How Do I Define My Personal Style?

by Karianne

I'm still struggling to try and define my style, and although I've read several books on the topic as well as blogs and websites, I still have a problem with this, so I'm turning to you for help.

Thanks for a great website! I’m a frequent visitor, and your advice has helped me decide my best colors as well as defining my body type.

I recently turned 40, but I'm often told that I look younger. I'm 164 cms tall and a US size 10/12 hourglass with pear tendencies, so my thighs and calves are on the bigger side, but I have nice, slim ankles.

I have dark golden brown hair, green/grey eyes and peach skin with rosy cheeks, and I tan easily, which would make me a clear spring, I guess. My favourite colors are navy, greys, ivory, neutral beiges, turquoise, coral and powder pink. I also sometimes wear black, clear green and warm pink.

When it comes to jewelry I don't like dainty styles, I prefer medium sized hoop or drop earrings, chunky bracelets, big rings and statement necklaces.

I don't wear much patterns either, it would be pinstripe trousers or a paisley scarf. I have worn polkadot skirts or dresses in the past, and I have a zebra-striped scarf that I always get complimented for, but that’s as far as I'd go.

I think that my style tends to be on the classic side, as I normally feel my best when dressed in trousers or trouser jeans, v-necks or cardigans over a shirt or a camisole, a blazer jacket and a scarf. I also like to wear pencil skirts and feminine yet simple dresses. The strange thing is that even though I feel comfortable in these type of clothes, I think it often looks downright boring and a bit frumpy...

I was at a casual Christmas party this Christmas where (almost) all the other girls were wearing black or dark skinny jeans or leggings paired with knee-high or over-knee boots and some sort of tunic top. I really felt that I stood out in my black trousers, teal wrap top and heels, and not in a good way. I felt like I was dressing like their mother, although most were the same age as me or just slightly younger.

I dream of dressing more trendy, I just feel that most of the trends now don't fit my body or shape, so I stick with my boring classics.

To make things even more confusing, my favourite celebrity style icons are Jennifer Aniston and Salma Hayek, which both have simple and classic styles. I also like the style of Coco Chanel.

I really think that I suffer from a bad case of “clothing disorder”, so I'm really in need of help!

Hei Karianne :) I think many women can relate to your situation. I mean, how many times have we been to a party, comparing our style and outfit with other women, seeing others dressing better than ourselves. Makes you feel less confident doesn't it? I certainly have felt that way, but I've always taken it as a sign that I could improve the way I dress and unfold my style potential just a little bit more, which I think you should take into consideration as well.

Your Christmas outfits sounds lovely (black trousers, wrap top and high heels) but like you said, classics can look boring. But it depends on how much classics you put into your outfit. You should definitely keep buying classy pieces because they're essentials for keeping your wardrobe together but you might want to try mixing them with other fashionable, bold pieces to define your personal style even more. Do a 50/50 mix.

Here's an example of how trendy pieces can vamp up a classy look (image taken from How to wear fashion trends)

How to wear trends

Here are more tips on how to make your personal style more defined and trendy:

How to Define Your Personal Style: Classic

Use accessories to make over your classics.
Take your preferences for instance, such as the dramatic accessories you mentioned you liked. Make this into your signature style - something you want to be known for. You could blend a pair of classy trousers and top with bold bangles, medium sized hoop earrings and maybe a pair of sassy high heel shoes.

Scout for updated, classy pieces.
I've seen a lot of this in fashion magazines (Marie Claire, InStyle). An example is the boyfriend blazer with rolled up sleeves which is an updated and fresher look of the tailored blazer jacket. A cropped version of the blazer also looks up-to-date. Another example is the over the knee boots which I would think is an update of the basic, classy knee high leather boots. Or try a wide belt wrapped around the waist for a chic look. Also you could also swap the classy trousers and go for skinny or straight leg pants.

One of the best tips I can give you when it comes to defining your style is to mix 2-3 styles in one to achieve a unique personal style.
According to your description, I would think defining and improving your style into classy AND bold would help you achieve the trendy look you want but still be able to stick to classics and your bolder taste. I am also known to have a classy style (I love tailored pants, blazers, black pencil skirts, etc.), but I also infuse other parts of my personality into the mix, like boho (I'm quite laidback and free-spirited), vintage (sucker for lace and nostalgia) and city-chic (loving the modern city style).

You can also follow Jennifer Aniston and Salma Hayek styles for more inspiration and outfit ideas but make sure you add your bold 'signature'.

My point is that if you want to look stylish and feel good about the way you dress, add something unexpected. Drop the predictable pattern. Add a colorful, beaded chain necklace with your v-neck and white shirt, or try a pair of trendy boots with your pants. I could also imagine you with a white shirt and a beautiful statement necklace.

Take the plunge by stretching your limits a bit.
This is one of the best ways to define your personal style and take it to the next level. You might want to try add prints and textures, and maybe some exciting color combos in your style to reflect your bold, dramatic taste. For summer, you could try wearing a beautiful coral colored top with yummy beaded turquoise gold hoop earrings and turquoise bangle.

You've already figured out your body shape and colors, which is a great stepping stone to improving your style. Not all trends apply to everyone, but there are several ways to wear them and many versions of a trend. For your body shape you might want to focus on shorter jackets and tops compared to long ones to minimize your hips. You can also pull off the skinny pants/jeans look by adding more details to your top (which is all explained in the pear body shape-section).

I wish you the best of luck on your journey to improving your style and I hope my tips gave you a clearer picture of what you need to do to achieve your style goals :)

August 2011 Update: Make sure to check out the Personal Fashion Style-guide - it includes:

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave a message here on this page :)


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Mar 31, 2010
On my to-buy list
by: Anna Villaruel

I did a check on the book you recommended on Amazon (link) and found it quite interesting -- love the whole find your inner personal style concept. I've added it to my to-buy list. Thank you!

Mar 31, 2010
Thanks for the feedback
by: Anna Villaruel

Martha, that's wonderful. You can still copy a look from someone as long as you tweak it into your own style (switching it to your own colors, a cut that flatters YOUR body shape, etc.).

Stay tuned as I'll soon add a new section to the site: Finding Your Personal Style.

- Anna

Mar 18, 2010
10 steps to fashion freedom
by: Anonymous

May I recomend a book written by Malcolm Levene
and Kate Mayfield: "10 steps to fashion freedom -
Discover your personal style from the inside out".
As the title indicate it is not a ordinary book
about "fashion"; it is more like a "Find out who
you really are and how to express it in your
clothes, colours and style". Malcolm Levene was
called "The Freud of Fashion" by The New Yorker
newspaper. In 10 easy-to-do exercises you are
guided to a better understanding of how to express yourself in the way you dress.
This book was a great help to me...

Mar 18, 2010
Thank you!
by: Martha

Loved your advice. I always feel lost because I'm always trying to copy others or be someone I'm not just because I like how the style looks on them. I'm always struggling with this. But with your advice I think I'm improving. Your website really was a life saver for me. I'm learning to just be myself, to keep it simple, and to mix and match to always look like a fresh new outfit! Thanks so much!

Feb 25, 2010
by: Karianne

Hi Anna,

Welcome back from Spain! And thanks for answering my questions so quickly! (I really liked your little greeting in Norwegian there:))
Your advice is really helpful, and it seems so
simple that I almost can't believe I didn't think of it myself:)I've never been very good at mixing styles, but I guess a little exercise and thinking outside the box is all it takes. I'll shop for some trendy shoes and accessories next!

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More Shopping & Chic Inspiration at the TCF Blog:
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