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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

8 Ways to Find Your Personal Style, from the Wardrobe Gurus at Stitch Fix

Wish you had a signature look? You already do! It's just waiting to be uncovered.

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Consider the demands of your lifestyle

When it comes to finding your personal sense of fashion, think about how you live day-to-day. “Figuring out your personal style can feel like a scary science experiment, but it doesn’t have to be!” says Nicole Gordon, stylist manager of Stitch Fix, a personal shopping service with monthly home delivery. “Your current lifestyle may be the most important factor to keep in mind when considering your personal style. For example, if you’re in the medical field and wear scrubs all day, investing in tailored suits probably won’t make your priority list.” A great way to start developing your personal style is to first pay attention to the demands of your daily life. If you’re constantly traveling for work, seek out the most stylish but comfortable airport attire. If you’re a stay-at-home mom endlessly running errands, your go-to outfits should be cute but very flexible. If you work an office job, try mixing up your usual pants, blouse, and blazer while still remaining professional.

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Follow the curves

“Another factor to consider is body shape,” says Gordon. “You may admire a friend’s loose-fitting, menswear-inspired style, but in reality, a more fitted look is what you prefer for yourself. The trick,” she adds, “is figuring out how to incorporate elements of a style you admire into a look that makes you feel comfortable and confident.” Ask yourself: Are there areas of your figure you prefer to downplay or highlight? Your answers will help guide you toward clothing that best accentuates the areas you want it to. (If slimming your silhouette is one of your goals, these sneaky fashion tricks can help you look 10 pounds thinner.)

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Identify your personal goals

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Dress for the life (or job) you want, not the one you have.” So if you’re tired of dressing for your current situation, take a proactive approach and base your look around the life you aspire to. Take time to think hard about your life goals. Where do you ideally see yourself in the next five years? By envisioning the person you want to become, you’ll get a clearer understanding of how your personal style should evolve to reflect that image. Going for a promotion at your office job? Consider investing in more polished pieces. Ditching your day job to devote yourself to music? Indulge in more creative pieces without worrying about looking “out there.” (These simple fashion upgrades make you look expensive no matter where your journey takes you.)

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Find a style icon you admire

If you want to reinvent your personal style but don’t know where to begin, it’s helpful to identify your style icon. Whether it’s a rockstar, an actor, a coworker, or a friend, your style icon’s sense of fashion can inform your personal taste. Style is incredibly personal, so don’t try to copy your icon exactly and potentially lose your style identity. But pinpointing what it is you admire about your style icon—an air of effortlessness? European flair? Feminine accents? A spirt of whimsy?—will help you add those qualities to your own look. In its great American style icons list, Harpers Bazaar names Grace Kelly for her polished classics, Marilyn Monroe for her chic basics, Madonna for daring stage looks, Stevie Nicks for her hippie ensembles, Debby Harry for her punk rock edge, and Diana Ross for her high-shine disco style and larger-than-life hair.

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Describe your sense of style in three words

“Personal style is a journey, not a race,” says Gordon. “Imagine everyone wearing the same outfit they wore at age 16, once they were 38 or even 68—not only boring, but yikes! We evolve throughout the different parts of our lives and our personal style should reflect who we are in those moments too,” she says. Every few years, try to describe your ideal personal style in three words—like minimalist, luxurious, and monochromatic, or trendy, edgy, and confident. Every time you do this exercise, one or two of the words may have changed, and after a decade, all three words might be completely different. That’s OK. Roll with it.

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Think about your budget

You might think your personal style is hampered by the fact that you can’t afford the designer brands that splash across fashion magazines and walk down red carpets. But if you take a strategic approach to your shopping budget, you can absolutely achieve the style you want. Stores such as Zara, for example, combine luxury design and affordable materials, allowing shoppers to get pieces that look high-fashion inexpensively. “Even if a particularly coveted item is out of reach, there are a variety of styles and price points that can offer a similar look, so you can be thoughtful about where you invest,” says Gordon. “On the flip side, sometimes investing in personal style makes more sense. If you wear jeans every day, spending a bit more on higher-quality pieces you’ll wear more frequently may be the better choice.” When shopping designer labels, make sure you aren’t pronouncing these fashion words completely wrong.

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Decide how adventurously you want to approach fashion

The world of fashion can be truly overwhelming, but knowing how much of a risk taker you are will help you navigate it. If you want to liberally experiment with your personal style, allow yourself to gravitate toward exciting prints, textures, cuts, and designs that you’re not seeing on every person walking down the street. If you’re less interested in a complete personal style overhaul, add accessories and accents that are true to your lifestyle and personal icon. (“What would Sarah Jessica Parker wear?”)

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Seek advice from a personal stylist

If you’d rather put your personal style in the hands of a professional, companies like Stitch Fix offer thorough, personalized, and thoughtful feedback. “Our powerful combination of art and science allows Stitch Fix to create an effortless experience,” says Gordon. “As our clients’ style evolves during various phases of their lives, our stylists are there to support the unique journey of finding your own personal sense of style. We style our clients for play dates at the park, a cherished date night, or brunching with friends—all of which are special moments.” Here’s a roundup of advice from stylists on how to master the art of accessorizing.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest