There are few things harder than having to describe your personal style — especially today. When young brands are emerging left and right with new, fresh perspectives, Instagram feeds are filled to the brim with style stars in different outfit everyday, and trends are churning out faster than most can keep up with, there are a lot of distractions in the space that make it increasingly difficult to carve out what your personal style is and what it really looks like.
And while inherently, personal style is, well, personal to each and every individual, there are fairly universal pillars that can be used to establish exactly what that looks like. Pillars that require some introspection, some honesty, and some unabashed inspiration — asking yourself the tough questions like: do I really like this or did I just see it on my feed eight times today and have material FOMO? It's okay if I want to dress like a cowgirl today and a sharp minimalist tomorrow, right?
To put things into perspective, five industry insiders — including editors, models, and influencers — offer their two cents on what's important to keep in mind as they evolve their personal style. From listening to your gut every morning to establishing your own no-fail outfit uniform, the five key tips below will make it easier to cut through the noise and define your truest personal style.
1. Don't Limit Yourself To One Aesthetic
There's a reason why answering the age old how do you define your personal style? question is so hard — because very few people only identify with one style. And the fact of the matter is, there's really no reason to. "My personal style is an ever evolving entity," says Hannah Baxter, Senior Beauty Editor of The Coveteur. "I truly get dressed based on how I'm feeling that day, whether its hyper feminine with heels and lots of delicate jewelry or more masculine with an oversized silhouette, sneakers, and a bun." Try to embrace your mood, rather than boxing yourself into a single idea of dressing.
2. Identify Your Style Icons
Sure, making mood boards and having style icons that consciously influence the way you dress may seem like impressionable teenage behavior. But as an adult, identifying other people that inspire your sense of style — be they celebrities or co-workers — can help evolve your own taste. For Vogue associate market editor Naomi Elizée, it can open up a whole new world of possibilities.
"I do feel identifying with others who you admire helps you figure out what you may like or dislike because you are seeing clothes being styled in a way you may have never thought of before. You can find inspiration in others style and then make it your own," she explains. "Two women who I constantly look to for style inspiration are Aleali May and Tylynn Nguyen. I go to Aleali's page when I am looking for the next hottest brand or product. [She] has an effortless cool about her that can't be replicated and I admire that. Tylynn is who I go to when I want to strip down my closet and wear the most minimal — yet chic, outfit." If you too, aren't sure how exactly to define your own style, look to those who you find inspiring and work from there.
3. Learn The Difference Between What You Like And What You Think You Should Like
"Scrolling through Instagram, I find myself falling into click-holes of gorgeous and new product often, and who hasn’t?" asks model, stylist, and freelance writer Lydia Okello. And she's right, you see so much product every day on social media, it can become difficult to parse what you actually want, versus what you think you want because everyone else has it. How you determine is surely a personal preference, but Okello has carved out three key considerations when shopping.
"One, do I actually like this item for me, not just the lovely person or model wearing it? Two, what is the predicted cost-per-wear — a.k.a how many times will I actually wear the darn thing? And three, do I already own something similar? Many items have been axed by this method. I find taking a pause helps me assess. Am I jumping on a trend for the sake of trend or is it something I genuinely like? I’m not always perfect, but I’ve become much better at the edit." Approaching a trend armed with a few considerations can help you better establish if it's meant for you, or something you enjoy more for others.
4. Establish A Go-To Outfit Formula
One of the easiest ways to make sure your personal style stays consistent and true to you always is to always have go-to uniform or blueprint that you can rely on for those days when simply getting dressed feels impossible. This can be as involved as actual outfit formula or certain pieces you know you can grab that can liven up any look.
"Last winter, putting together an outfit was as simple as topping off a look with a padded headband and this summer, a headscarf or bandana," says Madeline Fass, associate market editor at Vogue, whose no-fail staples include tailored black trousers, oversized white button ups, and loafers. "Sometimes a small (and inexpensive!) accessory is just what I need to make tired clothes and outfits feel new and exciting again."
5. Stay True To Yourself
It sounds obvious (because it should be!) but in today's fast-changing social and fashion landscapes, it's worth echoing. While it's so easy to be influenced, keeping yourself grounded in what actually calls to you stylistically — and makes you feel good — should be paramount. Los Angeles-based social media manager and content creator Evelynn Escobar-Thomas has grown a following by leaning into just that.
"I make sure that my style inspiration is coming from me and not what I'm seeing on Instagram," she says. "I am constantly inspired by my younger self and use her as my north star. When I'm comfortable on the outside, I'm comfortable on the inside. For me, they are a direct reflection of each other." While it can feel hard to tune out the outside noise, don't be afraid to think on the phrase popularized by Marie Kondo — does your outfit "spark joy?"