Personal Style questions

The words used to describe personal styles change over the years (classic, romantic, casual, dramatic, vintage. . . cool, boho, cottage core, urban, normcore, edgy, retro, hip-hop . . . ) but some basic aspects of personal style stay constant.
It’s good to have a couple of key words for a style, as an easy way to keep it in mind.
But actually personal styles can vary in a huge number of details.

There are 2 main approaches to making style decisions :
Follow what makes you feel and look good : “Do you prefer wearing skirts or pants ?”
Follow an expert : “You’re a Natural so you prefer wearing pants”.

Following an expert can be very helpful when you start being interested personal style and don’t know what the options are.
Ultimately it’s more important to follow your own feelings and needs.

After much reading about wardrobe planning, I have a list of style questions I find helpful.

Answer these questions with what you would like to wear in an ideal world – don’t pick what is fashionable, or what you have to wear for your work, climate, budget. . .
I’ve given lists of items to choose between, but they don’t cover all the possibilities – feel free to add your own likes.

If you’re new to personal style issues, you may find this long list rather overwhelming ! If so, just consider one or a small group of questions at a time.

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Which types of garment do you prefer wearing ?
– are you a pants or a skirt person ?
– if you prefer skirts, are you a dresses or a separates person ? slim or swirling ?
– if it’s pants – do you prefer jeans, skinnies, leggings, chinos, trousers. . . ?
– which types of top do you like most ? shirts, blouses, tees, tunics ?
– which types of layering top do you most like to wear ? blazer, ‘kimono’, sweater, cardigan, tunic, vest, shawl, big shirt, sleeveless jumper-style dress?

There are many pinterest boards here showing different styles of dresses, jackets, skirts, pants, collars, pockets, etc. for you to choose your favourites from.

– do you prefer more professional looking, or more dirt tolerant, clothes ?
– do you like to go to ’dressy/ formal’ occasions ?
– do you like to show skin or cleavage, or are you naturally a ‘modest’ dresser ?
– does the climate/ environment/ culture you live in, or the hobbies you enjoy, affect whether you need warm or protective layers ? longer or shorter pants, skirts or sleeves ? special accessories ?

– what is your basic body silhouette ? rectangle, round, triangle, inverted triangle, hourglass, a combination ?
– if you’re bigger above the waist, have you got wide or large shoulders, or a generous cup size, or both ?
– do you prefer to wear clothes that are skin tight (negative ease – your clothes have to stretch for you to get into them)/ close fitting/ average fitting (about 2-4″/5-10cm. ease)/ loose fitting/ very loose fitting (over 10″/25cm. ease) ? (Ease is the difference between body measurements and garment measurements.)

– what shapes and lengths of tops, tunics, jackets, skirts, pants, are most flattering for you ? (essential to check the view from the back too ! and just get a general idea – the best lengths in detail often depend on particular shapes and combinations of garments and shoes.)
– what shapes and lengths do you feel most comfortable in, or feel most like yourself when you wear them ?
– do you like to wear a collar or raised neckline, or do you avoid them ?
– which armhole shape do you prefer – fitted, dropped shoulder, cut-on ?
– do you prefer simple sleeves, or ones that get attention ?
– do you look good wearing a belt ? at waist level ? at high hip level ?
– do you look best with tops tucked in or out ?

– what is your face shape ? what is the most flattering hair style for you ? what hairstyle makes you feel most true to yourself ?
which hair styles need the level of care you are happy with ? which do you feel comfortable wearing ?
– what is the most flattering shape and depth of neckline for you ? also the best collars ? (Cut out shapes in kitchen towel paper and try them on – that’s good to use as it sticks to most clothes.)
– what are your best features, that you want your clothes and accessories to draw attention to ? face, legs, waist, shoulders, bosom, butt, hands, eyes, skin, feet, hair. . .?

– are you happier in knits or in woven fabrics ?
– do you like plain fabrics, or hand dyeds, prints, plaids, stripes, textures or patterned weaves, velvet or corduroy, shiny, embellished ?
– stiffer materials like leather or denim, or softer more drapey ones?
– if you like prints, are they floral, geometric, animal, hard edged, fuzzy. . .
– lots of big contrasts, or only subtle differences ?
– do you like added beads, or braids, piping, cord, studs and eyelets, ornamental zips, fringe, tassels, lace, embroidery, topstitching, fabric textures such as tucks, gathers, flounces, smocking, 3-D flowers, applique, patchwork, quilting. . .

– what are the darker and lighter neutral colours that are most flattering for you ? (that make you look good even without make up or hair colouring ?)
– what is your favourite and most flattering ‘accent’ colour ?
– do you look best in light or dark colours ? clear or muted-greyed shades ? colours with a yellowish (warm) or with a blueish (cool) underlying tinge ? high contrast or minimal contrast ?
– do you look your best when wearing white ? in black ? in denim blue ? in none of these ?

– are you happiest in fitted or loose clothes ? structured/tailored, or floaty ? simple or detailed ?
– is the weight of clothes important for you ? do you feel more comfortable in light weight clothes ? in heavy weight clothes ?
– what about the weight of accessories ? the weight of bags? shoes? necklaces?
– do you like or dislike wearing high heels? flats? low necklines? high necklines? ankle length skirts? thigh length skirts?

– what is your favourite accessory ? bags, backpacks, belts, necklaces, brooches/ pins, bracelets, earrings, rings, scarves, hats, gloves, shoes, boots, sunglasses ? none ?
– what are your favourite styles for jewellery and accessories : quiet or bling ? large or small ? best materials ? simple or detailed ? modern or antique ? angular or curved ? a mixture ?
– what is your favourite style of bag ?
– what is your favourite size of bag (purse) ?
– what are your favourite materials for your bag ? fabric, leather, straw ?
– what heel height is most flattering to your legs when wearing a skirt ?
– what is your favourite style of shoes ?

– what is the clothing style that you feel most yourself in ? quiet or striking ? casual or tailored ? pretty or hard-edged ? dry-clean or mini-care ? crafter or modernist ? minimalist or bling ? modest or exposed ? classic, quirky, romantic, high fashion, sporty, artistic, elegant, cool, edgy, urban, vintage, boho, sexy, something else, a combination ?
– have you got a ‘signature’ ? is there a colour, or a type of print or fabric, or a type or shape of garment, or a type of accessory or trim, a style element, or something else, that you alway wear or would like to wear ?

– and apply (most of !) these questions to undies and nightwear too.
– what bra and panties styles and sizes can you wear without getting underwear lines ?

– remember a time when you felt at your happiest and best. Would the clothes you are thinking of making or buying help you to feel like this ?

– do you need to adapt your clothes a little away from your personal preferences, to suit the climate or lifestyle where you live or work ? if so, what is the most important feature for you to maintain, so you feel you keep your own style ? (Our local smartly uniformed junior supermarket manager goes home in black leather and chains. He gets to keep his beard and pony tail during the day.)

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Obviously ‘personal style’ cannot be summarised in one word !

Your personal style may well be different from mine, so notice especially when you disagree with these questions, or think there is something important left out !

These sorts of questions don’t point to specific best designs, but for me they do greatly cut down on the mass of alternatives.

Once you start thinking in this way, you may find many other style specifics are important to you.

P.S. I copied this list and changed ‘my’ choices to bold format, so I can just quickly read through the bold words to get a written overview of my style.

P.S.S. Looking at this 3 years later – I’ve realised the clothes patterns I choose have most interest and variety around the neck area, with very little variation in sleeves. So I would add some questions here about which style elements you like to vary. See my post on Where do you like your outfit variety ?

P.S.S.S. 2021. April Grow’s Perfectly Put Together course (not free) goes through many of these options with detailed examples. She has an ‘edgy classic’ style in Winter colours, so the specific examples won’t work well for many people. But as an illustration of general principles about where you prefer to be among the huge variety of style options, and that your preferences may depend on details, this is good.

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First published September 2009

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6 Comments on “Personal Style questions”

  1. Barbara Says:

    This is a wonderful thoughtful blog – keep writing. I have enjoyed your posts so much.

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    Great blog, Lisanne, I agree keep writing. Also, sew!

  3. Vildy Says:

    Wonderful questions. I can’t believe that after having read dozens of style books and hundreds of articles I never before took time to consider whether I preferred skirts or pants. I love a graceful skirt but it’s pants! I’m only most comfortable in pants and no matter if other people respond well to my skirted outfits, I always feel I have “put it on” [over my personality].

    And when I consider outfits in the past that I felt the very best and happiest! in, I think of 2 pantsuits I had. Well, I still have the kind of raspberry hot pink shantung one that alllllmost fits. I keep it as a kind of talisman but had never considered the full significance.

  4. Cathy Says:

    Thank you for this blog! I’ve been struggling with personal style lately – What? Jeans and t-shirts aren’t a personal style in themselves? 🙂

    I’ve spent hours on your site and find it extremely useful. Thanks for the time you’ve spent putting it together!

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks Cathy
      I think of tees and jeans as Classic Casual, see my take on current personal styles round here in the UK. Though I think your new pattern choices look more “Soft Layered” (pick your own name :D)

      Glad you find all this helpful, I enjoy doing it !

      And I like your post on free patterns for a capsule – an excellent idea, I promise to resist copying you 😀

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