Written by: Lisa Patulny
A lot of the chat around defining and refining one’s personal style can feel one-size-fits-all. (The irony!) Most of the time, advice on how to tap into your individual style starts somewhere pretty impersonal – with instruction to source a list of standard wardrobe essentials that will ultimately form a capsule wardrobe. What’s often missing is nuance and next steps. Ticking off practical items (classic blue jeans: check, crisp white shirting: check, transeasonal trench: check) is a great place to start honing your style, but then what?
We’re breaking down a more detailed and elevated approach – one that guarantees you’ll be able to finesse the pieces you’ve bought into outfits that uniquely reflect you. Grab your notepad; you’ll want to take notes.
Choose three style words
There’s a movement kicking around on social media right lead by US stylist Alison Bornstein (get ready to binge all her videos on TikTok) that encourages choosing three adjectives to describe your personal style. Dubbed the ‘three-word method’, the general idea is that this simple strategy will enable you to define your dream aesthetic so that you can a) get closer to it and b) avoid buying pieces that don’t fit. For example, you might relate to ‘classic, preppy and feminine’ or ‘modern, sporty and relaxed’. To find your words, consider what you wear most and the images you love best on Pinterest. Also, ask your loved ones how they’d describe you – a lot of the time your style adjectives also represent your personality.
Consider your lifestyle
What gets forgotten in conversations around personal style is how your lifestyle should interact with it. Do you work in a corporate job, a creative workplace, at home or outdoors? Do you wear a uniform five days a week or spend most of your time caring for kids? It pays to consider where you wear your clothes, and what you need from them. While some pieces can be dressed up and down, there are often details in the clothing that determine how easy this is to do. For instance, an oversized blazer with dropped shoulders feels more relaxed than one with a nipped-in waist and structured shoulders. The former can go to the boardroom (with trousers) or playgroup (jeans), whereas the latter might feel out of place in your home office, even if you pair it with casual bottoms. It’s important that your personal style reflects who you are as well as what you do.
Invest in the fundamentals
We talk a lot about slowly building out a collection of good-quality wardrobe essentials that are designed to last. (Why? It’s the difference between owning basics that feel considered and, well, basic.) From high-quality t-shirts to well-cut tailored pants, investing in a curated selection of timeless pieces that work without fail means you’re able to mix and match them with pieces that are trickier to style. If you’ve ever bought something special but then couldn’t figure out how to wear it, this is the solution. A neutral wardrobe full of classic shapes and premium fabrications means you can wear standout pieces but still feel like yourself.
Chase your feel good
Look at what you already own, and think about what makes you happy. Do you have pieces you always rely on to make you feel good? If so, think about what those pieces might have in common, so you can aim to add more like them to your wardrobe. Note: this doesn’t mean buying ten pairs of straight-legged white jeans because you love how you feel in your favourite pair. Look deeper – are those jeans giving you an effortless sense of refinement that you love? You might discover that same feeling in a navy bateau stripe sweater.
Get into uniform dressing
You’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating: building a style uniform communicates who you are. Whether it’s jeans and a t-shirt or a tailored suit worn with a simple tank top, having a go-to look that feels exactly like you is a great way to stick with your personal style on days you need getting dressed to be easy.
Keep on curating
The thing about individual style? It’s not static. Continue exploring and pushing your boundaries to keep things interesting. Find and save fresh inspiration (cc Pinterest and Instagram) to collate outfit ideas that you can later recreate if you're feeling stuck in a rut. Over time this approach will also show you where the gaps are in your wardrobe. (You’ll be able to see what’s needed to recreate the outfit inspiration you’ve held onto.)
Follow us on Pinterest for more personal style tips, then click over to our 40 wardrobe essentials checklist and get started.