Some say that style is something you're born with, but I don't believe it can't be learned. Personal style is having a point of view, and everyone has one. Finding your fashion style without hiring a stylist can be done by following these 5 tips:
1. Pinpoint What You Like
Take the time to figure out what you like. The easiest way to do this is to make Pinterest boards. I divide my style inspiration boards into spring/summer and fall/winter. If you ever come across any photos of outfits on the Internet that speaks to you, simply pin it on one of your boards. You might see some themes emerging.
If you take a look at my fall/winter board, you'll see a lot of cozy knits and tailored wool coats, but what surprised me was how much I liked outfits with belted, high-waisted wool pants. I don’t own pants like these, so now I know what to look for when I'm shopping, especially in chaotic secondhand or vintage stores.
2. Know What Works for Your Body
Now that you have a general sense of what you like, figure out what flatters your body. These days, clothes are designed to look good on the hanger, which is one of the reasons why tall and skinny women have more options.
If you don’t fit that mold—and few women do—my recommendation is to take a look at stylish women with similar body types for inspiration. With so many fashion bloggers, celebrities, and public figures out there representing different heights, shapes, and backgrounds, there's bound to be someone whose style you click with. Make a Pinterest board for this too. Notice what kind of clothes complement them, and see how you can put together equally flattering outfits in the styles you like.
Consider your proportions and find the best ways to balance them. I'm a little bottom heavy, so wearing tight jeans with a loose top is a comfortable and casual day look for me. I also like to define the waist, whether that's with belted dresses or high-waisted pants.
For women of all sizes, a good tailor is your best friend. If something doesn't fit the way you want it to, get it one size bigger and have your tailor do some magic. If I like the fabric and general style of a piece, but the fit is even a little off, I get it fixed. It really makes a world of difference.
The Kibbe Body Type system can further help you make sense of what looks best for your body type. There are 13 Kibbe types, and they are determined more by the lines of your body rather than your weight or body shape. I found it extremely useful because it helped me understand why certain clothes simply didn’t flatter me and which clothes do.
3. Own Quality Basics but Take Chances
For those who want a closet makeover, I recommend building your foundation with a capsule wardrobe of neutral basics. These basics can be relied on on days you don't want to think about clothes but still want to look put together. They are good building blocks to any wardrobe, and they also work to complement or balance out the more colourful or eccentric pieces you own.
I do think only sticking to a capsule wardrobe can be boring. I suspect many are afraid of branching out of their fashion comfort zones. They probably assume certain things won't look good on them. You won't know until you actually try the piece on. This brings me to an important point:
4. Shop for Pieces Instead of Outfits
Some people tend to buy clothes to match the other items in their wardrobes. I don't like doing this because I actually find it limiting and counterintuitive. Would you rather buy a cardigan that's meh but matches five other things in your wardrobe, or one that you absolutely adore but it's a departure from your usual style?
I would absolutely pick the latter and then worry about putting outfits together after. Take these By Far green suede sandals I'm wearing for example. If my purchasing decision had been based on how many things they'd match in my wardrobe, I wouldn't have bought them at all. Matching is different from complementing, and after wearing them through three different seasons, they complement more outfits than I’d imagined.
Some of my friends worry about getting their clothes to match because they are afraid of deviating from a "look." Style is not about sticking to one look. I honestly don't know how to describe my style. I simply honour what I like, whether it’s a neutral basic or something bold, vintage or contemporary. Throw them together, and that look is unique to me.
I'm not the kind of person who likes things matchy-matchy anyway, and I find it rather exciting to see what kind of outfits emerge from different pieces. And you know what? More often than not, my clothes go well together, and I can usually find multiple ways to wear an item, no matter how out-there it is. If something is casual, there are ways to dress it up. If something is flashy, there are ways to tone it down. If I really love something and want to wear it, I'll make it work.
5. Use Your Intuition
When I shop, I do take the practical into consideration: fabric quality, cut, price, function, versatility, etc. But a quicker method is to use my intuition. Gut feeling, instinct, thin-slicing, or whatever you call it, it’s using intuitive judgment to instantly know what’s for me and what’s not. I can go into a store, comb through a rack in seconds and know what I like and what I should try on. Same with online shopping. Quickly scroll through a shop page, and boom, something will stop me in my tracks.
That was how I found the Victoria Beckham Striped Deconstructed Dress I'm wearing in the pictures above. Initially I saw it in a department store, but I knew it would suit. It was way out of my budget, but a year after stalking the dress online, it showed up on TheRealReal.com in my size, at a fraction of the retail price. When it came, it fit perfectly.
How did I know this dress was for me? Years of looking at clothes, trying on clothes, learning about fashion and art, and really knowing my body. I'm also very discerning with materials, stitching, and fit. Is my intuition right all time? No. Sometimes the piece I like looks off on me, or something that looks boring on a hanger is amazing on the body. But the more I try things on, the more I'm building my expertise.
This is why I think anyone can develop their style, should they put in the work. If you want to look good and have great style, but don't want to learn about fashion, discover what kind of styles you like, or try on clothes, hiring a stylist to do the work for you is the way to go.
If you do want to make an effort, have fun with it. The more you look at photos of fashion, learn what styles you like, know who inspires you, and actually try clothes on, you’ll also develop the intuition and uncover your own unique style.