A Tip For Developing Personal Style: One Thing At A Time

*trying out pastel tights in 2008
While in New York I had the opportunity to chat with a lot of friends and bloggers with fantastic personal style. With our shared interest in fashion it was natural that conversation often turned to clothes, style influences and development and so on. Often I was struck by how smartly dressed girls were in high school--from vintage prom dresses to a general self-confident and careless chic I've always admired and rarely been able to emulate. I'm a bit envious of women who knew themselves and their style early on. I didn't. I still feel as if I don't know myself most days. Much of my style progress has been documented on this blog as I only started to grow in confidence in college.
I discussed before how a wardrobe isn't built overnight and that it takes time to fill your closet with pieces you love, but how do you figure out what you love and what you've just been too afraid to try? I knew I had a desire to wear skirts and dresses, but was self-conscious of my legs for many years. When I started wearing skirts I still had to figure out what styles worked for me--would I be comfortable in a pencil skirt on a daily basis, or was a-line more my style? Even figuring out how to style my hair was something new to tackle and when I compared myself in jeans and a tee shirt to a vintage style blogger I admired who looked head-to-toe as if she had stepped out of the 1950s I was overwhelmed with the gap between who I admired and what I looked like. How did I find the right skirt, shoes, lipstick, style my hair--and still get to class on time? Perhaps other people can naturally make a leap from one style (or no style) to another, but it seemed overwhelming for me.
In the process of figuring things out I developed a little system: one thing at a time. More specifically, I challenged myself to try one new thing a week. I only had to wear the style for a single day that week if the project went poorly, but at the end of the week I still had to figure out a new "thing" to do. This also means developing a list of styles you enjoy or creating mood boards for inspiration. For example, one week I bought a pencil skirt and wore it for a full day without switching back to my comfort zone of jeans. That went rather well and the next week I made myself a thick headband ala Bardot in Les Mepris and winged my eyeliner. That went less well as I made the headband too small and had a headache by the end of the day, but the winged eyeliner became a signature for my style. I still wear my eyeliner like this every day. A week later I had to try out a different style I was afraid of. Over time I experimented with red lipstick, high heels, milkmaid braids, and through trial and error figured out what was "me" and what I admired more on others but didn't like on myself.
Everyone has their own style to developing a style (haha). Some people get to skip the "developing" part entirely either from disinterest or a lack of self-consciousness that means they make intuitive and bold choices from day one. Additionally, this system might be too formal or formulaic for some people, but it helped me. I find a complete overnight change frightening and I like structure; limiting myself to one thing a week kept me from being overwhelmed and motivated me to actively try new things. Like with food: we don't know what we like until we try it.



  1. love this post! like you, i feel like in the past few years my style is constantly changing. now, i feel closer to knowing what i want, but it's about finding the pieces for my closet! it's a process, but a fun one!



  2. Love this! I'm always looking for little ways to mix it up a little bit. Whenever I feel like I'm in a style rut, I change my hair style. It makes everything in my closet feel new or slightly different. If you're looking to change up your look for less bucks, try a new piece of costume jewelry! Its a great, in-expensive way to try something new!


  3. Style changes so much every 5years or so it seems to me, i find myself reinventing what suits my body, dreams and influence all play a role. I am 33 now and barely wear jeans anymore. Dresses and skirts are more what i feel comfortable in..but i agree with changing your comfort zones..i do not wear make up and would llike to learn how i can feel comfortable in make up as i have learned to style my body..oh well.. Baby steps!

  4. I'm so glad you posted this because I've actually been thinking lately about what I would consider to be my personal style. It's refreshing to know that someone as well dressed as yourself also had to work to develop their own style rather than having it come naturally to them. Thanks for sharing these tips :)

  5. I love that idea of trying something new every week. It's a good way to find out what you like but it's not super scary either. I'm definitely going to try that. Thanks! :)

  6. It is so encouraging to hear "Just take it one step at a time" from a gal who has such wonderful fashion taste! Personal style has a way of fluctuating and I know for many years I was afraid to even venture for fear of 'doing it wrong'. One thing at a time. Great post (:

  7. It's interesting to hear you say this when I think you have such fantastic taste. I am experimenting and growing my style a lot this year I think. I've become braver at doing more daring things and at believing I can. One of my new years resolutions was to 'wear lipstick as though I'm cool'. If you understand, to wear things I thought were only for cool people. Now I wear lipstick all the time and I love it.

  8. I love how you word this, I think lots of people can relate to what you are saying. You have such lovely honesty in your writing.


  9. Aw, I'm so glad we talked about this. I love reading your blog and watching your style evolve.

  10. I think the week at a time thing is such a clever idea. I hate how I can tend to slip back to boring outfits I don't feel good in when I think it "doesn't matter." Sure I'm just going to work today and might not see anyone I want to impress, but dressing nicely makes me feel good about myself so why not do it for ME?

  11. I love this post! And I totally agree with you. I feel the same way you do--like how do these people KNOW what their style is? How are they so effortlessly glamorous without trying! I think more or less, I know my own personal style, but I feel too young to just stick to one so like you, I do try to make it a point to try out things that are unlike "me" from time to time. :)

  12. Thank you for posting this! I love fashion, but have always struggled with cycling through clothes because I'm so indecisive, want to quickly jump in to trends, and don't want to spend money on quality pieces. This really helped illuminate the importance of finding pieces I LOVE and building my wardrobe that way.


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