On How To Find Your Personal Style (Sometimes Every Season)
Why Nailing Your Aesthetic Can Feel Like a Never-Ending Process
As not only a grown woman, but a grown woman who—ostensibly—writes about style for an honest to God living, you’d think I’d have honed my own fashion sense to an artful science by now.
You would be wrong.
I recently performed the intricate, bi-annual dance that is my winter-to-summer clothing swap (these fabled “hall closets” where winter coats can simply…hang all year long? how fantastical!) and found that I didn’t have nearly as much warm weather ware as I remembered. A few pairs of fancy shorts, a dress or two, but that was about it. Turns out, I’d KonMari’d most of my wardrobe last fall.
And I’d put money on finding myself in the same predicament come September. Because in the past few weeks, I’ve retired a whole bunch of sweaters, shoes, and more after pulling them off at the end of the day and thinking, “I never want to see you ever again.” Whether from falling into disrepair or suffering from over-use, a long winter disabused me of plenty of my go to’s.
This purging is inevitably followed by a frenetic shopping spree. A woman cannot survive on fancy shorts alone, after all.
Before I even begin shopping, though, I find myself confronted with the eternal question when it comes to personal style: not “What do I want to wear today?” but its quieter, more urgent cousin, “What do I want my clothes to say about me?”
Personally, I find two answers constantly tugging at my shirt tail for consideration: on the one hand, I want my wardrobe to suggest, I am a strong boss woman; prepare to be enthralled by how together I have it all, and the more innocent, but farther from reality, I am a laid-back girl-lady of independent means and indeterminate day-to-evening plans.
Do I want high-waisted skinny jeans and button-up blouses that make me feel tough and ready to take on the world? Or do I want easy-breezy frocks that can take me from an afternoon coffee to a later-that-afternoon Negroni at the drop of a wide-brimmed hat?
All this indecision stresses me out. Shouldn’t I know who I want to by now? Shouldn’t I be more settled in my style? But somewhere along the way, I learned that, for better or worse, I will probably always be plagued by growing pains. This is as true for my style as it is for my career as my relationships and beyond. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing. It means I always want to grow.
To make sure this searching all feels like a quest and not a punishment, I’ve learned a few coping mechanisms along the way. I share them with you here, in the hopes they’ll help you see your style journey in a similar light.
Look for Inspiration
I regularly pin street style photos to a secret Pinterest board of feminine style (lotta Emma Stone, a lot of Olivia Palermo, a l’il bit of Kourtney Kardashian). Doing so helps me hone in on what I like—structured sweaters, simple jewelry, high-waisted everything—and what I don’t, like ruffles, uber-bright colors, and body conscious anything (until I get more conscious about this bod, anyway).
Recently I got into a real hole on the ol’ Pinterest looking at pictures of future Mrs. Prince Harry Meghan Markle’s style, both in her role as a lawyer on Suits—a show I keep being told I should watch but never will—and in real life, at airports, or leaving yoga, or buying flowers (she buys so many flowers). I locked in on her on- and off-screen style and will definitely be taking tips the next time I head to the mall. Now I’m just left to wonder if I missed my calling as a TV lawyer/future princess. I guess we’ll never know.
All this inspiration means I don’t have to settle on one persona. Sift through different looks long enough, and you’ll start to see patterns in what you like and what you don’t. These standouts will help you hone in on your particular style.
And I know Pinterest is pegged as a “chick thing” but honestly it’s so great for keeping all your ideas in one place (if you like Evernote for that reason, god bless, but I can’t make that system work for me, for the life of me). The point is: have a repository, and contribute to it often.
Accentuate the positive
I also try to remind myself that I’m dressing for the body I have now.
Unless (or until?) I give up bread and sugar, I’m not likely to lose the extra padding on my hips that I too often let drive me crazy. So if I’m not going to change my diet, I need to change my dressing. For me, that means more A-line dresses and skirt that hide the parts I want hidden, and tops that draw the eye up. For you, that could mean losing the pleated pants, or committing to a color everyone says brings out your eyes.
A.B.C (Always Be Cleaning)
As much as it freaked me out to see a mostly barren summer wardrobe, I also felt excited by the possibility of discovering new favorite finds for the season. From thrift stores to the mall to my mom’s closet, my next favorite piece of clothing is out there (much like the song of the summer!) Now I just have to find it.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE RIGHT NOW? HOW ABOUT A YEAR AGO?