Do I have a personal style?
Updated: Jan 19
You do! Here's how to find it.
It's common for my clients to tell me they feel like they don't have a style, or have trouble naming it. In our initial style consultation, when I ask how they define their style, women often struggle to describe it well. Why is this?
Honestly, I think it's just that many women don't stop to think about it. Who has time to define their style anyway? When I first started teaching women how to name and own their style, I went through my own style exercise myself to see how I would do. And guess what? I, too, struggled to define it! Me... someone who has spent years thinking about and crafting my own style, and does this as a profession!
So let's just level the playing field here and say that no matter who you are, or how developed your style is, you may also struggle to define it.
But here's the good news: We all have a style. A style that is unique to us. One that no other person can claim.
If you're sitting there thinking, "Ellie, I don't have a style!" or, "My style is yoga pants and slippers." or, "I'm too <old / young / overweight / underweight / tall / short / insert adjective> to have a style." or my favorite: "My style is comfy." (I'll explain later why "comfy" is not a style!) Trust me, you DO have a style! It's just that you may need help to unearth it.
I love this quote from Diane Von Furstenberg:
“Style is something each of us already has, all we need to do is find it.” - Diane von Furstenberg
Let me tell you a story...
One of my clients came to me wanting help putting together an outfit for a big Zoom meeting that she had coming up. It was a huge meeting for her career and could open the doors to some big new opportunities for her. She knew she wanted to look and feel her best, and feel "camera confident" as I commonly refer to it. So I went to work creating a mini style board for her.
In the intro style consultation, we talked about her style and her style challenges. She expressed feeling really stuck. Her personal style was something that was fun for her, and she spent time on, but over the years and with some weight gain, she lost her motivation to focus any time on it. She would literally go to Talbots and order whatever was pictured on the models (as did all of her co-workers!). It went so far that they had to coordinate which days they were wearing certain outfits so they wouldn't show up wearing the same thing in their meetings! (It's true!)
While shopping in this way got the job done, and helped her look professional and appropriate, she didn't stand out, nor did she fee like herself. She had completely lost the excitement of getting dressed. In fact, the words she used to describe her current style were "uniform, mindless, appropriate."
UGH! Maybe some of you an identify with losing the joy in dressing?
Getting dressed became more about covering up parts of her body that she didn't love, instead of finding things that lit her up.
In addition to this, over the years she had gained some weight and getting dressed became more about covering up parts of her body that she didn't love, instead of finding things that lit her up. When she saw something beautiful that caught her eye online or in a storefront, she always told herself, "I can't wear that. It will show my arms. My middle is too big. I can't pull that off at my size. or I have to wear certain shoes because of a foot condition I have so that won't work for me."
Do you hear what I hear? Restrictions, restrictions, restrictions.
All of us as women do this to ourselves. If you pay attention to the self-talk you have on a daily basis around getting dressed, I can almost bet you put similar restrictions on yourself. We tend to focus in on the negative, instead of highlighting the positive.
In the process of working with me, I asked her to dream a little. To get back into visionary state and imagine what she wanted for herself - both in her personal life and career. How she saw herself when she didn't put restrictions on what she could wear.
I asked her to write down three style words. Words that described a version of herself and her style unencumbered by limiting beliefs she had of herself. When she was able to lift herself up into this higher vision of herself, you can imagine our work was more productive! She choose: classic, feminine, comfortable. (Note, "appropriate" was not one of her words!)
Using these three style words, I was able to help her see a fresh version of herself. A version of herself she had not successfully been able to create on her own. I helped her see not only what shapes and styles would best flatter her body, but I helped her break out of what she defined as "appropriate" for her semi-formal work environment.
"I never would have picked any of these items because I would not have thought they would look good on me." - Holly C.
And the result?
Here's what she had to say: "This experience has been amazing. Everything you picked out looks and feels fabulous. I never would have picked any of these items because I would not have thought they would look good on me."
Hallelujah! My work here is done.
When we are brave enough to say, "This is who I am, and this is how I want to look and feel." And then you start REALIZING THAT VISION in the clothes you wear every day, nothing can stop you! Your confidence will go through the roof, your mood will improve, your interactions at home or work will be enhanced, your productivity will skyrocket, and when you catch of glimpse of that woman in the camera on your Zoom call, you'll smile and say, "Hell yes - I'm back, baby!"
So how do I discover my personal style?
One of my favorite exercises for finding your personal style is to define 3 style words that represent you and the woman you want to be. It's where I start with every single one of my clients because it's the perfect foundation for creating a closet you love.
Here's what to do:
Imagine your highest self. Warning! I'm going to get all woo woo on you for a second... but it's an important step in getting to where we want to go! Imagine getting dressed for a big event, an important social or work occasion. That may be a work meeting, a special event in your personal life, a social or family gathering. Get that image of your highest self in your mind. Do you see her? Imagine what that women is saying and doing. How she is interacting with others? How does she carry herself?
Get inspired. To help get even further into this vision of yourself, I find it helpful to get inspiration from outside sources. Do you have style or fashion Pinterest board where you have pinned inspirational looks? Check out what you have pinned and notice any patterns. Is there a common theme? Here's another idea: Think of a celebrity, style icon, or someone in your life whose style you admire. Jot it down. Why do you love his/her style? What is it about them that is so alluring?
Name your three style words. With this image of your highest self in mind, and your additional outside sources of inspiration, jot down the top three words come to mind as you describe this woman. Write them down without judgement or holding back. Don't think of what others want you to be or a version of yourself that you should be, but what YOU want to be. Here's some ideas to get your juices flowing... professional, confident, sexy, bold, classic, feminine, edgy, cool, colorful, spunky, bubbly, minimalistic, simple, earthy, bohemian, clean, effortless, eccentric, creative, independent, unique. These three initial words you write down are important, because they are a gut reaction. Trust them.
Write them & post them. Once you have these three words, jot them down on a post-it note or card, and place it on your mirror or closet door. Somewhere you will see them every day while getting dressed, as a reminder of the woman you want to be. Mine are: Bold, Classic, Feminine. And they inspire me every day.
Curate your closet. Curate your closet to include only items that match your three style words. This is typically where I see women wanting to enlist some help, because it's a big step - and one that can take a while to accomplish. So have patience with yourself, and be sure to reach out if you want expert advice. My general rule is that every piece in your wardrobe should match up with at least one of your style words. If an item matches all three - you hit the jackpot!
Show up as her. Now here comes the courageous part. You need to start showing up as this woman in your vision. Yes, every single day. Imagine how much more confidence you would have in getting dressed when you embody these three words? Imagine how you would show up differently at work, or in social settings? Imagine how your mood would change? Your productivity?
Ladies, I'm here to tell you finding your personal style is possible. I know it, because I have countless clients who felt like they were hopeless, impossible cases, and each and every one of them comes out of the process feeling refreshed, more themselves, and full of new life.
I'd love to hear from you! Tell me in the comments below what your three style words are!
Hi, I'm so glad you're here! I'm a Personal Virtual Stylist and owner of Style Decoded. I'm a Midwest born fashion lover on a mission to help women show up with more authenticity and alignment at work and in their businesses through their style, and feel 100% confident in their own skin every day. Styling is my passion but it hasn't always been my job. I spent 20 years of my career in client service, advertising, developing brands, blogging, podcasting, and creating marketing and social social strategies for my clients, ranging from Fortune 500 giants to individuals building their personal brand online. To say I know a thing or two about marketing and client service is an understatement! Now, I love teaching women how to define and own their unique personal brand through style.
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