An idea that always intrigued me from the time I started receiving glossy, overstyled Seventeen magazine, was the idea of personal style. There would always be articles about people who found a perfume when they were twenty and it became their signature scent, never changed in years to come. Then there were women who never left the house without heels on, and men who always wore blazers no matter how casual the look. Now the concept of a uniform has re-emerged, popularized by the likes of Zuckerberg and Jobs, and I’m seeing articles about people who wear almost the same thing to work every day – something classic and comfortable that they feel confident in.
It is interesting to me that this idea of finding a personal style is able to exist right alongside our rapid consumer culture. Stores like H&M and Zara change their inventories weekly in an effort to stay ahead of trends (which also seem to come and go by the week), and to persuade their customers to buy more. Every fashion magazine you pick up during any month will have at least one list of ‘must-haves’ for that moment, that list, of course, being ever changing if not also numerous.
The idea of personal style used to weigh on me because I was consistently distracted by all the different options that were possible, yet I still wanted to develop a sense of who I was through my appearance and maintain it. I’m still a long ways away, but I think at the age of twenty-four I’m finally figuring it out.
How does one cultivate a personal style? Number one rule is to pay attention. I don’t mean pay attention to trends, magazines, or influencers. I mean really pay attention to how the things you already own make you feel. Instead of just always paying attention to what the next best thing is as dictated to you by social media, pay attention to how you feel while wearing certain outfits or looks. Pay attention to how different cuts and fabrics feel against your skin and form to your body. I don’t mean just do a cursory glance in the mirror to make sure it looks fine, you should enjoy your appearance when you look in the mirror and anything less means these items may not be right for you.
For example, I never wear yellow. I always find that yellow looks washed out on me, and I don’t like the color all that much to begin with. I don’t feel good when I wear it. I feel sallow and unsure of myself, especially when I compare it to how I feel when I wear red or green. So I don’t care if ‘mustard’ or ‘neon’ is in at the moment, you couldn’t pay me to start buying yellow dresses.
Number two rule is that it is necessary to have style inspiration but with a caveat – you shouldn’t pick someone you can’t actually emulate. Rihanna is widely regarded as a supreme style icon but she is an impractical one to follow for numerous reasons. Her wardrobe is ever changing, extremely expensive, and not suitable for most of us to wear on a daily basis. It is still possible to draw inspiration from her looks, but it would be hard to pin down a more manageable version of what she does. Doing just a little bit of research into the people you admire can help you find the ones you’d actually want and be able to channel in your life. One extra step you might take here is finding icons as close to your body type as possible so that you can get a better idea of how certain styles might look on you. I know this can be hard for many, as fashion is a grossly underrepresented industry, but if you have the option it can be super helpful.
Last rule is that as long as you keep to rule number one, there’s no reason to actually find a personal style or follow any style icons. Part of the fun for you might be trying out different looks or having different outfits for different moods. Your style might have its personality in the fact that it is ambiguous and ever-changing. As long as you are still paying attention to what makes you feel good rather than what other people say, then you have still found a style that works for you and there is no reason to change. For example, I’ve also started to be inspired by aesthetics, seasons, and locations rather than specific people. In the summertime, I want to feel Mediterranean. I wear a lot of blue, white, flowy, easy fabrics to match, but it’s not based on anyone specific. I am trying to evoke a good feeling within myself through my appearance rather than try and copy one of my favorite fashionistas.
The basis for my personal style development is wanting to look polished no matter what the occasion. We’re talking lots of neutrals but in nice fabrics. Basics but better. Color in my wardrobe is minimal, but if worn, it is designed to be noticed and those pieces make me feel super confident. I take a lot of inspiration from the airport looks celebrities wear, and ‘french girl’ style as well as locations and seasons as described above. Slowly but surely, I’m getting to the point where I love everything in my closet and really feel like it represents me, not somebody who I thought I should be.