Merrick's Art | 8 Steps to Finding Your Personal Style
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A few weeks ago I got an email from a reader asking me how I found my personal style. If I look back at photos on my blog just a few years ago, I definitely felt like I hadn’t found it. I was following trends, trying new things, and putting together decent outfits, but most of my outfits just didn’t feel like me. But now, a couple of years later, I feel like I’ve created a closet that I love, and I’ve learned how to dress myself in a way that makes me feel comfortable and confident.

Does this mean I never have to shop again and I’ve found my permanent style? No, of course not. My style is always evolving and shifting based on my age, my circumstances, my location, and trends, but determining your personal style helps you navigate through all of those things while still making them feel like you, no matter where you are in life or what trends come along.

I’ve been thinking about this a ton the last few weeks because it can be hard to figure out your style. I struggled with it for a long time, and I know tons of women who feel like they just don’t have a style — they throw on their top and bottoms and go. But developing a style makes shopping easier, getting dressed more fun, and lets you outwardly express your inward beauty, which can lead to greater confidence. So even if you don’t think you have a style, or don’t think you need a style, you do. And it’s time to find it.

I’ve come up with 8 Steps to Finding Your Personal Style. Are you ready? Here we go.

1. Pick your Top 10. To truly figure out your style, you need to know what’s in your closet. Look through your closet and pick out your 10 favorite pieces (try to have a good mix of tops, bottoms, dresses, and shoes).  These should be the pieces you wear the very most. Now lay them out on your bed all together and it’s time to start analyzing.

With all of them together, look for color themes, (is there a lot of black? A lot of bright colors?), shape themes (Is everything oversized? Or super fitted? Are all the skirts and dresses you picked A-line? Or all maxi length?), similarities in pieces (do you only wear flats? Are half of the pieces you picked black and white striped?) Finding themes among your pieces will give you a good sense of what you like that you already own.

2. Why these 10? Next, let’s determine why it is that you love these pieces so much.  Pay attention when you get dressed to the pieces you feel the most confident and comfortable in. What is it about them that makes you feel so great? Is it the color? The fit of the garment? The way it highlights or hides certain parts of your figure?

Make note of these observations because finding pieces in similar or complimentary hues or with similar silhouettes will help give you direction as you shop. And as you fill your closet with pieces of the same feel, you will start to build a cohesive and stylized wardrobe.

3. Find a style icon. When you look in magazines or on Pinterest, what fashion bloggers or celebrities are you drawn to, in terms of their style? I read somewhere to search “style icons” on Pinterest (you can find the search right here) and determine which styles you like the best. Create a new Pinterest style board and pin each one you’re drawn toward.

Once you have 10-15 pins, look through and find themes, color schemes, patterns, or clothing shapes that reoccur. Hopefully you’ll even see similarities between these pins and some of the pieces in your “top 10” you pulled from your closet. As you shop, refer back to this Pinterest board to remind you of the colors, shapes and styles you want to look for and purchase. This is just another tool to keep your style cohesive and clear.

4. Name that style. When you think of your style, whether you have fully determined or developed it yet or not, what would you call it? Bohemian, classic, feminine, edgy, preppy, colorful, romantic, tomboy, minimalist? Which one or two (or three — it’s totally okay to have more than one!) fits your style, or are you the most drawn toward?

Typically most women have a mix of several, and that’s what makes their style feel unique to them. This is a good thing! Go back to those top ten and when you look at them all together, which styles above do they reflect?

If you have no idea, because all you wear is jeans and a t-shirt every day, that’s okay. Go to your pinterest board and use the images you’ve pinned as a guide since they’re the style you’re aspiring toward. Putting a name (or several) on your style gives you a clearer direction as you fill your closet, and helps to avoid adding pieces to your closet that don’t work well with the rest of your wardrobe.

*Note: Keep in mind that even as you pinpoint your style, you can still add pieces in other styles to your closet. For example, if your style is minimalist feminine, you can still add boho or preppy pieces to your wardrobe — just add them in small doses, or find pieces that have preppy-feminine mix so they don’t feel out of place in your closet and are easy to style with the rest of your wardrobe. Make sense?

5. Show off your strengths. As you’re determining what to fill your closet with, choose clothing and styles that work best for your body type. What do you get the most compliments on? Or what part of your body do you love the most? If you’ve got great legs, rock those skirts and shorts to show them off. If you have an hourglass figure, show off that tiny waist with fit and flare dresses or high waisted A-line skirts. If you’re not a huge fan of your knees, try midi skirts.

Don’t let your body limit your style, let it work with and enhance your style!

6. Figure out a style that fits your lifestyle. This one is pretty self explanatory. But the bottom line is, don’t waste your money on clothing that doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Even if they’re on sale, or you absolutely love them! My Grannie always talked about “price per wear.” If you spend $100 on a pair of shoes and wear them twice, it’s $50 per wear, which is kind of pricey. But if you spend $100 on jeans and wear them three times a week, their price per wear will be pennies within a matter of months!

It’s absolutely okay to occasionally purchase pieces that aren’t super practical (as long as you know you will get some wear out of them). Just think about your lifestyle before you purchase and make sure it’s worth the money you’re spending on it. Because that money could go to a smarter purchase!

7. Check your surroundings. Looking around at your location can help you find your style as well. I was chatting with my mom about this recently and she mentioned two stories about dressing for your location. She lives in Las Vegas where her bright red leather jacket fits right in. But when she wore it once on a trip to London, she instantly felt very out of place in a sea of black trench coats and sweaters. She also mentioned that her bright flowy maxi dress she wore on a trip to Hawaii stuck out like a sore thumb on her layover in hipster San Francisco on her way home.

Different cities and areas of the country have different styles and vibes, and while it’s absolutely okay to stray from them, dressing for your location does help give direction to your wardrobe. Personally, I feel the best when I feel like I’m blending in at least a little bit. I want my style to be personal and not cookie cutter, but I want it to fit with the vibe of my location (I also do this when I travel!)

So determine the style of your location and let it give your style a little direction. If you’re in the Southern states, go a little more feminine and preppy. If you’re in California, let your style be a little more boho and casual. Are you catching my drift?

8. Know where to shop. Where you shop can definitely determine your style, whether you’re aware of it or not. Of course department stores are great for finding pretty much anything you would ever need to put in your closet, but I’ve found that taking cues from one or two other stores that you frequent helps determine your style as well.

Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie both have a very distinct bohemian style, while Gap and J.Crew are much more preppy. Old Navy has a cool, casual feel to most of their clothing, Loft has more classic feminine styles, and Forever21 has a youthful, trendy feel. Where are you shopping the most? Pick two or three of the places you shop the most and look at what outfits they’re putting together in their lookbooks and on the splash pages of their websites, and see if they really fit the style you’re trying to create for yourself. If they don’t, stop shopping there and pick somewhere new that’s a better fit.

And that’s it! Now you have eight specific tools to help you determine your style and start building a great wardrobe that fits your lifestyle, your body type, and your aesthetic!

As I said at the beginning, developing a style isn’t just about looking cute. It’s so much more than that. It’s matching your personality to your wardrobe. It’s sharing on the outside what’s on the inside. It’s creating confidence and purpose in your look. It’s all about finding you.

Don’t forget to check out my wardrobe building blocks here, and 5 steps for cleaning out your closet right here.