Everyone has their own unique look, but what draws one person to casual comfort and another to haute couture? Find out what factors influence your fashion sense – and how to find a personal style that truly flatters you.
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By Kara Wahlgren
From Jennifer Aniston’s low-key Cali style to Victoria Beckham’s sky-high heels and skin-tight dresses, celebrities have a look they’re known for. But developing your personal style isn’t always an easy task. If you’ve ever changed your outfit six times before heading out the door, you know how overwhelming fashion can be. Luckily, pinning down your personal style doesn’t have to be a painful process. We asked three local style experts how to find – and flaunt – your own signature look.
Assess your personal taste.
The first step to developing your personal style is to figure out what you’re drawn to. Natalie Tincher, founder of the image consulting firm Buttoned Up in New York City, asks clients a few key questions to help them define their personal style: “What is your current go-to outfit and what do you like about it? What brands or celebrities are you drawn to? What parts of your body do you like to accentuate or camouflage?” Asking yourself these questions will help you ignore the fads and focus on what you really like.
Look beyond your closet.
Your personal style doesn’t only reflect the kind of clothes you like – chances are, it’s also influenced by your friends, your career, your hometown, your hobbies and your heroes. Want a better grasp on what inspires your style? Use words and images to define it, suggests Alexandra Suzanne Greenawalt, a style branding expert at alexandrastylist.com and author of Secrets of a Fashion Stylist. “Building a Pinterest board is a great tool,” Greenawalt says. “Your inspiration images can be anything – nature, flowers, interiors, textures, accessories.” As you’re shopping, peek at your pins and look for clothing that has a similar feel.
Make comfort look chic.
If you find yourself wishing that yoga pants were acceptable work attire, take heart: Self-expression and comfort can go hand in hand. You don’t need to wear stilettos to the grocery store to be stylish. “There is a happy medium between being comfortable and still feeling put-together,” says Valerie Halfon, a personal shopper at ShopWithVal.com. “Wear color. When you color-coordinate, even your gym clothes will look well-thought-out. Take a simple outfit to the next level with a scarf or statement necklace. And try maxi skirts and dresses as an alternative to yoga pants – they’re comfortable, yet sleek.”
Don’t be tempted by trends.
Trends change every season, so keeping up can be exhausting. The key is to adapt the trends to fit your style, rather than changing your style every time a new trend comes along. “It’s never good to chase a style that doesn’t feel comfortable or doesn’t flatter your body type,” Tincher says. Before you buy a trendy item, she cautions, “Make sure you can make at least three outfits by pairing it with items you already own.” This will help you gauge whether it really complements your style. When in doubt, Greenawalt suggests sticking with trendy accessories. Instead of head-to-toe houndstooth, for example, find a wallet or shoe in the classic pattern.
Recognize a style rut when it happens.
No matter how much time you’ve spent honing your current look, you always have the license to overhaul it. There was a time when Katie Holmes was frumpy and Justin Timberlake was rocking a denim tux – people change! “We evolve as people, so it would be silly to think our style doesn’t evolve with us,” Greenawalt says. “You can tell you’re due for a change if you open your closet and feel like you have nothing to wear.” Don’t worry that your friends won’t recognize you without your oversized sunglasses or favorite pair of cowboy boots. As long as your style reflects who you are, it won’t take long for your new look to become your signature look.