4 Easy Tips to Discover Your Personal Style
True story: my Dad made me wear a uniform to my no-uniform high school freshmen year because he said I was "too obsessed" with how I looked and needed to focus on school. It was bad enough having to start over at a different high school from all of my middle school friends and those polo shirts and khakis everyday certainly didn’t help.
He did let me have a free day on Fridays. And, I will say that it helped me learn how to change quickly; having to switch out of the clothes I sneaked to school and still make it to the bus within 7 minutes will do that to you. Other than that, I still love a good outfit and beat face. Thankfully, the next year my school implemented uniforms and my problem was solved. Lesson learned?
Style has always been a big facet of my personality. A bad outfit and how you feel in it can kill a mood faster than the speed of light. That’s why, as of late, it’s out with the old and in with the new for my closet. I’m developing a signature style that matches the woman I see when I close my eyes and think of my dream life. It’s been a mix of closet organizing, looking for inspiration and dressing up for no reason at all.
Consider this: Your style is about more than just clothes. It speaks to who you are and where you're going.
Your style is about more than just clothes. It speaks to who you are and where you’re going.
It’s important to nail down your look because it’s an extension of yourself. You’ve heard the saying “dress for the job you want not the one you have”? Well, studies have shown that this is still true today even in a more modern era.
In one study, researchers had 128 participants negotiate over the mock-sale of a hypothetical factory. Those that were dressed for the part in suits made an average of $2.1 million vs. those dressed in sweats or other clothing who only made around $680,000. The participants in suits also were less willing to concede ground during negotiations. Their clothing subconsciously gave them more gumption.
Ultimately, it’s not really about the clothes, and perhaps that’s part of the message my Dad was trying to get across to me way back when, but it is about what the clothes say. Figuring out your style is a great step in figuring out who you are because you’ll start acting the way you look. When your style feels like you, whomever that is, there’s an ease that allows you to be yourself; you’re already dressed for the part.
Figuring out your style is a great step in figuring out who you are because you’ll start acting the way you look.
Knowing all of this to be true, how do you go about figuring out a style that really screams you? Try these 4 steps:
Step 1: Purge Your Current Closet
You’ll have to dig through what you already have to find out what works and what doesn’t. Navigating through your current style terrain will also give you a soft gauge of the items you love (and feel comfortable in) vs. things that just won’t work. So, if you haven’t worn it get rid of it. I’ve seen it mentioned that you should make note of the items you’re on the fence about and give yourself another 3 or so months to try and wear them, but I disagree. Unlike many other aspects of life, closet cleaning can be very black and white. Keep what’s a hard yes and toss what’s a no or a maybe.
You’re not going to wear it. Get rid of it. Somehow, if down the road you feel a strong hankering to wear the very thing you got rid of then buy it again. They probably make more. A proper purge consists of taking everything (yes, everything) out of your closet and drawers and trying it on. You could do this all at once or over the course of a few days.
Once the hard work of closet purging is behind you, make note of what’s left. Here’s what you especially need to pay attention to:
What kinds of clothes are they style wise? Loose and flowy? Tight and fitting? What colors are they? Bright? Neutral? These are the makings of your personal style.
What kinds of pieces are they? After getting rid of clothes you’ll probably have to supplement new ones to take their place. It’s good to know if you need another little black dress or jeans for a night out on the town. Take inventory of what you have.
Step 2: Do Some Research
Now it’s time to figure out what your current style has been missing. To do this, you’ll need to do a little research. This should be fun; who doesn’t like looking at clothes?
This will require some more homework too.
First, you need to do a quick visualization exercise of your ideal self. Close your eyes and envision the woman you want to be. How do you feel as her? Jot down notes about what she looks like and how she feels using lots of adjectives. Next, nail down some style musings that are in line with the woman you’re becoming. My personal faves are:
Rihanna: Her bold fashion choices scream confident and risk-taker.
Beyonce (on vacation): I love how carefree and effortless she is on vacations. She’s glowing, she’s happy, she goes with the flow.
Angela Simmons: Her looks are always polished and well-put together. Even her casual outfits have a tailored, custom look to them.
The bolded words are the descriptors that come up for me when I describe the woman I’m growing into. Using your style muses as inspiration is a great launching pad for delving into your own style. Find lots of different looks you love using magazines, Pinterest, Instagram, TV shows, etc. Whenever you come across something you like, take note. My phone gallery is currently a mixture of inspirational quotes and outfit screenshots.
Once you have a good idea of your aesthetic try capsule wardrobing. It’s a great way to start small and build from there. Now that your closet is purged, you’ll want to fill it in with key mix and match pieces for each season. The idea behind a capsule wardrobe is that you have a set budget with a set number of pieces that you rotate in as many different ways as possible. Take your newfound signature style and look for pieces that mesh. A pro-tip is to sign up for store newsletters because it’s a great way to get deals.
When figuring out your new wardrobe also be sure to consider your lifestyle. Personally, I would love to wear heels every day, but commuting on the train makes that a no-go. Instead I opt for things like booties that give the appeal of a heel with the comfort of a flat. Small tweaks like this will help you add your own flavor to your looks.
Step 3: Organize To Make Everything Accessible
The way your closet is organized plays a big role in when, if and how you’ll wear your clothes. When my room is messy it’s so easy to wear the same sweatpants three days in a row because they’re right there on the floor from when I took them off. Be sure to organize your clothes in a way that makes them easily accessible; it’s the only way you’ll wear them.
I recently discovered a great app called Stylebook. It’s taking awhile to get everything in there, but basically it creates a registry of your closet that is a game-changer for getting dressed. Pick out your outfits in the app and go. Plus, you can keep a calendar that shows you which outfits you’ve worn on what day. Beyond that, I have my clothes color coordinated and sectioned off so that I’ll always know where everything is. T-shirts are folded meticulously (thanks to my two-week stint at the Gap) and my shoes live in clear boxes like these. A place for everything and everything in its place.
Step 4: Wear YOUR CLOTHES
Finally, the fun part.
When you love everything you own, you’ll actually wear your clothes. It also makes those nothing-to-wear moments much easier. From this moment on, when you shop live by the same rule you used when purging your closet: only buy it if it’s a hard yes.
Remember that just like you, your style is always evolving. So, don’t be afraid to take risks and try new looks. More than anything, your style should be something you enjoy cultivating and not a burden. If it ever gets to be too much, circle back to the beginning and come up with a look that works for both you and your lifestyle.
If you're ready to discover your personal style, try the Help Me Slay Q&A Worksheet that will walk you through the steps to building a signature style that works for you.