I’ve spent a long time refining my personal style. A loooooooong time, my friends. I first described my style as “arty-eclectic with a broad streak of retro influence” many years ago, and once I had that nailed, I decided to switch to badassery. I’ve defined how I want to look, accumulated a wardrobe full of pieces that align with my style goals, and cultivated an eye for items that will fit naturally with my established aesthetic.
But I also make every effort to remain flexible. I’ve successfully created a defined, personalized, and quintessentially “me” style and I love that. But I always want to be willing to absorb new looks and contemplate new styles. Establishing and becoming comfortable within my personal style parameters doesn’t mean I’ve ceased to evolve. I consciously branch out all the time to see what ELSE I can absorb.
Because I think that building a fortress of style around yourself and never coming out will only work for so long. Creating a solid style identity is important, but if you settle upon a single set of parameters and never flex or grow, you may end up looking stodgy and dated. And yes, it may take 15 years for that to happen, since many styles are sticking around longer and longer … but when and if it does, it’ll be quite a shock to find yourself so far behind the curve. Not to mention the fact that personal style is like muscle and needs flexing, so getting up to speed after long years of stagnation will be even harder.
Now, I’m not saying that every woman in the universe must update her closet seasonally with trendy duds and accessories. Far from it! If you’ve found an aesthetic that suits you, body and soul, embrace it with both arms and for a good long time. But bear in mind that even simple, classic pieces get subtle updates over the years. A pair of tall black boots from 1993 looks INCREDIBLY different from a pair made this year. And if you have any concerns about looking modern and current, you’ll need to both flex and refresh.
So I recommend two steps to keep your look from going stale:
- Make yourself branch out: If a trend strikes you as even REMOTELY interesting, give it a whirl. Try on anything you see that makes you cock your head in curiosity. Experiment, explore, and expand your style as often as possible. You’ll be amazed at the variety of pieces that will work beautifully within your existing parameters.
- Update your staples: Some classics will endure forever, and some gain their personality from their quirks. But if your black sheath dress is from the 80s, it will have different details than current versions. If your white button-front shirt is more than a decade old, you might find one that is more flattering or comfortable now. Consider replacing the workhorse pieces in your wardrobe every five to seven years. More frequently if they wear out!
Crafting a personal style can be challenging, and the process can take years. So many women are loathe to embrace change once they’ve landed on a look that truly works. But just as I believe that we should all make subtle changes in our hairstyles every year, I believe that all of us could benefit from staying stylistically flexible.
Originally posted 2010-10-06 05:17:00.