Growing up, I watched a lot of What Not to Wear. I know, you’d never know by the picture of a young fashionista in the making. Looking back on it, I wonder how many transformations on that show were about introducing the person to a new way of being and a side of themselves they hadn’t accessed versus trying to make them look more socially acceptable. Style should be a personal thing and be a visual indicator of what you’re about and who you are. Before I give my personal suggestions, I want to be clear that I want everyone to dress authentically to them. If you’re not at the point yet of knowing what that looks like, consider my tips.
Find inspiration. Pinterest is an easy way to start, as are fashion blogs. Keep in mind, though, that for women’s fashion, many of the women in the pictures have a similar body type. When looking for inspiration, it’s okay to be broad. Maybe you don’t like the colors of an outfit, but you like the structure. Perhaps you like the colors or patterns and not the execution or what they’re paired with. That’s okay. Just try to get those inspired creative juices flowing. Also remember to think about any time periods you like for fashion. I had a friend who managed to find a pair of shoes that was a modern take on the 1940s fashion he liked. For me personally, I love fashion from the 1950s and early 1960s as well as French influences. My interpretation of those means lots of collared shirts, headbands, and simple makeup.
Know your body. I have shorter legs, small feet, wider hips, a smaller chest, and stronger shoulders. I’ve learned that peplum tops make my hips look larger, halter tops make my shoulders look broader, pointed-toed shoes help make my legs look longer, and really high heels make me look like I’m walking on stubs. It really helps to play around with different fits, cuts, and lengths to see what you find most flattering on yourself. As I mentioned too, many popular fashion bloggers and Pinterest pins feature women with similar body types. Just because something looks nice on them doesn’t mean it will on you. That’s perfectly fine. As you continue to learn what works on you, you can quickly recognize what won’t achieve the look you’re going for.
Trendy vs looks good vs is you. There’s a big difference between what’s trendy, what looks good on you, and what is actually you. Trends come and go and once you have a grasp of your style, I guarantee there will be a season or two where what you like is trendy. Enjoy it while it lasts and add any essentials to your wardrobe that you can during this time. However, most of the time the trend won’t be your personal style. Remember when shopping during these times that just because something might look good on you, it doesn’t mean that’s your style. In my experience, any time I’ve purchased an item that looked good on me, but wasn’t my style, I hardly, if ever, wore it. The objective isn’t to dress so others think you look good, it’s to dress so that you feel good. As an example, crop tops have been very popular in the last few years and although I don’t mind the way they look on me, it’s completely not my style, mostly because I feel very exposed wearing them.
Understand color. We all have different skin tones and different colors we find appealing. Play around with color and notice what you gravitate towards. I love sage green and think it complements my coloring well, so I have several items in that color and have learned I can actually use it somewhat as a neutral. In contrast, I love light pink, but it completely washes me out, as do most shades of yellow. To still incorporate that shade of pink in my wardrobe, I have a pair of shoes that I can pair with multiple things to still include it in an outfit. If you love a color, but it doesn’t complement you well, consider using it in an accessory. Also, play around with different shades of color because you’ll probably find one that does suit your skin tone. Pink and yellow aren’t completely off the table for me, but it’s definitely limited to certain tones.
Go-to stores. Once you have an understanding of your personal style, discover any stores that tend to have a good selection of items that work with it. Knowing what stores are more likely to carry clothing that suits you can make shopping so much easier. I personally love collared shirts, so I know that Express and J.Crew are excellent sources for those, particularly when there’s a sale.
Don’t go crazy. Most importantly, don’t start buying everything in your path. I have spent way too much money buying clothes, like shirts, in every color I found appealing in a certain fit that I liked. Most of those items were never worn. Be honest with yourself about if you’ll really wear it or not and if it does accurately represent you and your style. Try to focus on staples that are versatile, as well as pieces you love. You don’t have to have an extensive wardrobe as long as what you have are items you’ll enjoy wearing again and again.