Wednesday, June 17, 2015

building a cohesive wardrobe: defining your style

how to define your style

Okay, so now that you have a closet full of only clothes you like and now what?

Well, there are really two options. You can march yourself to the nearest mall, and start buying anything that catches your eye, and then next week when you realize you didn't buy anything you feel adds something to your closet, you go back and buy a few more things, and then in six months you are standing in front of your closet again with "nothing to wear".

Or, you can make a plan.

Step one of this plan is figuring out what you want to look like. This is more than just saying your style is "girly" or "feminine" or "masculine with a twist" or "edgy" or "hobo". This is looking for inspiration, seeing how you can apply it to your life, and then figuring out what pieces you want to make that happen. Today's post is going to cover the first two points, and then next time we'll cover making a list of wants + needs.

So this is basically a rewritten version of my Refining your Wardrobe posts I did a few years ago. It's been a few years since I wrote those, and my style has changed a bit since then, but it really did help me narrow down what I want my own style to be.

look for inspiration

Most of us probably have a pinterest board full of outfits we may or may not have copied in the past. Go through your boards, and pick your 15-20 favorite outfits. Don't think about if you have the clothes to put them together, or if you can pull it off - just pick what you love the most. Here's a current version of mine:

one | two | three | four

look for what's the same

Look for any repeating patterns in the pictures you chose. Is there a certain shape your inspiration pictures share - skinny jeans, wide-legged pants, pencil skirts, lots of dresses? Look for any patterns (stripes, polka dots, animal print, florals) and colors that are similar. Are there accessories that seem to repeat - cross body bags, the same colored belts, big scarves, statement necklaces?

What do I currently love? Dark bottoms with neutral tops. Stripes with another pattern. Greys mixed with white, and a bit of blush thrown in. I love skinny jeans/pants (I actually really want to try these Paige jeans currently as they are the dark blue version of my favorite black jeans) but would love to be able to pull of a lengthening bootleg pant. I also like patterned shoes in neutral colors, like these pretty spotted shoes.

decide on a color palette

Like I mentioned in the last post, I used to purposely buy clothes in colors I didn't have in my closet because I thought it would make my closet more versatile. The problem is that it left me with a bunch of clothes that didn't really go together in colors that I didn't even like. For example, if I had seen this shirt a few years ago, I would have most certainly purchased the lime green color instead of the navy or grey shirt that I would buy now. I don't like lime green, but "I don't have anything in this color in my closet!"...probably for a good reason ;)

To start the process of building a more cohesive wardrobe, pick a color palette of 3-4 colors. Again, look at your inspiration and look to see if you see any repeating colors. Are you drawn to a darker palette, or do you prefer pastels? Do you like a lot of color, or are you more interested in neutrals? I'm clearly more drawn to neutrals, and darker colors with white thrown in.

Decide on a few colors, and continue looking through pinterest (or google) for outfits in these colors, and maybe even start a new board to keep all of your inspiration in one place so you have a quick guide for when you go shopping (...eventually). You can search on pinterest for specific outfits too - so for example, I'm currently looking to buy a grey cardigan, and pinterest quickly shows me a bunch of different ways to wear it. This also gives you a few ideas of future items to buy (which we will discuss next time!)

Also, as a side note, none of this is set in stone and your "forever rules". This is just to get you started. Building a cohesive wardrobe is about learning what works for you and for your life, and both of those things are always changing. So even though my inspiration pictures show mostly neutrals, I'm currently really interested in buying a pretty emerald shirt to add to my closet.

pick your leather colors
via PMT
You may have noticed that I wear a lot of the same leather pieces together - cognac flats with my madewell tote, or my black flats with my black Everlane belt. I do that because I believe it's the quickest way to pull an outfit together. I think I sometimes get a bit too matchy matchy with it, and I'm definitely trying to make my leathers "go" rather than "match", but if you are like me and like the look of matching leathers, or want a quick way to pull together an outfit, having a few set leathers in place really helps. I now have a pair of ballet flats, boots, thin belt, thick belt, cross body, and now tote bag (after my most recent purchase!) in both cognac and black leathers - but don't think you need to buy all of those pieces at once! It took several years to finally have a "full set".

For me, my leather colors are cognac and black. You may hate cognac, but love a darker brown leather, or you prefer navy versus black. Again, look to your inspirations to see what you are naturally drawn to, and then experiment with various options. Maybe even buy a more inexpensive option the next time you go shopping to see how it works for you. For example, I bought my BR cognac flats on super sale two years ago because I knew I was interested in trying out how much I liked cognac, but I wasn't sure how much I would actually wear it. Now that I know I'm wearing those shoes at least three times a week (and they are definitely starting to show their wear), I know that if I upgraded to a more expensive pair of cognac flats that they would also get a ton of wear.

how does it apply to your current life?

I think this is super important, and something that really all depends on you and your life. If your inspiration pictures are full of black slacks, blazers, and high heels, but you are a stay at home mom who hates heels, find ways to apply the general look to your life. Try black jeans with flats in the same color as the heels that you loved, and try out a ponte blazers, like this one from Target, rather than a suit blazer. If your inspiration pictures are all wearing sandals and short sleeves, but you live in a colder climate, try pants in that same color, and look for similar styled tops but with longer sleeves.

This whole process is about figuring out your style rather than copying someone else's, and it definitely is a process that I know many of us work on every time we go shopping. I know that the steps above really helped me to define what I want the clothes in my closet to look like, so I hope it helps you too! I'd love to hear any of your own experiences in figuring out your style, or what helped you decide what you want your wardrobe to look like!