Although I love the summertime as much as the next person, every year around this time I tend to become really excited about the upcoming fall season and, more importantly in this context, my fall wardrobe. Just like photography, crafts, art and interior design, fashion and your own unique personal style are ways to express yourself and your aesthetic ideals. With the fall/winter season being the biggest break in the fashion world, the mid to late summer is the ideal time for a quick wardrobe update and a chance to reassess your style concept. This post is a collection of 5 little assignments designed to help you redefine your personal style and spot any gaps or surpluses in your wardrobe. Feel free to tailor them to your own needs and creative process.
1 | Focus your search for inspiration
Think of your own personal style as a work of art: a set of different elements on a blank canvas that when combined reflect your aesthetic ideals and preferences. To refine your personal style you need to figure out which elements you want to add to the canvas, and also identify those that are currently a part of your wardrobe but are tainting the overall concept of your style. Mood boards are a fun and effective way to test-drive how different elements work together, so my first tip for anyone who wants to update their wardrobe is always to get inspired, collect a ton of pictures and create a mood board that represents their ideal wardrobe and personal style.
Finding inspiration is easy: Pinterest, the blogosphere and various social media channels provide us with a running stream of fresh new material and allow us to save our favourites in a matter of seconds. But beware of the passive-pinner syndrome: If you have a tendency to just aimlessly scroll through pictures and let pins sit in their boards for 'reference' in the distant future, you need to look for ways to actively use your findings to refine your own style. Make it a point to analyze your pictures and figure out precisely which elements you like about them. Is it the colour palette, a specific item or the overall mood of the look? Try to find tangible elements that you can incorporate into your own wardrobe.
Alternatively, you can also set out to find inspiration with a specific theme in mind. Here are three easy ones to get you started:
- Find 5 outfits that you would wear exactly as pictured.
- Find 5 different ways to wear a simple white t-shirt (or any other one of your key pieces).
- Find 5 specific combinations of items to try out (e.g. flared skirt + slim-fitting top or a maxi dress + dangly necklaces)
2 | Develop a signature look
What do Jane Birkin, Emanuelle Alt, Jackie Kennedy and Katherine Hepburn have in common? They all had (or have, in the case of Emanuelle Alt) a truly distinct signature look or uniform and a consistent personal style that turned them into style icons and supported their public image and brand name. Even if you don't aspire to be a style icon, the process of developing a uniform will help you identify the essence of your style by forcing you to boil down your preferences into a handful of key elements. Think of a uniform as the flagship look of your entire wardrobe! Now, I know the term 'uniform' might sound a little restrictive to some but bear in mind that the idea is not to choose a single outfit that you wear over and over again, but rather to create a loose formula for structuring your looks that is meant to spark creativity, not stifle it. My current summer uniform consists of a simple t-shirt, shorts and sandals. I have several different items for each category in a range of colours and fabrics that I can mix-and-match and supplement with accessories. Of course I don't exclusively wear that uniform, but I love the simplicity of having a small set of key items that are perfectly tailored to my lifestyle and that I can combine in lots of different ways. It's also a godsend on hectic mornings!
3 | Consider your lifestyle
One of the most common causes for wardrobe woes is a mismatch between your lifestyle and the contents of your closet. And yes...I get it… it's a lot more fun to shop for shoes, summer dresses and jewelry. But if you spend most of your shopping capacities (both energy and money) on special occasion attire, you may well be the best-dressed person at your friend's dinner party, but you won't have anything to wear to work the next morning. Most of us have at least a handful of recurring activities in our schedule that require different or at least adjusted outfits. Ideally, the contents of your wardrobe should more or less reflect how much time you spend on each of those activities. Depending on the state of your wardrobe and your budget, this may sound like an ambitious goal and is best tackled in stages. As a first step, identify one or two areas that are the most underrepresented in your wardrobe and make it a priority to close that gap.
4 | Define a colour palette
One of the most defining features of your wardrobe, its colour palette, can oftentimes be one of the trickiest aspects to get right.
The first challenge is to become aware of your own unique colour style, your natural preference for certain colours, which over the years might have become diluted by current trends or whatever colours you found in the shops.
The second challenge is to find a way to integrate form with function and translate your colour preference into a versatile and practical colour palette for your wardrobe, without compromising on aesthetic appeal. One way to do this is to build a hierarchy of about 6 to 10 shades, based on a few main colours that represent the essence of your colour style, a couple of neutral shades to ensure versatility and some accent colours.
To develop your own hierarchy, start by creating a mood board full of pictures that inspire you in some way in regard to your colour palette. Then pick out the most dominant shades and assign each colour to one of the three groups (choose about 3 main colours, 1-2 neutrals and 2-5 accent colours). Use your colour palette as a guide for future purchases and to build outfits that are truly in tune with your colour preferences and personal style.
5 | Get to know your wardrobe inside out
A well-edited wardrobe stocked with a healthy amount of items that fit your style and lifestyle is like a fully-stocked refrigerator full of yummy ingredients: absolutely essential, but not the final product. How you wear each individual item, combine colours, textures and silhouettes, whether you roll up sleeves, tuck in hemlines and add accessories - all that influences how well your outfit expresses the style concept you had in mind. Stylists, make-up artists and interior designers will often make their craft look extremely effortless - they just throw together a couple of different elements… et voila, you have a beautiful look. Of course, their effortlessness stems from years of training - you can't expect to become an expert stylist in a couple of weeks. Especially when you are trying to refine your style or incorporate new elements, you need to put in a bit of extra legwork and figure out how to make the contents of your wardrobe work. Experiment, ask questions, try on different combinations and document your best looks by snapping a quick pic for reference. After a big closet detox or at the beginning of a new season it is also a good idea to create a few fail-proof looks for your main activities (daytime, work and going out for example).
Top picture - Gary Pepper, Carolines Mode, Hana Jirickova by Jette Jørs.
Summer Uniform (from top/left to right/bottom) - Rag & Bone Basic Brando Tee in charcoal and mint green, Zara V-Neck T-Shirt, Edwin Bridget Denim shorts, J. Crew Striped Linen shorts, Frame Denim Le cutoff shorts, MM6 Maison Martin Margiela Neon Band Sandal, Dorothy Perkins Sandals, Zara Block Sandals.
Last picture - Equipmentfr.com (sand angel), Mitchvd (polar bear), Ronel Reyes (raspberries).