Finding your style 3 : exploring your own style

Do you feel ‘right’ in your clothes ? Do they help you to feel you ? to feel confident ?

How do you go about exploring which style is best for you ?
This may not be a quick and simple process.

Always attend to your inner voice. There are clothes you react to with love, clothes you react to with horror. But for many of us there’s a large range of possibilities where the effect is less clear-cut, so you have to ‘listen’ more carefully to whether you smile or cringe. Many advisors suggest you only buy clothes which score at least 8/10.

Sometimes when you ‘have nothing to wear’, are in a hurry, and don’t have easy access to good stores, this is not possible. But surely you don’t need to go lower than 5/10 !
Many of us wear casuals most of the time, so get caught out by the need for ‘special occasion’ clothes – have you got what you would need for a wedding, christening, funeral, ‘black tie’ event ?
Some of us have mainly workwear – so what would you wear to a football or hockey match ? a beach vacation ?
This is a situation where it’s good to have done some wardrobe planning. So you’re unlikely to be caught out by rare unexpected events, and have something wearable waiting in your closet for when they do occur.

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Exploring style options and finding your own likes

In my experience, finding the clothes that are best for you is not a quick process. It needs some effort, but there are many things you can try.
At each step – notice how you feel about the clothes – do you want to wear them ? do they make you feel good ? or do they make you feel lesser ?

Imogen Lamport at Inside-Out blog :

You want to love your clothes, and have them love you back.

April Grow at Stunning Style :

If you’re trying to talk yourself into anything you don’t genuinely love to wear, just put it away.

There are many possible ‘exercises’ for noticing your own style.
Start with the activities you think you will enjoy.

Perhaps pick one of the free or cheap systems for choosing your style category and work through the exercises (see previous post for some links).

If that doesn’t work for you, the next methods don’t need you to have any idea what your ‘style category’ is, or which style words describe you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel ‘this is me’ with any of those stylists’ ideas. If you do fit a category, good, that saves much work as they suggest clothes you probably like. But if you don’t fit in with any particular stylist, that doesn’t mean you haven’t got a style 😀 It just means you have to do the searching for yourself, and be very aware of your feelings as you look at clothes or try them on (and have a good cry or rage if need be).

Explore Ready-To-Wear

– go through fashion magazines and catalogues and pick out pictures of clothes and accessories you feel good about. Try to avoid choosing ones you feel you ‘ought’ to want to wear !

– look at the designer collections during Fashion Weeks (vogue.com) (hmm, there are 100s of designers, that could be rather a big commitment). Different designers attract different types of customer, and most don’t design ‘everyday’ clothes, so don’t expect to like them all. Are there any that really appeal ? What are the elements of their designs that you respond to ?

– type a garment type in the search box at ShopStyle.com to see multiple current possibilities. This site is the ‘big secret’ of many on-line style advisors, they go here to find sources of an item they want to mention.

– look at the site of a big department store which carries fashion lines from many companies, and pick out the ones you feel at home with.

– enter a style word at pinterest and make boards of items and outfits you like the look of.

– pick an inspiring image at pinterest, and explore the pinterest ‘More Ideas’ and the other sources they link to.

– if you live somewhere where this is possible, go on ‘playshops’ : leave money/cards behind and go to a mall or big department store where there are many different styles and just try on clothes and notice how you feel about them.

Explore pattern lines

Butterick, Kwik Sew, McCall’s, Simplicity and Vogue pattern lines all belong to the same company and aim to appeal to different customers. Do you like one of them more than the others ? Or do you prefer Burda which has more ‘European’ style ?

– find an on-line store which has a good selection of indie patterns, such as :
US : Pattern Review, Vogue Fabrics.
UK : Dragonfly Fabrics, Minerva Crafts (scroll down left menu), Sewbox.
– and find companies which have good options for you.

There are also non-selling lists of indie pattern companies : With my Hands Dream (the names are links), The Sewing Directory.
Don’t expect these lists to be complete. (I gave up trying to keep a list long ago.) There are 100s of indie pattern companies, they come and go daily, but it can be good to find ones you like.

If your style is far from ‘average’ it’s worth following up pattern company links mentioned elsewhere, rather than depending on general pattern selling companies and lists. There may be some small low-sales-volume pattern companies which are just what you’re looking for. I found most of the patterns I’ve bought recently through a private FB board for my style.

– if you like the idea of wearing vintage style :
There are several companies which sell new versions of vintage patterns (Butterick Retro, Simplicity Vintage, and small specialist companies).
Or you could buy the original patterns.
Try searching something like ‘vintage sewing pattern company’ for many sources.

It would make life easier to be able to use only patterns from one company. I have tried that approach but it doesn’t work for me. I now have a pinterest board of my favourite patterns, and nearly every one is from a different company !

Personal evidence

– mark your preferences on this list of personal style questions to get an idea of what style elements you like to wear.

– do a wardrobe sort and remove all clothes you don’t feel good about. They do rather attract your attention when you look in your closet, which is not a happy effect ! If the clothes were expensive, or you like them but they’re the wrong size, at least put them somewhere where you don’t have to keep looking at them and feeling guilty.

Though Nancy Nix-Rice says don’t throw items out because you don’t love them – perhaps they look good as part of outfits, or can be altered.

It is a heavy-duty task to clear out all non-ideal clothes. Perhaps start by moving the best to the front, so they’re the ones you choose from. Keep the others for a few months in case you find you want to go back to them. If you haven’t worn something for a year (unless it’s one of your ‘unlikely occasion’ outfits) and you try to persuade yourself to wear it but without any enthusiasm, perhaps it’s time to help it move on to a new life through a re-seller or charity shop !

– remember outfits you have worn which made you feel good, right back to childhood.
The first outfit I was awed by was when my 12-year-old self was wearing a velvet dress with lace on the collar. As I was wearing blue jeans and fleece when I did this memories exercise, that was a good and surprising ‘message’ for me.

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I love clothes, so I can pick out many pictures of clothes which are not actually right for me to wear myself. And I’m a pattern nerd – with a similar effect ! So checking in with ‘would I be happy if I was wearing this ?’ feelings is important.

In our searches it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Go through your collection of ideas frequently and keep only your ‘top’ choices. Use the pinterest ‘delete’ button !

Start from the clothes you have found which really help you feel good, which make you want to reach for them in the morning. Pick out the style elements which are important for you, and combine them in your own way.

Make your explorations into fun sessions. Allow yourself to notice when your heart leaps, to celebrate or laugh about the styles you find. After all, none of this is real yet 😀

I have a good visual imagination, so I can imagine myself in a garment, both at home and out and about. The results have often surprised me.

But imagination is not essential. The next step is – moving all this into the real world by actually trying on some clothes.
Ideas on doing that in the next post.

Good Luck and Courage for going through this 😀

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There are 4 in this group of posts about personal style. The others are :
1. using style categories.
2. on-line style advisors.
4. trying on clothes.

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Links available August 2019

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