“Style” is often a misunderstood term. It’s a word many associate with high fashion magazines or the upper echelon, conjuring up images from Sex and the City or The Devil Wears Prada. Unfortunately, the word style has become muddled with other meanings and connotations, and we’ve lost an understand of how truly valuable it is to the average person. We tend to forget that the clothes we wear has a direct psychological, social, and emotional impact on not only ourselves but others around us.
On a basic level, we all understand the power of clothing. No one would dare to show up to a job interview in sweatpants, or wear visibly stained clothes on a first day. That’s because we know subconsciously that how we dress reflects who we are as people, and can influence the way others perceive us.
Personal style reveals who were are in a way that is entirely unique while also helping us be the best versions of ourselves. It’s an approach, a method that has been chosen by you to represent who you are as a person. To put it simply, personal style matters.
When you ask most people to define their personal style, chances are they’ll tell you they don’t know how. Many people confuse trendiness with having style. Being trendy is actually what turns a lot of people off from pursuing style, because they associate an interest in clothing with having to keep up with what’s popular. Style, believe it or not, has nothing to do with popularity or being trendy. Trends are the antithesis of personal style, because they only occur when the masses buy into them, perpetuating the idea that you must dress that way in order to be relevant or cool. But personal style is just that – personal. It cannot be dictated by magazines or department stores or even your friends. It stems from an authentic attraction to an item, and dignifies us by expressing the beauty that makes us unique. Don’t buy that sweater because you know ten other people who own it; buy it because you love it, because it makes you feel confident in your own skin. And the same goes for professional attire: while you want to dress work-appropriately, there are other ways you can inject your own personality into your outfit to express yourself.
Another great way to express yourself is by finding unique items that no one else might own. Consider browsing thrift stores or trunk shoes for cool vintage finds, or buy rare sneakers to tie your whole look together.
Sometimes developing your personal style requires looking both inwards and outwards. Consider famous style icons like Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly, who put their own iconic spin on the classics, or look to Pinterest or Instagram for inspiration. This exercise isn’t for copying though- use it to note the main themes that attract you the outfits you like. Are they classic? Feminine or romantic? Do they have a masculine feel to them? Causal or polished? Look for connection and organize your styles by common themes. You’ll notice that you may like outfits in every category or find new inspiration and that’s perfectly fine: you’ll also notice common themes like color palette, textures, or clothing type (like pants versus dresses) that you are repeatedly drawn to. Increased awareness of these styles you’re drawn to will help you in developing and understanding your own.
Try It Out
Again, the goal of these exercises are not to copy, but while you’re style is unique to you, there’s no shame in testing out some of the outfits you find during your search for inspiration. It’s a process of trial and error, and don’t be afraid to have fun with it! Reference the images you have saved that best exhibit your desired look and consider the wardrobe you already own. How can you creatively achieve that look with the items in your own closet? Borrow clothes from a friend or a sibling if you don’t have the right pieces. If no one has the clothes you’d like to try out, take a trip to the store and try on the outfits in a fitting room. Even just those few minutes can give you an idea of how you feel in a certain style. If you do own the items already, try the outfit out for a whole day. How do you feel after wearing them? If you feel like yourself and you feel good, it’s a success. If you feel uncomfortable or like an imposter, it’s not the right look for you.
Consider Your Lifestyle
I mentioned the importance your lifestyle plays when building a functional wardrobe in another post, and it doesn’t get any less true when defining your style. If the outfits you like don’t suit your lifestyle, it’s a great way to waste money on clothing you’ll never wear. A big part of personal style is practicality – you wouldn’t spend all day sightseeing in a new city with sky high heels, would you? Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate pieces of another style into your wardrobe to ensure it fits in with your lifestyle. If you love the polished appeal of Kate Middleton but are a stay at home mom, incorporate that classic look into your lifestyle. Throw a blazer on over a loose tee and don a pair of ballet flats with cuffed, relaxed jeans.
Start Small with Little Changes
Finding your personal style doesn’t mean rushing out and buying a whole new wardrobe based on the outfit inspiration you find. It’s not even about necessarily redefining or inventing yourself. It’s about expressing who you are in a way only you can. If you do want to upgrade your style or define it a little better, start small; you don’t want to overhaul your wardrobe at once, because this is very costly and you may end up with a lot of clothing you think you’ll wear and don’t.
Great style means putting together even the most basic of items into an outfit that’s cohesive, and then building outwards from there with pieces that reflect your individual tastes. Not sure what these basic items may be? Check out my post on wardrobe staples or check your own closet: chances are you already have them! These are the classic items that stand the test of time, like a great pair of jeans, button-downs, neutral colored sweaters, and more. These pieces will serve you well when you are trying out new looks. Allow your style to begin exposing your authentic self and have fun!