How many times have you stood in front of your closet staring at your clothes and feeling completely incompetent to put together a stylish outfit? It’s not that you don’t have enough clothes. It’s that any combination of pieces you try just feels….boring.
Have you ever come across one of those women who always seems put together? The colors in her outfits always seem to create a harmonious palette, the fabrics seem to seamlessly flow into one another and the pieces work together to create an artful look.
After you get over your envy (oh wait, that’s me…) and look closer, you’ll likely notice that she wears the same “uniform” or the same 2-3 variations of it, quite often. Maybe the fabric shifts, maybe the cut varies, but the overall “look” is pretty consistent. She has found her signature style.
WHY DO YOU NEED A SIGNATURE STYLE?
Whether we like it or not, how we look is one of the first things people notice about us. It’s what we are projecting to the world every time we get dressed. I’ve always been a firm believer that how you dress has such an influence in how others perceive you. More importantly, how you feel about your appearance has an effect on your mood and your confidence, which will inevitably affect how you carry yourself.
Having a signature style also helps get over the “I have nothing to wear” phenomenon every morning. When you have a go-to look, you don’t have to think about it as much. You already know the combinations that work for you. You just have to “fill in the blanks” with different pieces from your closet.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN…
To find your signature style, you have to take into consideration your self. (Shocking right?!) Think about your body. What are your strongest assets? The ones you want to highlight? What do you not feel so confident with?
Then, think about what makes you feel good. Think about outfits you’ve put together in the past that made you feel like a million bucks when you walked out the door. If none come to mind, make a point to think about how you feel every day this week. When do you feel your best? What are you wearing that day? Did you do something differently?
Last, think about your lifestyle. Do you go to an office every day? Are you running around with kids? What does the majority of your day look like? Your style has to fit into your life. If you work in an office every day, having a closet full of jeans and t-shirts won’t make getting dressed in the mornings any easier.
HOW TO FIND YOUR SIGNATURE STYLE
While I am a firm believer that style can’t be confined by rules, when you are just starting out, it’s good to have some guidelines.
Start with proportion
“Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.”
— Coco Chanel
I’ve read a lot of eloquent definitions of proportion when it comes to fashion which I will not include here. In simple English, proportion refers to how the individual pieces of your outfit look in relation to each other, as well as in relation to the whole outfit and in relation to your body. Is something too long or too short? Too wide or too tight? Are the proportions right for your body and for the aesthetic of the look?
There are a few elements I take into consideration when you think about proportion:
First, the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds says that the most flattering outfits are the ones that divide the body in thirds rather than equal portions. For example, if you look at the picture below, you can see that the top portion of my outfit takes up about ⅓ of the length of the outfit, while the bottom half makes up about two thirds. Not all outfits will be so easily divided, but when you are working with separates, this is a good place to start.
Balance out the “sexiness” of an outfit
I always look at style with an eye for femininity and sexiness. In that vein, proportion to me is partly about balancing out the sexiness of an outfit. If your blouse has a lower cut that shows off your decollete, pairing it with a short tight skirt will be a bit of an overkill. My rule: pick one item that is higher on the sexiness scale and pair it with a more modest item. Think turtleneck or oversized sweater with a mini skirt, or fitted low-cut tee with jeans.
Last, balance out different parts of your body
This is also where thinking about your body and strongest assets comes in. If you have a long torso, high waisted jeans that break it up will be super flattering. If you have a larger upper body, wearing an A-line or full cut skirt will help balance out your top and bottom half.
Keeping these guidelines in mind, come up with 2-4 different variations of proportions that you like
For inspiration, create a Pinterest board that focuses only on proportion. Pin outfits only using proportion as criteria. Don’t worry about colors, style, or even whether you actually like the outfit at this point. Just focus on proportion. Your only criteria for pinning should be, “would this look flattering on me?” “does it accentuate my body’s assets and balance out my trouble areas?” and “is it the right amount of sexy?”.
If you’d like to see what this board might look like, check out my Proportion board to get an idea. You’ll see my board is filled with high waisted jeans, a-line or full skirts, and heels. These shapes help balance my long torso and pear shape.
Then, choose a color palette
I used to have these beautiful, knee-high Aquatalia brown boots. I saw them at Nordstrom Rack one day and fell in love! I convinced myself that I would wear them with EVERYTHING. They were flat, comfortable and so stylish. Well…I can probably count on my two hands the number of times I wore those boots in the three years I had them. Why? Other than those boots, there were no other items in my closet in the brown color family! Everything I owned was black, grey, or some bright color.
Those boots were not cheap but they taught me an important lesson. In addition to thinking about proportion and lifestyle, you have to keep color in mind when you shop. If you are just now building (or rebuilding) your closet, start with a base color family: either black/grey/navy or brown/beige. Then, add 2-3 accent colors that go with your base colors. When you shop, only items in your color palette make the cut. Once you get into this habit, getting dressed in the morning will be so much easier since you will have a closet of items that you can mix and match!
Think of a feel
What do you want your style to look like? What kind of feel does it have? If you were to use 2-3 words to describe it, what would they be? Create another board, now focusing only on outfits that you like the “feel” of.
Make sure your hair, makeup and accessories match your style
Style isn’t just about clothing. It’s about how you wear your clothing and how you wear your self. Come up with a few hairstyles and makeup looks that can be your go-to and that go with your overall aesthetic. Invest in a quality bag that will finish your every look. Think of the jewelry or other accessories that would fit your aesthetic and invest in a few key pieces that will go with everything (ok…almost everything).
As an added bonus, think of one piece that you’d like to be your signature piece and incorporate it into your look.
I had a coworker once who always wore black nylons with a back seam to work. Out of context, this sounds like a non-work-appropriate outfit. But for her it worked beautifully! She was thin with long legs that were flattered by knee length skirts and mid-sized heels. The modesty of her skirts coupled with her retro style ensured that the seamed nylons didn’t over-sexify the look. It’s been years since I worked with her, yet every time I see seamed nylons I think of her! It’s that sort of detail that makes you memorable and unique.