In part one of this series we talked about finding inspiration for your style in the world around you. However, the execution of your style really comes from you - who you are in this world. Welcome to part II of this personal style series, where we will get into the nitty-gritty of getting up the guts and managing your coins to implement your ever growing style.
When it comes to building our wardrobes and putting outfits together, inspiration is wonderful. But inspiration isn’t who you are - it’s what you use to express who you are! The whole execution portion of building your style is all about knowing who you are. Practically I think this plays out in knowing how to to select those all important basics to build your wardrobe that will anchor every outfit. Most of you have probably heard about dressing according to the coloration of your complexion/hair/eyes, but have you ever thought about your personality and how that affects your wardrobe? The way you sit, walk, assert yourself or don’t? I have found that I feel most like myself in very pigmented colors. I chalk this up to my fair complexion and dark hair, but also that my movements are somewhat stiff and direct and in my most natural state I am totally still. Not the most graceful, but hey, I have great posture! Haha.
My neutral/base colors are black and white, which are the most starkly contrasting of neutrals. However, some women I know, like my sister, hold to more gray and blush tones as their neutrals, or brown and tan like my mom does. When it comes to building my wardrobe, I keep my colors very stark, my shapes structured, and bold, simple patterns. My pieces fall within only a few categories: sweaters, jeans, dresses and coats. My sister, who gravitates towards grays as her neutral, expresses herself through softer pieces such as cardigans, tunics, and leggings. My mom, who leans on earth tones as her neutrals, has built her style around very textured pieces in jackets, feature shirts, and distressed jeans. Knowing your preferred color ways can also help you stand firm on your style in a sea of ever changing trends determined by the market.
Time seems to be one of the biggest hurdles in giving our personal style a chance, and expressing our personal style should not need to consume a large portion of our time. This is where I’ve found that having basic pieces in my self-identified neutral is what I need to feel equipped to express myself through coats and jewelry (and sunglasses and shoes and scarves and hats), because it’s the basic pieces that communicate the core of who I am. They act as the foundation of my look for the day. Having the basics that I love means that if the rest of the outfit doesn’t go as I had planned, at least the core of the outfit feels true.
I think one of the best catapults for me to grow in experimenting with my style is actually having a limited amount of time to get ready due to also having to ready my children. I think up an outfit randomly, and when it comes time to put it on some morning, sometimes it’s really different, sometimes it feels not quite right or even close to what I envisioned. But! If I keep fussing over this outfit, my children will end up not being dressed AT ALL when we walk out the door, so I prioritize. I enjoy the process of coming up with new combinations, but I also really enjoy NOT having the luxury to worry about myself too much when wearing it out the door.
I have found that I’ve been able to define my personal style most when my budget is the tightest. There were a few years in my life that my only spending money for clothes and accessories was the cash I got from my parents and grandparents at Christmas time. So I would save it! And make occasional purchases throughout the following year. Those purchases were planned, intentional, and creative. You have to think critically about what you actually like to wear when you’ve only got one chance to shop! To this day, I still hold myself to a spending budget for clothes. I don’t know if you noticed this, but “coats” is one of the categories of clothes in my closet. This means that I’m saving up for quality, structured statement pieces much of the time, and purchasing more versatile, affordable basics for the other categories in my closet.
Another thing that saves time and tends to be more budget friendly is to identify a few brands that you usually resonate with, and direct most of your shopping there. Keeping my shopping to a few stores saves me a lot of time AND money. I don’t waste my time shopping on countless websites (or malls!), and keeping my eye on just a few stores has allowed me to learn the trends of when things go on sale, and whether or not the piece that I am eyeing will make it to the clearance rack before it sells out!
A Final Exhortation: Stop Limiting Yourself
I’m going to kick this one off by saying that our lives are full of limits and those limits are generally good things! Your budget, your climate, your job and commute and family life are all things that influence our style in limiting ways. But don’t tell yourself that you can’t try out a certain style because you’ve never done it before. Let’s be done with categorizing people as being capable of pulling something off or not. And really, so much of this comes down to comparison. I’m so glad that we get to explore styles alongside each other and intersect each other’s experiences, but your style is your own! It will change with you and grow with you and that is what makes it beautiful.
Katelyn lives in Chicago with her husband and two boys. She writes at katelynelan.com and shares some of her life on instagram @katelynelan