Monday, April 11, 2011

How To: Update Your Personal Style (In Particular, Your Wardrobe)

Most of us agree that our personal style is important and that how we present ourselves outwardly affects both how we feel inwardly and how the world at large treats us. As we go about our lives, we naturally update our beliefs, routines and values as our range of experiences broadens, but how do we go about updating our personal style to suit the new person we’ve become?

“‘Style’ is an expression of individualism mixed with charisma.” John Fairchild

All images in this post are taken from my own personal 'style inspiration file'. Most are quite old and I haven't saved the sources, so if you know where they come from please let me know and I will credit them properly immediately.

Personal style is just that; it’s personal and as such it should be unique. The clothing you choose to wear should say something about the person you’re trying to be, what you value and what you like. Sometimes, though, what we wear can become a bit out of step with who we really are. Taking time to recalibrate your wardrobe and style to make sure it aligns with the persona you’d like to be portraying can make a world of difference to your confidence and to how people perceive you.

Questions To Consider When Updating Your Style:

What Makes You Comfortable?

When it comes to looking good in any clothing, comfort is key. We all have different thresholds for clothing comfortability tolerance; some people will only be happy when wearing the cosiest of clothing, while others will sacrifice sore toes to wear high heels all night because it makes them feel special and confident. The important thing is to understand your limits and needs before picking out clothes. For example, I detest wearing anything tight around my waist that might slip down constantly or will stop me from sitting or standing comfortably. I know that if I’m trying on a dress that’s completely unfitted, and the sales assistant tells me it’s made to look great with a belt cinching it in, it’s not the dress for me.

Nothing is less attractive than a person whinging about the clothes/shoes/accessories that they chose to wear, and nothing makes you lose confidence faster than feeling like you can’t pull off the outfit you’re wearing. Before you do any shopping, swapping or restyling, make sure you have a think about what you actually like to wear and what you don’t.

What Makes You Confident/What Makes You Feel Good?

Chances are you already own one outfit that you really love to wear, that makes you feel strong, happy, invincible and independent. It might be the special combination of pieces that you save for job interviews, it might be the one dress you’ve worn every time you’ve had a fantastic night out dancing, it might be your wedding outfit or the clothes you put on for the days when you need to do some super productive studying at home before exams. Have a think about that outfit and what it is that makes it special to you, whether it’s the cut, the material, the design or the story behind your ownership of it so that you can incorporate some of those aspects into your everyday wardrobe. After all, saving the strong, happy, invincible and independent outfits for special just means that you spend a whole bunch of days in between big events feeling pretty mediocre.

What Inspires You?

I find that I draw most of my style inspiration from what I can see around me, and with style being such a visual and emotive medium, it’s easy to see why this is a common finding. Often I will be inspired by movie characters, the pictures of people attached to really interesting interviews or by someone I see on the street or on the internet.

When you see a style or outfit you like, something that you just can’t get out of you head, have a think about what it is that attracts you to it. It might be the colour scheme, the silhouette, the panache of the wearer or the hint of the attitude that person is exuding. Understanding why you like what you like will help you understand how you can incorporate these inspirations into your own daily style. 

What Do You Have Already?

You might be starting to think that this style update thing is going to cost you a pretty penny, but it shouldn’t have to. Make sure you have a good sort through the clothes that you already have, giving the items that you don’t want to wear anymore to friends or charity (after all, one man’s worn out, ill fitting suit is another man’s vintage treasure). Chances are a lot of what you already own will fit in with your new style direction already, or will with a little tweaking. You were still you when you bought it all, after all, and a style update doesn’t necessarily mean complete personality overhaul.

What Is Your Plan?

If you’ve decided that what you’d like to be your style and what you’re actually wearing just don’t match up, it might be time for a bit of shopping. You might be cheering, you might be groaning, but either way if it’s new clothes you need then you’ll have to get them from somewhere. The best way to combat problems in this area (overspending/fitting room angst/buying items that fall outside of the style you’ve just decided you’re going for) is to have pre-formulated a good plan.

You need firstly to decide upon a budget. Spending more than you can afford or shopping in stores way out of your price range is not going to make you feel good about yourself, and thus will defeat the entire purpose of this activity. Know how much you are happy to spend before you spend it and if you think your will power might be tested, make sure you only have that amount accessible to you.

You also need to keep in mind that moderation is key here, remembering how fast your tastes can change. It would be silly to spend thousands of dollars kitting yourself out with a full leather wardrobe to perfect the tough rockstar chic look you have in mind for this winter, if by next year you’ll be all about flower power and making daisy chains not war. My rule of thumb is to buy two or three new, good quality pieces at the beginning of winter and then again at summer, with the possibility of adding some new basics (for me; singlets to be layered, colourful tights, cardigans) if need be.

Think about how the new items you buy might match with what you already own. There’s no point in buying a whole bunch of separates that clash with each other and then having to buy more new items to match them just so you can wear them.

Your clothing is of course only one aspect of your style, and it’s certainly possible to wear clothes that you absolutely love without loving yourself in them. To have a truly unique-to-you style means understanding who you really are and accepting it, because otherwise you’ll always just be playing dress up as the person you think you should be. My last tip; there is nothing more stylish than a person who respects themselves and is not afraid to show it.

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