When you haven't figured out how to find your personal style yet, the whole thing can feel like trying on many different shades of you. You became all the different girls you've seen — and admired — along the way. You try on overalls because that one fashion girl pulled them off so well with a crop top and sneakers. You give all-black looks a go because you saw it on Instagram once. And don't get me started on the midi skirt with matching hair bow you tried to dabble in a few weeks back.
It's not that you don't look good in the styles — because trust me when I say you definitely do. It's not that you can't pull them off; you can make any style work with your closet if you have the mind to. It's just that they... well, may not always feel like you. They're variations of a woman you're trying to be, and you just haven't found the one with your name on it yet. So how do you find it? It's not as messy of a process as you would think. Below are five tips to help you find your personal style — and not just copy what's in.
1. Create Your Basic Foundation
Before you start anything, create your foundation first. It doesn't yet matter what you like and dislike specficially, as essential wardrobe items can be accessorized to fit any style. If you're colorful and loud or subtle and clean-lined — all of that will be useless if you don't have a solid foundations of basics to build against. What are your basics? According to Kristen Tice Studeman, fashion writer for Elle, a good start is to nail down staples: a striped tee, cardigan, knit sweater, tailored blazer, jeans, dress pants, white collared shirt, a denim jacket, a little black dress, a neutral toned skirt in any shape, a cold weather coat, a pair of booties, ballet flats, and leather sandals.
Before all else, focus on ticking all these items off of your list so you have plenty of options to mix and match your more stylish, fashion forward pieces. Without these you'll just have a whole lot of fluff and no substance. Meaning, you can have all the amazing tops with all the personality, but it'll be moot if you have no bottoms to wear them with.
2. Don't Think That Finding Your Style Is Sticking To One Look
First, let's clear up some misconceptions. Usually when you think of finding your style, you think of choosing a certain personality and running with that aesthetic. While it does narrow things down if you fall into a certain type of look, that doesn't mean you can't like things outside of that style. The trick is to notice what specifically you like about that style. Do you love bohemian pieces because of their loose, earthy qualities? But do you also like the unfussy, clean-lined looks of minimalist looks? This means you should look for clothes that fit those shapes and hues, rather than those categories. You can love wide leg culottes and long sleeve maxi dresses equally as much.
For example, I love vintage. Like love, love vintage. But I also can't get enough of the quiet elegance of minimalism. So how do I choose? Easy: I look for vintage that is understated and clean-lined, and I look for minimalist pieces that have some quirk, a mid-century flavor to them. The reason being is that what really appeals to me is the shapes and lines of the silhouettes, not so much the labels that house them.
3. Notice What Your Favorite Pieces In Your Closet Are
At this point you're starting to catch on as to what sort of vibe appeals to you the most. Do you like the relaxed, unbothered feelings you get from baggy boho pieces and simple lined minimalist pieces? Or do you enjoy the creativity it takes to mix colorful patterns and clash preppy prints together? While keeping these feelings in mind, study which pieces you like to reach for the most in your closet and ask yourself why that might be. Do you like the silhouette it creates? Do you enjoy how the color mixes with other hues, or how the pattern contrasts in a fun way against other pieces? Once you pin down your likes, try to find other wardrobe pieces that fit in those categories.
For example, I discovered that what I really enjoyed when styling myself was prints because I kept reaching for the same striped sweater three times out of the five. It wasn't so much that I was particularly nautical or preppy; I just really enjoyed the way it clashed against my floral skirts or mixed with my leopard belts. So the next time I went shopping, I kept an eye out for pieces with loud but remixable prints and began to build my closet that way.
4. Study The Outlier
Which pieces in your closet just never worked? Which still have the tags on or were worn a couple of times, only to be thrown into the back? These are just as important to consider as your favorite pieces because they tell you what you don't like. For example, I once bought the bubblegum pink bandage dress that made me feel like the hottest human being... ever. There was a lot of hip wiggling and hair tossing in the changing room mirror and I'm not embarrassed to admit it. But when it came to actually wearing it out, it never happened.
So look at your own closet outliers and ask yourself: Why did they not work? Did they feel too busy, did you not like the fit? Were you uncomfortable with the length, or maybe the pattern felt wrong? See why it didn't work and then list a few adjectives that describe exactly what didn't jive. Keeping those signals in mind, try to avoid them when shopping to not make the same mistake and be in tune with what isn't your style.
5. Look For Inspiration When It Comes To Piecing Together Outfits
Now that you have an idea of what you like, what you don't like, and the details that constitutes both, you're ready to start combining your pieces into outfits. Which is when you might think, "Er, how exactly?" Shopping is much different than styling, isn't it? To get you started, look for inspiration outside of yourself.
For example, find a few bloggers that instantly captivate your aesthetic; head to Instagram and follow a handful of women with very defined looks that are similar to your style; take a few days scrolling through Pinterest, gathering outfits that you already have the pieces to recreate. I use Pinterest to only find interesting layering ideas for future outfits. And I mean it when I say "only" — my style board doesn't have a single streetstyle shot that doesn't revolve around one layering move or other. The reason for that? It's my textbook. If I'm feeling uninspired with my closet, I scroll through the images and read my notes and instantly get the itch to copy one of the ideas. Try searching #ootd or #fblogger on Instagram for a good start to finding information.
So go hunt down looks, examine your own closet and tastes, and dip into fashion with purpose. You'll be stylin' in no time.