by Natalie Way
For anyone who’s ever struggled to articulate their personal style, you’re not alone. Defining your fashion identity is deceptively difficult because it’s so much more than pointing to the items in your closet you love wearing. It’s about understanding why these pieces make you feel like the most authentic version of yourself.
While trends have the propensity to come and go, personal style endures and becomes part of who you are. It’s the reason why certain trendy items (we’re looking at you, “ugly” sneakers!) never feel quite right, but your closet staples make you smile time and time again.
At the surface, personal style influences how we get dressed every day. But understanding and embracing your personal style can be more rewarding than simply feeling like you picked out an outfit that slays. Because when it comes down to it, what makes you whole is recognizing you’re beautiful in your own skin—and good clothes are just icing on the cake!
If you’re ready to identify your personal style but have no idea where to start, take a look at the following tried-and-true fashion tips.
Challenge Yourself to Understand Your Personal Style
Ask the Right Questions
To interpret your personal style, ask yourself a simple question: Why? Try to pinpoint why you like to wear certain items and why you shy away from others. Leandra Medine, founder of the fashion website Man Repeller, recommends asking yourself the following questions: “What makes you want to add a necklace on some occasions, but not others? When things make you feel good, ask why. When they don’t, ask again. . .”
If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty of analyzing your wardrobe, we recommend checking out this genius capsule wardrobe worksheet from Caroline Joy of the blog Unfancy. By contemplating your fashion decisions though this framework, you’ll start to understand why certain types of clothes and accessories have shaped the way you get dressed every day.
Lean on Your Style Icons
One of the best ways to internalize your personal style is to look to the people whose sartorial choices inspire you. Maybe it’s Rihanna’s fearlessly glamorous approach to dressing or Brigitte Bardot’s ’60s-chic aesthetic. It’s likely to be a mix of a few different fashion-minded and oft-photographed icons.
Stash your favorite looks on a visual mood board so you can refer to it when you’re in need of some style inspiration. Then, take note of the little details that keep popping up like common silhouettes, colors, textures and pieces. Are your photos filled with jeans and t-shirt looks? Maybe you’ve been really into feminine dresses worn with sneakers. This will help you hone in on what you like and can help you identify items that may be missing from your current wardrobe.
Identify Your Signature Staple
Do you find yourself gravitating toward certain pieces in your wardrobe time and time again? Maybe it’s a striped shirt or pair of ballet flats that are so comfortable they feel as if they’ve become part of your style DNA. Those are your signature staples, and part of pinning down your personal style is embracing those reliable items you reach for on a regular basis. Audrey Hepburn had her little black dress, and Jenna Lyons has her black thick-frame glasses. When you’re running late or having an off day, these are the items you can grab and know that they’ll feel comfortable, stylish, and totally you.
You can also challenge yourself to style these staples in different ways. That’s where your visual style mood board comes into play. Feel like you’ve exhausted your favorite jeans + sweater pairings? Try styling those jeans with a t-shirt and blazer instead.
Make Smarter Shopping Choices
Once you’ve honed in on your authentic aesthetic, use this knowledge to make smarter decisions when shopping. Knowing your tried-and-true staples will help you decide if you should buy more of those pieces (you can never have too many striped shirts, right?) or invest in things that style seamlessly with them. Both decisions depend on your budget, how much room you have in your closet, and if you would benefit from adding something new to your wardrobe.
Remember, personal style is iterative — and that’s the fun part about it! Don’t be afraid to try something once because it’s those little experiments that help refine your look. Be proud of the style you’ve developed thus far, and stay curious about how you can grow that style in the future.
Natalie Way is a writer and editor based in New York City. She has experience covering real estate, interior design and lifestyle.