This is the fourth installment of the STYLE 101 Series — A series dedicated to helping you enhance your sense of style. To check out the rest of the series, go HERE.
A few months ago, I wrote a post that has now become the second most popular post on my blog: 8 Ways to Develop Your Personal Style.
Some of you may have read that post and thought, “These are great tips, but…what if I have NO clue what my personal style is beyond jeans and a t-shirt. I don’t even know where to start!” Well, my goal is to help you further define your personal style with a few easy, actionable tips.
You may also wonder why it’s even necessary to define or identify your personal style. Personally, I think it’s a fun exercise (says the fashion blogger…), but here is my very practical answer: having a firm grasp on your personal style — and knowing what kind of clothes you look and feel great in — will prevent you from buying clothes you don’t need or will never wear. You can save money by knowing: a) what works for your body type, and b) what works for your personal style preferences.
So let’s get started…
1) Create a list of 5 style muses.
Are there certain bloggers whose outfits you’re ALWAYS pinning or bloggers whose photos you’re ALWAYS liking on Facebook or Instagram? These women are likely your style muses – women who have mastered the type of style you’re drawn to and would like to have. Now, write down a list of at least 5 of those women and analyze the commonalities between them. You’ll likely see pattern or themes.
- Olivia Palermo
- Blaire Eadie of Atlantic-Pacific
- Caroline Issa
- Olivia Palermo
- Michelle Obama
What does each of these women have in common? They all have polished, sophisticated and feminine style that is full of unexpected elements that speak to their individual fashion-forward styles.
If you need help identifying your style muses, go to your fashion or style board on Pinterest that has the most pins. Who do you see more than anyone else? Boom.
Still having trouble? Consider some of these iconic fashionistas:
(As a modest fashion blogger, I feel it necessary to state that you don’t have to exactly mimic the icons pictured above (i.e., I’m not encouraging you to buy a see-through, laser cut ball gown because you identify with Beyonce’s glamorous style). It’s possible to dress modestly with any of the styles pictured above.)
2) Take photos of your outfits you love.
We all have those outfits that make us say, “yes!” or even, “yaaaas” when we put them on because we feel completely comfortable in them. The next time you’re having a ‘yes moment’ in your outfit, snap a quick photo of it with a full-length mirror. These outfits likely capture your true personal style. Quick tip: Snap photos in multiple angles so you can see how the outfit fits your whole body. That yes outfit may look great from the front, but not so great from the side.
Here is an example of one of my ‘yesss’ outfits that I will continue to wear until the clothes start falling apart:
3) Create a list of 5-10 items that make you happy.
Take a look at the photos you snap and the items you continually pin. See any obvious repeats and patterns? Now, jot down those repeat offenders. These are the items that will be the foundation for your personal style, and these are the items you should invest in because you’ll actually wear them.
The easiest way to do this is by analyzing one of your Pinterest style boards. I have a board on Pinterest called Classy Goods, and with just a quick glance at it, it’s obvious what kind of items I’m drawn to:
- Pointy Toe Pumps
- Strappy Sandals (apparently I REALLY love shoes)
- Floral ANYTHING
- Midi skirts
- Flowy maxi skirts
- Pleated or flowy midi skirts
- Floral Dresses
- Breezy maxi dresses
Those are the kind of items I’d expect my style muses to wear, and, whaddya know, I’m wearing a midi skirt and pointy toe pumps (because pointy pumps elongate your legs and are wonder workers for petite women like myself). It seems a theme is starting to emerge…
4) Get specific.
Here’s the hard part: Finding words to define your style preferences. After looking at my muses, outfit photos, and the type of items I’m drawn to, I came up with the following adjectives for my personal style:
Ladylike. Classic. Feminine. Effortless. Fun. Unexpected. Polished.
Now it’s your turn! Come up with some adjectives to describe your style, and share them with me in the comments section below. Keep in mind that you don’t have to box yourself into one type of style. If you’re like me and have a polished, lady-like style, it’s OK to experiment with edgy or bohemian pieces. This is an exercise to determine your primary personal style so that you build a wardrobe around it.
5) Look at the items in your closet that you NEVER wear.
Sometimes you can learn a great about your personal style by looking at the items you DON’T wear. Your closet likely has a few outliers – the items you were so excited to buy in the store but haven’t worn since you bought them, or the items you never wear because they only work with one particular outfit. You don’t wear those outlier items for a reason…and that reason is likely because they don’t fit well or they just don’t fit your personal style well. So here’s what I want you to do:
1) Take an inventory of your outlier items. Analyze what kind of items they are in comparison to the items you listed in Step 3. Think about why they don’t fit with your overall wardrobe.
My outliers are trendy items like graphic tees and sweaters from Forever 21. I bought the graphic tees and sweaters because they were trendy and cheap, but they’re a bit too kitschy for my personal style (and age). My takeaway: stop buying trendy items that I can’t picture myself wearing with multiple outfits.
2) Purge em. Unless that pair of embroidered jeans was hand sewn by your grandma and has serious sentimental value, do yourself a favor and sell the outliers you’re not wearing. I highly recommend Poshmark for such closet purges. (Here’s the link to my Poshmark closet in case you want to be buddies.)
6) Be Real About Your Lifestyle Needs.
Did you determine that you have more of a boho-chic style à la Nicole Ritchie and Sienna miller? Awesome! Congrats on nailing down your personal style, girl.
Before you get carried away buying flares and flowy embroidered blouses, be realistic about how that style will fit into your lifestyle. If you work in a conservative corporate environment like me, you probably can’t get away with wearing the items that truly showcase your personal style preference. So invest in a handful of boho-chic items that make you happy that you can wear repeatedly over the weekend.
I’ll be honest, half of my closet is currently dormant because my clothing is a bit too fashion-forward for my current work environment. For a long while, I worked in a very casual environments, so I was free to wear anything wasn’t obviously offensive. I now have to make smarter clothing purchases and save the items that truly display my style personality for the weekends (and blogging!). I also have a serious aversion to irons and ironing (ugh, hate it), so I know to buy items that don’t wrinkle easily or that need minimal heat to look polished. Just be honest with yourself about your lifestyle needs.
I hope you found these tips helpful and are that much closer to defining your personal style!
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