A lot of people have told us that they don’t know how to use the clothes in their closets to put together outfits that they like, or how to buy items that they will actually wear and enjoy. We want to help! One way to start is to identify your individual style. If you have an idea of what your style is, you can make more purposeful purchasing decisions, which is important to our conversation around ethical fashion. What is the point of purchasing an ethically made piece of clothing if you don’t enjoy wearing it?
These are some of the things that have helped us determine our styles:
Create a Pinterest board.
About the time my son Jude was born, Pinterest really took off. One of the ways I used it was to pin outfit ideas. I have never been one to flip through the pages of Vogue or InStyle, so this new exposure to fashion really changed how I dressed myself. I began to learn what clothing was suitable for my body type, find new ways to style clothing I already owned, and identify a couple key pieces of clothing that would make my wardrobe stretch much further.
If you feel lost when it comes to style, we suggest that you start a board on Pinterest and pin things you are drawn to. (If you don’t have/want Pinterest, just start to pay attention to clothing items that catch your eye, and colors that you are drawn to.) Start to identify common looks in the clothing you pin. Then see if you can create any of them using clothing you already own, or by adding a couple key pieces to your wardrobe. For example, I noticed early on that I was pinning a lot of striped tops paired with brightly colored skirts and pants. I already owned the skirts and pants, so I went out and thrifted a stripped tank top and a stripped t-shirt! Those two items made me more excited about the clothes that were already in my closet. Later on, I realized that I was pinning high waisted skirts with tucked-in tops. I began to try tucking in shirts I already owned to skirts I already owned (or made) and felt much more put together and better about my figure!
By identifying the ‘key pieces’ of clothing that I was attracted to, I could thrift one or two identified items to get more wear out of what I already owned. Some common items that can really help make your wardrobe more versatile could be items like a chambray button-up, a tailored blazer, a certain color of t-shirt, a pair of slacks, or a piece of jewelry.
Think about your style profile.
Maybe you started a pinterest board but you can’t identify what type of styles you gravitate towards from your pins. Most people like more than one specific style category but we all tend to feel most comfortable in one or two particular styles. Another resource for you could be Stitch Fix (* affiliate link). This company has done a lot to help women figure out what their personal styles are. If you look them up on Pinterest you will find boards dedicated to the seven style categories they use – classic, preppy, romantic, glam, boho, edgy, and casual. Each board has a description of that style and lots of pins to give you an idea of what that style might include. Look through the boards, pick out your favorite pictures, and add those pins to your own fashion boards. This will give you a clearer sense of how to describe your style and what pieces and outfits you would enjoy wearing.
Find your ‘uniform’.
We all have types of outfits we wear everyday, or that we grab when we’re in a hurry. Make them play to your advantage! What are you most comfortable wearing? What do you feel best in? What do you feel most put together in? What outfit item do you get most excited about – shoes, tops, pants, skirts, or accessories? If you find outfit ‘formulas’ that you enjoy, you’ll know what to shop for and what to pull on those mornings when you don’t have time to think about style.
Some examples of our daily uniforms:
Ellie – Uniform 1: Crisp button up with shorts/pants; Uniform 2: Casual dress with sandals and accent jewelry
Elizabeth – Uniform 1: Skinny jeans and a half tucked t-shirt with flats and lots of jewelry; Uniform 2: High waisted skirt with a tucked in tank top, flats and big earrings; Uniform 3: A basic dress, statement necklace and sandals.
Identify what you feel best and worst wearing.
This is very personal. For example, I am uncomfortable in wrap tops, cowl necks, and some button-ups. Ellie doesn’t like to wear anything sleeveless. Once you have identified these things, don’t make exceptions! Use your preferences to guide you when you make purchases.
It is also helpful to identify which types of fabric you feel comfortable wearing. I am learning that I really don’t like polyester tops because they have no give, they wick sweat in weird ways, and they can hold odors. Because of this, I am beginning to focus on natural fibers like cotton, linen, and wool. If you are always pulling at something or adjusting it to lay right, it’s likely that fabric is not for you. Avoid buying pieces made of this fabric, and give that piece to someone else or donate it!
Determine what compliments your body.
This can be tricky because we all have such unique shapes; what works on my figure may not work on yours. I have found it helpful to take a picture of myself in clothing that I am considering purchasing. This tells me a lot about what the clothing really looks like on me, and not just how it feels. If you have a friend who you think will really tell you the truth, send her a quick picture of you in the item so she can tell you if she thinks it looks good on you. But even if she says it looks good, if you don’t feel good, don’t buy it!
Figure out what you’re really wearing in your wardrobe.
Holding on to clothing we don’t actually wear clutters our closets and makes it more difficult to put together an outfit we enjoy wearing. Here are two systems we like for figuring out what we actually wear and what we should give away:
Ellie keeps items in her closet in order and generally wears what comes up next in line, skipping over any outfits she’s not excited to wear. After she’s worn something, she moves it to the end of the line. If she finds herself skipping an item several times in a row, she knows it’s time to get rid of it. This system also encourages her to wear each item she owns, which is a great way to tell what you like: after wearing an item all day you know how you feel about it!
Another good system for finding what you are and aren’t wearing in your closet is to turn all of your hangers to face the ‘wrong way’. When you wear something and hang it back up, hang the hanger the ‘correct way’. After a couple of months, any hangers that are still facing the ‘wrong direction’ are clothes you know you can live without. Both of these systems can be modified for clothing you keep in drawers; for example, you could move through a drawer in a line, moving clothing you’ve skipped to the front of the line. Another option would be to hang up more of your clothing for a month or so while you evaluate what you have, returning it to its usual place when you’re done with the process.
In addition to helping you clean out your closet, both these methods can help you determine what items you gravitate towards and which you don’t really enjoy. The more you know about what you actully wear, the more you know about your own style preferences and what you should and shouldn’t buy in the future.
Go with your gut.
If you try something on and feel iffy, don’t try to make it work, especially if you would just be buying it because it is inexpensive. Buying something just because it’s cheap is not the answer – especially if it doesn’t fit! Don’t convince yourself, or let others convince you, to purchase something unless your first impression of it is very good. Snap judgments are good here. This is also true of what is already in your closet – do a test day and see how you feel in an item. If you don’t love it, give it away!
Less is more; look for versatility.
The idea of a capsule wardrobe has been floating around a lot lately. If you don’t know what that is, we encourage you to read up on it! Read Capsule Wardrobe 101 here. Ellie and I don’t do capsule wardrobes, mostly because it’s not practical to pack any of our wardrobes away: in Austin the weather changes quickly and you need access to wool sweaters one day and shorts the next. But the idea of a capsule wardrobe has a lot of great concepts embedded in it: less is more, find versatility in what you already own, and purchase items based on how many different ways you can wear them. You can consider these ideas as you are building and adjusting your wardrobe.
It’s about YOU!
Ultimately, what matters is how YOU feel about what you are wearing. Trends come and go, but feeling good about yourself in clothing that you like always matters. We’ve said it before: our clothing is the most visible way that we tell the world who we are. It can communicate emotion (mourning clothes vs a sundress), our intent (workout clothes vs heels), and so much more with just a single glance. It’s worth spending time thinking about what you want your wardrobe to say.
Tell us what you learned about your style, or share a photo of something you love wearing and tell us why you love to wear it on Instagram with the hashtag #DressWellDoGood! We would love to have you join us in conversation as we continue to explore this idea of style and fashion! And of course, don’t forget to follow us over on Instagram at @DressWellDoGood and subscribe to receive blog posts via e-mail.