How to Create Your Personal Style in 5 Steps

A few posts ago, I wrote about not looking for clothes but looking for a costume. At the time I had no clue how to find the right pieces for my “costume.” But I think I do now.

To expand on what I said in the aforementioned post, I saw a quote that said,

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.

– George Bernard Shaw

This sparked my interest because so often the idea that we need to “find ourselves” or “figure ourselves out” or “be true to ourselves” is perpetuated at the expense of the idea that we can be anything, anyone that we want to be. Don’t get me wrong, being “true yourself” and not just being a mindless copycat are great ideals and in no way do I support copying other people for the sake of fitting in if that’s not what you authentically want.

Perhaps someone has once told you, condescendingly, “You don’t even know who you are.”

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And presumably, they do? I believe that you can be whoever you want to be. And I don’t think you have to “find yourself” or “discover” who you truly are. When it comes to this Life thing we’re all doing, we are all making it up as we go along. “Finding yourself” implies that who you are is predetermined and someone forgot to clue you in on it.

But creating. Creating says that you get to decide. You get to choose. Creation is empowerment. And what better way to empower yourself than to create yourself.

Creating your personal style is merely one aspect of creating yourself. You create yourself through your personal image with things such as clothes, makeup, or hair, but also through your attitude, your actions, and your outlook on life.

Some may say the “personal image” or your aesthetic is superficial but it is still a part of you; everyone has a personal image. And our personal image conveys a message to others. This brings me to the first point of how to create your personal style-

1. Decide What You Want to Say

In order to create your style, the first step, which is the foundation for all the other steps, is to know what you want to communicate with your personal image. This is the most essential part.

It helps to make a list of Style Affirmations. Style affirmations are statements about who you are that can be understood or assumed through clothing. For example,

I am wealthy. = Structured, tailored clothing that’s high quality and classic, not trendy.

I play sports; I’m fit. = Athleisure

I like to spend a lot of time at the beach. = Bikini tops & shorts, boho style

In an ideal world, I’d spend my days frolicking through a field of daisies like a fairy, playing with butterflies. = Soft, delicate fabrics in pastel colors

I am competent and the best candidate for this (corporate) job. = Tailored suit

I could drop kick your ass, don’t mess with me. = Leather and denim with sturdy boots (in all black of course), biker chic style

I’m an average college student going to my 8am. = Sweatpants and hoodie

Think to yourself, “When a stranger sees me, what will they assume about me? Will they understand the aesthetic I’m going for?” Now I’m not saying that you have to care about what others think. What I am saying however is that it is good to be mindful of the messages you are giving people.

As an unrelated example, if you have RBF (resting bitch face) but you’ve just moved to a new place and want to make friends, you need to be mindful that your RBF is sending the message that you don’t want to make friends. From there, you could either choose to change your appearance to send the message you want to send or you could be stubborn and refuse to change and expect people to be mind readers and understand a message that you’re not communicating accurately.

Fashion is alive; fashion speaks. Everyone has something to say. What are you saying? What do you want to say? And when it comes to fashion, it doesn’t really matter if there’s any truth to it. Glamour is an illusion and that’s what makes it so much fun. You could be 4’9″ and not know any martial arts but still dress like a badass biker chic who could take on anybody if that’s what you want.

2. Make a Playlist

I have a Spotify playlist labeled “My Style.” I fill it with songs that embody my personal fashion aesthetic. (It’s also super helpful to listen to this while I’m shopping to make sure the clothes I’m looking at vibe with my aesthetic.)

Of course, not all of the music you love will do this for you. I love me some AC/DC and Cardi B but they’re not on the “My Style” playlist because those artists don’t mix with my vibe, even though I love their music.

If you don’t know what I mean, think of a few of your favorite songs, songs that really get you in your feels and in your imagination. You know the songs; the songs that have you imagining you’re walking down the street in a city decked out in Louboutin pumps and Cartier, switching your hips in your fitted dress and red lipstick feeling like a Queen.

Ok, so maybe that’s not where your songs take you. So ask yourself when you listen to your music, where am I? What am I doing? Where am I headed? What am I wearing? How do I feel?

The answer to that last question should obviously be “confident.” But it’s more than that. Dig deeper. What type of person do you feel like? A boss bitch? A fun loving, down to earth cowgirl? A sultry lounge singer? A man-eating femme fatale? A fairy princess? No matter where your imagination takes you, follow that path and listen to how you feel.

3. Find Inspiration- and Study It

The Internet is a magical place. There are billions of photographs and style inspiration is just a few taps away. I personally use Pinterest and Fashmates for my style inspiration. You could use any medium or platform you like- magazines, Instagram, etc.

Once you’ve collected a decent sample size of inspiration, you have to figure out the commonalities between most of the images. You may not recognize it at first but I bet there’s a pattern linking all of the pictures.

Are you drawn to dramatic, plunging necklines? Are all of the accessories gold, or silver? Do all the outfits have the same color schemes? Are you a sucker for A-line dresses? Are all the people in the photos wearing loafers or boat shoes?

And sometimes, it may not even be the clothes that you like. It could be the makeup, hairstyles, the location where the photo was taken, or the time period, past or future, that the photo is representing.

More importantly than the details of the outfits, find out what the photos are representing and then pick clothes that embody that.

4. Know Your Body

I won’t get into all the different body types; there are already hundreds if not thousands of resources about finding your body type and how to dress your body type. But honestly, not everyone wants to dress “for their body type” or how they “should” dress their body. Not everyone wants to try and look like an hourglass.

However, I do advocate knowing your body and how you want to dress it. Ask yourself, what parts do I want to highlight? What parts do I want to conceal? Ignore the prescriptive and presumptuous advice you may have heard about “your body type” and think for yourself.

Pick one or two things that your clothes absolutely must do for you and your body. Maybe for you, it’s that you must hide your arms, your clothes need to hug your hips, etc. For me personally, I am always sure to buy clothes that accentuate my waist, everything else be damned. If I don’t wear something that truly hugs my waist, I think I look like a shapeless blob. I like my clothes to sharply define my waist and hug my chest and hips as well. I’m not even technically an hourglass but I dress like one because that’s what makes me feel sexy and confident and there’s no reason for that style to be off limits to me because my breasts are “too small.”

For this reason, I have a very hard time finding shirts to wear. Most shirts I see in department stores like JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, etc. are too loose for my tastes. I’ve kind of given up trying to buy tops (which is sad because I love skirts) but I’m lucky that my personal style works best with dresses, which are much easier to fit on me the way I want.

But let’s pretend for a moment that my personal style was very bohemian and I was drawn to lots of flowy fabrics- not exactly ideal for hugging my waist. If this was the case, I could spend hours upon hours, and drop hundreds of dollars at Anthropologie and still be unhappy with my look!

This is why it pays to know your body. Since I know that I must define my waist to look good, if my style was bohemian, I would need to either get the clothes tailored to make them slightly less flowy or accessorize with belts and scarves around my waist.

5. Never Settle Sis!

Unfortunately, a lot of women have a ton of clothing in their closet that they never wear. I think that the reason for this is twofold.

First, everything is so cheap now. In 1952, a quilted cotton dress cost $6.98. In 2018 dollars, that dress cost $66.14. A dressy suit from the same year would’ve cost $12.98. That’s $123 in 2018 dollars. Many of us would balk at such prices today.

The quality of clothing has certainly decreased since 1952 along with the prices. As a result, people are a lot more careless when it comes to purchases. We buy whatever catches our eye on the rack, regardless of if it suits our style or if it’ll hold up in the wash, because “it’s only $20!” Then we take our purchase home and it’s never worn.

I have a purple cocktail dress that originally cost $75 from J.C. Penney. It was marked on clearance to 75% off, and since I had coupons and rewards, in addition to my 25% employee discount, I paid under $2 for that dress 8 months ago. In all honesty, it’s not my style. And it still has the tags on it. For comparison, a taffeta halter style party dress in 1952 complete with a matching, rhinestone studded quilted bolero cost $10.98 or $104.04 in 2018. That equivalent is almost $30 more than even the original price of the dress I bought, let alone the price I actually paid. Two dollars doesn’t seem like a lot. But over time, $2 here, $19 there, and on and on, can really add up.

The second reason is that, like Caitlyn Moran has said, we buy items if we like them, say, 70%. Despite our bottomless wardrobes, we tend to only wear 9 to 11 pieces regularly. I think that this is a waste of closet space and money and it causes choice overload. We have so many options in our closets that we only partially like so really, we have no options at all.

The solution is to stop buying things only because they’re cheap and/or trendy. My new personal rule is that if I wouldn’t pay an inflation-adjusted 1950s price for something, then I shouldn’t buy it because I clearly don’t love it enough. Not that everything I wear has to have a minimum price, it’s great to catch things on sale, but I think that whatever you buy, regardless of the sale, you should like it enough to pay a 1952 price for it. If you don’t, then chances are it doesn’t really suit you and your style. We should only buy things that we love 100%, not 70. This approach should help eliminate frivolous spending and allow you to save up money to buy that expensive, $300 dress or another investment piece that will last for a long time and that you’ll actually wear.

If you never settle for 70%, you won’t need to stand in front of a full closet declaring, “I have nothing to wear!” because all that statement means is, “There’s nothing here for who I want to be today.”

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