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.


Louise Barbara said...

This is such a great philosophy to live by. I do the same thing quite a bit, and I really should stop. It's my style, not anyone else's.

Niki said...

Great post! I totally agree. I'd much rather shop by myself than with others, especially in vintage stores. I'm still trying to find my 'unique style,' but I think I'm overthinking it :)


Rebekah Bradford said...

This is why I don't usually shop with other people. Although I really wouldn't care either way and my friends all have a very unique sense of style. So we're very good at picking what we like and encouraging others to wear stuff they like!

Angie | Pandaphilia.com said...

thanks for writing this piece! i feel like many girls (and guys) feel limited by societal normals in fashion and instead of putting down things my friends grimace at, i learned through fashion blogging how to embrace all the unique clothes that i find interesting. in due time, i've inspired some friends to start wearing colour and they even grew to like my style. confidence is more invaluable than a $1000 dress.

pandaphilia fashion

Jocelan Thiessen said...

So true.
I recall a similar instant when i was visiting NY with my girlfriends and opted out of spending the day at the outlet malls with them. When they returned with handbags of various "designers". I was not impressed and they scoffed and said " We have to get these (bags) to be in style! Not everyone has there OWN Style!
So true.

Lindsey Louise Bales said...

this is exactly my thoughts! i always prefer to go shopping alone almost, because i need to be alone with my thoughts on the pieces! i learned that when i was in high school, and it's a piece of advice i think everyone should know! i loved this post, thanks for sharing!

lindsey louise


MsNotWeirdAtAll said...

I was not thinking about it like that before, but now as you said it, I have to say, that I agree. I have this luck, that my friend is also "weird" like me, so she understands, when I buy something unuasual. But friends like this are rear. This is also one of the reasons why I join the internet cummunity. It's so nice so share things you like with people who think alike. So thank you for the posts that inspire me and thank you for the post that motivates me. :)


Natasha said...

That's great advice. I do still ask my boyfriend's opinion, but it's usually when I don't really like something. If I love something I don't care what anyone else thinks.

Anonymous said...

Do you ever feel unhappy that you cant live and dress like these people?


petal and plume said...

whooooa! your style is amazing. your hair is to die for.

Rebecca, The Clothes Horse said...

@Anonymous, um not really. I mean I could wear distressed denim if I wanted too, but if I had Blonde Salad's money I'd still be interested in different brands/pieces than she is. Ultimately though I get unhappy about very different things.

Dus of Cuddly Cacti said...

Great post and tips girl & this is completely what makes your style so unique! I know that a lot of things I love friends would never pick out, and then I’ll get a compliment on it when I wear it so I can def see how it would’ve been limiting and frustrating for you to have friends naysaying the vintage gems you’d pick off the rack.
Cuddly Cacti
Mitla Moda

Wednesday said...

This is a great piece of advice not just how you look, but for everything in life.

You need to take responsibility for your choices and not just defer it to others. In the end you are the one who is to blame if you listened to other people and not yourself.

Do you regret adjusting to suit other people? Or is it water under the bridge?

Thanks Rebecca

MarieBayArea said...

This is the penultimate personal style truth.

Emily said...

I love this philosophy. I think that as I've grown older I have begun to care less about what other people care anyway. Often I'll ask my sister/boyfriend what they think of an outfit and if they say they aren't sure I'll say tough I like it!

Rebecca, The Clothes Horse said...

@Wednesday water under the bridge. The mistakes I've made in the past or even the person I was in the past led me to who I am today, since I'm happy today why regret the past? It's a piece of a whole.

Kallie, Happy Honey and Lark said...

I have the problem of worrying if things are work-appropriate for the office. I have to, which makes it that much worse.

Laura said...

A-freakin'-men! That is how I feel sometimes. What I have learned is to go shopping people who voice their opinions the correct way if I want to ask their thoughts, mostly because I'm indecisive. Friends who will say "Try it on - I want to see what you do with it." I like shopping with; the friend who are all like, "um. no." not so much.

Thanks for this reminder!


-Adrienne said...

I totally agree with this. The same thing happened to me this year, my husband deployed and I started to experiment more with what I wear. I used to ask his opinion but he couldn't see the whole picture and I would get discouraged... Now I know what I like and I don't have to depend on others' help!