How to Find Your Personal Style
I bookmarked this article about ignoring fashion rules ages ago because I thought it was such a great read (and that mama Wang sure knows how to shade!). I know for the most part of my teenage and early adulthood I struggled with finding and honing my personal style. I'd follow the influence of my friends and try to imitate the girls in magazines but it always felt foreign and I was rarely comfortable in my ability to pull it off.
As I got older, and acclimated to the NYC sensibilities of creative freedom and eff-you attitude, I was able to shed the falseness of fashion peer-pressure and hone my own personal style. I stopped subscribing to fashion magazines and shopping in high street stores as they're focused on pushing trends and perpetuating outdated fashion rules.
Physically going into retail shops was the hardest thing for me because I'd see so many things that I think I'd need, and OMG don't let it be on sale, because then I'd justify buying it... So like an addict, I had to abstain from going into shops for a while. Just until I assessed my needs from my wants--more on that below. One last thing I did was KonMari-ed the heck out of my wardrobe (the rest of the house soon to come!). Doing these these things gave me a fresh start and a clear mind to find my personal style and build my wardrobe accordingly.
Here are some tips on finding and maintaining your own style:
1) Clear mind
It's such a struggle to create and implement a personalized wardrobe when you're faced with emerging trends left and right. To overcome that you'll need a clear mind. Maybe that means you meditate, clean, or read a damn awesome book--start with this one, seriously. You better believe that (merchandise) marketing is psychological and in order to combat the constant urge to buy and imitate the stylish masses, you're gonna need a clear, clutter-free mind.
2) Gather inspiration
I've always had mood boards, whether physically on my wall/notebook or digitally on my blog/Tumblr/Pinterest. This can get crazy real quick but you'll have to learn to purge. Keep only the visual stimuli that resonates with you. It doesn't have to be strictly clothes, honestly a mood board doesn't need to make sense. It's about creating a mood that inspires you. Gather WHATEVER images speak to you and try to get a sense of why they're speaking to you. This is not about practicality, just about your emotional state--it's important. This will also help you with the next tip.
3) Adopt a uniform
I'm a huge advocate of having a "uniform." Maybe it's unconscious but I believe that we all have one. It consists of those signature pieces that you gravitate towards time and time again... It's the consistent look that you go for when you're in a rush and you don't have time to worry about looking fashionable and current. If you look at the fashion elite and even some of the wealthier folks (in money and creativeness), they have a uniform. They wear different versions of the same outfit because it just works.
Having a uniform helps you hone in on you, who you are, and your style identity. A uniform can be fluid and change a bit according to your mood. Reference your mood board, are you noticing any trends in particular? Maybe you're being attracted to a certain color, texture, or feeling... etc. and that could/should reflect in your uniform. You can think about it as a capsule collection but I have a love/hate relationship with that method (blog post on that soon).
4) Purge away
Earlier I wrote about how I "KonMari-ed" my wardrobe; what I meant with that was I learned how to keep my wardrobe clutter-free and consisting only of the pieces that I truly enjoy. KonMari is a method of deep cleaning once, and never having to do it again. It was created by a Japanese organizing consultant named Marie Kondo. She's ridiculously popular with many months long waiting list for her services. What's good for you is that you can just buy her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and learn the goods for yourself.
There's a two part process; I'll break it down for you as it relates to your wardrobe:
- Pull out all of your clothes and I mean all of them--even your draw(er)s! Hold each and every piece and ask yourself if it sparks joy, if not, thank it for its service and donate it!
- With those pieces that do spark joy, put them in easily accessible places. Put them on display in a nice open wardrobe. Organize them in a way where you can see each piece and pull it out & put it back with ease. She also has a folding technique, check it out here.
As you can see, the above tips are not hard & fast rules to follow. It's not about making a list and checking it twice, planning, or buying certain pieces. Doing these things can work for some but they most definitely don't work for me. It's just one more thing for me to feel guilty over if I don't accomplish the tasks on the list. Shopping for me and many others can be a mental ordeal whether it's realized or not. Therefore, my approach is about the thought process. I believe that this is what will help you find and maintain your signature style. I can walk into a store now without going crazy and feeling the need to buy because I have a thought process. It goes like this:
- If something is cute, I pick it up and I acknowledge it
- If it's made of good quality and nice enough for me to try on, I categorize it as a need or a want
- When trying it on, I think about if I can live without it; will I be heartbroken if I absolutely don't leave the store with it...? If this is a need item more than likely it won't elicit such a strong attachment but that's okay, think about how it will fit in with your wardrobe. Will that piece make your collection even better?
When doing the above I can whittle down my shopping choices real quick and then I end up buying 1-2 pieces (instead of 6+ like in the past) that makes me happy. Also, sometimes I'll take the items home and realize that I didn't need or like a particular piece as much as I thought, then it goes to the return pile. *I recommend this as a starting point; buying pieces that you really like, take them home and live with them (don't wear them), and if there are certain pieces that you don't care for as much, return it and keep the others.
I think this is the longest post that I've ever written on my blog. However, this topic is something I'm passionate about and I really wanted to talk it about it. Do you have a thought process when shopping? What would you say your signature pieces are...? I'm curious to know!
p.s. If you do happen to need lists, tips, and other practical guides in order to find your style and organize your wardrobe, check out www.into-mind.com. It's a fantastic site that is meant to help you curate the "perfect" wardrobe.
credit: photo by Erin Pearlman.