For years, I felt like I never had anything to wear. Every time I went shopping, I came home convinced, thinking to myself, “This is it. This is the piece of clothing that will make my wardrobe complete and cohesive and show I’ve mastered my personal style.”
But the truth was, no single shirt, pair of shorts, or skirt could magically solve my problems—and that’s because my wardrobe was all over the place. Sure, I loved variety, and we all do. But from my lime green sweater to my flowy lace maxi skirt to my bedazzled denim shorts, there was too much variety. Finding my own personal style took a lot of trial and error—mostly errors—and years to figure out what I actually liked. Now that I’m on the other side though, I can confidently say: I have a closet full of clothes that match and that I actually love.
You, too, can find your own personal style—just try these 10 insider tips to mastering it.
How to find your personal style
1. Spend a day looking at clothes—but don’t buy anything yet
Hear us out: While a day shopping is always fun, it isn’t always productive to finding your style. There are crowds and long lines for dressing rooms, and sometimes the chaos can make you pick up things you don’t actually love.
Instead, spend a day looking at clothes, not buying clothes. Set a day aside and commit yourself to not swiping your credit card, but instead spending a no-pressure day getting a better grasp of what you like. Make a list of what you felt best in, then go home, think on it, and strategize what pieces you want to actually add to your closet.
2. Use Pinterest as a mood board
A tool that shouldn’t go underutilized in finding your personal style? Pinterest boards. When I started using the app for style inspiration, I thought to myself: I’m only going to pin looks I really love. And at first, the looks I pinned were all over the place. But after taking a deeper look, I was able to take a step back and say, “OK, I like this look because it’s all neutral tones” or “OK, maybe I actually don’t like this look, I only like the fact that Gigi Hadid is wearing the look.” Having different images of outfits that spoke to me in one place really allowed me to take a look at the bigger picture and analyze the similarities between the different looks.
You can also create a saved folder on Instagram to add to any time you see an OOTD you like in your feed. Then, when you’re stumped on what to wear, you can turn to one of the outfits you saved and try it out yourself to see how you feel in it.
3. Step outside of your comfort zone
When finding your personal style, it’s important to remind yourself that clothes and fashion are both supposed to be fun. You have the ability to play around and try new things. If you try something you don’t love, no sweat; you’re just one step closer to finding what you do like.
With this, you can start small. For example, if you tend to stick to neutral colors, try adding in a pair of black-and-white printed pants. Or if you normally like oversized and baggy lounge sets, try styling a pair of tight biker shorts instead.
4. Start slow and evaluate the clothes you wear on a daily basis
When I finally started to nail the aesthetic I wanted to strive for, I felt the urge to fill multiple boxes and donate everything that didn’t fit that aesthetic immediately. But remember: Slow and steady wins the race.
Over the course of a few months, buy pieces strategically. Invest in quality pieces you genuinely can see yourself wearing for years, regardless of the trends that come and go. As your style is evolving, it’s also important to reevaluate the pieces you currently have in your arsenal. For example, do you no longer wear those hot pink pants because they don’t fit, or because you don’t like hot pink anymore? In either case, you’ve gained valuable information.
5. Mimic the looks of people whose fashion you adore
When re-evaluating your style, turn to people whose fashion you know you love. Take time to sit and scroll through their Instagrams and think of outfits of theirs you can replicate with pieces you already own. You can gain a outfit inspiration that you might not have thought of on your own, and might even discover you already have pieces you love—you just haven’t been styling them in ways that fit your style.
6. Clean out your closet regularly
The easiest way to feel like you have nothing to wear? Your closet being stuffed to the brim with pieces that are ill-fitting, out of season, or that you don’t like. If you pull a piece out that you end up not wearing because you don’t like it or it’s stained, there’s no use putting it back in your closet. Rather than letting your closet get out of control and waiting to purge it a couple of times a year, clean it out regularly.
7. Keep a clothing rack of pieces you want to style
If you have the space, a clothing rack can be your best friend when finding your personal style. Keep it full of new pieces, or ones that you already own that you want to remember to wear soon. Then, not only will they be top of mind, but you can plan how you’ll style each piece by hanging the rest of the outfit around it to be ready to wear when the opportunity arises.
8. Use a tailor when needed
In a dream world, everything we buy would automatically fit our bodies like a glove, but unfortunately, that usually isn’t the case. If you have a piece that you love but the fit is preventing you from wearing it, take it to a tailor to get what you don’t like about it altered. Chances are, you’ll like it even more once it fits right. This also matters for new pieces. I recently found a skirt I absolutely loved, but the small was a little too tight and the medium a little too big. Rather than trying to make a round peg fit into a square hole, I took the larger size to get taken in a smidgen, and now it’s a made-for-me piece I’ve been wearing multiple times a week—totally worth it.
9. Utilize the three-word method
Created by New York-based fashion stylist Allison Bornstein, the three-word method took social media by storm last year. The three-word method is as simple as it sounds: identifying your personal style with three adjectives. Maybe your style is cool, elevated, and comfortable, or maybe it’s colorful, classic, and bold. The three-word method can help you figure out:
- The style you currently have
- The style you want to have
Once you have your three words down, ask yourself if the new pieces you buy fit into them. Of course, they don’t always have to fit to a T (if one of your words is colorful, that doesn’t mean you can never by a neutral again), but it’ll help guide you toward pieces you like wearing most.
10. Curate a wishlist to curb impulse purchases
Trust us, we get it: When a crazy-good sale pops up or you see a piece that just speaks to you, it can be hard to wait on clicking add to cart. But to curate the wardrobe of your dreams, working off a wishlist of things you want is more beneficial than impulse spending.
Think about your closet and the gaps you have within it, and when you see an item that you think would really work for you, add it to a list you keep in your phone. Sit on it a bit and think about how you’ll be able to style it with pieces you already own. Then, the next time you make a purchase, choose something off your wishlist that you’ve been pining over rather than something impulsive.