Fnding (and refining) personal style can be a struggle; we’re the first to admit it. We’ve all been there at least once, if not multiple times, as we gaze into our closet full of clothes and need something for the post-graduation to professional transition (so, platform sandals don’t work in office?), landing the big promotion we’ve worked so hard for, or dressing after having a baby (suddenly all those dry clean only silk blouses aren’t so practical). Regardless of what life throws at us, it’s important to be able to adapt while still maintaining a style that is all our own.
And why exactly is this important? The impact of personal style goes far beyond making a good first impression; great style is also about approaching each day with confidence, and the ability to feel legitimately beautiful in what we are wearing. Believe it or not, the right wardrobe can make a difference in that department.
Jot down the names of your favorite style icons and do a bit of research via Pinterest, Google, or Instagram to gather inspiration from their looks. Maybe you gravitate towards Jenn Aniston’s minimal/clean look, but with a dose of Lauren Conrad’s femininity, and a side of Alexa Chung’s hipster-chic aesthetic. Pulling different types of inspiration from several sources is a great way to figure out what you like and dislike.
Homework assignment: Make a Pinterest board titled “Personal Style Inspiration.” (Tip: It can be a secret board!) Create a list of your five favorite celebs or bloggers, do a quick search on each of them, and pin the images and outfits that most resonate with you. Finished? Now, write down all the elements they have in common. Chances are, the characteristics you write down most frequently are the ones you most relate to, and the vibe that makes you the most comfortable. Why is this important? When you feel comfortable, you look and feel your best!
Take a good, long look at your closet and the pieces you already own. Toss what you haven’t worn in the last year so you can start fresh. Then you can begin to rebuild and refine your wardrobe with a style that truly reflects where you are in your life and career. And if you waver between the keep pile and donate? Err on the side of placing it in the donate pile. The more you trust your gut, the faster the process will go.
Homework assignment: Start here, with these these closet cleanout tips. Then, find a few trash bags, a sharpie (and maybe a friend and wine!). Label the bags donate, trash, and sell and get sorting! A good closet cleanse will allow you to feel ready to become the true you, in terms of personal style. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to get dressed when you have only a few spot-on options, instead of unnecessary clothing clutter! Plus, you can invest in quality new pieces with the money you make selling your old threads
I remember starting my first job at E! two weeks after I graduated college. I was terrified! The thing that scared me the most wasn’t whether or not I would fail, it was mostly doubts about my wardrobe (truth)! How would I be able to dress trendy enough to fit in? Especially on a Ramen noodle budget? I thought the answer was money, but I didn’t have much expendable income to spend on clothes because I was a production assistant (otherwise known as the bottom of the totem pole). So I learned to experiment with the latest fashion trends the smart way—I would hunt for trendy deals at discount places like TJ Maxx and Forever 21. I would only splurge on staple pieces: leather boots, a great handbag, a nice coat. Plus, with a little extra attention (i.e. check the hems, test the zippers), it’s easy tell which cheap items will last and which items are just, you know, cheap.
Homework assignment: Next time you go shopping, revisit your Pinterest inspiration board first. Likely there are certain items themes, and specific items you’ll need to re-create the looks you admire. Make a list of the items you don’t already have, and take it with you (or just keep it next to your computer while shopping online). Stick to your list so you won’t be tempted to stray and pick up another impulse buy. If you only purchase to fill the holes in your wardrobe, you’ll build a great selection of clothes much faster.
The perfect wardrobe should not only represent your vision and creativity, but also be tailored to your lifestyle. Consider the persona you want to present to the world. You want your style to reflect your personality, but it also has to make sense in your field of work, your overall lifestyle, the city you live in and aligned with your long-term goals. Do you want a better job? Are you trying to make it in a particular industry? Think about adding a few sharp and appropriate professional pieces for interviews in that line of work. Or if you want to work in fashion, add more on-trend pieces (but don’t spend too much, as they’ll go out of style quickly!). If your work environment is casual, you may want to purchase more knits and jeans.
Homework assignment: Write down all the different situations you’re in during a given week—be it work, parties, dinners with friends or significant others, lounging, special occasions, the gym, and so on. Now, revisit this list whenever it’s time to clean out your closet, or shop for new clothes. If an item doesn’t check multiple boxes, it’s probably not worth your money. The key is to find pieces that can mix, match, and crossover from one category to another. For example, a great soft t-shirt to wear to the gym can also be worn with jeans and a blazer or tucked into a party skirt. Shop smart!
No one can see what the size tag reads on the inside of your dress (and truthfully, no one cares!). The focus should not be about fitting into the smallest size possible. And admittedly, who hasn’t taken two different sizes into the dressing room, secretly praying it’s the smallest one that fits? It happens to the best of us. But please, get out of that squeeze-into-the-smallest-size mindset, because a number shouldn’t make you confident—how you feel in your own skin does. And when you feel your best, you stand taller, smile wider, and people will notice. Or as Diane von Furstenberg put it, “Confidence. If you have it, you can make anything look good.” So wear what makes you feel confident!
When you’re serious about your skin, you see a dermatologist. When you want the perfect photos on your wedding day, you enlist the help of a professional photographer. The same goes for style! Don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a professional. Remember, you don’t need to pay for a personal stylist—visit a department store or your favorite boutique and ask for advice and opinions from the sales associates and stylists. They know what they’re doing! Tip: you may need help customizing the fit of your clothes from a tailor. Why does Kate Middleton look so chic in just jeans and a blazer? Because they fit her impeccably. Seeking the help of a professional tailor ensures that each item you own shows off all your best assets!
Accessories are, without a doubt, the easiest way to pull any look together regardless of the vibe you want to achieve. You can update jeans and a white t-shirt with a bold necklace or pair layered, delicate jewelry with a dress for a more feminine feel. A cool ear cuff or stacked rings can give you an instant edge, and pearls can make you look polished and lady-like in an instant. Add a patterned scarf, opt for edgy ankle booties instead of your normal black pumps, or pull out a bright clutch to add more personality.
8. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS AND BE AUTHENTIC
The single most important thing when developing your style is to be true to yourself. Don’t focus on the size or the designer label (this will only hinder your creativity!). Continue to experiment with different patterns, textures, accessories, and shoes. It all boils down to feeling good in your own skin—your style should reflect and celebrate your life, your individuality, and personality. Own your style, be proud of it, and embrace fashion as a way to express who you are and who you want to be.
I remember being told at E! that I “dressed for the job I wanted, not for the job I had” and I always remember that moment. I stayed true to my taste and what I felt best in, and people noticed. Trust your gut, because something that makes you feel confident and beautiful never goes out of style.