Category Archives: Personal Style

How to Determine Your Style

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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.

Fashion Isn’t Frivolous!

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I have always enjoyed clothes and shopping, but over the years I’ve also come to learn the power of what we wear to help improve our body image.

I’m not necessarily referring to being a “fashionista” or a slave to trends, but rather the way that clothing can help to enhance our positive points and encourage body acceptance.

“What Not to Wear”

I’m sure many of you have seen the television show, “What Not to Wear.”  In case you aren’t familiar with this program, the premise is that a woman gets nominated for a makeover by a friend or family member because she dresses in a way that’s either frumpy, age inappropriate, or just plain over the top.   That person then gets “ambushed” by the show’s hosts, Stacy London and Clinton Kelly, and is shown secret footage of her “crimes against fashion.”

The hosts then throw away virtually all of her clothes (actually, the clothes are donated to charity) and give her “rules” to shop for new clothes that will best suit her body and lifestyle.  She is given $5,000 to shop for a new wardrobe and is also treated to a make-up consultation and a new hairstyle.   In the end, all of the women look infinitely better, and many of them also appear ten years younger and ten pounds thinner, all through the magic of clothing.

An Added Benefit…

The fact that the women look better is no big surprise.  It stands to reason that a new wardrobe, a flattering hairstyle, and professional make-up would make anyone shine.  What’s not so obvious is the transformation which takes place in the women’s confidence and body image.  They all stand up straighter, smile more, and reflect a genuine glow and sense of pride in themselves.

Many of them actually seem like different people in terms of their attitude and demeanor, in addition to their appearance.  It is a joy to watch the metamorphosis that takes place in the makeover contestants, and I don’t doubt that they end up experiencing a higher degree of self-esteem and happiness once they return to their everyday lives.

My Personal Experience

During my many years of struggling with eating disorders and negative body image, I adopted a kind of “quirky and bohemian” style of dress that primarily consisted of loose-fitting garments in which I could hide my body.  I always did my best to look nice and paid special attention to my grooming and accessorizing, yet my clothes didn’t flatter me nearly as well as they could.

As I entered my late 30s and was inching ever closer to the big 4-0, I decided it was time for a change.  Over the next few years, I gradually transformed the way I dressed.  I began to wear more form-fitting clothing that showcased the positive aspects of my figure.  Along the way, I started to feel better about my body.  I found myself feeling slimmer and more proportionate, as well as more vibrant, attractive, and confident.

I sometimes still struggle with body image issues and have days when I feel fat and down on myself.  But if I take the time to dress in attractive and flattering clothing, I get a boost of energy and a shot of extra self-esteem.  What I wear really does make a difference!  Clothing helps me to take more pride in my appearance and my body.

At age 45, I feel like I look better than I’ve ever looked!  Even though my weight may be a bit higher than my personal ideal, I can see that I look good in what I wear.  I am gradually learning to accept my body as it is and stop striving to reach unrealistic ideals.  If I wear clothing that fits, but doesn’t pinch or bind anywhere, I feel slimmer and more readily accept my present weight and size.

When I shop, I buy items that fit me now, not 5 or 10 pounds from now.  The size number is becoming less important to me as I focus more on fit and style.  After all, who else sees your size tag besides you?  If it bothers you too much, you can always cut it off!  I used to do that, but now I am more able to let it go and enjoy having clothes that fit, regardless of the number.

The Power of Clothing

Some will still say that fashion is frivolous, but I have a very different view.  I believe that clothing has the power to help us look and feel better, and it doesn’t have to be expensive or especially time-consuming.  Once you determine what looks good on you, you can apply the same basic formula to a variety of outfits and occasions, and you can find beautiful pieces at all price points.  While I love to shop at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, I have found some fabulous pieces at Target and JC Penney as well.    No one need know where you bought what you’re wearing; they will just notice how fabulous you look!