I think we’ve all been there; those transitional stages in life that are seemingly thrown at you, and have you asking yourself, ‘what do I wear?’. Moments like finishing university and transitioning into an office, or approaching motherhood after years spent wearing delicate silks and toting designer handbags. But it’s more than just not having anything to wear, and it goes beyond making a good first impression.
Identifying your personal style is one of the keys to feeling confident in the way that you’re dressed, knowing that you not only feel good, but that you look good too. And to me, the way I dress is often what I consider to be a reflection of my personality, and it’s an important part of how I present myself to the world each day. Not to mention that identifying your personal style will help streamline your shopping habits, and the way that you get dressed each morning, with a signature ‘look’ or style that is inherently you.
Through building capsule wardrobes, and drawing from my own personal experience, I’ve found that the ‘a-ha’ moment comes with time, and with the help of seven simple steps.
1. TAKE STOCK OF YOUR WARDROBE
When it comes down to identifying your personal style, it’s important to first go through everything that you own, and remove anything that you don’t like – anything that doesn’t fit within the ideal of how you’d like to present yourself. It’s the ideal time to cull your wardrobe, and part with anything that is worn out, stained, doesn’t fit, or is unflattering on your figure; there’ll be plenty of time to find replacements. A good rule of thumb is to part with anything that you haven’t worn in the last year, and trust me when I say that once it’s gone, you won’t even miss it.
Use this as an opportunity to figure out what you’re drawn to and which pieces in your closet you’re craving, and which you’d rather see the back of (quite literally). You should feel really at ease and relaxed in the pieces that you love, as personal style is innate and should be entirely effortless.
2. IDENTIFY WHAT YOU ENJOY WEARING
The contents of your wardrobe should make you happy, and have you looking forward to getting dressed each morning. You should feel comfortable in your own skin, and be wearing things for you and not for others. This also applies to trends; just because something is on-trend, doesn’t mean that it’s a style that you naturally feel comfortable in. It can be easy to get caught in the trap of liking a trend because you’ve seen it so often, rather that because it is genuinely something that fits in with your aesthetic and personal style.
It’s also important to take your lifestyle into consideration here; are you a student? A freelancer? Or do you work in a corporate office? Think about how you can incorporate the styles that you enjoy to all commitments or activities in your life.
3. GATHER INSPIRATION
Who are your style icons? Whose wardrobe would you love to raid? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Pinterest is a great platform to use when gathering inspiration and you’ll likely notice that as time goes on (and more outfits are pinned), that there’s a style or a silhouette that you’ve been naturally gravitating towards. It could be loose and languid deconstructed silk pieces juxtaposed with sharply cut blazers and jackets, or a relaxed boho vibe with peasant blouses, 70s style flared jeans and platform sandals.
If there’s a particular outfit that you really like, save it, pin it or print it and think about how you can replicate that look with what you have, or key pieces that would complement what you have in your wardrobe and the vision of yourself that you’re working towards. I find that finding inspiration for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter to be quite useful as it helps me to figure out what I’m loving, or what styles I might like to wear, for the upcoming season.
And if Pinterest isn’t your jam, then scrapbooking is a great alternative. Tear our your favourite campaigns from magazines and set up style guides for certain silhouettes; regardless of whether you opt for on screen or an inspiration board that’s a little more tangible, there’s no question that the styles that you love will be one of the driving forces behind helping you to define or identify your personal style.
4. DRESS FOR YOUR FIGURE
Your clothing should be working for you, and not against you, and dressing for your figure (rather than the figure you may wish you had – we’ve all been there!) is one of the keys to confidence. Play to your strengths, whether it be a curvy hourglass figure, long lean legs or a toned back, and really show them off.
Get an understanding of which styles suit you and which combinations of outfits look best. For me, I have narrow shoulders and a small waist, so I try to flatter and accentuate those aspects of my figure by wearing silk cami’s with spaghetti straps and high waisted skirts or shorts that nip in at the waist. Play up what you have; if you’ve got it, flaunt it, and show off your figure in a way that makes you feel really confident.
5. PUT A LABEL ON IT
As cliché as it sounds, putting a label on it can help to really narrow your focus so that when adding new pieces to your wardrobe, they’ll complement what you already have. Labels like classic, minimal, bohemian, edgy, preppy… the list goes on, and is only limited by your imagination.
Sometimes, more than one label is needed. Personally, I consider myself to gravitate towards more feminine and classic pieces, with a side dish of quirkiness served up steaming hot. If you’re having a little trouble trying to label what your style might be, take a few photos of some of your favourite outfits, and search for a common thread or a theme that helps you to link together the different looks.
6. UNIFORM DRESSING
For those of you unfamiliar with uniform dressing, I promise you, it is life-changing. It’ll streamline the way that you get ready in the morning and transform your approach to your wardrobe. Think about what your repeat offenders are; is there a combination of pieces that you can’t get enough of, like a simple band t-shirt with some skinny jeans? Or perhaps you have a signature piece like a cool bomber jacket or a pair of ripped boyfriend jeans.
Think about how you like to wear these items and how you like to combine them; this will help with creating a few fail-safe ‘go-to’ outfits that you can just throw on and know that you’ll look presentable and also feel good in what you’re wearing.
7. DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY
Finally, don’t take it too seriously. Personal style will change over time as you grow and enter or exit certain stages of your life. While I think it’s important not to be a slave to a trend, what’s most important is to have fun with what you’re wearing; wear the things that give you joy, regardless of what other people think. And perhaps most importantly, dress for you and you alone.
If there’s one final thing I would add from my own personal experience, it would be not to be afraid to express yourself. Corporate offices tend to have stricter and more formal dress codes, but there’s always a workaround to instill elements of your own personal taste and style into an outfit that is work appropriate. Maybe you wear flared trousers rather than skinny trousers, or you opt for bold and bright patterns over a simple black, white and grey combination.
Figuring out your personal style isn’t something that will come to you overnight – or maybe it will – personally, it took me the better part of my twenties to figure out where I was going wrong, and how to get it right. Take your time and enjoy the journey!