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Developing Your Personal Style - A Guide

The sight of models walking down the runway and fashion influencers clad in flamboyant clothes may give off the impression that getting into fashion or improving your style can be a daunting task. It often seems that if you aren't willing to drop hundreds on a completely new wardrobe and a stylist, you're just out of luck. But today, you are in luck, as there are a couple of simple tips and tricks out there that can help kickstart your fashion journey. 


Start Slow, Get Comfortable

As a starting point, keep in mind that improving your style is something that takes time. Finding what you're comfortable wearing and exploring what styles you're interested in is a process that involves taking baby steps outside of your comfort zone. In fact, it's not even necessary to go out and buy new clothes right off the bat. These baby steps can be as small as just simply observing what others are wearing and taking note of what you like and dislike. Which silhouette –skinnier or baggier– do you prefer? Bright or muted colors? Which fabrics and textures are you drawn towards? Merely increasing your awareness of your preferences towards fashion is a great place to start in improving your style. 


Left: Image of a  woman wearing a colorful outfit, courtesy of Pinterest,

Right: Image of a woman wearing a dark outfit, courtesy of Pinterest 


Having the courage to take small steps out of your comfort zone– whether that be donning a new hat, belt, necklace, or sweatshirt, are all great markers of progress. After you're comfortable wearing that new hoodie, you can add a hat on top of that, and then maybe a bracelet too. Small changes like these ensure that you're staying comfortable and confident while slowly improving your style.


Basics, Basics, Basics!

Many tend to believe that owning fancy archival vintage pieces is necessary for "good" fashion, yet this couldn't be further from the truth. Rather than going out and buying flash statement pieces, curating a solid set of basics can improve your closet an unexpected amount. 


What are basics? They're the almost forgettable, safe, predictable clothing pieces in your closet. These pieces should be able to match every other piece of clothing you have and serve to elevate the statement pieces in your closet.


Of the different clothing categories –shirts, sweaters, pants, shorts, shoes, etc.– the basics you chose should be in a color and style that you think will best match the pieces that you already have. For most people, this usually means neutrals, blacks, and whites. However, this may vary from person to person, depending on what they already have. 


Remember, basics are meant to be more functional than to drop jaws. Having a good set of basics means being able to throw on any top and bottom from your collection and still be able to look put together. These basics are meant to go under statement jackets, match a cute cardigan, and compliment whatever else you decide to put on that day. They are the enablers of a simple, put-together style that anyone can easily build off of. 


Some great places to buy basics are UNIQLO, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express, WATC Studios, and Levi's. 


Left: Image of girl wearing a gray tank top, courtesy of UNIQLO, Middle: Image of man wearing a denim jacket courtesy of Levi’s,

Right: Image of girl wearing a white turtleneck, courtesy of Express


Acknowledge Your Accessories 

When it comes to a simple way of elevating your outfit, be sure not to overlook accessories. They are a great way to add details for the eyes to latch onto an otherwise simple outfit. There are head, arm, waist, and handheld accessories that all can be added.


Accessories for the head include pieces like sunglasses, bandanas, earrings, and hats. Each of these comes in thousands of styles, and simply throwing on anyone can completely elevate an outfit. Arm accessories like bracelets, cuffs, and watches can spice up your look, while waist accessories like belts and chains can serve not only a functional purpose but an aesthetic one as well. Accessories like these can help pull together a look, as well as make it overall more visually interesting. 


Like belts, handheld accessories like bags also serve both a function and aesthetic purpose. A bag that matches your outfit well acts not only as a vessel to hold your belongings, but an extension of your outfit as well. There are numerous styles to choose from –mini purses, tote bags, and messenger bags, just to name a few– that all can elevate your outfit. 


Take this example from the author of this article herself (hi guys!). On the left, is a basic outfit and though there's nothing wrong with it, there are certainly ways to spice it up a bit. With an added half-vest, tie, and some jewelry, this outfit transforms into one that's much more stylish! With thousands of options to choose from, any combination of these accessories transform even the most basic ensemble. 


Left: Image of girl wearing a blue & black outfit, courtesy of Sally Chow,

Right: Image of girl wearing a blue & black outfit, courtesy of Sally Chow


Get Inspired 

Though not an essential part in developing your style, looking at other people's outfits and taking inspiration from them can be a great way to find some direction in your fashion journey. Media apps like Pinterest, TikTok, and Little Red Book (Xiao Hong Shu) are filled with fashion communities, usually divided into groups called "aesthetics" or "-cores." This is by no means suggesting that you should find a specific style and immediately copy it, but rather, take elements that style you like, boil it down to its most basic parts, and add those to your own closet.


For example, take the "dark academia" style. Say you find yourself drawn to this style and you want to find pieces similar to what you're seeing online. 


Left: Image of girl wearing a brown outfit, courtesy of Pinterest

Middle: Image of girl wearing a brown outfit, courtesy of Pinterest

Right: Image of girl wearing a brown outfit, courtesy of Pinterest


Confidence!

As cliche as it may sound, confidence really is key. Though it may not be as obvious as one might think, there is an immediately noticeable difference between someone who is comfortable in what they're wearing versus someone who isn't. If you're worried about others noticing and judging you for a new outfit you're wearing out, trust me when I say there is nothing to be worried about. People don't often remember the specifics of what you are wearing but rather the overall aura you project. People will immediately take notice if you're hunched over and anxious all the time, but if your shoulders are back and chin is up, people will know that you're comfortable in your skin, as well as your outfit. 


 Image of woman demonstrating proper posture, courtesy of Davis & DeRosa Physical Therapy. Inc


However, being told over and over again to "just be confident" probably isn't too helpful, so here's some methods that can make you a bit more comfortable in what you're wearing, which will hopefully boost your confidence as well. 


  • First, wear that new outfit or shirt a night or two before you plan to wear it out. Get comfortable in it. Look at yourself in the mirror, strike a pose, and take some pictures. Doing this will help you picture that this isn't something "new" for you but rather just another piece added to your closet, something that's already "you."


  • Second, wear sunglasses! Though it sounds silly, when you're out and about, wearing sunglasses gives you a slight sense of anonymity since you're blocking your eyes from other people's point of view, as well as can feel like a sort of "shield" against the gaze of others. Sometimes a small added layer of security like this can be just what one needs to gain the confidence to step out of their comfort zone. 


  • Third, get someone to wear something new with you. Knowing that someone is trying out something new with you can be a massive comfort because you know you're not alone. Or even better, find someone whose style is more attention–drawing than yours, so people's attention won't be drawn to you, but rather your friend. 


Take all these tips as seriously or as lightly as you want– it's up to you to determine just how much you wish to evolve your style. Remember that your personal style is something that is always changing, and if you can look back and cringe on your past outfits, that is merely a sign that you've grown and improved since then. Best of luck on your fashion journey, dear reader!

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