I remember when I would open my closet and chaos would come out. I'd have every kind of persona stuffed into there: festival hippies, minimalist women, vintage Doris Days, and '60s college girls. When you're trying to find ways to figure out your style, it can be a long, frustrating process. There are just so many trends to dabble in, so many personas you identify with, and so many looks that catch your fancy — how is a person supposed to pick just one? While you don't necessarily have to just choose one type of woman you want to be and then put blinkers on when it comes to the rest of them, you do have to choose a prevailing theme to your wardrobe.
But how do you narrow that down? Well, like all projects you would roll your sleeves up for, it takes research, planning, lists, and a lot of trial and error. You have to have enough patience to allow yourself to try on things and discard them, as well as figure out what makes you feel the most "you." But in the end, you'll have a cohesive wardrobe that makes you excited to dive in every morning. Here are 11 tips on how to figure out your style.
1. Find Your Style Icons
You don't need to do this soul searching alone. Instead, pull ideas from others to get a handle on what your style is. So first thing is first: Find out who your style icons are. Lifestyle writer Jamie Krell from lifestyle site The Everygirl wrote, "Jot down the names of your favorite style icons and do a bit of research via Pinterest, Google, or Instagram to gather inspiration from their looks." Having all their looks in one cohesive spot will add like a guide when it's time to step in front of the closet and dress yourself.
2. Pull A Common Theme From Those Icons
People don't usually just stick to one style when it comes to their wardrobes — some are minimalist but edgy, others are punk but vintage, and so on. To figure out what themes you enjoy the most (so you can stick to them when you shop,) study those icons on your Pinterest boards and pull out what they all share in common. Krell explained, "Create a list of your five favorite celebs or bloggers, do a quick search on each of them, and pin the images and outfits that most resonate with you. Finished? Now, write down all the elements they have in common. Chances are, the characteristics you write down most frequently are the ones you most relate to, and the vibe that makes you the most comfortable." It'll help make your preferences clearer.
3. Actually Write Down Those Adjectives
It's not just enough to realize what elements you like the most — you need them tangibly in front of you when you go shopping so you stick to your new style vision. Fashion writer Kat Collings from Who What Wear recommended, "Pick a few words to describe the vibe of the looks. Are they ladylike, modern, edgy, bohemian, or classic? Settle on a handful of words that feel true to your style, and write them down for future reference, as they will help you clarify and define your look." Say you're feminine/minimalist. Having a piece of paper in your purse that says that when you go shopping will help you ignore all the crochet festival pieces that catch your eye and the flamboyant vintage dresses. It'll be like a chaperone.
4. Take Pics Of What Works
If you feel fabulous and like yourself in a certain outfit, catalog it! It'll help you recreate similar looks in the future. Collings advised, "You know those special days when you walk out the door feeling like your most stylish self? Snap a quick picture for future reference." Not only does it highlight the look you're going for, but it can inspire future looks.
5. Clean Out Your Closet
It's going to be hard to stick to a streamlined look when you have a bunch of pieces that act as outliers stuffed onto hangers. In order to make your outfit-building go according to plan, clean out all the pieces that no longer fit your new look. InStyle offered, "Edit out pieces that don't fit the criteria. Anything borderline gets the cut, including pieces you only feel brave enough to wear once in a while." This way you'll be less tempted to mix and match in a way that doesn't fit into the categories you've outlined.
6. Choose A Palette
Do you like warm neutral tones? Black and whites? Poppy summer shades? Busy patterns? Choose your palette and your closet will become easier to mix and match. Style writer Katie Van Syckle from The Cut wrote, "I will also find a color palette that I’m going for and work within that color family." If the core of your wardrobe follows those hues, it'll all be more cohesive.
7. Find Out Why You Like Certain Pieces
Say you have a favorite dress or shirt in your closet. There's a reason it's your fave, and it can hold some key answers for you. Van Syckle offered, "If you know you like something, try to figure out why." Does it reflect your personality? Why does it make you feel beautiful? Comfortable? Outgoing? Figure out what parts of it you like (it's baggy, long, colorful, etc.) and find other pieces that follow that vibe.
8. Experiment On The Cheap
If you're unsure of a trend or a style but still want to give it a go, make sure to do it with your wallet in mind. If you want to try culottes or a patterned suit, pick it up at cheap fast fashion stores so it doesn't become high risk. Krell advised, "I learned to experiment with the latest fashion trends the smart way — I would hunt for trendy deals at discount places like TJ Maxx and Forever 21. I would only splurge on staple pieces: leather boots, a great handbag, a nice coat." So if the style doesn't work on you after all, you're only out 20 dollars and can move on to other experiments.
9. Play Up Your Favorite Features
I, for example, feel unstoppable when I wear a dress or jumpsuit that highlights my tall frame. I walk with more purpose, I feel beautiful, and I become more "me" strutting around in a column dress or floor-skimming bellbottoms. Figure out what your favorite feature is and go to town choosing pieces that highlight it. Collings pointed out, "Whether it’s your toned back or your hourglass figure, wearing clothes that play up your best assets always looks stylish, no matter what is currently trendy." So if you feel bomb-tastic showing off your cleavage, your back, or your legs, make sure to choose pieces that do just that. It'll be a game-changer.
10. Keep Less In Your Closet
Better style doesn't come from having more options - it actually gets more defined when there's less to choose from. Van Syckle explained, "I don’t want to have to sift through 20 things I know I’m not going to wear to get to the three or four cute things. If you get rid of everything that you don’t wear and narrow down your look, then getting ready is super-easy and then you are more likely to go out and buy more of that look and get better versions of it.” You'll realize the pieces you truly love and get variations of that to continue to build your style.
11. Dress For Your Lifestyle
Do you love gowns but live in a small town? Adore small dresses but live in a perpetual winter? While those might strike your interest, they won't ever leave the closet because you'll never get the chance to bust them out. Or are you trying to make it as an artist? Or settle into a more laid-back personality? Or are you trying to be more conident and outgoing? Then let your clothes help remind you of your goals. When creating your style, don't just nab things that spark your interest, but also keep your lifestyle, your dreams, and your self-improvement in mind. Krell explained, "Consider the persona you want to present to the world. You want your style to reflect your personality, but it also has to make sense in your field of work, your overall lifestyle, the city you live in and aligned with your long-term goals."
If you keep these tips in mind, figuring out your look will be so much easier!