A Tip For Developing Personal Style

*vintage shopping in 2008 without my friends
When asked how to develop personal style the biggest tip I know of is a rule I made for myself during college--that rule being: stop asking other people "does this look cute?" It's a pretty basic rule and one that you can exercise on a daily basis. The point isn't not caring if you look cute for your boyfriend or wearing a dress that your mother likes when she visits, but figuring out what you like for yourself.
I noticed in college on a shopping trip with friends how often when a dress or top was pulled a friend or myself would ask for affirmation before even trying it on. We needed some sort of validation for our attraction to a certain piece in order to hang on to it. It started to bother me as I became more drawn to vintage or retro pieces and my friends always voiced negative opinions. I would put back things I really liked and regret it later. More and more I realized how my style was quite different from theirs and I didn't really want to borrow things from their closets or shop at the same stores, but their negative responses to my picks was still affecting my decision making. One day I realized I just needed to stop asking. When I removed their part in my decision-making process I no longer felt any "wrongness" in choosing things; I started to follow my gut.
Personal style is personal. Even when we have similar styles to our friends or admire our mother's wardrobe we still have our own voice and if we can get out from under peoples' shadows and learn to re-work influences in a way that is personal and unique. You can want to mimic your mother's chicness or have your friends envy your outfit and ask "where's that from!" but dressing to impress other people is different than adjusting your choices to suit other people. Don't mistake this as stating "you can't dress to please your boyfriend" or something; the point is rather about building your own internal voice--this is about weeding out the unhelpful and limiting noises that friends and culture pushes at you. Sometimes it's hard to recognize our own voices and preferences outside of all the opinions being thrust upon us.
This isn't an end all system or how-to guide, but one specific tip that helps you experiment with style. There is a real change when you do stop asking "does this look cute?" You start to look at pieces you never would have considered before and begin feeling confident when you get dressed in the morning. You're even better at dealing with criticisms when they occur because it doesn't really matter if your sister thinks your dress is cute--you think your dress is cute and after all, you're the one wearing it. Your opinion of yourself is more important than anyone else's of you.


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