How to Genuinely Find Your Personal Style
10.24.18

As a fashion editor, I am frequently on the other end of a question that never fails to stump me: How did you find your sense of personal style? I’m flummoxed by this inquiry because, unlike a lost set of keys or an obscure variety of M&Ms, my personal style is not something I would say I “found” so much as it pooled in my subconscious of its own accord. My personal style is the sum of where I’ve lived, what I’ve seen and who I spend time with, as much a part of me as my knee or my elbow. I don’t know how I found it because I don’t know where it begins or ends, but maybe that’s simply because I haven’t thought critically about it from that particular perspective. In an effort to untangle these threads, I decided to pose the aforementioned question to a bunch of women with distinctive personal style and ask if they had any advice for someone who might still be looking for theirs. Scroll down to hear what they said.

Leandra Medine Cohen

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Moms home!

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How did you “find” your personal style?

Finding your style and doing it poignantly is an iterative experience that represents your identity’s evolution too. I have spent the greater portion of the last decade trying on so many different dressing cues for size in an attempt to better understand myself (which isn’t deliberate when I’m doing it and can only really be seen in retrospect). What I am realizing more and more is not that I have been trying on personality types for size to see which one suits me best so much as I have been fleshing out the different parts of who I am. I enjoy with equal conviction the stylistic likening of myself to a little boy, an Italian man, a female toddler, a metropolitan renegade, but I don’t squarely identify with any single one of them. Together, they make up a larger sum. This sum is still only a part of me and I think that will always be true because I will always be changing. Until I’m not, and then I have bigger problems.

One very interesting thing that I am beginning to track (and that I believe speaks to some of the broader changes in how I dress as of late) is narrowing in on what makes my style personal. For someone who calls herself an editor, I have a really hard time editing! I’m impulsive and excited and thus try to make so many things — too many things! — work at once. Maybe a pair of pearl earrings don’t have to coexist with 16 gold hoops in the same set of ears. Maybe I don’t have to wear a leather trench and a cropped fleece and high waist jeans with shoes that really look best when worn with tights and a skirt in the same outfit just because I love them all. Recognizing that I could say a lot without wearing a lot, that I could still espouse the virtues of dressing for myself — a joyful experience to be sure, even if it is not as wacky as it used to be — has been both the most transformative and informative part of coming into my style and late twenties.

What advice do you have for people who are still in the process of trying to solidify their sense of personal style?

Stop taking your taste for granted or assuming it as a fact of who you are. Challenge yourself to understand why you are drawn to particular garments and why you like specific pairings. What makes you want to, for example, add a necklace on some occasions, but not others? When things make you feel good, ask why. When they don’t, ask again — what doesn’t suit you is important too, but not at the expense of focusing on what does. By beginning to pay attention to what you might think is mundane or given about you and inquiring deeper into those mechanisms, you get to learn so much more about yourself. And on top of that, you also get to celebrate it.

Amanda Murray

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On my way to the Post Office, IRL

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How did you “find” your personal style?

I think as a kid, I always imagined the way I wanted to dress. It may sound silly that at seven years old I knew what I wanted to look and feel like at 25, but in all honesty, that feeling has been my guide in defining my personal style. Whenever I go shopping online or in a physical store, the one or two pieces that pull me in immediately are usually the things I end up purchasing. I’ve never dressed for anyone — it’s always been about how my clothes make me feel — but when I was younger, I always had a nagging concern about whether boys would like me if I wasn’t wearing clothes that showed my body. At this point in my life, I think I really embody that personal style “feeling” my seven-year-old self had in mind, which is strong and a little whimsical with a feminine punctuation. I think that my style says something about who I am before I utter a word. My brother always says my style is intimidating to guys, and I’d be lying to myself if at times I didn’t feel some type of way about that; but at the end of the day, if you feel intimidated by my clothes, then you’re not the person for me.

What advice do you have for people who are still in the process of trying to solidify their sense of personal style?

Ask yourself questions about what specifically makes you feel happy when you think of clothes, color, fabrics and shapes and take it from there. It’s okay to take inspiration from celebrities or bloggers, but make it your own — make decisions about how it looks on you and not on another person. Your personal style is just that: personal. It’s your identity and a form of self-expression, so it’s important to maintain that sense of self.

Pandora Sykes

How did you “find” your personal style?

I think I’m closer to my personal style than ever before, because of age and a lack of time and need to impress — but I also don’t believe that personal style is static. And therefore while I might feel like “I’ve got it” now, it may shape-shift beyond my grasp next year. Personal style, like the woman herself, is mutable. Currently, I resist anything too overly “done” and favor vintage-cued classics with a fun twist, but maybe in five years I might dig high-gloss Italianate style and then that will be my personal style. One can only wonder…

What advice do you have for people who are still in the process of trying to solidify their sense of personal style?

Try not to shop too much; try not to buy into trends the moment you see them. Let your thoughts marinate; cogitate on something before you buy it. And shop vintage! It helps break the “am I buying this because it’s ‘cool’ or because I love it/it suits me?” conundrum better than anything else.

Lydia Okello

How did you “find” your personal style?

It’s been 29 years in the making! Even as a kid I was quite driven to dress myself how I saw fit, with certain aesthetics in mind. For me, it was a process of trying on a multitude of different styles (hello six years of vintage-inspired twee) that got me where I am now. Working with a body that is underrepresented in retail has also contributed to my creativity in getting dressed. Certain elements are often present in my looks, like collared shirts and jackets and vibrant colors. That being said, it’s hard to say if I have a concrete style. I’ve learned that each time I think I do, I seem to pivot in a new direction…

What advice do you have for people who are still in the process of trying to solidify their sense of personal style?

Start paying attention to the styles you gravitate to on other people. More likely than not, you’ll be able to pick up style tips from them. It’s easy to believe that someone else has superhuman confidence that you don’t, but at the end of the day, clothes are just clothes. You can try something out, wear it to a friend’s or just out for an errand. If you feel miserable or uncomfortable, you don’t have to wear it again. But if you feel like a badass, or like it really suits you, perhaps you should incorporate similar looks into your repertoire. The more you try, the easier it gets! Also, don’t feel like you have to change everything all at once — it’s okay to gradually morph into the next iteration of your personal style, like an Animorphs cover.

Anum Bashir

How did you “find” your personal style?

I think I’m still figuring it out with each passing day, but the one thing I have learned is that trying everything out at least once is healthy. I am becoming more fluent in expressing my personal style, though, which typically leans more eclectic. For me, personal style evolution has been gradual. I’m the type of person who absorbs my surroundings and finds fun ways to reinterpret cues in my own way. Stylistically speaking, my most formative years were probably when I started working for the museums in Qatar almost seven years ago. That’s when I discovered that being over the top is more than okay. I would say more recently, after entering my thirties, I’ve become more confident and unapologetic about the clothes and designers I am willing to wear. I’ve truly garnered a better understanding of what works for me. In my twenties, there were a number of trends that I forced onto myself which often fell flat. That’s something that has changed when I entered a new decade. I just know myself better. I’m more in tune with the way my personality, mind and body wish to express themselves via clothes.

What advice do you have for people who are still in the process of trying to solidify their sense of personal style?

Keep at it. It’s a fun journey to be on. Don’t be someone else. Get inspired, but remember yourself. Your own interpretation is what makes “personal” style real, relatable, but also admirable.

Gabi Gregg

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Chill vibes only ✌🏽

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How did you “find” your personal style?

I found my personal style through experimentation! At one point years ago, I do remember feeling like although I was great at putting outfits together, they didn’t adhere to a consistent, specific style, so I decided to sit down and make a mood board of what I wanted to communicate through my looks. That said, I’ve since embraced the reality that my style is ever-evolving, and that’s okay. Since moving to L.A., I’ve definitely become much more casual — even changing neighborhoods within L.A. has impacted my style to an extent.

What advice do you have for people who are still in the process of trying to solidify their sense of personal style?

I’d suggest going through magazines and Instagram and pulling together some outfit inspiration, and then taking note of common themes. From there, buy a few pieces to emulate those looks, and see how you feel when you actually have the clothes on your body. I think in the beginning of any process, there’s a lot of copying going on, and then over time you refine things and are able to add your own touches to it until it ultimately becomes uniquely yours.

Feature image via Lydia Okello. 

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