How To Navigate Finding Your Personal Style

Most of us know what we like, and wear it when we can. Finding your personal style, or changing said style, can be tricky — so we usually stick to what's tried and true. Sometimes skirts are preferred over jeans, stripes over florals, pea coats over puffer jackets. When you see something at the store and it speaks to you, there’s an instant connection — an instant, “Ahhh you're coming home with me,” moment. And while we know just what we like and what we can never pull off, not many of us have an actual defined style.

Most of the time you just piece it together as you go, not really sticking to one set of rules and guidelines. While that can be fun and opens that door to a lot of creative dabbling, it could also be frustrating when you notice your closet is all over the place. It’s almost like going through an identity crisis — who exactly are you and how do you want the world to perceive you? That’s a tall order of a question to answer, amiright? A question that will take a lot of looking inward and a lot of sifting through choices and decisions to get to the answer. Just thinking about it can stress a girl out.

The process could be a tricky one, where emotions can go through the ringer before the practice is over, and a mini breakdown is more than inevitable along the way. But it could be well worth it! Below we have five emotional stages of finding your personal style, along with tips on how to weather them in one piece!

1. Dissatisfaction

You open your closet one fine morning and instead of reaching for the usual jean and sweater combo, you falter. What is this? you think. You put a hand to your hip and narrow your eyes at the hanging dresses and cardigans, feeling like you’re looking at strangers. And noticing, with not a small amount of alarm, that you don’t want to wear any of them. Better yet, you’re confused why you own them in the first place. This dress? That skirt is all wrong. This top? The collar is so outdated, you wouldn’t want to put that on. This sweater? Lord, what were you thinking with that color? With some dismay, you realize that you’ve outgrown a lot of your tastes. Now you're left standing there, wishing you could go to work with sweatpants and not really knowing what to wear that day. Now what?


Instead of going into full-on panic mode, take this as an opportunity to study what in your wardrobe you no longer like. You loved all those pieces at one point, so you craving a change signals you did some changing along the way and developed new tastes. Take stock of what you’re antsy to change — does it seem like you want a more minimalist closet; one with cleaner lines and more classic shapes? Or are you wishing you had some color in there, a few more options with patterns? Maybe you’re after a more specific mood, craving bohemian dresses or sporty-chic pieces? Take some time and write a list of what you would specifically like to change about the pieces in your wardrobe and what holes are there that you’d like to fill.

2. Fidgeting In All the Clothes

The negative of going through a style change is that it can’t be solved right then and there. Meaning, you have to wear the clothes you no longer like till you figure things out. It’s like going out with a boyfriend you’re sort of over but aren’t quite sure you should dump. What if it’s just a phase? What if you’re going through a funk and maybe that’s why you’re dodging his calls? Should you really throw it all away?!

In the meantime, while you're mulling all this over you’re forced to wear the pieces you’re dissatisfied with because, well, there are no other options. And there’s nothing like hating your outfit while you're out and about. You wince at every reflective surface, frown deeply every time you fidget with a sleeve — and count down the minutes til you could climb out of it.


Figure out what you want your clothes to say about you. You’re probably feeling extra uncomfortable and fidgety because your clothes are speaking for you, and you’re not agreeing with what they’re saying. A nervous giggle escapes and you’re all, “No, that’s actually not true, ignore the pants.” You have a new message in mind. So before you go shopping and start filling hangers with new pieces, take a moment and figure out what exactly you want your clothes to say.

Do you want to show that you’re now sophisticated, with elegant tastes? Or maybe that you’re playful and excited for summer, with two-piece dress sets? Maybe that you’re a creative soul, with wild prints and happy colors? Whatever the answer is, make sure you take a moment to find it.

3. Wishing You Were Like That One Girl At The Bus Stop

You’re standing at the bus stop by your house, feeling miserable in a maxi skirt you wish you weren’t wearing, folding and unfolding your arms as you wait for the bus to arrive. And that’s when you see her: A girl as amazing as you please, wearing culottes and a boxy crop top, heading towards your stop and seemingly unaware that she’s your spirit animal. You try your hardest not to blatantly check her out, but that’s proving to be harder than you think. You cross your arms again, trying to side-eye her in a none-obvious, none-alarming sort of way while you try to figure out a way to be her.


Find style icons that inspire you. We all have that moment where we either come across another woman, and you have this inward gasp. She’s… perfect. How on earth did she think to put an outfit like that together? And is there a way to convince her to dress me up each morning?

Before you hit the road and start purchasing new pieces, take the time to figure out who your style icons are and let them inspire you. Create a Pinterest board with all the women that you sartorially admire and take stock as to why you do. Do you appreciate their bold use of color? Do you feel like they’re courageous in expressing who they are? Do you appreciate their quiet elegance? Do you like the class they exude, or maybe the open playfulness of wearing patterns and layers the way they do?

When you’re starting to pin point your style, you might not be the best at creating ace outfits. You’ll try on a dress or put on a blazer and feel like something is missing — and that’s because you haven’t quite gotten the knack for styling your pieces just yet. You need a mentor to guide you.

If you see all your icons and their star outfits all in one spot, you’ll start getting a sense of where your style and wardrobe is going. You’ll start noticing a pattern. You’ll begin to notice if it’s prints and colors you crave, or subtler shapes and hues that you’re after. A game plan will slowly start forming.

4. Finding A Glimmer Of Hope

By now you’ve gotten a lot of soul searching and research out of the way, meaning you have a pretty clear idea of what you want to look like moving forward. Your closet isn’t going to be put together ad hoc: You have a game plan! Since you know exactly what you need, the process should be fairly easy — but that doesn’t mean it’s still not intimidating. Starting anything from scratch always is.

Which is why finding that first piece that speaks to you is extra special. Maybe it’s a dress that stood out to you while you were absently cruising around Etsy, accidentally stumbling upon it while you were looking at lamps and side tables you’ll never be able to afford. Or maybe it was a hat in a store window that you passed while on your way for frozen yogurt. Whatever the piece was, the feeling it stirred up in you was unforgettable. That. That’s what you need. That’s what’s missing in your closet. You feel your heart melt — and you’re on the right track!


Figure out what exactly about the piece affected you. Before we write this off as a “we like what we like” type of feeling, let’s get a little more scientific about it. Up to now, you’ve done a lot of inward questioning and studying to make sure you invest your money wisely while overhauling your closet. Don’t stop here! Now that you know exactly what you don’t like and exactly who you want to emulate, next figure out why you like what you like.

What about that piece spoke to you? Is it because you think that color is lovely with your skin tone and hair? Do you like the shape of it; does the silhouette help express the style you want to adopt? Do the details of the piece make you feel polished and sophisticated? Figure out exactly what caught your eye and then make sure to find other pieces that mirror that. You’re on your way to building the foundation of a new look!

5. Panic Mode: Everything Is Wrong

Like with most things you’re close to finishing, once you start nearing the end you find a way to trip yourself up and go into full-blown panic mode. There's always something you can stress about, and in this case it’s the fact that your wardrobe is only half built.

By now you’ve invested in a few new pieces and are slowly rotating the uninspired items out of your closet. But like with most things that are half-way finished, things are looking a little touch and go. Meaning that you have a few pieces you love and want to wear over and over, but don’t necessarily have the means to do so. Maybe you found the perfect pair of wide leg trousers… but only have two shirts that would match the look. Or maybe you have a great new floral skirt… but none of your shoes really pair well. And so you want to stick your face into a brown paper bag as you try not to panic over the fact you still have nothing to wear. Breath baby girl, it’s all part of the plan. You’re almost there.


Identify the holes. Since you have a few basics nailed down, instead of moving forward with adding more star pieces start identifying your holes. Find a couple of shirts that would work well with those new wide leg trousers, or start hunting down shoes that would pair perfectly with that skirt. If you shop by building outfits rather than items, you’ll have a lot more options while you’re starting out with your small rotation. Remember: Finding out your style is a major process to undertake, and one that you want to do slowly so you don’t invest a lot of money in pieces you don’t really love.

So start small and slow, and remember to breathe! You’ll get to that finish line soon.

Images: Fotolia; Giphy