Style can be a nebulous thing. You either have “it” or you don’t. And there is no one universal path to becoming stylish, because looks vary so much from person to person. Look at it this way: Rooney Mara and Beyoncé would have a hard time sharing a wardrobe.
Regardless of this indistinctiveness, style is something that we want and strive for. Inevitably, somewhere along the gritty, inward journey to self-fashion-actualization, you will find yourself facing off (probably in front of a mirror) with that singular loaded question: Do I have style?
Now, I could dish out trends and obsess about nail polish colors to a point of frightening excess (really, help!) but when push comes to shove, refining style is a self-directed path. You have to build your own sensibility. Luckily, that’s the fun part. Here’s my truest advice on cultivating your personal style.
Look at all 7 million of the ads in your magazine.
The reason so much time and money goes into high-end fashion advertisements is because, quite frankly, they make the magazines nearly as much as the editorial spreads. It’s your first introduction to the season’s trends, so if you look at them (and I’m talking really look, not the manic flip-through), you’ll be able to form opinions about what you like. And having a firm opinion about fashion plays a significant role in developing. Sounds like the perfect collage opportunity doesn’t it?
Find a style icon.
Find someone who intrigues you and whose style triggers the voice in your head to say, “I love his/her look. I want to be him/her.” It could be a movie star, supermodel, royal bride or fictional character, anything distinctive really. Learn about the person. Look at pictures. Read books about them. Watch videos of them if they’re available. Figure out what you most resonate with about the person and how to channel it through clothing. Maybe you’re a young Robert Redford kind of a guy (note: if so, please take me on a date). Maybe you want to channel the sleek, refinement of someone like Victoria Beckham or perhaps the seductive rocker, grit of Alison Mosshart (my style icon). Once you get in touch with their mentality, it becomes a cakewalk to play around with style. Just don’t forget who you are in the process.
If any one industry has extensively tapped into the lucrative coffee table book market, it’s fashion. There are so many options, it’s overwhelming. Unsurprisingly, most fashion books are centered around photographs, but there is generally a written history to accompany the images. This gives important context to whatever element of fashion or style that you’re reading about. By understanding the history, your frame of reference to interpret modern trends for yourself becomes more solidified. Don’t know where to start? Men: “One Hundred Years of Menswear” by Cally Blackman. Women: “Kate Moss” by Mario Testino.
Finally: be an adventurous shopper.
The fastest way to gauge what works with your concept of personal style is to have it go terribly wrong. Now, I’m not saying you should seek out something that’s blatantly ugly. I’m simply saying that you should take risks. Sometimes clothing that looks strange on the hanger ends up being secretly awesome once on. Maybe it won’t, but you’ll never know unless you take the leap.
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