People have asked me to help them find their style as if it were a misplaced pair of reading glasses. But finding one’s style is less like a treasure hunt, and more like self discovery. Like therapy, the key is to take part in the journey. With enough analysis your style will grow, evolve, and surprise you. Like life, your style can take abrupt turns, often landing you in the loveliest of places. But where do you begin?

Style discovery should start with inspiration. I like to look around my life to see who is currently influencing me. It might be a celebrity, a politician, a musician, or a friend. I don’t even need to admire their style. Maybe I love the way they build community or speak up for the voiceless. I’m not in search of fashion, I'm in search of a vibe. I’m looking for the qualities I see or want to see in myself. To me, great personal style is something that is in alignment with who you are. And typically who you are is reflected in the people you admire.

Once I have a list of people I value, and why, I start looking for themes. Are a lot of these people ambitious, unapologetic, or rebellious? This is where I start thinking about style. Are my icons street wear enthusiasts who push boundaries? Or are they community leaders who let their clothes send a subtle message? I start jotting down all the adjectives I can think of that describe my style influencers. As I take notes, I watch for recurring terms that describe myself or the self I aspire to be.

Next, it’s time to create a mood board. Pinterest is my favorite place for this. It’s easy to search your favorite styles and style icons to build a reference guide to keep you on track. From my list of recurring words and themes, I start looking for photos that I vibe with. To do this, add “style” to the end of an adjective. For example, “artsy style” or “boho style.” As I see images that speak to me, I pin them to a board. I go crazy with it because I can always edit later. Anchored in my love for the artistry of music, I’m moved by an edgy, old school, rock and roll aesthetic. Sometimes it’s more bohemian, à la Lenny Kravitz. Sometimes it’s more sensual like a Bedtime Stories-era Madonna. But at the end of the day, no matter who is influencing my style, it is always uniquely me.

This project always leaves me with a board full of images - 40, 50, or more. But usually another set of themes starts emerging. I’ll see lots of midi skirts or biker jackets or colorful sneakers. I take note of those things because they will likely be the types of items I want to add to my wardrobe. I’ll also note images or outfits that seem out of place. You might like the style, but somehow it's not you. Those pictures get edited out, deleted. I continue this addition and subtraction over the course of a couple of days. I don’t like to do it all at once as it’s easy to get swept down a rabbit hole. Plus my emotions are different on different days. That change in temperament can surface different responses as I search. I want to capture all that.

Even after you’ve defined your style, you’ll want to keep managing this board over time. Let it ebb and flow as your life does. My current board has a lot of style choices with wider leg pants and oversized sweaters. When it started I had a lot of skinny jeans and fitted shirts. The aesthetic has evolved, but the vibe hasn’t. I still have a classic style with an edgy energy, but how I express it has shifted. Without a doubt it will shift again.

Finding your style takes into consideration not only what to wear, but how you wear it. Your don't build your closet on trends or magazine editorials, but rather by what works for you. If you don't, you’ll continue to languish in a style you don’t love and that doesn’t fit your everyday life. Later, as I’m editing my closet and shopping for new clothes, I’ll look at my style in light of my day to day routines. Because I’m a busy babe, I own a lot of jeans and t-shirts. To me, that’s easy dressing. I also own a lot of flat, supportive shoes since my joints don’t support my high heel fascination any more. So when I’m shopping, I look for comfortable shoes with studs or buckles and tees in punchy colors. I use my mood board as inspiration, but reality as my guide.

The final touch to defining personal style is to label it. I find that a label helps me when I’m out shopping or working with a styling service like Stitch Fix. Currently my personal style is Rocker Chic - it’s classic and timeless, with a bit of unapologetic edge. And, as expected, that’s generally how I would describe my own personality. So my style reflects - or aligns with - who I am. When I get dressed, using this definition as my guideline, I am empowered and ready to take on the world.

Getting your style to align with your personality is a contemplative process. Sometimes the journey is arduous. But like good therapy, getting to a better version of yourself is worth it. And should you land somewhere that doesn’t feel quite right? Style is a growth process so you’re never stuck. That’s part of the fun. Whenever it fits your fancy you begin the evaluation again, tweaking or overhauling as you go. The goal is not to marry yourself to a particular look. The goal is to know yourself well enough to know what makes you look - and feel - 100% you.

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Long summer weekends evoke images of backyard barbecues and children splashing in pools. There are tall glasses of lemonade and pitchers of sweet iced tea. The warm air fills with the smokiness of the grill and the freshness of cut grass. It’s the perfect, all-American backdrop to what we actually do: clean.

I am no exception. I am clearing out my closet this weekend, purging the too little, the too crazy, and the never worn. Fireworks over skinny jeans and regrettable shoe purchases will ignite. But despite the work ahead, being knee-deep in piles of clothes is my idea of bliss. Three days of me, my clothes, and self-care breaks sounds glorious!

To say I’ve amassed a collection of prints and patterns, textures and trends, is an understatement. I’ve spent my adult life assembling fashion, allowing it to cumulate and contract over the years. Bounded by trends, style, and the physical space of my closet, I like to annually cull and refine, particularly on a long weekend like this.

Last year’s edit rendered one of the best editions of my closet yet, thanks to long stretches of home life. My closet was lovingly (and sometimes painstakingly) managed to match the aesthetic I had been striving for. But after a year of additions, the exhibition has grown too big. It is now overflowing its borders, overwhelming instead of delighting the senses. And so it’s time to pare down again, creating the next iteration of my closet by raking through it with a fine-tooth comb.

Of course, that means some thought must go into what this exhibition will look like over the next year. Who do I want to be when I get dressed for the next 365 days? Last year I was intent on being a cool girl rock star. I embraced the relaxed fit and collected edgy details. That rock and roll aesthetic is a vibe that I've been running with for a while. I doubt it will be disappearing any time soon. But how it comes across does change. Some years I’m feeling a bit bohemian, like a groupie following her favorite rock band. And some years I’m feeling like I should be on tour with Bananarama. You never know. I haven’t settled on a theme for the next year, but I have a feeling Harry Styles makes an appearance. Whatever label I plaster on this year’s style, there will be some hard choices to make over what to keep and what to toss. What is adding value to my closet and what is toxic?

Like any good detox, a closet cleanse rarely happens overnight. As anyone who’s done a closet purge will tell you, it’s exhausting. It’s not only about the physical act of trying everything on and sorting it. It’s also about the mental energy expended trying to detach the emotions from the clothing. Which makes a long weekend the perfect opportunity to do it. You can break it into sections, making time for hair masks and manicures between rounds of Will It Stay Or Will It Go. Instead of being a grueling project, as it tends to be, it becomes relaxing summer activity. It feels like playing bocce ball on a fresh-cut lawn with a glass of sangria.

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It's the first of July. The sun is high and so are the temperatures. Something about the heaviness of the heat makes me want to slow down and sit a spell. This extends to my shopping habit as well. July makes me want to ice my credit cards and enjoy the fruits of my (shopping) labor.

I love to shop. As a self-proclaimed fashion curator, I find it relaxing - even therapeutic. My lust for shopping, even under the summer heat, doesn't wane. But too much of a good thing gets indulgent and makes you gluttonous. Yes, even for the most dedicated hobbyist. The collecting overcomes the collection, burying the treasures you hunted for. It's time for a break, a pause, a breath to enjoy.

As it turns out, my husband and I are in need of some big-ticket items this season. I pulled the trigger on a mid-priced stove to replace the older one that is moving into our other property. I also have my eye on a new microwave for the same reason. Plus, we have some large bills rolling in due to a chaotic spring. So when the purse strings started getting a little tight, I knew it was time to reign things in. It’s not that big of a deal. I’m not in need of anything. I have more items in my closet than even most women find reasonable. But, again, it’s my job.

I did create two exceptions for myself: a Stitch Fix box that was already scheduled, and a bra haul - because it’s overdue. Other than that, I’ll be taking a break from buying jeans and dresses and shoes and tees. No jewelry or scarves or hats or purses. For 31 days. I can do it. I have piles of pants awaiting their debut and dresses I’ve yet to rip the tags off of. Thank goodness I did a shoe haul early in June. I’ll be fine.

While I’m waiting for these 31 days to pass, I’ll be keeping myself busy by culling my closet collection. Mid-summer is such a great time to do a closet cleanse. It’s something about the heat that makes you want to pare down and go minimal. Your mind is in carefree mode, conducive to letting things go. In the past, this was the run-up to the big fall fashion season. It was the time to make room for all those back to school/back to work/post-vacation/cooler weather purchases. I don’t know if that’s much the case anymore, particularly in our post-pandemic world. Does fashion even have seasons anymore? Kids go back to school in August (at least on the west coast) when the weather is still blistering hot. And with WFH a solidified reality, is summer still vacation season? Or, are we now vacationing from January to December with our laptops in tow? Those, I suppose, are questions for another time.

But in honor of the traditions of the Before Times, I declare a summer closet detox as appropriate. Thus, that’s how I’ll be wiling away these 31 days while I wait for shopping to resume. I’ll revisit my style icons to make sure we’re still in alignment. I’ll ponder what emotions I want to evoke when I get dressed. I’ll define my style and make Pinterest boards in ode to it. I’ll try on all my clothes, I’ll keep, toss, and sell. I’ll reorganize and style. I’ll enlist the help of my favorite shopping buddies and clothing experts. I’ll make future shopping lists and research where to go.

With a defined style, detoxed closet, and purposeful shopping list, I’ll head back out on August 1st. I'll dive, shoes first, back into shopping, with all the glee of a child shopping for the first day of school. It will be the perfect relief for the end of summer heat.

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