How to Determine Your Style


Determine your personal sense of styleOne of the most important steps toward having a wardrobe that works for you is understanding your personal sense of style.  If you allow the fashion industry to dictate what you wear through its ever-changing trends, it’s likely you’ll feel somewhat confused and dissatisfied with your wardrobe.   Likewise, if you always shop with certain fashionable friends or relatives who steer you toward clothes that reflect their sense of style, you might find yourself with a closet full of garments that just don’t feel like “you.”

Defining and expressing a sense of style that works well for you is a process and doesn’t necessarily happen overnight.  In addition, style is something that ideally evolves with us as we grow and change in terms of our personality, lifestyle, and aesthetic sensibilities.  But in order for your sense of style to evolve, you have to start somewhere!

This article provides a few useful tips on how to define your personal sense of style.   You don’t necessarily need to employ all of these tips, but if you take a few of them on, I promise you’ll no longer be “Clueless in San Diego” (or wherever you live…).    You’ll gain valuable insights and hopefully have some fun in the process.

Start with Your Closet

I find it’s useful to start with your closet.  Pull out your favorite items of clothing, as well as your go-to shoes and accessories.  Single out everything you have that you absolutely love!  You know, the things you’d take with you if you were forced to evacuate at short notice.  Put all of these items aside, whether there are just five things or twenty-five or more.

Look at all of the items and jot down any common themes which come to mind.  Are there specific fabrics, colors, patterns, styles, or silhouettes that are repeated in the mix?  As an example, a few common themes for me are black/white prints, stripes, animal print, embellishment, jewel tones, jackets/blazers, straight-leg pants, and knee-length skirts and dresses.  Although I have other types of items in my wardrobe, the things I love generally fit into one or more of those categories.  What common themes do you notice among your closet favorites?

Look for Inspiration in Print and Online

Grab a few magazines or catalogs and search for style images that “speak” to you.  If you love a particular look for whatever reason, tear out or earmark the page.  Try to find at least ten or more photos that depict a style that really appeals to you.

You don’t need to limit yourself to fashion magazines.  Any magazine will work, and you can also look to the Internet for inspiration.  Many store websites feature “look books,” and you can also search through the social media site Pinterest for looks that have been “pinned” by other users under various terms.  Images may also be easily perused via photo collectives such as Chictopia (use the “Gallery” menu) and the Wardrobe Remix group on Flickr.

Again, note common themes which stand out in the images you’ve selected.  Perhaps you like certain types of prints, metallics, sequins, studs, ruffles, or other style elements.  Those types of preferences all provide cues toward your personal sense of style.

Find a Style Icon, or Two…

Last but not least, consider whether there is anyone whom you would consider a “style icon.”  This can be someone you know or a celebrity or public figure.  It might even be a character on television or in a movie.  There may be several people in your life or in the public sphere whose style you admire and would love to emulate.

Look at photos of your style icons and write some notes about the common elements of their style.  For instance, if you selected Kate Middleton as one of your style icons, you might note the following consistent features of her style:  chic, sophisticated, classic, elegant, streamlined, neutral colors, jewel tones, pumps, skinny jeans, and simple accessories.

Keep a Style File

It might be useful for you to maintain an ongoing style file (physical or virtual) to keep honing in on the style elements that are most pleasing to you.   Then you can review this file prior to going shopping (or take it with you!) so you can make selections with your style preferences in mind.

I hope these tips have been helpful.  Taking the time to define your personal style can save you time and money in the long run!  You’ll better be able to zero in on things to try on when you shop and will end up making more informed purchases.  The end result is that you’ll love and wear more of what you own.

6 responses »

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  3. My style is comfort, functionality and suitability for the occasion. I am retired and living in a senior community. I don’t have dinner in the dining room because I have my main meal for lunch and often I am too tired by the end of the afternoon to do anything else. Hence, my need for dressing up is very limited and covered by the clothes I have.

    If my size does not change (smaller is fine) I do not need anything. (I don’t shop in stores anyway because it takes too much energy. Online shopping is much easier).

    I don’t think I need to do much more to determine or change my style. I have scarves and jewelry which would enhance my outfits if enhancement were warranted.

    I think what I need is to do the emotional work to identify and then oust the reasons for buying too many of the same thing. Fear of scarcity has no basis in current reality, only in childhood, so it serves no purpose other than to cause me to rationalize buying too much. I need to be able to say I have enough, and be comfortable with that.

    At the same time I need to reach the point of being willing to purge duplicates that are still useful but really needed if I only did laundry monthly instead of weekly.

    By the way, I spent 3 years in the mid-1970s at the U of SD in the Linda Vista area of San Diego. This would be pre-Kroc gift to USD and pre-gaslight district. We were back about 5 years ago and both USD and downtown were very different. La Jolla was as delightful as ever. SD was a lovely place to spend 3 years. We moved to Wash., DC for jobs, and stayed.

    • Thank you for your comment, Sandra! It sounds like you have a good handle on your style, but that is only one part of the equation. Many of us have emotional issues that impact our shopping habits and fear of scarcity is a big one for many people. Knowing you have the issue is an important step on the journey toward change. I highly recommend reading “To Buy or Not to Buy” by Dr. April Benson, as it will help you to deal with a lot of the emotions that are driving your overshopping.

      Regarding purging duplicates, I recommend taking baby steps. Perhaps as a first step, you could let go of items that are worn out or in colors you don’t love. You could also try storing some of the pieces elsewhere to see if you actually need or miss them. Doing a wardrobe challenge like Project 333 (or a variation thereof) helps a lot with the perception that we need a lot of clothes. It was very beneficial for me!

      You’re right in that San Diego is a beautiful place to live. I lived her for 3 years as a child and have been back for 11 years now. Some things have changed a lot but the best parts (beaches, weather, etc.) are still much the same. I love it here!

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