senior Member
    American English
    I was in Hong Kong and Southern China for 2 months. I stayed in Hong Kong, and made frequent trips to Shenzen, Shunde, um, and 2 or 3 other factory towns I can't recall the names of. I was there working on fashion line, and the entire experience was amazing.

    And yes, it is impossible to use words like Tacky, chav, trailer park, and the like without an implicit value judgement.

    Luckily(?) fashion is one of those weird things, like music, where there's pretty much room for everyone. How else would you explain Goth?
     
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