The further I get in my ethical and sustainable fashion journey, the more I realize the importance of having a good understanding of your personal style. This doesn’t just mean knowing what you like or don’t like. It involves knowing why you like it, how you would wear it, and where and when you would wear it. It’s something that you might find relatively easy to assess or, if you’re like me, you might find it more challenging than you expected. Regardless, defining your personal style will help you clean out your closet without regrets, make shopping easier and less risky, and make you feel more confident in what you wear every day.
Here are a few tips to consider as you get you started on defining your own personal style:
Maybe the most obvious part of your personal style, colour is a great starting point for figuring out what do or don’t love. I used to think that I needed every colour in my wardrobe for “versatility”, but I found that I didn’t wear many pieces I really liked simply because of the colour (orange is not the new black for me), and that I most often wore the same 3-4 colours, usually of a very similar brightness, saturation and hue. There’s nothing wrong with owning a closet made up of just 4 colours, especially when you know they are the ones that you look and feel best in.
This one may or may not be a big part of your personal style. Some love to mix and match prints, while others steer clear from them completely and use texture, cut or other things to add interest to an outfit. No matter where you are on the pattern-loving spectrum though, you should know where you stand. Are you a fan of paisley or plaid? Do cute, modern patterns appeal to you? Do you prefer larger or smaller prints? Do you like wearing the patterns on your top or bottom half – or both? If you’re not a fan of how busy they can look, then maybe you only wear simple Breton stripes.
I’ll let you know right now – the following item on this list is silhouettes, and I separated it from shapes for a reason. By shapes I mean knowing things like what kind of hems or necklines you like and if you generally enjoy wearing more flowing or straight lines. It doesn’t have to be a choice between one or the other, and not every detail is going to be important to you, but if you dislike an outfit that is too boxy or structured, or that has too many curves and flowing parts, you should know that.
Knowing what silhouettes you like wearing helps not only with what pieces you buy, but how you pair them together. Think about how relaxed or fitted you like certain pieces to be, or how you would pair them with other fitted or relaxed pieces. But remember: this doesn’t equate to “dressing for your body type”. Though it can help you know how to create certain visual illusions (for example, I like to accentuate my waist with a belt if I’m wearing a dress), you should always prioritize what you love and feel good in first.
5. Your Lifestyle
Another important aspect of personal style is knowing whether or not a piece actually fits with your lifestyle. As much as we may love to lounge around in sweatpants, having a closet full of them isn’t going to work if you wear professional attire 5 days a week. Just the same, if you get to spend every day in comfortable clothing for whatever reason, then having a large amount of formal clothing doesn’t make sense. It also ties into the kind of fabrics you buy – if you don’t have the time for high-maintenance fabrics that need special care and attention, then maybe it would be smart to avoid buying them. Think about how many hours a week you spend in certain types of clothing (work, home, running errands, exercising, going out, etc.). Your closet should reflect similar ratios to those hours.
6. Styles (duh)
This list would, of course, not be complete without addressing the obvious – various clothing styles. I know to stay away from anything that has more than just a few subtle hints towards a bohemian look, because though I might like it at the moment, when it comes down to choosing an outfit, it often won’t make the cut. On the other hand, I know that if something has an edgy look to it, I will likely wear it many, many times. But just because two styles you love might seem to conflict or act as opposites to each other, it doesn’t mean you need to choose! Embrace the layers and dimensions of your style and use that to create looks that belong uniquely to you.