Lupita Nyong'o is The Ideal Millennial Style Icon

by Tyler Atwood

Among Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Alison Williams, and a whole host of other 20-something trendsetters who have reached epic stardom over the past year, Millennials are caught between a fashion rock and a hard place. Should we go buttoned up and prim à la Alison Williams and Diana Agron? Or wear a glorified leotard to all of our fabulous after-hours activities like, well, everyone else? Cue Lupita Nyong'o, whose on-and off-red carpet style strikes the perfect balance between trendy, timeless, and fun.

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Nyong'o's style is a rare collision of refinement and audacious idiosyncrasy, which almost always yields a look that is equal parts beautiful and daring. Nyong'o isn't afraid to show a bit of skin, but always counters exposed elements with a demure twist: a body conscious dress with a high neckline, a miniskirt paired with a tweed jacket, and printed shorts with a bright, funnel-neck sweater. Contradictory to what Cyrus and Williams consistently demonstrate on the red carpet, there is a middle ground between baring everything and baring nothing. Lupita navigates that fine line like a pro. And a style that suggests sultriness without succumbing to it is exactly what the Millennial generation needs.

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If you haven't seen Nyong'o's red carpet fashion fanfare, we suggest you crack open a copy of Vogue immediately, because this actress knows how to balance elegance with a playful, youthful aesthetic — no dowdy ball gowns or transparent bodysuits to be found. Nyong'o consistently plays with modern, experimental styles in a way that belies the actress's attention to detail and intelligence. In a sea of black, white, metallic, and beige gowns, her turquoise Gucci column was a refreshing outlier at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the bold, red, caped Ralph Lauren number she rocked at the Golden Globes put other A-listers to shame. Dare we say that there may be more to formal dressing than Herve Leger bandage dresses or gowns so voluminous they trip even J.Law?

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As skilled as Nyong'o is at red carpet dressing, her business casual attire is covetable perfection. We could learn a thing or two from a woman who isn't afraid to dress up, in an age when "street style" ranges from ripped jeans and designer shades to miniskirts and oversized sweatshirts. The ubiquitous model-off-duty uniform which Millennials have adopted may be ideal for running around town or completing errands, but there is more to fashion than black leather leggings and draped, white t-shirts. Specifically, Nyong'o-favores printed skirts, sharp embellished shift dresses, and perhaps most importantly, color.

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If dressing for the job you want is indeed a mandate for success, no one would dare accuse Nyong'o of being an underachiever in one of her impeccably tailored shift dresses; she looks ready to conquer the world, but in a decidedly creative and distinctive way. Her style is perfect for a generation that values autonomy and individuality as much as we do success.

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Essentially, the actress' bold sense of style reminds us to put a bit of extra effort into our everyday look. Despite the ubiquity of neutral-hued ensembles by Helmut Lang and The Row on the streets these days, color is not in fact detrimental to our health. Excess skin and frumpy, stifling ensembles are equally offensive despite what we may see on the red carpet. And bold prints and offbeat pairings express individuality and élan, not insanity.

So the next time you reach for a barely-there onesie or a dress so low-cut it threatens a wardrobe malfunction, take a step back and ask yourself, "What would Lupita Nyong'o Do?"