Before you can clean out your closet or buy new things, you need to have a vision for how you want to look. Like an organization devising a mission statement, it serves as a measuring stick for future decisions. Whether or not you should keep, buy, or wear things gets measured against your vision and it it doesn't fit into the image, you don't keep/buy/wear it. This doesn't mean that you always have to stick with one vision, it just means that it'll be easier to make purchases and choose outfits that work with everything else you have.
So, how do you know what your personal style is? One of the easiest ways is to sift through lots of images and pull out the ones that really speak to you. In the past, I've always done this with magazines. Anytime I saw a look or an item that I loved, I would fold down the corner of the page to mark it, and then later on, before recycling or giving away the magazines, I would tear out the page and put it in a folder. Then, when I was stumped about what to wear, I'd go to the folder and pull out something that I could emulate, whether it was a look from head to toe or just a mood.
When most of my fashion reading moved to the internet and blogs, I'd save photos to inspiration folders on my desktop. Now we have it even easier with Pinterest! It's so easy to pin any image that resonates. When you look at your page of pins, you can pull out common themes. For example, for me, there are lots of images of black with large chunky brass necklaces, stripes, ethnic prints, trench coats, animal prints, etc. If you're very disciplined about sticking to this one vision, you'll have an easy time making outfits from what's in your closet because all of the pieces should go with each other.
Another way to discover your style "type" is by reading books about fashion and style. There are many great books out there, but my personal favorite is the Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style. In it, ten different style categories are outlined, and it's clearly conveyed that most people are a combination of several types. The ten categories are: Euro Chic, California Casual, Rock and Roll, Posh Eclectic, Mod, American Classic, Bombshell, Bohemian, Arty Slick, and Gamine. My style is mostly Gamine and Euro Chic with a bit of Bohemian thrown in. When I asked my husband to leaf through the book and pick out the three styles he thought I was, those were the three he chose as well, a sign that I'm doing a pretty good job sticking to a cohesive look.
What exactly does each style look like? So glad you asked! For the next several weeks, I'm going to do my best to show you. First up, in honor of the return of Mad Men, we'll look at Mod.
To be continued...
UPDATE: here are posts for the following styles: