As someone who has a definite style, works at a fashion college and is rarely seen in an outfit that hasn’t been carefully planned out, I often get asked for style tips. Last summer I played the part of personal shopper twice and it got me thinking about how I could distil my advice into a blog post, so that readers can kick-start their own journey to finding a style that suits them.
Here’s what I’ve come up with so far, but it is in no way an exhaustive list. If you have any of your own tips to add, feel free to add them in the comments.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Which items in your wardrobe do you really love? What is it about them makes you feel good (the cut, colour, texture, pattern, fit or style)?
- What have you worn recently that’s got compliments?
- What do you feel most comfortable in (both physically and emotionally)?
- What do you love most about clothes – colour or texture?
- What have you seen other people wearing that you’d love to wear yourself? Have you tried wearing something like that? If not, why?
General Tips and Advice
- Look at a photo of you at a special occasion wearing an outfit that you absolutely love. Work out if you could wear it (or a version of it) everyday, rather than keeping it for best.
- Venture out of your comfort zone at least once. Try on things you think you might hate, when you go shopping. Put together an outfit of things you already own that you wouldn’t usually wear together. You never know, it might make you feel better than you thought it would.
- If you have a fondness for one particular colour, don’t be afraid to buy lots of accessories in that colour. Whatever clothes you put on can instantly be made into a coordinating outfit that way.
- Check size guides on websites and never assume something will fit because ‘a size 12/XL/34″ waist always fits’ in one particular shop. Different brands cut for different ideal customers.
- Pick something patterned from your wardrobe that you love (e.g. a scarf, shirt or tie) and then build an outfit around those colours. If they work together in a print, they’ll probably work for an outfit.
- If you’re shopping for womenswear, check What Size Am I? before hitting the high street to give yourself a realistic idea of what size might fit in which shop.
- Do your research in advance. Check retailers websites to see if their latest stock is of interest, and ask stylish friends where they think you could buy items you’d like.
- Create balance with your accessories (via colour, style and size/shape). A big skirt works well with a big necklace. Bold socks and a lapel pin can liven up a plain shirt and jacket combo.
- Remember, getting dressed can actually be a fun start to your day rather than a chore.
- When going shopping in a bricks ‘n’ mortar store, it can be useful to take a rational honest friend with you for companionship, reassurance and advice. If you can’t do that (or would rather not), taking photos in the changing room can help you see an outfit with different eyes.
- Please don’t assign any special significance to the numbers on the label of anything you try on, just focus on what fits you.
- Take a tip from my mum and be aware of how much care you are willing to give a garment. Check the washing instructions on the label and exercise caution if it’s hand wash or dry clean only. Scrunch the fabric in your hand to see how much ironing it’ll need.
- Remember to sit down in anything tight or easily crumpled to see if it will be easy to live with day-to-day. Walk the length of the changing rooms in a skirt to see if it rides up. Lift your arms above your head and out in front in a jacket to check the range of movement. Bend over in trousers, and also try bending at the knees. Nobody wants to fork out for something that only looks great when they’re standing still.
- If you walk into a shop and just aren’t feeling it, leave. Someone may have told you they always find good stuff in there, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Certain stores offer a wonderful experience, whatever mood you’re in, whereas others are frustrating as hell when you’re easily annoyed.
- Treat IRL shopping as research. Once you know which brands suit you and fit well, it will be easier to shop online without disappointment. Also, it’s much easier to try whole outfits on (and different colour combinations) when you don’t have to part with cash before doing so.
I suspect my mum might be responsible for this one: go shopping wearing an outfit you love and look great in. If nothing you try on looks any better, it’s not worth buying.
That’s SUCH A GOOD IDEA
Love this idea!
i tend to concentrate on a silhouette of an item- once i’ve got pieces that i like i try to find other things that give me the same silhouette.
also, i do research at fashion week time- i check out the collections of famous designers, not to buy their uber expensive pieces but to see how they’re juxtaposing textures/patterns/formality etc and getting inspiration for how to wear items in my own wardrobe.
This is great. I know there were a handful of instrumental shifts for me:
1. realising that I don’t have to wear things that I hate buying and don’t suit me (eg jeans, in fact all trousers);
2. vintage shopping, because I’d try on things in shapes and patterns I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise try, or find in modern shops;
3. surprisingly, going to other people’s weddings. When the wedding phase amped up in my late 20s, when I was dressing like a slob daily, there were so many I couldn’t just have the one presentable outfit. Also, because you have to dress up for a wedding, each was an opportunity to experiment with more Look.
Ugh, I can’t believe that it was weddings that created my style; but it really was.
I go by my mood, which then relates to the colour and texture of the outfit.
Basically, I wear whatever I want. When I want. Style is about confidence and being able to not give any fucks. Anyone can ‘do’ fashion. Style is rarer and comes from within us! Xx
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Star Em Njeri Coy😊
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Be aware that your personal style can be fluid. It’s not like you have to pick a look and stick to it for ever.
Completely! Everyday i do channel something different. The main thing that is common in my style is colour, texture, mixed with vintage and a queer, alternative aesthetic x
Yep. Mine is generally 30s/40s with quirks. I’m currently mixing a lot of goth / Victorian in.
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Build an outfit around a hero piece fe shoes or a bag.
Dress for your shape— not for trends
I largely agree though I will add to this that flattering for your shape can be a hugely problematic thing sometimes. Not all larger women want to wear the Gok Wan prescribed pencil skirt and wide belt.
I can’t pull off a pencil skirt— at all. But finding dresses that are flattering and tailored well has always been better for me than trying to pull off the ‘in’ shirt/coat/skirt
I swear I’ve seen a whole “why dressing for your shape” is a bad thing article somewhere. Alas, work means I cannae find it. (although for some reason Facebook is fine. Don’t ask.)
I just think flattering is largely subjective. It’s what makes someone happy that matters. I have a friend who at a size 20, rocks the world in shorts and crop tops. She gets a lot of stick from people who say she should dres for her shape.
Dress for your mental health, not your size. ð
Agree flattering is subjective— I mean that I dress for what I believe is flattering to my shape– which in my case tends to show quite a bit of cleavage and have a tucked waste and poofed skirts. That’s what I’m most happy/comfortable/free in… which equates helping mental health and being happy.
Yeah, and lots of people say I shouldn’t show my arms because muscles are not feminine and fuck all them. Finding sleeves that don’t make my arms hurt is becoming progressively more and more difficult.
I have this theory on life. If we can make the things we must do as fabulous as possible, happiness follows.
Wear clothes that make you feel amazing. Eat delicious food. Sleep in an amazing bed.
I am quite lazy so I stick to a simple uniform that suits me –
1) leggings, blazer and smart oversized jumper/shirt (depending on weather
2) knee-length patterned dress with belt and cropped cardigan/bolero/jacket
Once you’ve noticed this about me, you can’t unsee it. I have no imagination when it comes to shopping, and I actually dress pretty conservatively, despite what people think.
Somehow I’ve become my mother, ie i’m known for wearing colour. Also, red lipstick. A lot. I think it’s important to remember that you don’t always have to dress to “conform” to your style every day. I quite often slob about with no make up, wavy hair and jeans. Also, stretchy dresses are my saviour. one item. easy to wash and wear. Oh, and coloured/patterned tights dress up any outfit.
I love the way you dress! You looked amazing on your birthday, like an urban fairy <3
also, only buy stuff that fits you properly as it’ll make you feel so much better. Ebay is great for vintage stuff listed with the actual measurements. I’ve picked up a few dresses in this way and people have asked if they are made to measure.
also, if you can afford it, the sales in selfridges and the like are great and have a wider selection of sizes than you might think (harrods is particularly good for this). (if you are in london, there are sample sales all the time). I have never spent more than £120 on a single item of clothing ever, but own several vivienne westwood and temperley dresses. I don’t shop on the high street apart from the occasional M+S sale purchase as I know that they don’t cut for me.
Carmina Biryana awww ð bless you x
I have different themes, but my “style” comes into it in that there are things that are recuring musts, and others that are total no-no’s: bold bloc colours and lots of black; geometric/op art patterns; tight-fitting, no frills; no florals; no pastels; no white; no boho or ankle length skirts of dresses; no uber-feminine nonsense and to put it all together, a lifelong obsession with mid to late 60’s clean shapes and tailoring. And anything punk, and ears. So, I don’t know. Is that a style?
I think you have some kind of special powers for divining amazing clothes in charity shops. I have never found things that look as good on me as when we’ve gone charity shopping together.
Practice makes perfect – I’ve invested long, long years rummaging in charity shops! – Oh, and thanks for the compliment ð
Never white. Never!
Amen to that! (also, pastels. Bleurgh)
unless you are darker skinned or pair it with highly coloured accessories.
I am darker skinned, but I can’t abide white. it’s a bit of a phobia.
Itziko Perez i’m surprised you can stand to be near by blue/white skin ð
I’m fascinated by very pale skin! ð It’s only white clothes that I can’t do, for love nor money.
I like white. I’m hunting hard for a white crepe evening dress.
I like it on others, but I can’t wear it myself. I think it stems from childhood.
My white-phobia stems from a love of spaghetti bolognese!
I’ll only spill red wine down it. But still….
I’m seeing some kind of cool alternative/ fashion/queer/ femme /art project here?!!! There’s something here , but I can’t think what it is!!
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My tip – Get Lori to take you shopping.
Also, Every item you buy should bring you joy. I just don’t believe in buying anything, particularly clothes or any form of physical expression, that doesn’t make your heart sing a little bit. At the same time before you buy it think of three different occassions or outfits you could wear it with. this balances joy and frugal practicality
Thanks so much for all your brilliant replies! I’m going to have to update the post and extend the list (with credit, of course!)
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i want you to take me shopping!!