10 steps to creating your signature style

Follow these 10 steps to rediscover your unique style

Woman dress well walking in a style with black purse

The desire to look good does not fluctuate with the economy. Through good times and bad, it is human nature to want to feel good about how you look. Resources might change, but desire does not. In fact, it might even get stronger when times are tough!

Before you add another item to your wardrobe, let’s talk about creating a signature style.This is a look that people associate with you because it is consistent and memorable. A signature style expresses your personality, makes you smile every time you get dressed, and gives the world a clue from the outside as to who you are on the inside. And you want to be sure you are giving them the right message! Understanding your style will make you a savvier shopper and a smarter dresser.

Remember that creating your personal style is an ongoing journey, not a final destination. Your body will change, and fashion will change, but if you take one step at a time and celebrate each change that makes you feel good, you will get there.

These 10 steps will allow you to move in the right direction. Take notes as you do these. These insights will be invaluable when you shop.

1. Hold it right there!

Personal style-i-me-my-shelf-2The first step is awareness. Fully allow the realisation to surface that you aren’t happy with your wardrobe right now. Do not wallow in it, but fess up and take responsibility. Agree that you will no longer support this habit that is not serving you. Every person, no matter what age, weight, height or colour, can look fabulous. You are no exception. Sure, you might have to come to terms with the fact that you are not going to grow five inches taller or that your weight has stabilised higher than you want it to or that you will always have slightly bowed legs no matter how toned they are. But, you can always dress in a way that minimises the parts you don’t love and maximises what you do love, even if you don’t believe that right now.

2. Go beyond comfort

I am not saying sacrifice comfort. I’m saying allow for other aspects of your ideal wardrobe to be present along with comfort. Yes, you can wear a dress that is comfortable, and it can be beautiful and reflect who you are. Comfort and personal beauty are not mutually exclusive.

3. Be yourself

Many people have a wardrobe that looks more like everyone but them. As a result, what they have does not delight them. They are bored or uncomfortable!

When I say be yourself, I’m talking about who you are at a gut level, not whether you are an entrepreneur, mother, wife, CEO or speed skater. Are you radiant, down-to-earth, quirky, fun, bold, gentle, spunky, elegant, unconventional or something else entirely? If you are over 40, how have you changed, grown and evolved from when you were in your 20s? What positive words would you use to describe yourself now? These traits must be reflected in your wardrobe, or you will never feel fully satisfied.

If your wardrobe doesn’t reflect your personality, do not berate yourself. Exploring different styles helps you determine what you like and what you don’t. What often happens, however, is that if you are at all uncertain, you assume others know better. It is now time to take back control of your own style.

Before you go any further, take a few minutes to think of three or four positive words to describe yourself. Think big! Use a dictionary or thesaurus for inspiration. For example, are you dynamic, impish, enthusiastic, fiery, poised or saucy? Ask a friend to help—just be sure the words resonate with you, not just your friend, because you want them to be reflected in your wardrobe. Note: When you are choosing your words, do so without imagining how they will translate into clothing. That part will take care of itself later. It is easier to see how a wardrobe can be colourful, smart, sweet or down-to-earth than it is to imagine clothing that is humorous, determined or sensitive. Do not get sidetracked right now; focus on words that best describe you.

These words can tell you a lot. If, for example, one of your defining words is luminous, and you dress in all neutral colours, perhaps it’s time to add some pizzazz! Or, if you are wise but your wardrobe consists of pastel T-shirts with silly sayings on them, it might be time to bring in more rich colours, textures and styles.

4. Know what you have

personal-style-i-me-my-shelf-3Pull three or four of your favourite outfits out of your closet. What do they have in common? Look for these themes:

Colour—Do you love to wear colour, or are you a black and white or neutral person? If you wear colour, are there particular ones you favour?

Fabric—Do you like fabrics with body and structure, or do you prefer them soft and airy or flowing and drapey?

Fit—Do you like fitted, loose, flowing or softly tailored?

Solids v/s prints—Do you wear one more than the other?

5. Know what you want

What characteristics do you feel are missing in your current wardrobe? Pizzazz? Elegance? Beauty? Drama? Flamboyance? Spunkiness? Or something else?

6. Know your accessory style

Consider how frequently you accessorise and the types of accessories that interest you.

  • Do you always or never wear jewellery?
  • Do you like ties? Do you know how to wear them?
  • Are shoes your passion or just a necessity?
  • How do you feel about cardholders, handbags, eyeglasses and even your hair?
  • What makes your accessories distinctively you?

7. Know your dislikespersonal-style-i-me-my-shelf-4

Perhaps you cannot imagine wearing ruffles, anything embroidered, turtlenecks, or polo shirts. It’s up to you! What you do not like can tell you as much about your style as what you do enjoy wearing.

8. Let the universe inspire you

Spend five minutes a day visualising yourself wearing clothes that make your heart sing. Remember, you do not have to see a specific outfit. It’s more the feeling that the outfit elicits that you are going for. Imagine looking in the mirror and saying to yourself, “Wow, I look stunning!” If stunning is too big a word to start, choose something that feels doable to you right now. Try sophisticated, darned good or even so much better. The universe will say, “Hey, he wants more of that,” and that is what you will get. It might be in small doses and in surprising ways, but you will get it.

Spend five minutes a day visualising yourself wearing clothes that make your heart sing

9. Start small

personal-style-i-me-my-shelf-5You don’t want to scare yourself by completely overhauling your style overnight. It probably took you years to get in a style rut, so give yourself a break and start small. If you’ve been wearing mostly neutrals, add a new colour in a tie, scarf or pair of shoes. Do not buy an entire outfit in a bright colour if you usually wear all black or neutrals! Get a great new hairstyle or hair colour to reflect the image you want to project. Hint: If you do that, you might find you need to make another change fairly soon to keep up with your new hairdo! Or maybe buy a handbag in a colour you’ve been admiring, and use it every day for a week. See what happens!

10. Buy it and wear it only if you love it

As I have said before, do not settle for functional or something that will just get you by. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it! There are no exceptions to this rule.

A smaller wardrobe may actually be better Despite what you see on the TV makeover shows, creating a wardrobe is not a one-time proposition, and there is certainly no magic bullet. Like most people, you will still probably have to try on many things before you find the pieces you love, but at least you will feel more confident about your final selections. Building a wardrobe is a lifelong project and, ideally, an enjoyable one. The more you see your wardrobe taking shape, the more fun the journey is! As new and wonderful things come into your life, you will feel more comfortable letting go of more of what is cluttering your closet now. And, you will also find that your wardrobe is smaller than you expected. Surprisingly, it will not feel smaller, because you will wear everything. That’s when you know you are right on target!

A final word of advice: Pay attention to detail. Remember that a signature style is all about consistency. You will get discouraged if you do it half-heartedly. For instance, if you have a fabulous, elegant look and throw on your old running shoes with it, you are going to feel frustrated when it doesn’t feel right to you. You want to feel great in everything you wear, and when you follow these guidelines you will.

A version of this was first published in the January 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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