Bustle's "Help Me Get Dressed" series is dedicated to answering all your burning plus size style, shopping, and fashion questions. In this installment, Henning founder Lauren Chan tackles the question of how to develop a personal style that's truly you.
“How do I find my style?” is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked during my years working in fashion. And for us women who wear above a size 12, it can be exceptionally difficult. First, because we don’t see ourselves reflected in fashion media, and without those inspirational images of ourselves it’s hard to create a personal style vision. Second, even if we do have an idea of what we like to wear, we don’t have a plethora of options to bring it to life.
My journey toward developing a personal style has been a long one. In college, I wore faux fur, black lipstick, and chunky boots as an ode to my newfound independence. When I moved to New York City as a plus size model, I skewed girlish per the advice of an agent — only to realize that florals are so not my thing. But when I later landed at Glamour as a fashion editor, that's when things started to fall into place. I started gravitating toward suiting separates and menswear-inspired pieces, and I began feeling like myself. While I felt more comfortable style-wise, I was more physically uncomfortable than ever. My wardrobe was made up of tailored items from fast fashion brands—i.e. they weren't the best quality. I’d be in a meeting pulling at gaping buttons, fidgeting with a falling zipper, or scratching an itch ignited by fake wool. I craved quality pieces that made me feel peak confident.
Actually, that’s exactly why I quit my job to launch Henning, a fashion brand of contemporary staples for women who wear size 12 and up. It's my ultimate style vision. Now, that’s not to say you have to uproot your life to find something great to wear—so here are a few things you can do that could help you figure out your personal style.
1. Take inventory of what you actually wear.
Plan to go through your wardrobe one afternoon. (Bring snacks; it always takes longer than expected). Take everything you wear often and put it front and center on your rack. If you haven’t worn something for a year or longer, for the love of God, donate it. One exception: special occasion wear. You can keep that for, well, a special occasion! After this process is done, you should have a clear idea of the pieces you favor.
2. Divide your closet into two halves.
Part of the reason that many people have a hard time finding their style is that they have dress codes at work, but it’s a fashion free-for-all on the weekend. Try splitting your closet into a work wardrobe and a weekend wardrobe. What you wear Friday through Sunday (or whatever your weekend is) is probably a lot closer to your personal style than what you wear during the work week. From there, try to find pieces for the office that better reflect that. For example, if you love leather jackets on the weekend, reach for cool, textured blazers at work.
3. Follow Instagram accounts of people who have similar body types to your own.
If you only look at size 0 bloggers on Instagram, no wonder it’s hard to picture yourself in great clothes. When I started following people like Nicolette Mason, Gabi Gregg, Charli Howard, Kellie Brown, Naomi Shimada, and Tess Holliday, it changed my entire mindset regarding style. They’ve allowed me to be inspired by fashion above sample size! I also get to see different styles on different bodies and decide what I like and don’t like — all without trying them on myself.
4. If you do like trying things on, try rental services.
I had not used services like Gwynnie Bee or Rent the Runway in the past because my sizes weren’t available, or the cuts were wrong. Now that RTR offers up to size 22 and GB has included plus size cuts from straight-size brands (I’m not hippy, so plus-only cuts are hard for me sometimes), I’ve given them a go. And I have to say: I love being able to try things out without spending a fortune. Plus, if you fall in love with anything on the sites and feel the need to buy it, you can.
Good luck! And feel free to direct message me on Instagram with any further style questions.