“I’d rather go to the dentist than shop for clothes,” a friend told me. Huh? What?! My jaw nearly hit the floor. There are few things I enjoy more than the process of curating a great outfit, scouring the racks or websites for affordable pieces that fit my aesthetic. It was hard to fathom someone not feeling the same. Then, I realized I might be the outlier here!
There are plenty of women who don’t enjoy shopping. Some don’t have time to shop (as I busy mom, I can totally relate). Others feel overwhelmed by the vast options that are available, frustrated by sizing and fit issues, or haven’t quite defined their personal style. They want a helping hand in the process, a brutally honest “fashion friend” as my neighbor would call it.
We’ll cover the four key steps I use to define my own personal style. I also employ these when working with personal styling clients. Additionally, we will talk about why you want to define your personal style in the first place.
Since I haven’t discussed personal styling on the blog yet, allow me to catch you up quickly… I sort of fell into the role recently. I’m a journalist not a fashion expert, so it wasn’t something I intended to do. I certainly love dressing my friends and have been “styling” them for a long time. However, I always thought personal styling services were the realm of movie stars. Man, was I wrong!
Imagine my surprise when my blogging endeavors had local women asking if I offered this. They wanted someone to source looks that show them at their best, pushing them out of their comfort zone slightly, while still remaining authentic to their personality. More recently, national styling company Allume invited me to serve as one of its guest stylists. You’ll find the looks I created for Allume below and details of its program, but first let’s drill down and help you define your personal style!
Taking time to examine your unique fashion preferences will help you connect the dots between style and substance. It’s no secret… When you feel great about your style, you act with assertiveness, confidence and empowerment. By defining your personal style, you will discover what you like and why you like it.
It’s your jump start to building a cohesive and complete wardrobe. You’ll be able to buy less but love each piece more. And getting dressed each morning? That’s sure to be a happier, speedier process! Your wardrobe will become a true reflection of you, part of your signature and personal brand.
Don’t think too hard, just shout it out. Whose style do you admire? Make a list of 3-4 people (past or present) you’d love to dress like. Sometimes these styles might be conflicting. Other times, they might relate exactly. That’s okay. Consider this step one of your idea generation process. It will help you understand what speaks to you. For example, my list includes…
There are some common threads, but plenty of differences too. The point of this exercise is to get you thinking about what elements of each celebrity’s style speak to you and why. How can you incorporate these vibes into your own wardrobe? I find Pinterest boards quite helpful, as they allow you to collect images in a very easy-to-view manner. Make sure to pin a range of looks—styles for work, play, and more formal occasions.
Now, it’s time to get personal. Get your notebook out (or laptop out) and start listing all the things you like to wear/consider your style and all the things you don’t like to wear/don’t consider your style. This is most helpful if you just gush. Don’t overthink. Don’t doubt your instincts, just write… and write… and write. This will give you the most personally accurate description. For example, here’s my list:
The next step in defining your personal style is assessing where your closet it at right now. Start by grabbing the 5 pieces you love most. Now, grab 5 pieces you dislike or haven’t worn in a long time. Study your favorites closely. What is it about them that grabs you? Are there elements reflective of your personal style icons in these garments? Does anything connect the pieces? Is it because they fit great, feel great?
Nothing advances personal style faster than getting clothing that fits properly! If you have a quality garment, don’t hesitate to get it tailored (I’m super short, so I say this from experience – full post here). Little nips and tucks can dramatically improve how you feel about your wardrobe.
Next, we turn our attention to the pieces we dislike. What bugs you about them? What doesn’t feel “you” when you look at them? Make a note of this and remember it as you shop. This will prevent those regret buys. Additionally, think about practicality. Are there any items you don’t have that you need? Perhaps it’s a white camisole or lightweight sweater for layering? Pay attention to the gaps in your wardrobe and note what you might need to complete any existing looks you love.
The final step in articulating your personal style is stepping back a bit. Get an outside opinion. Ask a friend or family member to describe your style. This might sound counter intuitive when so much of our work thus far has been deeply self reflective. However, others see things we might miss. They are also much more objective.
Many women—myself included—have a tendency to judge their bodies when they look at an outfit in the mirror, rather than the garment/style they are trying to assess. A friend (or stylist) can help us shelve those body hangups to truthfully determine if something suits us. That’s where Allume comes in…
It’s a bit different from other similar services (e.g. Stitch Fix) I’ve come across. It isn’t a subscription service for monthly items in a box. Rather, it’s a texting-based personal styling service that links you up with an actual stylist. Unlike me, these are fashion industry professionals who have relationships with top brands/retailers, as well as insider knowledge about trends or product launches.
Per the Allume process, you will take a style quiz and get matched with one of these stylists. They review your answers, then spend about 15 minutes texting with you to identify your style needs, goals, and vision. They use that information to create three lookbooks featuring items you can shop at popular retailers.
What I like is that they don’t work on commission, so you know they’re not trying to “sell you” on anything but their style expertise. The fee is $30, refunded if you make a purchase. While Allume allows you to shop multiple brands with one checkout, be aware that pieces ship directly from each brand. That means you are responsible for handling returns/exchanges on your own and must pay attention to the policies of each retailer. Allume also offers a “Shop The Look” section. That’s where you’ll find the outfits I put together. These are pre-styled lookbooks you can shop without working with a stylist.