Style- what an interesting word. Society would have you believe that you either have style, or you don’t. We’re quick to claim expertise in this area and to judge other’s fashion accordingly.
Like most things in our culture, I disagree. I believe that everyone (yes everyone, even your denim clad, new balance wearing dad) has a true, authentic style
Since posting about my 20 item winter, capsule wardrobe I have received many messages saying something like, “This is so inspiring! I don’t know how I will ever get here.”
First, let me acknowledge that it has taken me three years to get to this point. Three years of capsules, life change, mistakes, and growth to land here. When I see that so many people would like to be at this point, I can only pass along what I have experienced in these past three years in the hopes that you will not have to repeat my mistakes. I also have tips for how you can repeat my successes.
Small changes, over time, create big change.
Take time to define your true, authentic style.Nothing will protect you from emotional purchases, fast fashion, trends and marketing better than defining your true style. I hear from many readers that they do not know what their true style is, nor do they know how to find it.
I would argue that you do not need to develop or create your style, you simply need to uncover (or rediscover) it. There is a core being within you that knows what you want, the tricky thing is listening to her. It’s hard to hear your inner voice and self over the noise of the world. Over the ads and marketing, the opinions of other people, the pressures of the world to conform and fit in.
Set aside all of that for the time being. Sit with yourself in a quiet, private place and ask yourself this question: who am I when all else falls away? Without the expectations of others or the world around me (even the people I love most) what do I love?
For me, this brought up who I looked up to as a little girl. Not who was popular or who the world told me to look like, but who I have always loved and wanted to be. For me it’s Emily Dickinson, Audrey Hepburn, and Ms. Honey from Matilda. This question is less about the clothing that you love and more about what you are naturally drawn to.
I don’t want to dress like Emily Dickinson, I’m drawn to her simplicity. Her love of white, simple cotton fabrics, nature and home. I don’t want to dress like Ms. Honey as much as I am drawn to her strength, kindness, and her beautiful stone cottage surrounded by wild flowers.
Who and what are you drawn to? What people, feelings and essences make you fill up with joy? What do they represent for you?
Now that you have your inspiration and know what you are naturally drawn to, gather it in one place. My personal favorite is Pinterest. Create a board of the things that inspire you. People, quotes, places- pull it all together. Try not to question what you’re drawn to – trust your gut.
The brainstorming quietly on your own before this step is essential. We can appreciate something’s beauty without it aligning with our own authentic core style. Click here for my “Style” Pinterest board if you want to see how what I’m drawn to looks when put down and brought together. Don’t like Pinterest? Just search images, people and quotes you love and gather them in a folder.
After you have your virtual vision board, see what emerges as you explore and collect what you’re drawn to. What patterns can you see? What fabrics, colors and images resonate with you and your core? For me, it’s classic blues and grays, feminine mixed with masculine, simple and chic. Try not to judge yourself as you uncover this core being and style, we limit ourselves by thinking we “could never pull something off” or that an item “isn’t age appropriate” or we think others will judge us.
As the lovely Rachel Hollis once said, “Other people’s opinion of you is none of your business.”
The final step? Gather all of your clothing and touch each item (yes Konmari style) and see if it aligns with your core being- with the inner self that has come through in your planning. This goes beyond joy sparking. An item can be beautiful and bring us joy, without it aligning with how we would like to dress. There are so many pieces I see that are beautiful in their own right that do not match my style.
As you sort, hang the items on their own, on a clothing display or in your closet. Hang them somewhere you can see your style emerge. It will become clear when an item is an obvious “no” as you go through more and more clothing. I kept a “maybe” pile and stored those items away for a month. If I could recall or yearned for them during the next 21 days I planned to keep them- at the end of this process I donated all of them.
I ended up with less than twenty items for this winter. You may end up with forty, or thirty seven, or 100. The number is not what’s important. It’s about the items being cohesive, seasonally appropriate and matching the core style you have already identified. If you are craving a number? I always find that less is more. The simpler, the better.
I strongly recommend not buying any new items as you go through this process. More items cloud our vision and ideal self. We all own so much already, try living with less and see how it feels. If there is an item you truly know you need, search for a Buy Me Once item and have very clear guidelines on what you need. For example, I bought one pair of vegan, brown chelsea boots from Matt & Nat and I wear them at least 4 days out of the week. They also fit multiple seasons and reasons. I knew exactly what I was looking for before I shopped for them.
Nothing will make you impervious to “fashion” marketers more than knowing who you are and what you truly need and want. As consumers, we have so much power to change the world just by what we buy. And ultimately? You are not a “consumer” you are a human being.
This life is short and weird and hard and crazy, don’t spend it worrying that you’ve worn the same top too often. Don’t not stomp around in combat boots because you think you have to wear flats or heels. I spent years not getting a haircut I was desperate for because I was convinced without long hair I wouldn’t be seen as beautiful.
Partners, friends, parents, kids, coworkers, strangers on the street – at the end of the day, their opinion has nothing to do with you. What matters is how you feel in the quiet, when all else falls away- when your heart is at rest and talking to you.
“Kiss your own fingertips
and hug your own curves.
You are made of waves and honey
and spicy peppers when it is necessary.
You are a goddess,
I hope you haven’t forgotten.”
Leave any questions you have below and I will get back to you. And for those wondering, “What about work clothes?” That’s next.