How to Find Your Personal Fashion Styles: Clothing, Aesthetics, Life
Before I attempt writing on this topic and pretend to be a semi-expert on the topic that could well be written in a full-length book, I feel more at ease to start with a confession.
The truth: this topic is written for a dear friend, ML, who continues to find herself confused and baffled in the world of fashion.
After and over decades of being a casual stylist consultant and advisor to her, I realize her current dilemma reflects my incomplete caring and complete failure in providing adequate inspirations to her. So let’s start with the italicized part above.
In the World of Fashion
In my view the world of fashion is one where it is much larger in dimensions, encompassing all past and present cultural productions and various sources of inspirations and influences, with greater height in vision and creativity, and deeper in scope of life than the material styles of clothing that we often think of as “fashion”. This larger world of fashion will be referred to as the capitalized Fashion in this article. In this world of Fashion, there are at least three components:
materials—physical clothing pieces start with the very basic of materials that are made from the threads and fibers, natural and synthetic materials.
- aesthetics-- individual stylistic choices that embody reflections of our personalities; these are the very ways that appeal to our senses, giving us images and sensations of beauty.
It is important to note that aesthetics is entirely subjective to the individual senses. Take this above collage image of various bottles for examples. One may find none, one, multiple, or all of them being artistic and “pretty” in one's own perception.
- life—the all-inclusive aspects of our livings in the physical, social, emotional, psychological, mental, and even spiritual realms.
Connecting the Threads
So what is the relationship between these three components in our world of Fashion? On the basic level, we choose the types of clothing based on need. For instance, we seek out specific types of clothing based on the physical and social environments of our livings. Namely, we need warmer clothing in cold weather and choose appropriate styles unique to our given work settings.
Moving beyond this basic level of need, most of us desire to dress ourselves for a numbers of other purposes ranging from pure pleasure to self-representation and self-expression of individual aesthetics, personality, social status, personal comfort, satisfaction, and belief, etc.
Before The Big Question
So before addressing the big question of how to find one’s styles, there are a few other interrelated questions one should note of:
- What types of clothing (styles) do you currently wear?
- Are you actively seeking to dress in specific and/or particular styles?
- What determines a style?
To avoid having this article running too long, I will just focus on how to find your styles?
Choices of My Personalities
In brief, I think the clothing styles we choose reflect different aspects of our personalities. According to social psychologists, each of us carries up to at least 17 different types of personalities. Without naming the characteristics of these personalities, I would use my own fashion styles to serve as an example for illustration. I personally like the following 5 styles when I dress up or down for all personal and private settings, as well as for career and social occasions. Examples of these styles are provided in the subsequent images below.
- Elegant classic
Note that these are not formal categories of fashion styles, with exception of the term “bohemian”. I use two adjectives to form each category that could best sum up the essence of each stylistic category, even though no two descriptive words could perfectly portray a style.
On the same note, anyone could create one’s own fashion style by combining two or even three adjectives that best describe your fond of various features of a certain style. For example, if one loves some aspects of punk style (typically represented by leather pieces) and preppy style (most often seen with pinstripe, vest, sweater pieces), one could create an informal, but personal fashion style called “preppy punk” with combining the use of leather pieces and other preppy pieces. Here are two possible pieces to achieve this preppy punk look.
Such use of adjectives does not, however, answer the main question of finding your styles.
So, what’s my styles?
I would suggest finding your styles by answering these questions. Note that these are not meant to stand in necessary opposition to one and another. They serve as examples and are food for thought.
- What are my dominant personality traits?
Do I like glamorous or earthy things? Do I like to attract attention with my clothing? Do I like fancy and highly decorative things or enjoy simple and natural designs? Do I like moderate or repealing clothing? (Apparently, one could like all of these at the same time or over different periods of time.)
- What makes me look “good”?
You could choose your fashion styles based on what looks good on you. These range from the silhouette of the clothing, the print and pattern, the details, colors, design, etc. You may ask, what styles give me fun and pleasure? Do you know what designs and silhouette look good on you? Again, note that what looks “good” is entirely subjective, unique, and personal to oneself.
- How do I want to look?
We choose certain styles of clothing for various settings and occasions. Most of the time, we would wear appropriate styles, but there are times we select choices for emotional sentiments as well. Do you pursue fancy styles from designer brands? Do you appreciate delicate silk, exquisite lace, and high end fur, or simple cotton, linen, and breathable fabric? Do you wear to impress at all time, settings, and occasions? Do you always follow fashion trends? Are you clueless about fashion trends?
- What styles make me happy and why?
We all like to look our best given the ability and opportunity. If you know you don’t look great in color x, there should not be a reason for you to seek out wearing color x. The opposite is true. If you look fantastic in blue, you will have incentive to select more blue pieces. Yet, styles that make you feel happy are not limited to color choices. These could be how certain types of fabric and silhouette make you feel. A tailored fancy dress may empower you in your work place, while simple, loose fit cotton dresses or shirts may give you a sense of freedom.
So, finally, how?
Having outlined key questions to help you find your styles, so, still, how exactly do you find your style?
I would suggest the following aspects to consider when searching for the right styles for yourself.
- Rather than using the some times abstract word “style”, you may want to ask, “What look do I want? How many different looks do I want? Do I want to change up the looks for different time, settings, occasions?
- Write down these looks by using adjectives to describe certain “look” or outfit. An outfit that is considered “romantic” by others may not yield the same romantic sense or mood to you. So, you may add footnotes to the adjectives that you write down.
- Once you move beyond the first two questions above, you could start thinking about what pieces you already own in your wardrobe that could be put together for the look or looks that you listed in #1 above.
- Start with building your styles by collecting essential pieces that could best characterize each look or style. Among my 5 styles listed above, take artistic romantic for example. I perceive artistic prints such as watercolor pattern having tremendous sense of aesthetics. Adding a few of these- essential pieces--whether they are blouses or dresses—helps me build up the look of “artistic romantic” style that I adore so much. You could do the same for each of your personal styles.
In conclusion, to qualify as a style one may have to take particular fashion pieces in consistent and deliberate ways that serve a certain conscious purpose. Again, this does not mean one should only have one or particular number of styles throughout her life. One can change style as frequently as one may desire. Yet, for those who just assemble pieces of clothing together without any intent or idea of why these pieces go together, one probably cannot be considered to live in a “world of Fashion”. This world of Fashion is very personal and is individualized to one’s aesthetics and living circumstances and environment. It should have more purposes and deliver meanings way beyond the need of clothing.
Last but not least, finding your personally unique styles is not a journey in search of a mirage image in the desert, sky, or under the water. Your styles may not be clear without your passionate pursuit and genuine investment in yourself: your feelings, senses, perceptions of what appeals to you, and knowing what you want for yourself and what you want to be expressed and represented by your clothing.
Thank you for reading this post! I hope readers like you and my friend, ML, will find this article helpful.
Happy hunting and developing your own unique styles! Life is long and short. Embrace the materials through your personalized aesthetics to further your life and create uniquely your own enjoyment in life.