Thoughts on Defining your Style

Ever since I was little, I have had a very distinct sense of style, and a great love of fashion. Sometimes, people would ask my mother why in the world she let me wear some of the very wild outfits that I ran around in, and she would simply shrug and tell people that I was insistent when it came to choosing my own clothes. As long as I was dressed appropriately for the weather conditions, who cares, right?

Whether it was the Pippi Langstrumpf-inspired clash of colorful prints when I was younger, the orange-pink-red-combo phase of middle school, the baggy trousers and neon blue eyeshadow of my teens, or the emo phase I went through toward the end of high school: I was always sure of what I wanted to wear.

Lately, however, I find myself struggling with personal style. The trend of the "capsule wardrobe" and "minimal closet" all look inspiring when you see them beautifully photographed and enthusiastically described, but when I think about applying them to my own life, it seems unrealistic and not all that desirable. I've been following Franziska from Franish for ages, and inspired by her started keeping a tab on what I buy each month and counting the items in my closet each year. But while those two things are very practical (and at times eye-opening), they didn't really help when I sat down to define what my style is.

Adina over at Blue Collar Red Lipstick  has also dedicated a number of grest posts on this topic (here and here), as has probably every other fashion blogger & magazine. After collecting all those bits and pieces of information, this is what I started with:

Not-My-Style List

What are things that I don't like wearing or feel uncomfortable in? Or maybe just don't enjoy from an aesthetic standpoint? In click-bait speak,  these are the things I wouldn't be caught dead in: 
  • Heels
  • White (tops & bottoms) or black (tops)
  • Anything shorter than tshirt sleeves
  • Harem/cropped/low-sitting/baggy/bell bottom trousers
  • Hoop earrings
  • Things that aren’t meant to be see-through but are
  • Satin/pleather/silk
  • Hot pants
  • Deep v-necks, back cutouts where you can't wear a bra, busy necklines
  • Mini skirts
  • Bow embellishments
  • Weirdly over- or under-sized parts (sleeves, belts, purses, hats, etc.)
  • Neon
  • Pointy shoes

Color Palette

For me, this is by far the easiest part - I have a color palette from the style consultation I received as an 18th birthday present. I'm a fall, and in the "classic" color theory here in Europe,  there is no warm, soft, whatever variation; you're simply one of the four seasons. I have added in navy, a blue-tinged gray, and maroon because I find they work well with all my actual colors, and it's nice to have a more muted background to let the other colors shine.

basics: navy, cobalt, khaki, cream | neutrals: gray, dark brown, camel | accents: turquoise, olive, mustard, maroon

Core Silhouettes

Disclaimer: you're going to feel very silly when you do this. Because sitting down and thinking about what you normally throw together on any given day and then trying to break that down into formulas is weird. But! Once you do, it is a very helpful tool to have on hand, especially when you're a) needing to get dressed in a hurry,  or b) out shopping trying to decide if something will work in your wardrobe. But please know, this is not an exact science (or really any type of science): just go with what you generally wear together. No one will know if you add a random cardigan or statement necklace to the mix on any given day, I promise.

  • cardigan + t-shirt + skinny trousers + birkenstock flats
  • midi dress + loafers
  • longsleeve tee + midi skirt + converse
  • blazer + blouse + skinny trousers + loafers
  • leather jacket + printed t-shirt + skinny trousers + biker boots
  • long coat + longblouse + distressed jeans + biker boots

Pretty good so far, right? For everyday-getting-dressed and buying items that will work well with my existing pieces, this is a great place to start.

However, style has always felt like it was so much more than "just getting dressed"; your look is the first impression people have of you, and for that reason it is this BIGIMPORTANTTHING in my head. For the last few years,  it's been a little bit of a struggle to remove that "need" to make a statement and try to bring back the "it looks good because I like it" mentality when it comes to getting dressed. To change the equation from me = my look to (me)+(my clothes)=a look, which is just a nerdy (and probably mathematically incorrect) way of saying that it is hard for me to accept that someone may not like my clothes but that does not mean they don't like me.

A question that I asked myself in an endeavor to become more relaxed and less anxious about personal style is how do I feel in the outfits I enjoy wearing the most? And how do I want to feel in the clothes that I wear?

The answer to the first question is pretty easy: in the outfits which I most enjoy wearing, I feel like myself. Whether that self is a preppy college student, a grunge-inspired streetwear lover, a slinky, velvety aristocrat, or a polished professional: my favorite clothes make me feel like I am showing the world a true, honest part of who I am, with the added bonus that there are almost as many fashion styles as there are facets to me.

To identify the way I want to feel in what I'm wearing,  I took to Pinterest (and my friend Nina's gorgeous blog You Rock My Life) to find my style icons. What do I admire about their looks? How can I apply that to my life? What feelings does their style evoke that I would like to capture in my own?

Emma Watson 

Jessica Alba

Nina from You Rock My Life 

Jessica Biel

Rosier Huntington-Whiteley

The words that describe all these ladies: clean-cut, interesting, sophisticated, effortless. That's what I really want my style to reflect, which is oftentimes a struggle to merge with my ever-present need to be comfortable. But now that I have a clear idea in my head of what I want to feel like, combined with the more practical tools above, I think I'm on a good path to finally find MY style. I'll be sure to keep you posted :)

Who is your style icon? How do you define your style?