Finding your style 2 : on-line style advisors

Do you feel special in your clothes ? Do they help you to feel you ? to feel confident ?

There are many sources of personal styling advice :
– national styling companies with local representatives who do face-to-face consultations,
– in-store shopping advisors,
– on-line advisors, some of whom do personal consultations locally or on-line using Skype, Zoom or photos,
– books – there are shelf yards of books on choosing your best clothes according to your colouring, body shape, and personal style. Here’s my post on my favourite styling books (written in 2013 so now somewhat out of date).

The first post in this group was about what style categories can do for you, and how to use them.

This is about some on-line sources of advice about ‘best clothes for you’. Only a small selection, or this post really would be huge.
This is a very long post with several main topics :
Stylists who advise about personal style, the clothes you are happiest wearing.
Stylists who advise about how you can best flatter your colouring and body shape.
Stylists who advise about planning a ‘capsule wardrobe’, a small group of co-ordinating clothes.
If the main style categories are not ‘you’ : an extended section of things to try if you can’t find yourself in other people’s categories !

Of course most of these sites are set up to help people who don’t sew. But there are a few who give pattern advice, and I’ve noted them.

This ends with comments on what to do if you feel the stylists don’t cover your needs. There are no absolute rules about styling, so you won’t find all stylists suggest what works well for you. Try the ones who look as if they do, and if they don’t then move on. And not to worry if none of them do, there are many other ways of exploring your own style. See the next post for some ideas.

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Personal style

Doctor T Designs – Kibbe styles – see Sew your Kibbe under the Wardrobe Planning tab. There’s a wealth of Kibbe-related guidance on the web. This site is good for sewists because it has extensive suggestions of sewing patterns for each style : within each overall style – for casual, work, and special occasions.
No need to know your Kibbe style, just look through the patterns suggested for likely styles, and see if there’s a group you feel are ‘you’.
I like over-sized slouchy clothes, which here are categorised as ‘Flamboyant Natural’. I’m not the physical type that is supposed to like these styles, nor have I got a flamboyant personality. A good example of the styles being more important than the category name.

Inside Out Style from Imogen Lamport, for colour, body shape and personal style. She has a huge range of excellent free advice.
My favourite saying of hers :
“You want to love your clothes, and have them love you back.”
Her Style Manifesto might be a good starting point for your own explorations.
In the Evolve Your Style course there are daily challenges, a quick way of finding the limits to what you can happily wear – I refused the challenge on the days when she told me to wear bright red lipstick or high heels !
She has collected together a group of her posts on developing personal style.

I enjoyed her ‘7 Steps to Style’ course, not free but rich with useful information on colouring and body shape (for the ’16 Style Types’ course see below).

Stunning Style from April Grow has good posts on five ‘classic style twists’ : cute, edgy, minimal, soft, sporty. Her detailed wardrobe guides are easiest to follow if you love edgy classics and look good in ‘Winter’ colours. I enjoyed her ‘Perfectly Put Together’ course, which analyses the detail of garments and focusses on what it is you really like about your favourite clothes. Her examples are edgy classics but she is always generously encouraging about wearing what you love, whatever it may be. 2021 – she has started courses on her other Style Twists, which include many inspirational images. I’m delighted to find there are many photos for me which are not edgy at all 😀

Truth is Beauty and Fantastical Beauty can give you many ideas to try if your style is less mainstream.
Truth is Beauty is another stylist who provides a wealth of images to choose between. This is where I found my ‘Ingenue’ style word. I’ve never thought of myself as Ethereal, but of her styles, Ethereal-Natural is the one closest to me. I’ve needed to change the third word from Ingenue to Artisan for a better fit to what I like.
I’ve never thought of myself as living in a fairy tale, but if you do then what fun 😀 Fantastical Beauty could also help if you don’t know where to start with cosplay. This is an example of a site which gives advice only about a specialised group of style categories, she doesn’t attempt to cover the whole style range.

None of those courses focus only on the young and slim, but if you fear they might there’s a course from 40plusStyle.

As stylists do not all see the world in the same way, it’s helpful to search until you find one that suits you. For example, these 4 stylists expand their style categories in different directions :
Imogen Lamport and Truth is Beauty both use 7 personal style categories. They both include the basic 4 that are used by many systems : Classic, Natural, Dramatic, Romantic.
Then Imogen Lamport adds Elegant Chic and also Creative, Rebellious – rather aggressively quirky in style, which are more ways of being Dramatic. (Creative here means a unique combination of pieces, usually the wearers are not makers.) (In my opinion, Kibbe’s styles are also inclined to Dramatic. In his book he really doesn’t know what to do with soft classics, they just get ‘mother of the bride’.)
Truth is Beauty adds Ethereal, Gamine, Ingenue to the basic 4 styles – quirky on a quieter smaller scale, these are more ways of being Romantic/ Feminine.
April Grow at Stunning Style specialises in 5 varieties of Classic – cute, edgy, minimal, soft, sporty.
Classy yet Trendy’s 6 categories include several options for Natural/ Relaxed/ Casual style : stay at home mom (soft relaxed), athleisure (sporty), teacher (‘elevated’ casual – no blue jeans), french minimalist (both dressy and casual, neutral colours only), essential (both dressy and casual), also workwear (classic).
Which of these, or perhaps someone else entirely, suggests styles that you feel are ‘right’ for you ?

If your style is far from mainstream, you may have to do much searching before you find an advisor you feel at home with. Many stylists don’t even mention some of the possibilities, so don’t help you to realise they exist. As examples : I love heirloom stitching and smock styles. Truth is Beauty used to be the only site which mentions them. Now that April Grow at Stunning Style is showing styles which are not Edgy (in her Style Twist courses) she does include them. And there is a fun Facebook group for lagenlook, which style advisors certainly never mention 😀

Or perhaps the teaching style doesn’t suit you. Many people get exasperated with the Truth is Beauty site as there’s little help with finding things. On the other hand, many people love Merriam Style. But I need an overview to start from, and I didn’t last five minutes with her videos ! One of the courses below in my ‘not for me’ section is mainly in words, while for style I do better with images.

You Look Fab has daily posts on style topics – fun to follow, but not the best place to start as a guide for your personal style search.

We are all different, and I suspect the best / most helpful course to take very much depends on the individual.
I personally have got the most out of :
Truth is Beauty – free access to many inspiring images, the first style advisor I found who includes my style. She has 63 style categories, many more than most people.
Seamwork magazine Design Your Wardrobe class (only open to members) – includes a thought provoking section on finding your own style – and no categories !
Stunning Style Society – April Grow’s style is nothing like mine, but I did find her constant emphasis on wearing only what you love had a big impact on the quality of my wardrobe. She has excellent collections of images for each of her ’classic style twists’ (also only for members).

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Examples of personal style advice ‘fails’ for me

I’ve so far mentioned some on-line stylists I have learned from. But there are ones I find less useful (this isn’t all of them 😀 ).

For me, Dressing Your Truth is very limited, I can rarely fit people I know into it. But people who aren’t used to the idea of having a personal style, or who want to be told what to wear, often find it a helpful starting point. It divides us into 4 Types according to how we mainly use our energy, basically : fun lovers, sensitives, achievers, perfectionists. Everyone of the same Type is supposed to wear the same season of colours : Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and have the same facial features. (There have been 100s of research studies looking for a relation between physical characteristics and personality, and none have ever found anything.) The wealth of human nature means there are more than 4 types of people, and people who do fit the 4 DYT Types do not all look good in the same colours. (30somethingurbangirl also pairs style type and colour season, but in a different way – these things are not set in stone !) However there are many free videos on the DYT site, which may help with getting a quick idea of where your tastes lie, and what to look out for when assessing clothes. I’m not a ‘believer’ in DYT, but I confess I enjoy watching the make-over shows.

Imogen Lamport’s Your Type of Style : 16 Style Types course is on dressing your MBTI personality Type. Okay, 16 Types are better than 4, but still don’t capture the whole of human nature !
I first tried the shorter ‘Discover your style type‘ course. I’ve never, in years of reading books about it and trying tests, found which MBTI Type I am. From the indicators given in this course I am, as usual, ‘6 of one and half a dozen of the other’ on 2 of the dimensions (the same result in the test on the official MBTI site). Matches some of my attitudes to clothes and shopping, but there’s very little about specific styles to wear.
Despite that, I naively and optimistically signed on for the longer course. There is more in the longer course, but it relates most of your style options to your MBTI Type.  So if you can’t manage to constrain yourself to a single MBTI Type (it’s mainly a tool for middle management), or you don’t recognise yourself in Imogen Lamport’s 7 style categories, then you’re unlikely to get much value from this course ! Some people fit into this system well, and find this approach opens up important insights for them, but many people dropped out when I took this course (and from the course attitudes I suspect many of them left feeling there was something wrong with them, which is sad).  
Another issue is that it is mainly written instructions with very few style images, so if you like a good choice of images to get ideas from, this is not for you. (Despite my very wordy blog posts, I need images for styling.) I picked up a few pointers about my style early on, but just skimmed later sections.  
If you feel it would be helpful to be analytic and verbal about how clothing style elements relate to your personality, and you get a clear answer on MBTI tests, then you may find this worthwhile. If you are a visual person, and choose what you like to wear based directly on how you feel when wearing it, then you may find this course is an expensive mistake. Instead follow William Morris or KonMari – keep only items that are useful or ‘spark joy’.
I got good value from Imogen’s ‘7 Steps to Style’ course, which has detailed guidance on good colours and shapes, but not here.

My Private Stylist has a questionnaire which is a good example that some stylists may not be right for us at all. She claims it guides you to 1 of 50 categories. But the first 2 questions are about shoes and all the choices have high heels, which I never wear. Then the next 2 questions are about dresses – I haven’t worn a dress in decades, and all the choices have a fitted waist, which I didn’t wear when I did wear dresses. So I don’t think going through the rest of the questions would be likely to lead me on a path of self-discovery. Of course many people love the clothes illustrated, but that is not where I belong.

We just need to accept this will happen with some stylists – it feels as if they limit our possibilities rather than opening up a rich vista. If so, choose to move on.

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In the same way that we may find we’re a mixture of stylist’s personal style categories, we may also find we don’t fit neatly into any body shape or colouring categories. But it can still be helpful to see what we can learn from these systems about what may be the best choices for us.

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What is best for your body shape

As far as I know Imogen Lamport’s Body Shape Bible is the most detailed information you can find on-line about how to flatter your body shape : your silhouette, your length proportions, and your other special features such as large bust or rear.

Make what use of it you can. As usual I’m mixed, clearly bottom heavy so a ‘pear’ or ‘A’ in Imogen’s system, but not ‘triangle’ as I have a clearly defined waist, an 8 in Imogen’s system. So I’m mixed pear/hourglass. In Imogen’s system there are many of us who are ‘A over 8’.

(For books I love oop Flatter your figure by Jan Larkey.)

And you may love styles which don’t flatter your body shape – well, not to worry, go for what you love (hourglass figures who love lagenlook. . . ). Here is Imogen’s post on why your personality is more important than your body shape in determining which clothes you look and feel best in.

Indeed there is now also a very different approach to dressing your body which, instead of comparing bust waist hip widths (with suggestions about illusions which make you look a more ‘ideal’ shape), looks at length proportions and yin-yang features.
Here’s a video from Audrey Coyne who tries out 4 different ways of doing this.
The analysts all come up with such different recommendations it’s obviously rather an individual-subjective process, but there are some interesting ideas to try out.
The four analysts are :
6.30 min. Elyssa.
13 min. Frani.
23 min. Nona.
26 min. Rachel.
Frani and Nona both use the Kibbe body typing system and (fortunately) both choose the same type !

Audrey Coyne also has a YouTube channel and a blog.

Much to watch from all of these people if you enjoy style videos.

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What is best for your personal colouring

Probably the best colour advice comes from a personal face-to-face consultation using fabric colour drapes. Though even these are best done by someone recommended, as they may use a system which gives minimal training.

There are many on-line colour analysis services. Most of them do not mention grey hair, and if they do they often insist if you have grey hair you must have cool skin – so not for me.

These on-line services fall in three groups.

People who give general advice about colour categories.
Many people find this page from Cardigan Empire is a helpful starting point. For me, she’s just another person who doesn’t mention grey hair 😀

There are many ‘expanded season’ colour services online, with simple DIY analysis. I particularly like True Colour.

People who give personal advice based on photos you send them.
As screens, cameras, software and printers can alter colours, personal colour advice is not something that’s easy to do well on-line or from photos. In my opinion, advisors who do not insist your photos are taken in natural light without wearing make-up are even more unlikely to be correct.

People who send physical colour comparison cards.
I think courses which mail you physical comparison colour cards are better than courses using only virtual colours. You hold these cards up against your face, and you or they decide which look flattering and like you. As both you and the reference colours are in the same lighting, camera, processing software etc. the comparison is likely to be more valid.

I have tried a service which sent colour cards which were none of them anything like me (now not available). I haven’t tried all these methods, but have found 2 examples which for me gave useful advice :
– the DIY Color Style Kit (mainly colour wheel colours), finds your colour type on the 3 dimensions warm-cool, bright-soft, light-medium-deep, using mailed reference cards, and assigns you to a category. Follow with her next level course, Discover your color style, which doesn’t use categories and works better for my mixed colouring. Includes detailed advice for grey hair and/or dark skin.
– the colour section of Imogen Lamport’s ‘7 Steps to style’ course – Inside Out Style, see top tabs – also mails colour cards. More subtle colours – sadly almost impossible to find in clothes or fabrics.

Both those use their own colour groupings, rather than a ‘season’ analysis.
They use warm-cool, bright-soft, light-medium-dark colour dimensions.
Nancy Nix-Rice adds level of contrast and size of pattern to those, and for many of us they are important.

Some colours are greatly affected by lighting. I have a khaki hoodie and boots which both look brown in some lights, green in others. And a greige poncho which looks grey in direct sunlight, beige otherwise. This might be important for you, for example if you test colours at home in natural light, but spend your working day in fluorescent light.

So the first colour issue is what colours make your skin look healthy and your eyes shine. I look like a living-dead-witch in black, not a good look for a special occasion. But the second important colour question is which colours you feel happy wearing. Here’s a post by Imogen Lamport on your colour personality.

Like my points in the first post, about style categories – the aim of colour categories is to support us in finding colours that we look and feel good in, not to force ourselves to fit into some colour category scheme ! I’ve spent time in my life trying to be a Summer, a Spring, an Autumn – the only season I’ve clearly never been is a Winter. Now with my cool grey hair, warm tan skin, cool pink lips, warm brown eyes and eyebrows – I’m part warm part cool, part bright part soft, part light part medium. There are no simple rules for what colours are best for me, but I do try colour advice to see what is helpful. And actually with my ‘colour personality’ I mainly wear neutrals anyway. But not all neutrals – I look dreadful in black and in denim blue, and it’s surprising how many fabric stores sell only cool colours. . .

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Wardrobe planning

A ‘capsule’ wardrobe is small group of co-ordinating clothes that can be mixed and matched to make different outfits. If you only have a small number of clothes, you want to be sure they fit the needs of your lifestyle. And that they’re all items you love to reach for in the morning – they suit your personality and make you look and feel good. Hence the whole area of ‘wardrobe planning’.

There are 100s of people on-line telling you how to plan a capsule wardrobe. Stunning Style above is one. These are some of the others :
The Vivienne Files is a site bursting with methods for planning a capsule wardrobe, but most of the clothes shown are ‘normcore’ in style. There’s a big focus on colour co-ordination, but little on finding your most flattering colours. Excellent if planning or revamping your wardrobe are what you want to optimise, but little help with alternative styles.
Classy yet Trendy also suggests specific capsules, in 6 nearly-normcore styles : teacher, essential, workwear, athleisure, stay at home mom, French minimalist. The first 3 differ mainly in how formal the clothes are : all casual, some casual/some dressy, all dressy. ‘Athleisure’ is a little more sporty, ‘stay at home’ clothes have a little more softness, and the ‘French’ clothes are a little ‘edgy’.

Those sites have links to specific RTW items in the capsule (they earn their living from people following their recommendation links).
Usually they recommend standard styles and there are many patterns which could be used to copy them. But the sites support shoppers not sewists.

The next capsule sites are for sewists and include pattern advice :
Nancy Nix-Rice has a book and DVD. And a Craftsy video class. She also has blog posts suggesting sewing patterns.
Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated patterns has a Mindful Wardrobe course which combines : personal style/ colouring/ fit, devising a capsule wardrobe, the deeper issues of clothing and sewing as self care.
The Wardrobe Architect posts from Colette patterns are an interesting series of exercises on all aspects of choosing your clothes.
Seamwork on-line magazine with patterns has a Design your Wardrobe 3-week video class. Also from Colette patterns, you have to be a Seamwork member for access.

These next 2 classes have capsule and pattern suggestions, but don’t cover the wider issues of personal style, body shape, colouring :
Sandy Miller shows variations of Cutting Line patterns, at Taunton Workshops.  Cutting Line have a pdf of their pattern line drawings, so you can play with outfit combinations, perhaps try them on a personal croquis.

Sewing Workshop pattern’s Sew Confident series builds up a capsule wardrobe over the course of each year. The courses include much technique advice and sew-alongs, but assume you look good in their styles, and in black !

Most pattern books from indie pattern publishers don’t include wardrobe planning advice (lifestyle, personal style, colouring, body shape). This one does: Dressed from Deer & Doe patterns has 9 downloadable pdf patterns claimed to be makable in an afternoon. I don’t know about that, but they are all simple, with a wide variety of style elements which, with a little knowledge of pattern hacking (not included), you could combine in many different ways.

Many stylists tell you how to build a capsule, but that may not be best way of organising your wardrobe for you. Imogen Lamport has an interesting piece on whether you prefer capsule, formula, or uniform for your clothing. Nancy Nix-Rice also has a post about using a fashion formula. Even more simply, you may be an ‘outfit’ wearer, if you don’t want to have to mix-and-match clothes, and you always wear each item with the same other items. Or you may be someone who doesn’t want any limits to your style choices (though such people are unlikely to be reading this !). I’m a Uniform person – but you may love just going with the mood of the day 😀

More on capsules in this specific post.

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If the main style categories are not ‘you’

You don’t actually need to know your style category. That doesn’t mean you have no style ! There are many other options for finding your own style, suggestions in the next post.
Categories are tools, they may aid communication, and help style advisors to point you in the direction of clothes you may like. But they’re not ‘big truths’ !

Instead you might start with this list of style questions. If you have any preferences at all, you have a personal style 👍.

But if you do want to go further with getting advice from others, look at the suggestions from several stylists. For example, one person’s advice for ‘natural’ may not be the same as another stylist’s advice for ‘casual’. Stylists certainly don’t all agree. As an example, some stylists say that Casual and Chic are complete opposites, while others have a ‘Casual Chic’ category.

Style is a matter of judgement and opinion, not accurate measurement. This can be difficult for people like me, I prefer clear simple rules when I’m learning something for the first time (though I’m flexible later). That really is not possible with ‘style’. So look for stylists you feel you have something in common with, follow them as far as they can take you, but be prepared to move on.

April Grow at Stunning Style says there are only 2 rules : wear what you love, and don’t spend beyond your budget. The details of what works for us we have to explore. Trying style courses may help with this by showing us some of the options, but ultimately we have to make our own decisions.

You may come across style words which you respond to, but which the general stylists do not give information about because the words only apply to a small percentage of people.
Search style words in google, pinterest, youtube.
Try : lagenlook, mori girl, folkloric, vintage, retro, prairie, pioneer, western, hip hop, grunge, punk, goth.
New style words emerge in each season and each sub-culture.
I’ve recently come across a new style word ‘cottagecore’ which could be a good word for me.
What is the style of your favourite movie or fantasy character ?
Would you like to look like Iris Apfel or the ladies with Advanced Style ? wear Ivey Abitz style ? Are any of the Folkwear patterns to your taste ?

Some people like to follow celebrity/ influencer style. But those people have genes which mean they look good photographed from any angle, near average bodies so RTW fits well, and apparently unlimited budgets (or they get lent clothes by designers). My gifts lie elsewhere so I don’t feel I have much in common with them ! If you do like this idea, have a look at the celebrity outfits suggested by styleARC patterns.

Or start from images rather than words. Cherish and collect the images which do ‘speak’ to you.
Choose a pinterest image and see what pinterest suggests have something in common with it.

Also check for your own wardrobe needs. I wear mainly pullover layers and vests, and they’re rarely mentioned in wardrobe plans or by stylists.

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Getting closer to wearing your own style is a way of making you feel better about yourself, not worse ! These are some of the pitfalls I’ve experienced with personal style courses . . .

Notice how you respond to a stylist. I’m a quiet person, and some stylists have such powerful personalities I feel knocked sideways from myself. Or they emphasise all my inadequacies as a way of convincing me I need their course. Despite their big claims, some of them make me feel lesser – those I’m learning to avoid !

Oddly, many of the sites which claim to cover all styles don’t include anything like what I love. But they may insist strongly that they do include everything, even that there’s something wrong with you if you can’t find where you fit in. That attitude can make me feel so invalidated/ alienated/ knocked off-centre, I need to carry some self-care supplies while exploring them. Is there something to look at/ hold/ listen to, a person, an activity, which automatically makes you feel yourself, so you can get grounded back at your centre again ?

Also there are several sites which claim to be all about ‘self expression’ in your clothing choices, which actually have quite strict rules on how you go about expressing yourself – what type of person you ‘ought’ to be expressing. As if there’s only one way of dressing to express yourself. I think you ought to feel free to be an extreme classic, or very unfashionable.  Wear totally mismatched wrongly proportioned clothes. Wear only black with sharp angles.  What makes you feel truly you 😀

And beware courses which offer a styling ‘rescue fantasy’, suggesting that all the decisions have been made for you, and all your styling problems will quickly be at an end. This may be a good place for styling and capsule planning beginners to start from, but ultimately to get your style right for you, you do need to respond to your own feelings about the suggestions made. See the next posts for some ideas on making your style more personal to you.

Go along with any stylist who helps you feel you know what style direction to go in, but only follow them as far as they do. Once you start to feel you don’t fit in, or that you’re having to force yourself to follow their suggestions, then thank them for what you have learned from them, and move on to look for other insights elsewhere. And one day you’ll find yourself making your own decisions 😀

May you enjoy yourself and have Good Fortune on this quest 😀

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There are 4 in this group of posts about personal style. The others are :
1. using style categories.
3. exploring styles.
4. trying on clothes.

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Originally written August 2019, links checked June 2021

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