Style Therapy: Finding A Style That Aligns With You
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.