Five ways to improve your personal style (just a little)
We do a lot of research to make the What to Wear Daily service and this is one of our most consistent findings: when we ask men and women what they want style-wise they give us the same answer: they want to be a “little more stylish” than they currently are.
Notice that they do NOT say "I want to wear only Burberry" or "I want to dress like a supermodel". This is very important! Men and women aren’t pining to change their looks completely: they don’t want their personal style transformed into those of Brad Pitt or Kate Middleton. Instead, their desires are more practical. They want to improve their style a little bit.
What the research said
Here is just a small sampling of what we’ve heard from folks:
- “Well, I mostly like my style but I wish I had nicer clothing.”
- “I just want a couple tips and tricks to dress me up a little."
- “Tell me how to improve a little each day.”
- “I want to look good when I want to look good.”
- “I want more clothes like my favorite clothes.”
- “I don’t have time to be a movie star, but I want to be a little more stylish.”
Sentiments like these came from everywhere, from people who you would consider stylish and people you would consider style-phobic. I remember one set of interviews I did with two women about an hour apart. The first woman was not stylish at all…she wore clothes that didn’t seem to go together and didn’t fit well. She even said so! “I’m not very stylish.” But she then said she wanted a little more style in her life. The second woman was extremely stylish…dressed impeccably well and even reads magazines and books on style. She said basically the same thing…she would like to be slightly more stylish. Same goal, completely different levels of style!
Becoming a little more stylish is a reasonable request; much easier than a complete makeover. (and really how many "complete makeovers" actually work long-term?) Style takes effort, time, and money, things that most of us don’t have in ample supply. To really be stylish we would have to change our lifestyle completely, which just isn't practical.
Personal style isn't the same as fashion
When we talked to people in depth about their personal style it was clear that style is a different beast from fashion. Fashion is about what's popular, what clothes are being shown on runways or being worn by famous people. So when Kate Middleton wears an amazing hat that other people emulate, that's fashion. Style, on the other hand, is more personal. Style is about personal identity and expression, and while people want to be fashionable they desire more to have their own personal style.
Since making a big change isn't realistic for most of us, here are five ways to be stylish in your own, personal way that isn't about chasing what's fashionable.
Five ways to improve your personal style
1) Wear clothes that fit well.
You may be thinking "What does clothes fitting well have to do with style?". But think about it...you never see stylish people in poor-fitting clothes. Ever. Poorly fitting clothes look bad no matter if they’re plain ol white t-shirts or the latest Hugo Boss pinstripe suit. Example: this guy's shirt could cost $1,000 and be from the most stylish clothing line on earth but it's billowing like a sail and makes the guy look a little hapless. So whatever you wear, make sure it fits well.
Great fitting clothes make you look better because they give off several positive signals. First, they signal that you have your stuff together…that you’re trustworthy. Second, they look like a natural extension of your body. You move how you're supposed to move…and your clothes show off your body. Third, you’ll just be much more comfortable…it feels good to wear clothes that fit well. You’ll be more confident as a result which is definitely part of your personal style!
2) Dress appropriately for the weather.
Everybody knows how annoying it can be when you get rained on without having an umbrella. Not having appropriate rain gear stinks...but more commonly we dress just slightly off from the conditions. We wear jeans when it’s too hot for them. We don’t bring a jacket when going out into a cool morning. We forget our sunglasses when going to the beach. When we wear appropriate clothing we seem in style despite not trying to…appropriateness is part of style, too.
We can help with this one...this is exactly what our What to Wear daily email does.
3) Dress appropriately for the situation.
In addition to weather, dressing appropriately for the occasion is stylish as well. Events like job interviews, first dates, and weddings typically terrify people who aren’t used to them. The solution to these problems is easy, if you’re willing to speak up and ask others for advice.
First off, ask the event host what the appropriate clothing is for an event, they’ll be happy to help you. (they want people looking appropriate at the event) Second, ask your friends for advice about what clothes work well on you and which don’t. Go shopping with a friend or try the clothes on in front of them. You’ll be happy you did. Third, match the formality of your clothes not just with the situation but with each piece. Wearing an ironed dress shirt with faded jeans is trying to mix oil and water…go all in when going for a style.
4) Purchase clothes stubbornly.
When shopping for clothes consider each purchase as it fits into your style. Are you really happy with this piece? Do you feel good when wearing it? Or are you simply buying it because you feel like buying something? Try on lots of clothes, join services like Trunk Club, Stitch Fix, etc, but purchase only great clothing items. Make each piece work to get into your wardrobe. Start by thinking about a complete wardrobe: one piece of each type you need. Do you have a lightweight rain jacket? Get one of those before you get your third pair of boots. Do you have a good umbrella? Invest in one of those instead of buying your fifth crappy one. By going for wardrobe completion you’ll make sure the pieces you do have are ones you really love.
5) Keep a stylebook.
Are you one of the few folks who haven’t been on Pinterest lately? It’s a great service to help you collect pictures of clothing in the styles you like. There are countless boards and pictures you can curate to find the items you’re interested in. This will help you remember things as well as help you choose the right item for you. (we believe in purchasing fewer, better clothing pieces rather than purchasing many items or impulse buying). A stylebook will help you recognize more easily what is your style and what isn’t.
Finding your personal style
Personal style isn't just about wearing clothes that are in fashion. In fact, finding your personal style is more about finding appropriate clothes that you feel comfortable in and fit you well. In other words, you need to discover your own style and build it over time. We've given you five tips to get started...let me know if you find these helpful!