Defining Personal Style


Which question mark expresses the real me?

A couple summers ago, just before I went to a major conference, I decided that I needed to spruce up my wardrobe. I needed to get away from my casual, comfortable style–a style that was as uninteresting as it was practical. I bought several style-on-a-budget guidebooks, went through the advice, and tried to pull together a fashionable look.

Or, at the very least, enough fashionable outfits to get me through a five day conference.

I was astonished by what a difference a few accessories, nice belts, some high-quality purses, and brighter colors made. Even something as simple as finding a pair of jeans that hit in the right spot made a big difference in my “look.”

Unfortunately, despite what I learned from those books, in the last year I have slid comfortably back into my jeans-and-tank-top with matching sneakers or sandals.

This evening, I came across an article entitled “8 Tips for Developing Personal Style When You Have None.” Jackie, the author, does a good job expressing the conflicting desire to “dress cuter” (or more stylishly) when it goes against a lifetime of habit and self-limitation.

Now that I am returning to sewing (and still on a budget), I am returning to those books, trying to pick out a flattering and limited color palate, and working up a wardrobe that will fit and flatter me.

Often, this means stepping out of my comfort zone. Two years ago, I bought saturated colors and patterns and belts that I never would have picked in the past (I was a neutral + neutral + neutral, no jewelry kind of woman). I was thrilled by the results. In fact, the only thing that disappointed me was the fact that the clothing (bought cheaply) lasted a shorter amount of time than I would have wished.

Over the next weeks, I’ll be re-reading style books, going through my sewing guides and reviewing my “look for / avoid ” chart and plan outfits that will make the most of what I have. It’ll be a slow process, but maybe–maybe–by the end of the year I will have a small collection of complimentary, custom tops, skirts, dresses, sweaters, and even, if I am brave, pants.

How do you find and define your personal style? Is it something that you had once, that somehow slipped away? Or have you never quite known for sure what would suit you and set you apart from the crowd (in whatever way you wish to be perceived)?


4 thoughts on “Defining Personal Style

  1. Mary says:

    My style can be defined as casually elegant. I often wear clothing which is semi fitted, and always wear statement earrings and bracelets. I will sew odd stuff once in awhile like giant shirts or multicolored dresses, but I always return to my uniform. Your blog post is really resonating with me tonight. I’ll be watching to see what you make.

    • demoiselle says:

      It sounds like you have a good idea of what you like and what makes you feel good. How did you come about it? Did you always know? Or was there a “desert” era when you got off track?

      Since I am home, I think I am going to look through my photo albums from my childhood and teen years. Before I started working backstage (jeans and black clothes for work reasons), I had an unusual look and style. I’ve just never found my way back.

      Re: earrings. I’m trying to build up my collection, but my ears keep closing. 😦 Ouch.

  2. keiryberry says:

    Good question! My best reference point is my Chroma colour sampler. I’ve had it since I “had my colours done” 26 years ago and it is the best thing ever. The sampler wallet contains a swatch of the colours that suit my skin tone. So when I am buying clothes, or knitting for me I always, always stick to the right colours. There are lots to choose from so I don’t feel restricted and I know they go together. I haven’t had a bad-buy ever since I started using this. My husband, who pooh-pooh’d the colour thing at first, has commented how valuable it is.

    • demoiselle says:

      I am so glad that worked for you! Amusingly enough, I am visiting my mother and she had her colors done about 20 or 22 years ago. I was a pre-teen (and my hair hadn’t turned brown yet) but she treated me by having my colors done, too.

      I just came across those two little wallets in my dresser. I’ve saved them ever since, and I’m taking them back to NYC with me. I believe i ended up being suited to “Summer” and “Winter” colors, and the swatches still look great and well within the range of what I notice flatters me.

      I’m going to try using it to coordinate my efforts.

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