Friday, 9 April 2010

How to Define Your Personal Style: A Step by Step Guide

Image thanks to noemi manalang

Firstly, why define your style? Things don’t always need labels or boxes around them, and your style is no exception to that rule. My concept of style definition is not simply to generalise or stereotype you; we’re not making you strictly ‘vintage’ or ‘boho’ or ‘punky’. What we are doing is giving you a powerful tool and signpost forward in your personal style evolution. This article is about gaining an understanding of your style more than anything. Let’s rock.

♥ Step One: Identify your inspiration. All of the most ‘out there’, creative, chic, original style symbols got their inspiration from somewhere, and what made them successful was the ability to abundantly source, hold onto, and channel that inspiration into their real lives. Let your search for style be first a search for inspiration. Find it in coffee shops, libraries, museums, antique shops, the cinema, train stations – practically everywhere. Tap into it, revisit it, live it wildly and truthfully. I can’t tell you what you’re inspiration is, but I can tell you that it has to be constantly refreshed and reenergized.

Step Two: Keep a style diary. Let it be a place for those momentary light bulb realisations, sketches, vintagefair flyers, magazine cut-outs etc. etc. Don’t put pressure on it to be a thing of beauty, or anything you ever have to share, that way, your real, uncensored style aspirations will spill out. You can even stick Polaroid’s of your own outfits inside, along with dates, and see how your style progresses.

Step Three: We are all just playing a part, so play yours well. Fashion isn’t necessary; we don’t need beautiful clothes to survive. Apart from the very basic requirements of warmth and dryness, all clothing is simply self decoration. With that in mind, you realise that any established code of what is ‘right’ to wear goes out of the window. Clothing is simply you saying something to the world, that’s its whole point. If you want to say ‘Yes, I got the latest issue of Glamour that said nautical was in’ then fine, say that, let Glamour define you. If, instead, you want that message to be ‘I am a fun, interesting and light-hearted human with individual desires and aspirations’ then you must go ahead and say that.

Step Four: Ask questions. On some level, your personal style is already defined, you just don’t know it yet. That’s because definition of your style is not as simple as deciding it, saying it, or writing it down. It exists in the way you walk, in the foods you like, in the scent you wear, in the place you come from, in the books you read, in your hobbies, in the people you surround yourself with. Look further than simply your wardrobe to reach a definition of your style. Bring up leading questions with those who know you, such as: ‘If I were an item of jewellery, what would I be?’ or, ‘If I were a holiday destination, where would I be?’

Step Five: Know that finding your style ‘definition’ may simply be a product of self-acceptance. I often see people trying to define themselves with exterior things: a new hair colour, the perfect handbag – and I can see why these seem like perfect ways to define yourself. The problem is that our ideas for what constitutes a great hair colour or handbag are often just the result of what we have seen work for other people, not ourselves. Therefore, it will never be a sustainable definition of our style. The alternative, then, is to look at what we already have, what we’re already working with, and see what definition that gives us.

"You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens." 
Louise L. Hay

The fact is that if you can’t accept yourself as you are, you’re unlikely to accept yourself any better with a few external alterations – psychologically speaking, accepting who you are runs far deeper than that. Look to define what you’ve already got rather than hunt out new additions in the hope of a breakthrough.

Step Six: Know your style agenda. Sure, that skirt is lovely, but does it fit your style agenda? We are a greedy species. We crave variety and have an insatiable appetite for it. Because of this, and coupled with the constant projection of images telling us so, we seem to desire every new style. The problem here is that not every new style will suit us; not every new style will fit our agendas. This is a concept much like Aesthetic Affirmations, it requires you to have set ideas about what works/doesn’t work for you, and stick to them. This isn’t denying yourself, it’s looking at a beautiful piece of clothing and appreciating it, yet still saying ‘It’s not quite right for/suited to/worthy of me’.

Step Seven: Let your definition happen organically. Above all, don’t look to a definition to limit your style – the most chic of people rarely employ such a tactic. Personal style should evolve, it should peak and, yes, sometimes trough, it should be a learning curve and an experiment, and a lot of fun. Think of your style as a creative collage rather than a difficult puzzle with a set amount of pieces.

And, on a final note:

"Whatever you are, be a good one."  
Abraham Lincoln

How will you be inspiring, creating, crafting and celebrating your style?


Erica said...

I'm a long-time reader of Charade & I just wanted to let you know I really enjoyed this. Your posts are always getting better & better. I can't wait to see what your creative mind cooks up next =)

Madison Young said...

I'm currently in the process of cleaning out my closet, and organizing my clothes. I know that once I have all the things that don't fit or simply don't suit me are out of the way, I will be able to take stock of my wardrobe and what it says to the world. I'm working on being my own hero, and a major part of that is being fearless with my style and life in general. I refuse to be held back by the "rules" that "society" has set in place for me. Step three really resonated with me for just that reason! Thank you for an inspiring post.

Vanessa said...

Awesome post! This is really a great help.

Anonymous said...

best post ever!

traum.taenzerin said...

thank you! you just seem to always have the right timing!
right now i was also thinking much about my style. the one reason was that i could not spend my money on clothes the past 6 months. which is a long time for me, as i was used to spend most of my money for clothes when i lived at home.
working every day with the same stuff and not being able to add something new was really challenging. but i found that i am really happy with my style and that i have a well sorted wardrobe. i put my energie in other stuff than fashion and found a lot of great inspiration that way.
so you are completly right and your advice made me aware of the fact that i already defined my style.

A.D said...

This is a really awesome post! Lately, I have been wanting to start taking outfit photos and this is really pushed me forward into doing that! These are really great tips! I think I am going to try them out!

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