Personal style is an amorphous term. I am not exactly sure what it means, but I’ve heard that I have it, and I’m not exactly sure how that happened. My theory is that it comes from a history of making fashion mistakes, making them loudly and in public, and recognizing what fashion works for me. Defining one’s personal style can be a challenge, but I believe there are three easy style marks that can set you on your way.
#1 Define your color palette. I have determined that the colors that I love are largely blacks and neutrals with pops of warm tones. This has come from a lifetime of trying to wear valley girl neons, or the era of living in my favorite color, purple. Find pictures of yourself that you find particularly flattering. What colors were you wearing, not only in your attire but in the interior around you, or the makeup you were wearing. What color are the favorite pieces in your wardrobe and why? Try to pick out three main colors, as if you were picking out paint swatches for your house. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but the colors that you feel the best in are usually the ones that you look the best in.
This piece of advice comes with a disclaimer: try not to get stuck! The moment you feel like you have been wearing the same colors over and over again, try something new and see how it works. Add it to your palette or move it along. Rinse and repeat.
#2 Invest in a signature piece (even if only in your mind). Making a larger fashion purchase will really highlight your value system. If I pledge to spend a higher amount of money on an item, usually it has to fit my tastes in a very specific way. Even as an exercise, imagine spending two to three times as much moolah as you usually would on a piece of clothing or accessory. What are the characteristics of this piece that justify the investment? For me the most important aspects are usually tailoring, quality of materials, a classic design, or whatever it is that flatters my body in a way that makes me feel like a goddess (that last note is for J Brand jeans). What you are defining is what I like to call your “ethics of style,” meaning that you are organizing what matters most to you when it hits your wallet the hardest.
#3 Identify the mistakes of the past. I assure you that even Kate Middleton has a dress in her closet she is not terribly thrilled to have worn. It happens to the best of us: what was gorgeous in the store fizzles when paired with the shoes and accessories you have at home, or one falls to a fashion trend that should have never happened. (There are few things in life that I regret, but I am not exceptionally proud of the midriff-bearing era.) Identify the mistakes so that when trends arise or a dress goes on sale, you aren’t tempted to place yourself in clothes that simply do not suit you. The word “tempted” is apt here, because what we’re talking about is being seduced away from your own individual sense of style to someone else’s. Don’t let anyone, not even Muccia Prada, define you.
To wit, I love Muccia Prada’s clothes, but as I just explained to a coworker the other day, the day I accepted that I simply wasn’t a “Prada woman” was a sad day. Today I realize that there are plenty of other women to be.
My last note ironically cautions against taking too much advice. Essentially, only you can define your personal style. That’s how this game works. Experiment, make mistakes, try to identify what matters most to you, and most importantly, what feels the best to you, and you are well on your way.