Growing up we are constantly told to “be ourselves”. Yet so much of our lives are spent trying to be like others. Dressing like others, acting like others, doing what others do are all ways we constantly conform to the society around us. But as we get older it also becomes more and more critical for us to be able to differentiate ourselves from others.
Fashion is a great way to take a step in this direction of individuality, especially with creating a personal style. Everyone, regardless of whether they know it or not, takes part in the fashion industry. Each morning the decision to pair a specific pant with a specific shirt is fashion. Even if it isn’t always looked at in a “fashion” sense, the reasons we choose to wear the clothes we do contributes to the fashion industry- from comfort to simplicity to functionality to affordability.
Shifting the mindset from the functionality of clothes to their expression of ourselves is a very exciting endeavor to embark on. Creating a personal style is a great way to start showing the world who you are, one outfit at a time. The next 10 tips will be a guide to creating your very own personal style. That way, you’ll stand out in a way specific to you!
Here are 10 steps to creating & maintaining a personal style:
1. Get Yourself a Style Icon
Whether it’s an individual, a brand, or a fashion era you love, find inspiration from the fashion world. These sources of inspiration will keep you up to date on what’s new in the fashion industry and where trends are headed, while also giving you ideas to change up the mainstream. If your main inspo is a brand- buy a few of their pieces you love or find similar items at smaller (and often more affordable) companies. If your inspo is a fashion influencer- take a look at how they pair different items and grab ideas from the outfits and combinations they create. Whatever your inspiration, use pieces, combos and fashion photos that draw you to them. Then, make it your own! Make yourself a mood board and go from there… adapt the fashions to yourself, the functions your clothes will take on, what you might already have.
2. Find Inspiration in Your Experiences
Have you ever traveled somewhere and thought, “literally everyone in this city/state/country/etc…looks so much cooler than the people where I’m from”? Architecture, nature, art, and so many other social and environmental aspects can serve as some much needed inspiration for a personal style. Take the structure of the buildings, fluidity in nature, the way color is used; anything you experience throughout your life can serve as fashion inspiration.
3. Don’t Copy
While it is great to get inspiration for your fashion sense, flat out copying is not the way to go. For one, it won’t be your own style if you simply wear the same outfit as someone else. But it’s also so much more fun to take pieces that inspired you and twist them into your own fits.
4. Comfort is the Key To Confidence
When deciding on a new “style” to try out, it’s great to challenge yourself. But sometimes, stepping too far outside your comfort zone makes the fashion uncomfortable to wear. Confidently wearing a simple outfit will always look and feel better than hesitantly wearing one you think is high-fashion. A great way to shift your style without feeling too uncomfortable is to change one segment at a time. For example, keep the same shirts you usually wear, but instead of pairing it with some jeans, try a midi skirt or some joggers (whatever your personal style goal proposes).
5. Embrace Your Natural Self
The most personal way to create a personal style is to use what’s yours. Your natural hair, body shape and size, and skin, hair and eye tones are the most important foundation to base your personal style on. If you’ve got big and curly hair, rock it. If you’ve got curves, show ‘em off! If your skin color or eye color pops while wearing blue, remember this. Your body is so different from everyone else’s, so use what is unique to you to create a style unique to you. Elaine Welteroth perfectly describes the importance of owning her natural curls in her book, More Than Enough (which I more than recommend). There she talks about her curls as her “calling card” and what people would start to know her by. Find your hair… or your signature color or the perfect silhouette for your body. Take your most personal characteristics and own them. (And seriously, read her book).
6. Don’t Skimp on the Basics
It’s really easy to go all out with super-signature items and stand-out pieces when creating a new personal style. But do not (I repeat: do not) forget the basics. Having a nice basis of simple, classic, quality clothes is a must-do when starting to build your wardrobe. When the baseline of items you can wear often is set, it will be much easier to start pairing and adding in more extravagant or fashion-forward pieces in every outfit!
7. Pick a Statement Section
Once the foundation of basic pieces is set, pick a statement section. Do you want to be the “pants girl”? Want to be the one always sporting a cool new jacket? Or are shoes your one true love? Decide the area you want to focus on as your statement pieces and start looking for some cool items in that realm. Of course if you are the pants girl, that’s not to say you can’t have fashionable tops too. But determining this statement section will add a differentiating aspect to your personal style that others might not have. (Plus, it’s a lot more financially savvy to curate a cool collection of pants as opposed to pants and shirts and shoes and accessories and… you get the point).
8. Invest in Quality Pieces
One of the most challenging parts of creating a personal style and revamping your wardrobe is deciding where the moolah goes. It can be very tempting to buy a ton of trendy pieces for cheap at mainstream retail stores. But despite these temptations, quality always >>>> quantity. This doesn’t mean spend a million bucks on a plain white tee. But having a few high quality pieces that you can always rely on is crucial. And remember, these quality pieces can be your basics or your statement pieces, whatever makes more sense for you and your personal style.
9. Shop Where Others Don’t
Back to those mainstream retail stores mentioned above… probably not the place to define your style. These stores can be okay for grabbing some simple items or some season-specific trends. But if you really want to stand out in your style, look elsewhere. Try thrift stores or buy second hand. Vintage and older pieces are a great way to bring something different into your personal style. Second hand is a great way to take things that people have already seen and worn and turn it into your own- diy, mix and match in a different way, whatever is needed to make it you.
10. Allow Your “Style” to be Defined Loosely
Last but not least, do not define yourself too strictly. Fashion is an ever evolving thing. No fashion designer, influencer, or brand has remained the exact same for their whole existence; you don’t have to either. Take what you will from each season, start shaping a personal style you feel comfortable and confident in gradually, and let that baby evolve and grow just as you do! Fashion is one of the most expressive ways to show the world who you are. So allow it to shift based on where you’re at in life.