Hello hello #fashionablehumans!
Happy Tuesday, and I hope you enjoyed the weekend and are already killing this week! Are you doing anything fun or major? Let me know in the comments!
I was on Pinterest the other day, and I saw a few pins about unlocking one’s personal style. I already had “Personal Style” inked on my list of things to write about, because it is such an organic and ever-evolving thing. It took me a long time to feel like I nailed mine; shit, I still have doubts sometimes! As far as I am concerned, “Style” really does not have much to do with fashion. I define it as:
- Externally: one’s signature look, aka the kind of attire they are known to wear or the clothes they are often associated with (for example: Kate Winslet = bodycon mermaid gowns, Laverne Cox= dramatic dresses often featuring cutouts, the Olsen twins = oversize, boho, frilly, lacy and/or furry things.)
- Internally: one’s personal philosophy about how they want to look.
To be honest, #2 has to come first, but it takes a while to achieve. It is challenging for anyone to figure out how they want to appear to the world… Moreover, IF they ever achieve that, nailing a consistent aesthetic as a result of it is a tall ask. We were not all blessed with Janelle Monáe’s incredible consistency (the girl has been slaying in her black and white “uniform” for YEARS, veering very rarely away from it). For the bulk of us mere mortals, shopping is really just reduced to looking for items to wrap our bodies in, while optimizing for comfort and cuteness.
Personal style is a very… well, personal journey, but I feel like some overarching rules hold true; let’s explore them below!
1. Forget what you are “supposed” to be wearing. This is about you.
Finding your style means really focusing on what feels right to YOU. That means letting go of other people’s opinions, of what your friends like, of what you momma thinks and even of current fashion. Focus on yourself. What do YOU like, and how do you want to feel in your clothes? It is cool to get inspiration from other people; as a matter of fact, if I was richer, I could literally buy anything Folake from Style Pantry ever wore —with my eyes closed— and be happy. However, make sure to be listening to your own voice a lot more than anyone else’s. It’s the only one that matters here.
2. Find your best assets and show them off (if you are so inclined)
Let me preface this by saying that it’s YOUR decision as to what your best assets are. No matter how much people like a part of your physique, you will not feel comfortable highlighting it unless you agree with them. That said, what do you like about yourself? Be greedy: pick several spots on your body worth showing off (yes, there are several, I promise you) and determine whether you are okay playing them up in your outfits. Side note: playing something up does not have to mean baring it. Jeans highlight legs nicely, and a great blazer can accentuate shoulders while keeping them covered.
If you are struggling with this exercise, take a hard look at your closet and answer these questions:
What items do I like, and what garments make me feel happy? What clothes do I feel the most confident in, and what would I wear if I wanted to look my best?
The items you pick as a result of those questions should serve as the starting point of your style journey, as they likely highlight what you subconsciously believe to be your best assets.
3. Analyze what you gravitate towards, in real life and in pictures.
By now, you should be pretty honest with yourself about what you like or do not like (if you still feel like you are dressing for other people, remember— this is YOUR style journey, mkay?). Now hop on Pinterest (I have a few boards you may like, wink wink ), grab a fashion magazine or just head over to Instagram. Start wildly scrolling and saving/earmarking anything that catches your eye, or anything you could honestly see yourself rocking with excitement. Do not be afraid to be bold either — I mean, we are only browsing photos here. Suits, skirts, dresses, shoes, gowns, freaking bikinis- save them all. After you do that for a few minutes (or hours or days), go back to your gallery and look at your shortlist. What do you notice? Are any items the same? Do they follow a pattern (or several)? How do the outfits make you feel? Which kind of items/colors/dressing styles keep coming back? Make note of all these things, delete the few looks that aren’t quite as exciting anymore and save some more images! We’re getting somewhere!
4. Unearth the connector words.
Okay- now the moment of truth. Look at all those gorgeous outfits. Quick, describe them all in 2-3 words! “Boho, floral, flowy!” or “Monochromatic, structured, sleek!” or “Relaxed, denim, androgynous!” Ta-da, there you go! You have a style profile! *does the happy dance*
Okay, that works like 5% of the time. In case you are still perplexed, try breaking things up by clothing type. How are your dressy outfits? How about your work looks? Any resemblance amongst your casual looks? What color palette or fit do you stick to?
If that does not work either, how about we split everything by garment type? How are your dresses? Your skirts? Do they all accentuate the same area of the body? Are they mostly minis, midis or maxis? Are your jeans mostly distressed? Dark wash? Skinny or relaxed?
Whether in plain sight or a little hidden, the connection is always there. Just give yourself a large enough sample size in earmarked outfits to be able to see the patterns emerge.
5. Bring it home.
Whew, now that we have done the hard part, we have to adapt your aspirational style profile to your everyday life. Indeed, for example, depending on where you work, “sexy, boho, chic” may be a little frowned upon; however, it could be incorporated in your wardrobe in the form of fun accessories or floral chiffon blouses under your blazers. Alternatively, “Edgy, leather, deconstructed ” sounds like a badass style profile, but it may not work very well in a classroom; that said, a leather cuff and a studded belt may give you just enough of the look to be true to yourself while following rules. You get my point.
Start “adapting” your style profile to your daily life. If all your photos feature sky-high heels, be ready to invest in a pair OR to recreate your looks with cute flats. Same thing for designer clothing and accessories; identify what you like about your picks and recreate the look for less (see here how to score great quality clothing for less), unless you can afford a closet full of Monique Lhuillier- in which case YOU GO, GIRL!
6. Take your brand new style for a spin!
Chances are, you already have items in your closet that match your ideal style. Rock them and pay attention to how you feel in them; create new outfits with the inspiration you gathered from your research; determine whether you want to add new connector words to your description, or remove some altogether; make sure you feel gorgeous and confident; have fun!!!
And remember: at the end of the day, they are only clothes. They come off.
Bonus: My own journey
Putting my money where my mouth is… Below is my own journey through the 6 steps above. I really did use this framework, guys! I may not have known it at the time, but this is honestly how . found my “look”.
- This took me a while. I listened to everyone else’s thoughts on what I should be wearing for far too long and in the end, I had no style of my own. It took a minute for me to develop my own opinions.
- That was easy. I have a mini torso and long ass limbs, so legs was a no-brainer. More recently, I have also been on a weight loss journey for the past six months (23 lbs so far, woohoo!) so my newfound waist has been making its way up the list as well. I also like highlighting the hourglass figure I do not have.⏳
- The color black; jeans; anything that makes me look hourglass-y (so yay peplums/ mermaid skirts); minis; ankara clothes; black pointy-toed pumps; ratchet Instagram boutique dresses; thigh high boots.
- “Sophisti-ratchet, monochromatic, ethnic, curve-enhancing”. I love to bare random body parts in a classy (ish) way, I could wear black every day of my life, and I put my legs on display a little bit 😀. I am also a boxier than I would like, so I fake the hourglass shape God didn’t give me by sporting items that nip at the waist and flare out.
- I do that every day.
- I have solidly been in this wheelhouse for 5+ years, and it somehow never feels boring.
Done! And while all that is cool, we need deets on the outfit!
- Top: Twist X Turn high-low eyelet blouse. I fell in love with it immediately. I bought it along with its sister in a checkered pattern– LOVE them both. I cannot see the one I am wearing on the website for sale, even though it is on the homepage- weird. That said, the ties at the waist are stupid- they make zero sense, and I had to play around with them for a while to knot them in a way that worked for me. Still, I like the silhouette, the asymmetrical design and the overall elegant yet surprising feel this top has. Only wore it once so far (for this shoot), but it is comfortable and gorgeous.
- Skirt: ZARA. This is a black pencil skirt, but it is fighting basicness by sporting a strip of PU leather and a band of lace. It does not look like much on a hanger, but I like the way it looks on.
- Shoes: Steve Madden; worn here, here and here. Still hate them because they compress my feet, but they sure make my legs look a mile long.
- Bag: Céline Phantom. This impulse buy was brought to you by poor decision making in collaboration with a long day at work; I am ashamed.
Thanks y’all so much for rocking with me, and please leave any questions in the comments!
Until next time,