Juliet wrote in with this plea:
When I think of clothes I want to wear I think of how they feel against my skin and how warm I want to be, not anything about how they look like (except that I like certain colours). The only celebrities whose style I can even call to mind are men. I don’t have a non-celebrity whose dress style I would like to emulate either. I find these kinds of questions really bizarre (by which I mean it would never ever have occurred to me to think about that).
So your posts are mostly showing me that I’m all but totally missing some way of approaching the world, which is probably why I find what is written on style blogs mostly incomprehensible. How on earth do I approach style if I’m not drawn to anything? … I’ve never in my life cared what I looked like. This might be way outside what you normally do, but how do I … start?
Juliet’s predicament may be a bit more elemental, but I know that many of you have felt stylistically confused or hopeless and wondered how to start down the long road to fashionability. When all clothing looks about the same and all potential role models seem strange and distant, yet you WANT to carve out a stylistic niche to feel complete and strong and confident, how do you begin to craft your own personal style?
Find out where you are now
The first step in solving any problem is to collect the facts. What do you look like now? How would you define your current personal style? There is no such thing as “no style,” so spend some time figuring out what your current look is. Take a close inventory of your closet, and do some writing about any key/frequently-worn pieces. Think about why you dress the way you do. Consult the ever-helpful Pinterest, and do a few searches for outfits utilizing your key pieces. Do yet more writing to define your current style verbally: Make lists of adjectives about your clothes, your shoes, how you assemble outfits, how you feel about dressing. Do any and everything you can to get a sense of your style as it stands TODAY.
Decide where you want to go
Even if you cannot find specific garments that call to you, even if you cannot locate a style icon that resonates, you do have some inklings about how you’d like to look. Do some more writing, for starters. List some adjectives that you’d like to describe your style, clothing, look, persona. Think about the impressions you’d like to leave on those who observe you. Do you want to appear feminine and approachable? Strong and powerful? Artistic and creative? Androgynous and edgy? Don’t worry yet about what all of it means, just describe your ideal style in the most abstract terms.
Plan how to get there
This is the hard part, but hopefully it won’t be AS hard once you’ve completed steps one and two. Start collecting imagery of women – from magazines, websites, books, catalogs, Pinterest, Instagram, anywhere. Collect digital and/or printed images that portray women who fit into the lists of adjectives and descriptions you’ve made about YOUR style. Don’t worry about whether or not you like how they look or what they’re wearing just yet. If you’ve decided that you want to look “feminine and approachable,” grab images of women who look “feminine and approachable” to you.
Once you’ve amassed a sizable stack, take some time to look over your images. Write down why these images fit into your lists. Identify postures, clothing items, combinations of accessories, hairstyles, cosmetics, colors, facial expressions, any and everything that links these women to the style you hope to create.
Then narrow it down to things you can emulate. If there are any specific items that appeared in these images that you already own, take note. If there are any specific items that you’d like to own to further your new style, begin a wishlist. If there are hair or beauty techniques you’d like to explore, start hunting down resources. If you are able to identify an established style like “steampunk” or “preppy” or even something as vague as “classic” or “sporty,” do a quick Google search. Try “how to preppy style” or “basics of steampunk style” and see what comes up. Chances are SOMEONE has written up a how-to or list of essentials.
Then gradually start incorporating new pieces, looks, combinations, and techniques into your daily dressing routines, adjusting along the way as you encounter roadblocks. Yeah, that’s a pretty nebulous directive, but implementation is going to mean different things to different women, and my hope is that you’ll each know how to proceed at this point. Or, at least, how to start experimenting enough that you can formulate and ask more specific questions. If moving forward means making many or borderline drastic changes and you’re concerned about feedback from your peers, take it slow. Add new pieces once per week, try a “new you” look every Thursday, then gradually ramp up until the transition feels seamless.
Feeling stylistically lost can be an indicator that you’re feeling personally lost. But it can also be a factor of entering a new phase of life, drastic body change, or even awakening a sudden interest in style but feeling like a total fashion novice. Regardless, it’s overwhelming. But not insurmountable, especially if you dedicate some time to charting out where you are, where you want to be, and how you plan to get there!
Image courtesy K. Barker