How to Find Your Personal Style and Build a Wardrobe

“Your life is your canvas and you are the masterpiece. There are a million ways to be creative and interesting” - Anonymous

How we dress, the way that we style ourselves, the clothes that we choose, it all says so much about the "masterpiece" we are trying to create. 

Even people who don’t care about fashion are making a statement by painting a picture of their value systems and how they want to be perceived. A fellow Parsons classmate once said to me, "Clothes are like a dictionary, the more you have, the more words you have to create a story."

Related: Finding your signature style

Know and understand yourself 

 A businesswoman on her phone smiles

The amazing thing about fashion is that you can reinvent yourself every single time you get dressed. Feeling edgy? Whimsical? Sweet? Professional? Your outfit can always mirror that. Whatever you are feeling, your attire and choice of clothes can reflect your mood.

What is most important is that the feelings and ideas you want to convey to the world match your attire.

No matter how amazing an outfit is, you will fidget and feel self-aware if you don’t feel good in it. Knowing yourself and knowing what makes you feel confident, is the greatest starting point for building a wardrobe.

Related: How to be Bold in Your Career and in Your Life 

Start with basics that you feel comfortable in 

Steve Jobs’ uniform was jeans and a turtleneck. This signature look took the guessing game out of what to wear, freeing up his mind to focus on building Apple. 

I’m not saying you should opt for a utilitarian uniform; however, when you build a wardrobe around signature pieces, you won't stand in front of a jam-packed closet looking at hundreds of articles of clothing and nothing to wear. 

Take the time to be intentional with your clothing, and make sure what you have fits both your body type and personality. Most importantly, make sure it’s something you are excited to wear. 

Related: Finding your handbag essentials

Choose a color palette that works with you 

A woman in a brown sweater poses in front of a cactus

Even if it’s the hottest color of the season, it should be a no go for your wardrobe if it clashes with your skin tone or overall aesthetic! Figure out the colors that are most flattering for YOU and build around those. It can be hard to find your ideal color palette, so start with any colors that catch your eye on the rack.

And if you are in love with a color that clashes with your skin tone, try adding it in via something small, like a bracelet, a belt, your shoes or a bag

Related: Finding what’s essential

Clean out your closet: Find out what you need to keep and what you need to ditch

A closet rack hangs against a white wall

Marie Kondo your closet like your wardrobe depends on it! Don’t keep things for sentimental value or because you overpaid for it and now you feel guilty! Whittle it down to the bare essentials and only keep what truly works. 

Either decide you are going to haul it to a consignment shop and make a little extra cash or donate it to charity. Just don’t allow anything you have not worn in a year to remain hanging in your closet! You would toss out dried up old paint -  think of your wardrobe as your old paint. Start with a fresh, clean palette to create your masterpiece. 

Related: The Essentialist Bag Collection

Discover your style spirit 

If a blazer with a crisp white shirt is more your jam, don’t be afraid to have several of those at your arsenal. Your spirit, your style.

Find Out Why You Like Certain Pieces

Clothes have energy and accessories have a personality, so ask yourself what you want to convey to the world and then find items that match that energy and vibe. If your spirit style is ripped jeans, load up on those with no apology. 

Take Note of Repeats (ex. Multiple black sweaters, multi-color sandals, etc.) 

Notice what clothes you are drawn to and have multiples of. I love hoodies, ripped skinny jeans and aviator sunglasses, and boy do I have multiples of all those items! 

Select a common theme from your style icons

Between Pinterest, Instagram, fashion magazines and Hollywood, it is easy to draw inspiration from those in the spotlight. I like to ask myself what it is about a certain style icon that I am drawn to - is it their hairstyle? Their accessories? 

The way they pair high and low fashion? Pay attention to those you admire and figure out just what it is about their style that you love and then start to emulate that with your own wardrobe. You don't have to spend a fortune to find the common themes and then incorporate those themes with your own clothes. 

Related: Finding Your Handbag Essentials

Write it down 

Keep a fashion journal that is full of inspiration. Write down all the things you want your wardrobe to represent. List fashion icons you want to emulate. 

Keep magazine inspiration in the journal. Write down adjectives of what you want your style to convey: whimsical, bohemian, professional, playful, feminine, fierce, etc. 

Let those words guide you as you shop and constantly ask does this item fit the look I am going for? Don’t buy something simply because it is on sale or the latest trend, be super intentional with what you bring into your home and place in your closet. 

Snap the Winners: Take Pictures of What You Like

 Fashion magazines

Snap a picture of your favorite outfits and keep that look archived in your fashion journal. Let it be a go-to-outfit. 

And then be on the lookout for when similar items of clothing go on sale - it's good to have backups of your favorite pieces, you never know when a designer is going to retire that piece or a store is going to stop carrying that item of clothing. 

There is nothing wrong with having archived looks for specific occasions (weddings, interviews, brunch, etc.). Even the fashionista character "Ingrid" in the book Crazy Rich Asians did that for weddings! 

Related: The Quintessential Bucket Bag

Show off your favorite features

A woman in a black dress carries a dark grey SoulCarrier handbag

If you have toned legs, rock those mini skirts and short-shorts. If toned arms are your favorite feature, wear sleeveless tops. It feels good to highlight what you are confident about, and the rest of your outfit will look awesome when you accentuate the body parts you feel great about. 

Be proud of your body and walk with confidence when you walk out of our house out into the world. Your bold energy will always trump the latest trend when you walk with confidence. So take the time to invest in outfits and pieces that give you the most confidence. 

Related: True North Collection

Extra Tips 

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment with cheap items - mixing high and low priced items, thrifting and retail
  • Mix expensive jeans that fit well with a plain tee from the Gap
  • On photoshoots
  • I love pairing a Chanel jacket with a Rolling Stone graphic tee and skinny jeans to create the ultimate high-low flair.
  • Layer in Accessories - they will instantly add style and give you that fashionista sensation.
  • Find sunglasses that suit your face and let them be a staple.
  • Dress for your lifestyle.
  • Motivate yourself to put in the effort.
  • Do a color draping analysis and find the color that works best for our skin tone.
  • Create boards on Pinterest and fuel yourself with inspiration for the next time you shop. 

Closing thoughts

a woman in a white floral dress walks on a windy beach

Whatever your style is, be proud of how you show it off! If you’re not sure what your style is, try taking a style quiz to see if your wardrobe fits under any of these categories:

  • Natural / Relaxed
  • Classic / Traditional
  • Artistic / Creative
  • Dramatic / Edgy
  • Romantic / Feminine
  • Alluring / Sexy
  • Modern / Chic

Remember fashion should be fun and at its core, fashion is an expression of YOU and what you want to reflect out into the world. 

Your clothes, style and wardrobe are mirroring your values and personality. Even when you don’t care about clothes or how you look, that is a value and it is giving clues to the world about what matters to you. 

Clothes are like words and paint - every time we put an outfit together we are creating a sentence and painting a canvas. What will you paint? What words will you string together! Happy outfit creation! 

Four unique handbags and purses to match any style check out Soul Carrier!