Lovely reader Mar sent this question via e-mail:
I am working on developing my own clothing style and I’ve come long ways, and am not unhappy about the way I feel in my clothes, but seem to be a bit stuck in a rut. It’s kind of like I stepped up from my previous simple (jeans and a top) dressing of a couple of years ago, had a lot of fun incorporating layers, dresses, accessories, belts, mixing patterns, acquiring some interesting and cute shoes, etc, but can’t seem to be able to step it up from here (sort of from ‘basic’ to ‘intermediate’), although I’ve started to grow bored with a lot of my outfits.
I’ve perused your posts (and those by others on this topic), and am keeping a folder of magazine clippings/copied blog images, but 1) I can’t quite often closely replicate the looks I really love as my wardrobe is rather limited (and I need to keep it limited due to financial and space constraints); 2) it comes out that sometimes a style (or clothing item – most recently frilly girly skirt) I like on others, does not feel good when I wear it myself. I *have* gotten ideas though that way that I have successfully incorporated into my looks (oxfords! super colorful print pants! men’s wear inspirations), so – am I just being impatient?
Every woman’s style journey is unique, and every woman takes different steps toward honing and crafting her own style. My recommendations for Mar may sound ludicrous to some of you since we each explore clothing, adornment, and figure flattery in different ways, but I’m going to share my thoughts in the hope that they may help a few of you who feel like your stylistic evolution has plateaued.
Do some writing
Describe your current style. What do you like about it? What frustrates you? Which brands do you like, and which brands do you hate? Which clothing styles and garments absolutely work for you? Which clothing styles and garments do you wish you could wear? What are your favorite colors and fabrics? Is there an era of fashion that you adore? Which aspects of your figure do you hope to show off? Downplay? What motivated you to undertake a stylistic transformation in the first place? What are your goals for your wardrobe and style? I know it sounds awfully cerebral, but sometimes formalizing these thoughts by writing them down can help crystalize goals and next steps.
Understand your figure
If you’re drawn to items and styles in photos that don’t end up working when you actually wear them, you may need to do a bit more studying. When you get dressed in the morning, take three minutes to study yourself in the mirror and jot down some notes. What is working? What is not working? WHY? What do you wish your clothing was doing that it’s failing to do? If you make this a ritual for even a week or so, you’ll start to hone in on garments and garment types that really work with your body. Then you can apply that information when your dress and, perhaps more importantly, when you shop. Knowing more about your figure will prevent you from buying items that look good on others, but not on you.
Keep your ideal style in mind
The lure of pretty things is strong. STRONG, I tell you! And we’ve all succumbed to the occasional item that would look fabulous on our Imaginary Selves, but looks a mess on our actual selves. Whenever you consider a purchase, don’t just ask yourself if you like the item. Don’t just ask yourself if the item suits your body. Ask yourself if the item fits within your ideal style. We all splash out and try new things once in a while, and that’s how style evolves, so I’m not saying that you should never, ever buy anything that falls outside your defined personal style. Just keep those purchases to a minimum, and focus on garments and accessories that you know will play nicely with your existing wardrobe.
Play with accessories
I know, I know, that old chestnut. But seriously, the best way to take your style from “good” to “fabulous” is accessorization. If you’ve mastered layering and assembling basic ensembles, work on honing your accessorization skills. Play with scarf ties. Try belting on a different spot on your torso. Throw unexpected shoes or boots into the mix. Experiment with brooches. You don’t have to leave the house dripping in adornments, of course, but exploring accessories will definitely help boost you from beginner to intermediate.
There is definitely an element of patience here. Style evolves slowly and we’re all constantly learning new things about what we want to wear and look like. Every single person has off days, including Anna Wintour and Stacy London (even if they’d never admit it), so don’t be too hard on yourself if you fumble every so often. I started my blog many years ago and felt like I had my style nailed back then. I look back at photos from years ago now and realize I have learned SO MUCH! I loved what I wore back then, but I feel like I wear it all with more flair and refinement now. As with so many things, it’s all about the journey.
Originally posted 2011-09-01 06:24:09.