Personal style is a tough subject for those who lack a sense of style, a sense of self, or both (for the unfortunate few). If you identify with any of these groups, then hey! Welcome to my world.
There's tea on the stove. I hope you like Earl Gray!
Discovering What Style Means to Me
As a perpetually lost 20-something, it's hard to find a style that works for me. Even when I find a look that fits, I tend to have a hard time sticking to one image. The thing is, humans change too quickly to be confined by any one style. Why place limits on your self-definition?
While I was growing up, I would equate the way I dressed to the way I felt about myself inside. I suppose, to an extent, this is the point of personal style. But it’s hard when you’re not blessed with a closet full of clothes that reflect the way you feel. Instead, I was plagued with this sense of desperation, as I tried and failed to match my appearance to the inner self I imagined.
Since then, I’ve started to learn this is not the best way to be. Of course, I still care about how I’m perceived (don’t we all?) and I still dress in a way that allows me to feel confident, but I’ve learned to marry the concepts of comfort and personal style.
Marrying Comfort and Personal Style
How do you marry two concepts? At that, how do you marry anything at all?
To start, I stopped believing that I had to sacrifice comfort to feel good about myself. I stopped trying to create a wardrobe that reflects the life I want, and instead started to buy pieces that suit the life I have. I also came up with a simple rule: if an item reminds me of someone else before I can imagine myself in it, then it’s not meant for me.
This sounds silly, but time and again I’ve ignored it, only for the rule to prove itself true. This, right here, is the key to my impulse buys and it's a truth I often fail to see (cue: those beetle-juice leggings in 11th grade, the platform booties I bought for college, the mid rise jeans in that awful blue, which might as well have had butt pads too).
For those of you who struggle to control impulse buys, try to create a similar rule for yourself. If you can identify a common thread across your buys, then it won't be difficult to use that pattern to create a rule that works for you. I know this advice is going to make me sound like the ultimate hypocrite, but once you find the right rule, try not to ignore yours as often as I overlook mine.
Defining My 21st Century Style
How would I describe my style now? I'm not sure I can find the right words. Since I'm still in college, my style is muddled with the reality of my day-to-day life. I wake up with the sun and go to bed long after it has fallen from the sky. Ergo, there's no time to think beyond a comfy fit that can get me from day to night.
Instead of trying to define my current style, I’ll share a list of things that make me feel sexy. Genuinely feeling a look doesn’t happen often for me, but when it does, it's better than any form of reassurance I could get from someone else. Ladies and gents, self-validation is better than any external recognition you could receive.
Here's a quick list of what I'll call my perfect pairs: 1) Oversized sweatpants with cuffed legs and a cropped knit 2) An oversized tee 3) Any Bralette Combo. There are definitely other combos floating about my wardrobe that I like, but these are the foundation of my go-to uni outfits. They make me feel good about having to face the world everyday.
As you can tell, I don’t get dressed up often. When I do, I make sure not to dress in a way that will make me uncomfortable at any point in the day. To sum it up, finding a personal style that works for you comes down to three things: comfort, routine, and fit. Your clothes need to fit the way you want them to. Don't settle for saggy jeans and a too-tight tee if you don't like tugging down your top or adjusting your jeans throughout the day.
An easy way to avoid this is to shop in-store so you can try before you buy, and ditch pieces that have warped from their original mold. Shop for your daily routine, instead of buying for hypothetical some-days-soon's. Finally, make sure you feel comfortable in what you wear. This doesn't mean sweats everyday, but find jeans that don't cut into your tummy - get a shirt that clings where you like it - and buy shoes that don't having you limping home at the end of the day.
Personal Style is Personal
Style is what you make of it. So your personal style should be uniquely tailored to you. It's meant to capture who you are, the way you look, and the way you wish to be seen. That being said, there's only so much you can do to “control” your personal style, because at the end of the day your soul will speak for you.
I remember I used to spend hours deliberating who I was and what I wanted my style to say. When I stop overthinking my look for the day, I find myself pulling out outfits in seconds that would have otherwise taken minutes upon minutes to choose. Most of the time, they’re combinations I’d never have thought. Give yourself a moment to breathe and a chance to be. Then deliberate your daily expression.
Another key to further personalizing your style, is having a wardrobe that is practical to your everyday life. There’s no sense in owning 5 formal dresses if you never leave your house. My split-second outfits wouldn’t be possible with a wardrobe of clothes that don’t make sense for the things I do over every day.
Yes, it may suck that you don’t get to jet around Europe and instead you’re at home with a kid or in a class with 80. But your life is the only one you have to live. So embrace your situation, whatever it may be, and overlook the aspirations if ultimately, you wouldn’t choose to change your world.
Once you can do this, your confidence will come a long way. It won’t matter as much what you put on your body, because knowing that you look and feel confident in the clothes you wear elevates the outfit to a whole new scale.
To send you on your way to finding a style the works for you, here's a link to my personal Pinterest board where you can find loads of style inspiration: Pinterest.