Today I am starting a new series of posts all about personal style. Personal style can be a tricky thing to hone, but once you’ve figured it out, it can be a great tool to use to create a wardrobe you’ll love and wear.
Like many other people around the globe, I spent much of 2020 working from home. To my surprise, because I wasn’t going out most days, I realized that much of my wardrobe wasn’t suiting my lifestyle anymore and as a result, I was sticking to a very, very small “capsule” wardrobe, while the rest of my clothing was left forlornly in my closet. (It wasn’t really a capsule- that just sounds fancier than saying I’ve been wearing my favourite harem pants and a t-shirt most days…)
I realized, as time went on, that my “personal style” was maybe not as representative of my lifestyle as I thought it was, so I took 2020 as an opportunity to finally start going through my wardrobe, evaluating it and deciding where I wanted to direct it from here. I read “The Curated Closet” by Anushka Rees several years ago, but had never followed through with a closet evaluation, so I decided that this was finally the time! I also referred to other online resources, and while I don’t want this post to end up being a repeat of what many other talented bloggers and YouTubers have talked about, I thought that I would share the process of how I took these principles and used them to create a better wardrobe for myself.
I have broken this into several blog posts that I will be publishing over the next while and first up today is how I came up with my personal style “mission statement”, for lack of a better way of putting it.
CREATING YOUR PERSONAL STYLE STRATEGY
When I was first getting into vintage style years ago, I used to buy or sew whatever clothes struck my fancy…if it was a vintage piece and I found it at a thrift store, I would most likely get it. If I saw some pretty floral fabric and a vintage reproduction pattern at the fabric store, I would buy it. I didn’t necessarily have any clear idea as to how those pieces might fit into my existing wardrobe, but I was always excited to find something new, especially if it was a great bargain! It’s not as though I ever bought things that were “ugly”; I was always drawn to them in some way or other, but that didn’t always result in pieces that went together or were good additions to my closet.
This method was actually really great in some ways, since it gave me an opportunity to experiment and try out new things (especially if they were lower priced items from the thrift stores -remember those days when you used to be able to find reasonably priced vintage?) but it also resulted in a LOT of pieces that I didn’t wear very often. My closet looked full, but many of the items hanging there were unwearable or un-pair-able for one reason or another.
Thankfully, time has helped me to better figure out what I like and I’ve come to the realization that just because something is cute and vintage, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “me”. So, while I wouldn’t say that purchasing all of those clothes over the years was a waste of energy and money, it was time for me to move on with a better plan for the future of my wardrobe.
So how do you get from that point, to actually creating a wardrobe that reflects your unique fashion sense and lifestyle while not limiting it and ending up with a boring closet full of what the magazines call “basics”?
Taking a moment (or a lot of moments) to evaluate the “why” of why you wear some pieces and not others in your wardrobe is a great first step because, not only can it help you to figure out your personal style, but it also prevents you from buying similar things in the future that don’t actually suit you.
So, in order to figure out the new direction that I wanted to take my closet in, I first looked through my own blog (it’s very convenient to have a photo log of my past several years of outfits!) and took notes of which pieces I already wear that are my favourites, and are in regular rotation. For example, these outfits above are some of my favourite outfits of all time, and I would wear them again in a heartbeat. Actually I have repeated some of them several times (don’t underestimate a good Tried and True outfit!)
While I was looking back through to see which outfits I liked, I also took note of which ones I didn’t like anymore. I wanted to discover the reason as to why some of my outfits made me feel like a million bucks and others were a bit “meh”. These outfits below, are ones that I don’t think really fit my style today, even though I enjoyed them at the time.
Once I had finished looking through my favourite outfits, it was time to go to my closet. I pulled out the items that I both love and wear.
The key in this is in separating out the things that you are actually wearing semi-regularly, and not just pulling out things you like, but don’t actually ever wear.
I then evaluated the reason I why I liked those pieces. Maybe it was the fabric, the cut, or the colour…?
I then looked at anything I hadn’t worn for a long time, and figured out why I wasn’t wearing it.
- Was it because it was for a special occasion or out of season?
- Did it not fit?
- Did I have nothing to pair with it?
- Or, was it just because I didn’t actually like it anymore?
Answering these questions helped me to figure out what was already working in my closet, and what wasn’t, which really gave me a foundation to now move on to planning the future of my wardrobe.
Now it was time to daydream as to what my ideal closet would be like. I looked through my fashion scrapbook and images I had saved on Instagram etc., but Pinterest would be a good tool here as well.
I wrote down some random words that I thought described pieces I already own or would like to incorporate in, and came up with descriptions such as “earthy”, “Jane Eyre”, “50’s”, “cotton”, “lace”, “comfortable”, “elegant”, “classic”, “Beatrix Potter”, “floral”, “skirts”, “Bletchley Circle” etc.
As you can see I took inspiration from many places as this is quite a random list! It’s also quite a mash up of different style aesthetics, but once I narrowed down why I liked each of those things, I was able to blend them together into a sense of cohesiveness.
- For example, I like the muted tones and simple un-fussiness of Beatrix Potter’s costumes in Miss Potter.
- I like the silhouette of the 50’s, but I also want the clothes I wear to be comfortable, so I am not thinking of New Look, but rather more casual.
- I am drawn to the colour palettes and patterns of the costumes in The Bletchley Circle, and I like how wearable the clothes are.
- I love floral prints, especially historical/vintage ones.
I also narrowed some of my current likes and dislikes:
- I like skirts and dresses instead of pants.
- I like to finish off my outfits with hats, but I don’t like it when I have too many accessories.
- I like fitted garments, yet I still want them to be comfortable to wear.
- I prefer feminine outfits, but not when they are too fluffy and frilly or too delicate.
- I like classic elegance, but with a bit of a twist…
- I like historical touches, but I don’t want to stick to one era.
- I like fit and flair silhouettes, but don’t like skirts to be too wide or bulky.
It can be really helpful to think through and write out the things that you do and don’t like.
For example, when I have those clearly defined in my mind, and I see a gorgeous pair of cigarette pants, I’m not tempted to get them because I already know that I don’t like wearing fitted pants, even though they look amazing on the model.
Or when I see a beautiful floaty 1910’s Edwardian gown, and am inspired to add those details to my wardrobe, I will know to simplify it a bit, because I don’t like too many frills and ruffles that get in the way. Perhaps instead of adding the 1910’s to my wardrobe via lace and chiffon, I would instead be more inspired by the “college girl” look with wool and tailored details in the same silhouette.
Instead of limiting you, having these parameters for your wardrobe can actually help to filter the good stuff out of all the inspiration that comes your way. And what constitutes “the good stuff” is different for each of us.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t be inspired by new things, or discover different trends you’d like to try out, but when you want to try something new, you can adapt it to fit into your personal style so that you know you’ll love wearing it and it won’t end up buried at the back of your closet. When you know what your own personal style is, it is much easier to adapt those trends to fit yourself, rather than creating a wardrobe that looks perfect…for someone else.
So what did I discover about my personal style through this process?
I came to the conclusion that as much as I love vintage fashion, I don’t like it when I limit myself to only vintage styles. This post that I wrote a few years ago still easily describes my style today: “Modern Girl Goes Vintage”. I love fashion, and from pretty much any era in history I will be able to find something to love. However I don’t want to channel myself into any one particular era or genre. I am definitely still a “Vintage Mixer” as described in this post by DeniseBrain.
Before I ever loved vintage style, I loved Fashion. That doesn’t mean I always had good style (because I definitely didn’t!) but I loved it. Thus, most of my favourite outfits have been ones that are not too historical. They definitely have that vintage touch, but with a little bit of a clashing element. Maybe it’s a modern styled shoe (such as above) or a piece of fair trade jewelry from India, or mixing a 1960’s style hat with a 1940’s dress…the options are endless.
I’ve also realized that, for me, paring back is best. Some of my past outfits that I didn’t really like anymore was because there was way too much going on. While for some people “more is more”… for me not so much. I don’t particularly love it when I wear outfits with a matching hat, shoes, gloves, purse etc. I do love to make a statement, but I’ve realized that I am actually more drawn to a more classic style than I thought. I like this quote by Coco Chanel; “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”.
Also, I like things to be timeless. Some of my favourite pieces are ones that you aren’t quite sure if it’s an authentic vintage piece or not; it doesn’t look quite new, but then it doesn’t look quite old…it falls into a bit of era ambiguity. I guess in a generation of “trends” that come and go almost each week, I’ve never really been one to follow them.
I used to think that creating a style manifesto would be too narrow of a window, that it would limit my wardrobe and take away the fun, but going through this process made me realize that it can actually free you to focus on what you love and filter out all the rest!
I am not very good with coming up with descriptions, but the one I came up with for my style is:
“Unconventional Classic, with a Dash of History”
Your personal style statement could be anything that you are interested in and want to incorporate into your wardrobe.
How about “Audrey Hepburn at College” or “1930’s Lord of the Rings”? It can be a lot of fun to brainstorm and come up with a description that perfectly encapsulates your style. Of course it can be anything you want, and the best thing about fashion is that it always changes and evolves over time as we change and grow and discover new things. We can always add in new things and take out old things. For example, I used to have two pinafore dresses and I wore them all the time. However, I recently moved both of them out of my closet, since I realized that they no longer reflect my style…and that’s totally OK.
Creating a personal style mission statement is a great step to creating the ideal wardrobe for YOU, not based on what other people like. Coming to an understanding of your own personal style can be extremely helpful in creating your ideal wardrobe and avoiding all the trends and marketing that are thrown at us every day. If you have your own unique style, you can avoid looking like everyone else, and truly enjoy getting dressed because you will feel like yourself.
And if you succeed in defining your own unique style, and you truly love each and every piece you have, you can pull just about anything out of your closet and come out feeling happy!
Have you ever gone through your wardrobe and taken time to evaluate your own personal style?
Have you read “The Curated Closet”, or do you know of any other helpful resources?
How would you describe your own unique style?