After working in the fashion industry as a model for several years, my perspective of the industry changed entirely when I started working for BEIGE last year. I learned to look at the industry through the other side of the lens. I saw things as a photographer, buyer, sales associate, marketer, and as a stylist. It created a desire in me to embrace a different aspect of my creativity that I wasn't so familiar with, initially. Especially when it came to personal style.
I have always been interested in fashion. However, over time I noticed that what I was wearing was indicative of who I was around, the culture I was in, and what the latest trends were. My personal style was simply a reflection of what was around me, instead of what I wanted to represent.
Lately, I've began to delve into this a little more. I wanted to actually sit down and journey into my style psyche, if you will. But then I began thinking... How many other people enjoy fashion, yet lack the ability to truly express themselves through it? It honestly makes shopping difficult when you don't have a solid, genuine foundation of what makes your style you. An excerpt from 70's style guide Cheap Chic, suggests that your look should be in harmony with the way you live, who you are, and not reflect what the fashion magazines (or even we) might say. In order to reflect that outwardly, it requires us to self-reflect on things that make us who we are, the lifestyle we live, and the person we want to represent.
I ran across German blogger and author Anuschka Rees, author of Into Mind and The Curated Closet. Her website offers a lot of simple tips on how to curate your wardrobe and develop an authentic personal style. In one of her blogs, she compares dressing well to speaking a foreign language.
"I love the comparison between the two," Rees states. "Because the great thing about developing a sense of style is this: it's not something you need to be born with. It's a skill like any other, that can be learned like any other. All it takes is a little practice."
While I'm not exactly a beginner when it comes to fashion and style, I thought some of her ideas and suggestions on cultivating your personal style from scratch were extremely helpful and interesting - even for people with years of experience in fashion. If our style should be reflective of who we are, and if who we are is constantly evolving, then it makes sense our style should be constantly evolving as well. It doesn't hurt to sit down from time to time and rewrite your inner dialog of who you say you are and how what your wearing reflects that.
Here are some of Rees’ suggestions on redefining your personal style:
1) Become An Expert Observer
The number one thing you can do to improve your sense of style and train your eye is this: look at how other people are doing it! What types of pieces are they wearing, what colors do they mix, what shoes do they pair with outfits? Pretend you are a researcher in a foreign culture and are trying to find out as much as possible about the local customs. Use your everyday environment as your lab. Also use Pinterest and fashion blogs (our favorites: Man Repellar, Happily Grey, Figtny) to supplement your real life studies and expose yourself to a broader range of styles. Rees says the key throughout this process is to be as precise as possible. If you see an outfit you like, figure out what makes it so great. Is it the overall vibe of the look? The color scheme? Or a specific piece?
We know that sounds contradictory to developing an authentic style, however Rees uses the analogy of art students. How do students in art school learn their craft? By studying and copying the styles of other artists. Her advice is to pick one outfit and copy it. Then assess what you like/don’t like about it. By trying to copy an outfit as closely as possible, you are forced to really pay attention to details, like the fit of the pieces and how they work together to create the overall silhouette of the outfit. And if you don’t like the outfit on yourself - just use that as an opportunity to learn more about your style by trying to figure out exactly what it is that you don’t like about it. Then try to think of a way you can tweak it to make it better.
3) Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Rees advises that the only way to ever get to a place where you can confidently say, yes this is my style, is by exposing yourself to different aesthetics and experimenting - just to find out the things you like, and the things you don’t. Her advice is to make it fun but effective. She suggests actively seeking out new styles, colors, and silhouettes that are typically out of your comfort zone, all for the sake of research. A helpful way to push yourself is to set yourself small challenges. For example, go into a store and try on that one piece that you love on other people, but think you can’t pull of yourself, and see if you can build an outfit around it.
4) Use Your Most Worn Pieces as Your Guide
Even if you aren’t too happy with the state of your wardrobe, chances are you have a few pieces that you do like. Rees suggests to figure out what separates your favorites from the rest of your clothes. Think fabric, fit/silhouette, and overall style and details. She emphasizes that precision is key at this point. Find out exactly what feature of the piece makes it so comfortable and well-fitting. Is it the all-natural material, the high waste, or the thicker fabric? Once you have defined what you like about your favorite pieces, you’ll be left with a detailed list of things that are your style. When you go shopping, this can be your guide.
I challenge you to stop for a second, and evaluate your closet. Ask yourself if what you're wearing is an accurate depiction of who you are and what you want to represent. Think of yourself as the easel and what you're wearing as the art. What do you want displayed? If you find yourself in the predicament of not finding anything that represents you, I encourage you to check out Rees' website listed above. Also, stay tuned for more posts on personal style and how to build it from the basics.