Do you secretly wish you had more style? Do you ever feel like you don’t measure up when you go out in public and see other women in cute, polished outfits? Do you really give intentional thought to the outfits you wear?
We all have some sense of style and fashion, but sometimes find it difficult to describe or put words to what we consider our own unique personal style.
Dressing well involves more than being dressed and requires honing a few skills to present the best version of yourself. Developing your personal style can take some practice.
We sometimes have a mix of styles in our closets and even a mix of clothing that represents different stages of life. Our style can change with age and that’s okay. If you want to define your unique personal style for your current stage of life, no matter what that may be, keep reading.
“Style is something each of us already has, all we need to do is find it.” —Diane von Furstenberg
It all comes down to paying a little more attention to fashion and knowing how you want to look.
What does personal style mean?
Style is a manner of doing something (the way we dress, write, design); or a way of behaving or approaching a situation that is characteristic of or favored by a particular person; or a distinctive appearance, typically determined by the principles according to which something is designed.
Personal style is the unique way you dress yourself and the message you send others with the clothes you wear.
Why is personal style important?
What you wear sends a message
Time after time, stylists have stated that your clothing sends a message whether you want it to or not. Take a little time to ensure you are are sending the world the message you want them to receive.
“Your clothing emits a series of messages that are perceived and responded to in every area of your life, whether you’re at the office or on a bus on your way to Poughkeepsie. You never know who you’re going to run into. … dressing for the non-event, whether it’s a day full of errands or a lazy weekend by the shore, isn’t just about being attuned to the impression you are making on others.
The messages carried by your clothing don’t only travel outward- they boomerang their way back to you, affecting your deepest sense of self and identity.” Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life: Because You’re Worth It- George Brescia
“We judge other by their clothing and they judge us. It’s human nature.”
“Your clothes speak for you. Make sure they know what to say.” “Just because you decide you don’t want to be judged by you clothes doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. It’s happening all the time. It’s happening right now.” The Science of Sexy – Bradley Bayou
What you wear and your personal style affect how people interact with you
Sadly, we do judge people by their appearance and clothing. My husband had a job in the past in which he constantly changed his appearance to fit different roles he was in at the time. When he had longer hair (his hair is quite curly when it’s long and can be unkempt in that state) and wore baggy, wrinkled clothing into a store, store security would often target us and follow us around.
I supposed he played his roles well. He was actually the exact opposite of what security targeted him to be, but they were making a judgment based on appearance.
He could go into the same store in a suit and fresh haircut, and store staff would practically fall over themselves to help him.
Knowing your personal style and having it finely tuned will help you look more put together. In turn you will be better received by others.
“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” Coco Chanel
Knowing your personal style will make you more confident
When you have nailed your style and the outfits you wear, you will be more confident. You will be sending yourself a message that you matter. You matter to yourself and to others.
When you feel good about what your are wearing, you feel more confident and productive. Studies and research have shown that your clothing can affect the way you think and can affect performance at work.
Knowing your unique personal style will save time and money
If you have clarity about the clothes you want to wear and have a personal style uniform, putting togetther outfits will be so much easier. You will no longer waste time staring at a closet full of clothes and thinking you have nothing to wear. Everything in your closet will work together seamlessly.
You will also stop buying random things.
With your unique personal style in mind, you will make more intentional purchases because you will know the look you are going for. You will buy the clothes that communicate the message you want to send.
You will feel good in what you wear (and actually wear it!) because the clothes and message are in sync. You will feel more like yourself and not forced into something because someone else told you to wear it.
6 Steps to find your unique personal style
Now that you know what personal style is and why it’s so important to define your own, let’s talk about how to find your personal style.
“Fashion you can buy, but style you possess. The key to style is learning who you are, which takes years. There’s no how-to road map to style. It’s about self expression and, above all, attitude.” —Iris Apfel
Start with yourself.
Think of 3 words that describe your style.
You don’t necessarily have to describe your current state if you aren’t happy with it. Think of three words that describe the message you want your clothes to reflect. Three words work well because two words can be a bit limiting and more than three words may not create a cohesive look.
There is no wrong or right way to describe your style but stay away from words that describe levels of formality like casual or dressy. All types of style can have levels of formality from casual to dressy.
Some words to consider are classic, polished, modern, romantic, feminine, relaxed, chic, glam, preppy or fun.
Actress Florence Pugh partnered with JCrew for their spring 2022 campaign and had this to say about her style
“I would describe my style as completely different every day. I love color. I love being bold. I’m excited by change and by shocking people.”
Her three words would be colorful, bold and surprising.
Senior Fashion Editor Aemilia Madden at The Zoe Report uses the three word rule to define her style. She came up with outdoorsy, fancy, and irreverent.
It’s a wide range of descriptions but she can make it work for various aspects of her life and pull each into her everyday wardrobe.
Still having trouble knowing what describes your style?
Look for inspiration around you.
Go to Pinterest for inspiration.
This is the most common advice you will see in articles and posts on finding your unique personal style. It’s a great place to set up boards and have visuals of what you like. Pin outfits you like.
But don’t limit yourself to Pinterest.
There are tons of other sources for style inspiration.
Head to Instagram for outfit inspiration.
Look beyond celebrities. There are lots of everyday women sharing their style on Instagram. Save your favorite outfits from Instagram or pin them to your Pinterest boards.
Check out YouTube.
You can save videos to a collection if you have a YouTube account. There are lots of videos on outfits and style.
Use old school inspiration and browse through magazines.
If you are now reading your favorite magazines digitally, save screenshots to a folder on your computer, tablet or phone.
Type in a search for outfits or style and search images. They will usually lead you to a site that you can pin them from to your Pinterest boards.
Look around you.
Look at what your friends or coworkers wear. Is there someone in your life with style that you admire?
Take a personal style quiz.
Just google personal style quiz and odds are you will find one from a site you trust.
There are tons of quizzes online to help you focus on and develop your style. I recently took a style quiz at Cabi at received these results: “Sleek, minimal, and simple. Do these words strike a chord with your sense of style? If so, your style personality is “modern.” It’s pretty true for me, although I like to mix things up from time to time.
Go back to your Pinterest boards or wherever you saved your inspiration photos and compare notes.
Do your chosen or identified words match the photos? Do those words describe the outfits you saved? How do you describe the looks you saved?
If most of it aligns, you are good to go!
If not, decide if you were honest with yourself in choosing words to describe your intended style, or if you honestly answered any quiz you might have taken. Give yourself permission to like the clothes you like.
I think personal style starts from within because it’s a philosphy and an attitude. If you are honest and true to yourself, you will have the best sense of personal style. Stella McCartney
Also, don’t make excuses for your current style or the style you want but think you can’t have. Let go of any self-limiting beliefs you have about fashion.
Don’t tell yourself you can’t be edgy because you work in a conservate office. While there may be dress codes to follow, you can find subtle ways to reflect your unique personal style into your work wear.
Don’t tell yourself you can’t have a certain style because you are a stay at home mom or you babysit the grandkids. You can find ways to make the way you want to look fit your lifestyle.
Look for any disconnect. If you saved styles and looks you “wish” you wore or things you like to look at but would not really wear for yourself, start over. If you pinned edgy looks, but you aren’t comfortable in moto or biker jackets, don’t force yourself to try and create that style. Remember, you have permission to like what you like, not what you wished you liked.
Cull down your saved looks to the ones you truly love. Eliminate anything you like but would not want to live in.
Go to your own closet.
Take a look at the things in your closet. Do these items match your three words?
A good closet clean out can help you define your personal style by forcing you to examine what you wear and why you wear it, as well as what you don’t wear and why you don’t wear those pieces.
You can also use this step in reverse. If you are initially having problems identifying words to describe your style, look at the things you love to wear. What do they say? How would you describe them?
Shop and create outfits that align with your newly found personal style.
Not every piece of clothing will always fit all three of your style words, but will likely fit two of them. Your basic pieces may not necessarily fit your style words, but you will still need basics to complete outfits. They serve a purpose but if all you have are basics, your wardrobe will lack style. Make sure you have a good mix of basics and statement pieces that speak your style language.
Personal Style Types
When you have clearly defined your style in three words, you will likely find that these three words align with or fit into one of several personal style types.
Personal style types can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve seen as few as four categories and as many as 44 categories listed. Personally I think they can be summed up in 14 categories (and that’s still a lot.)
Certain elements of clothing create a particular style. These elements include color, pattern, fabric texture, fit, design, and details.
Here’s a brief over view of the personal style types. In future posts, we will explore each one in more depth.
Athleisure/Sporty- Active wear or sportswear that you wear in the gym and outside of. Sweatshirt, leggings and sneakers, but sometimes dressed up with sweaters, blazers, and jackets, or different shoe choices
Androgynous -use of menswear-inspired pieces, fabrics, and silhouettes and often has an air of sophistication
Bold- Vibrant colors, bold patterns or over the top details
Boho/bohemian -flowy silhouettes, earthy and bright colors and textures, and is inspired by 60’s and 70’s fashion, Western, Southwestern and prairie styles
Classic – classic lines and silhouettes, neutral colors, well fitted
Glam– luxe fabrics and grand details
Romantic- soft colors, soft fabric, details like ruffles
Eclectic- a mix of several style categories to create your own look
Edgy- leather jackets, leather pants, clothes that make a statement, ripped jeans. May also include punk, rocker or grunge details
French Minimalist -classic, chic, minimalist. Inspired by the styles of France
Minimalist -Simple designs and neutral colors
Modern– a blending of classic style–or classic shapes with modern silhouettes, color palettes and trends to create modern takes on classic items
Preppy – Preppy style is categorized by classic Americana, inspired by the East coast and the South, and often include stripes, plaid, vests, and equestrian and nautical themes. Colors are classic and bright,
Vintage Femme Use of 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s silhouettes, patterns, and colors. Clothing is not necessarily vintage but inspired by vintage designs.
Unique personal style is just that- the unique way you express yourself through clothing. Even if you aren’t into fashion, what you wear says something about you.