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defining your personal style

how to define your personal style

how to define your personal style

One of the first steps I always take with clients is to help them define their style. I’ve written about it before, and it’s one of the most important things you can do to create a mindful wardrobe. Why? Well, if you don’t know what you like, you’ll buy things you end up not wearing. If you don’t know what you like, you’ll keep things you don’t need to own. If you don’t know what you like, you’ll put on outfits that make you feel uncomfortable.

(Skip all the talk and head straight to the style quiz I created -  Go here!)

With my clients, I’m able to help them through the process by looking at images with them, seeing what’s in their closets, listening to them talk about clothes, and trying different styles. I want to be very clear, this is not what they should wear based on their body type, or their “colors” or any other relatively arbitrary system. It’s what they just like the look of and what they feel most like themselves in. If you're working through this on your own, it can be hard to figure out what exactly you do like.


st louis personal stylist

I get it. I have had a really hard time discovering what I actually like. To read, to buy, to wear, to eat, to do. Not just what someone else thinks is cool or what my parents thought I should do or what fashion magazines say I should wear. Here are some of the random things I’ve discovered about myself - even though pretty much everyone says they love to travel, and I feel like I should love to travel, I don’t. I like being at home in my familiar space. Despite it being the trendy healthy food, I actually really like kale. I like the taste and the texture of it. Even though I was the good girl in school, and often caught up in competition to be the best student, it took me a long time to realize I have no desire to be a high-achiever. I just want my quiet little life with enough money and time to live simply and healthily.

Let’s take it back to style. I talked in my last post about how I’ve tried many different styles and over time come to learn what was “me” and what I felt best in. And now I really love my style. Like, a lot. Most days, it takes me 30 seconds to get dressed.

how to define your personal style

So, how can you figure out what YOU really like and want to wear? How can you define your personal style? Here are a few steps:

Explore and research. When I was talking to mr. mindful closet about this post, he made the good point that many people don’t know what their style is because they’ve only been exposed to a few ideas. Without seeing what’s out there, it’s hard to know what you like. Pick up a few fashion magazines, read a few blogs, and start listening to your gut reactions about things you see.

Collect inspiration. Once you’ve explored a bit, start a collection of images that you know you like. Of course, Pinterest is great for this. After you have 20 or 30 images, look at the collection as a whole. Are there any themes throughout? Do you like bright colors or neutrals? Do you like patterns or prints? Do you like straight lines or flowing edges? Do you like clothes that fit close to the body or flow away? Do you like frills or no frou-frou? For comparison, here’s my Pinterest style inspiration board, and here’s one from one of my favorite St. Louis fashion bloggers, Psyche Southwell. You can see our styles defined pretty clearly from each of our boards.

Experiment. Unfortunately, there’s no prescription for style. Even if you can tell you’re visually drawn to certain looks, you have to try the things that you like the look of and see how they FEEL. Maybe you appreciate bright colors and bold prints on someone else, but feel uncomfortable in them yourself. Conversely, maybe you appreciate clean lines and neutral palettes, but really don’t feel yourself unless you’re wearing a bit of fun color. Think of this like looking at art in a museum - you can see it and appreciate it, but it doesn’t need to hang in your home. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to experiment. You can spend time trying things on at various stores, or thrift secondhand items to give them more of a long-term try.

(images: Celeste Boyer)

(images: Celeste Boyer)

Lastly, there’s always a quiz for everything. I finally put one together myself to help you define your style. Are you Sporty Spice, Romantic Bohemian, Glamour Girl, American Classic, or Modern Minimalist? As with all quizzes, this won’t give you all the answers. If nothing else, use it to practice listening to your gut when you read the answers. Go with the answer you feel, not the one you’ve been told works for you. There’s never going to be one neat category for everyone. Although I’m sure you can guess which quiz category my style falls into, I like to think of my style as “70’s French art teacher” - not a description you’re going to find outlined in any book.

Go here to take the quiz and leave a comment below with what your personal style is! 

We spend even more time exploring personal style and then using it to edit your wardrobe in the Making Space course. Find out more info here.

five tips for a mindful shopping trip

five tips for a mindful shopping trip

The actual process of going to a store and purchasing clothing can be overwhelming or frustrating even for those who enjoy it. As we head into the summer sale season, I thought I'd share a few tips for mindful shopping.

Various pictures taken on client shopping trips...

1) Before going shopping, MAKE. A. LIST. I can't emphasize enough how important this is. You can't go shopping without knowing what you're looking for. Well, you can, but I can guarantee you will regret most of what you buy. A shopping list should come from defining your style, evaluating your wardrobe, and thoughtfully planning what is needed to make it function at its best. Also, be specific. "Clothes for work" is not an appropriate item for a shopping list. "Slim leg, neutral colored, stretchy cotton blend pants" is an appropriate item. "Top" = no good. "Printed blouse in a washable fabric with an a-line shape" = good. Get the idea?

2) Go shopping at a non-peak time like a weekday or first thing in the morning, even if this means taking a half day from work. It's worth it. Everything will be better. Salespeople will have more time to help, they will be in a better mood, there will be less noise, fewer people, more sizes available. This all results in a much less stressful experience. Wear comfortable shoes and a cross body bag so that your hands are free. Dress nicely and do your hair and makeup so that you feel good about yourself. Bring snacks and water. This might all seem trivial, but trust me, it's the difference between mindful and meltdown.

3) While browsing, focus on only one item on your list at a time. For instance, if you are looking for the printed blouse in our example above, pull only printed blouses on your first sweep through the store. Next, go back and look for the neutral slim leg pant. This way of isolating things helps cut through the visual clutter that can be overwhelming in a store with thousands of items. Try not to get distracted. Recently, a saleswoman I often work with offered to show me pants that hadn't been put out on the floor yet. My client and I were both temporarily swayed by the prospect of "new!" "secret!" pants, but since we were specifically shopping for tops, we declined to even look. 

4) Now you've made it to the dressing room. You've taken everything that might be an option, even if you're not sure. Things often transform when on a body, so don't rule something out because it doesn't look good on the hanger. This might mean that you're trying on 40, 50, 60 items. It's ok. Don't feel guilty about making work for the salespeople (or is that just me?), it's their job. Be quick and ruthless. If it works, put it aside as a potential buy. If it doesn't, don't take it personally and move on.

5) The decision making process will be easier if you follow the preceding steps. For instance, if you have the printed top on your list and you follow step three, you won't end up in the fitting room with things you don't need. If you have a snack, you won't buy something just because you're hangry and want to get out asap. So now you've tried everything. Revisit that first round of potential buys. Narrow down your options. Try them again. Take pictures. Get a second opinion (not because you're going to take it, but because it'll help you clarify what you really think). Do not take the opinion of the salesperson. Their goal is to get you to buy, regardless of whether you should or not. Ask yourself a bunch of questions: will this go with most of my wardrobe? Will I still like this in six months? Do I really need it? Why am I buying it? Am I buying it because it's cheap? Because it's on my list? Because it fits my style? Would I buy this if it wasn't on sale? Is this better than something I already have? (If so, get rid of the less good item in your closet immediately) Is this worth having an overstuffed, stress-inducing closet for? Will I want to return this in a few weeks, creating more work for myself?

We all make mistakes sometimes, but hopefully these tips will help you
avoid a few of them!

review: the ellements of personal style

review: the ellements of personal style

You all know that I believe before you can really assess your wardrobe or add to it, it's necessary to define your style. Sometimes it's helpful to see how others have achieved this, even if their style is 180 degrees away from yours. Here's a book that does just that: The Ellements of Personal Style by Elle Magazine editors Joe Zee and Maggie Bullock. 

This book is different from other instructional fashion books because there are no lists of "must-haves" or discussions of body types. Instead, this book focuses on the personal style of 25 "icons". There are a few that I'm not entirely convinced by - Ashley Green? Lea Michele? I doubt that these young starlets have really solidified their personal style (maybe Joe Zee knows something I don't) but aside from them, the majority of the women profiled are true fashion icons. 

Each profile includes short bios, interviews, and intimate photos of the icons' closets, homes, and wardrobes. For each, there is a moodboard of an outfit with accessories in her style, a "fashion obsession", a "style study" of a few of her real life outfits, and a list of her favorite shops.

Here are a few of my favorites:


credit: Time Life pictures/getty images

credit: Time Life pictures/getty images

Anjelica Huston: Iconic Simplicity

"Black and white is a good background for embellishment."



Dita von Teese: Pinup Precision

"Her taste in vintage began in high school, as a matter of economics. 'I went to a vintage store and thought, Oh, I can make that look like a Westwood if I pinch in the waist and pad out the hips. That was my goal - to get that look for less.' "

credit: willy vanderperre

credit: willy vanderperre

Charlotte Gainsbourg: Utilitarian Chic

"'My parents gave me this idea that you sort of find a uniform that fits you and feels comfortable,' she says - once you find it, you stick with it for years."

dvf dacy gillespie st louis personal stylist.jpg

Diane von Furstenberg: Relaxed Glamour

"My mission in life is to empower women. I do it through fashion, through mentoring, through philanthropy."




Milla Jovovich: Free Spirit

"...she dresses a bit like a child who happens to have an exceedingly well-stocked costume cupboard, following her heart instead of the trends and gleefully embellishing. 'Simplicity is hard for me' ".


 There are many more great women profiled, such as Erin Wasson, Christina Hendricks, Yvonne Force Villareal, and Janie Bryant - check it out and tell me what you think!



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