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THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO DEVELOPING YOUR PERSONAL STYLE

by Erika Fonseca 11 min read

THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO DEVELOPING YOUR PERSONAL STYLE - Paradox

Style can be a daunting thing, especially in a world of trends and fast fashion: it can be easy to lose yourself and your sense of personal style. Or never find it, for that matter.

Before you can develop your own sense of style, it’s important to understand the distinction between fashion and style. Fashion is made up of the clothes, accessories, and shoes that you wear. Style, more specifically, is how you wear them. 

“STYLE IS A WAY TO SAY WHO YOU ARE WITHOUT HAVING TO SPEAK” - Rachel Zoe

Style is unique to you - it’s an expression of who you are. Just like your sense of self, your sense of style must be developed. But how? Finding your style is akin to a process of self-realization and self-expression. It takes time and patience, but it can actually be fun and liberating. 

So, where do you start? This guide is a good first step - it will walk you through the best tips and tricks for developing your style, as well as supplying you with the best sources for inspiration. This guide is here to help you find and craft a sense of style that makes you excited to get up and express yourself every day! 

WHERE DO YOU START?

The best way to start developing your style is to first take note of what ensembles you tend to gravitate towards. From there, it’s easier to hone in on your taste. Look for external inspiration, find trends in your own wardrobe, and consciously take note of which outfits or pieces you feel the most confident in.

Look for inspiration… 

Outfit inspiration is everywhere - you just need to look. Take a few minutes and look around you right now: there’s bound to be at least one stranger’s outfit that you like. Even if you wouldn’t necessarily think to wear the outfit yourself, something about it might draw you in. If you do this once a day for a week, you’ll find an array of style inspiration up your sleeve come the end of the week. 

Why is it important to have outfit and style inspiration? Well, just as artists look for inspiration for their projects, you should look for style inspiration, too. Inspiration helps to ignite a fire within you. You begin to imagine what you would look like in a dress that color; or how you would layer the shirt your friend is wearing with your favorite jacket. You begin to explore and find your own sense of style without it being a daunting effort. It becomes a natural process, something you’re excited about. 

(outfits left to right:  @chelseakslay,  @smileyrhylae, and  @lemielch

Other than finding inspiration in the people immediately surrounding you, you can look for style inspiration online. Pinterest and Instagram are great sources of inspiration for developing your style. On Pinterest, a search as simple as “style inspiration” results in thousands of pictures of outfits, showcasing a multitude of styles that you can draw from when working to craft your own. On Instagram, use the "tags” search option as a resource for searching posts - try hashtags like “outfitinspo,” “outfitideas,” “styleinspo” and the like. Such posts again provide millions of outfits and sources of style inspiration for you to search through, from which you can hand pick the ones that resonate with you the most.

There are a plethora of fashion and style influencers whose accounts aim to help women just like you find their own personal style. Use these sources to find your own likes and dislikes when it comes to developing your own style and finding pieces that inspire you. Below is a short list of influencers to follow on Instagram for daily doses of style inspiration:

  1. follow  @marinaporl for a black and white style aesthetic 
  2. follow  @casualallure for looks that mix comfort and luxury    
  3. follow  @caroline.chagnon for neutral outfit layouts  
  4. follow  @anabeth.jpg for colorful, lively looks 
  5. follow  @adrianneho for athleisure style inspiration

Notice trends in your own wardrobe… 

Another way to begin the process is to notice the trends you’ve already worked to create within your existing wardrobe. Do you wear a lot of graphic tees? Do you tend to gravitate towards neutral tones? Do you prefer skirts over jeans? Keeping track of these trends helps to hone in on your style, in that it catalogues what you’ve subconsciously decided is important to who you are and your expression of self. 

If you’re not one to take pictures of your outfits every day, then noticing these trends may be hard. One useful strategy is the hanger strategy. The next time you do your laundry, hang your clothes up with the hanger facing you. As you wear items and wash and/or put them back in your closet, hang them up facing away from you. After a month or so, you’ll begin to visually notice the trends in your style and what you’ve been wearing simply by noticing which hangers face which way. Using this hanger strategy is a good way to begin to understand your day to day style. 

(outfits left to right:  @summermckeen,  @avreyovard, and  @summersheekey

Then what? Once you’ve noticed these trends, you can begin to explore different ways to wear them. If you wear a lot of jeans, find a couple statement tops or shoes to elevate the jeans - that way you can wear them to both casual and nicer events. If you wear a lot of graphic tees, think about investing in layers to wear with them - that way you can wear them throughout the seasons. Noticing these trends gives valuable insight into who you are, and provides you with a good foundation for when you start to branch out and develop your style more fully.

Take note of what makes you feel confident… 

Noticing which pieces make you feel the most confident. Do you feel the best in certain shades of blue? Is there a specific silhouette that you feel more yourself in? One of the most important ways to develop your style is to genuinely consider how you feel in what you wear. Just as developing your sense of self is about finding a sense of confidence and self-love, developing your sense of style is about finding what enhances that confidence and makes you feel excited about who you are and what you’re wearing. It isn’t about what is popular in your town, but rather what you feel cute in.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to decipher what pieces make us feel this way and what pieces we’ve just become accustomed to wearing. The main difference is that pieces that make you feel confident are the pieces that you want to wear, instead of the pieces that you’re used to wearing. Maybe you tend to gravitate to black because your friend told you that you look better in it, but you don’t actually like wearing black. Instead, you prefer to wear green because you think it complements your eyes and you feel better in it. In this case, green would make you feel more confident. 

When developing your sense of style, it is important to work according to your own preferences, not the preferences of those around you. As stated, style is unique. Only you can determine what you feel confident in; that’s what you should be working into your style. 

WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP?

The first few steps were about taking in your surroundings and evaluating the current state of your style. The next few steps are more active. They require you to get moving and to set aside time to dedicate to each task. While it may seem excessive and exhaustive at times, they are each imperative steps to developing and refining your sense of style. It’s all part of the process of expressing a version of yourself that you love and want to show off to the world. It’s about putting your best style forward. 

Clean through your wardrobe… 

The most pressing step to developing your style is to clean through your existing wardrobe. Similarly to the aforementioned step of taking note of the trends in your wardrobe, this step works to evaluate what you already own: it helps to sort through what serves your style and what does not. 

Cluttered wardrobes are often overwhelming, which can make picking an outfit in the morning a stressful and draining endeavor. Styling your outfits should be fun, it should be something that you look forward to. Hence, it is imperative that your wardrobe is made up of items that add value to your closet, instead of items that you never actually wear or don’t like to wear.

(closet spreads are from  @mariekondo on Instagram) 

Marie Kondo is an important name when it comes to closet cleanouts. In her book, she developed a method of cleaning through one’s wardrobe so as to maintain happiness. According to her, when cleaning through your closet, you should keep only the items that spark joy. Essentially, she promotes the idea that what’s in your wardrobe should give you confidence. Your clothes, accessories, shoes, and the like should be sources of encouragement and confidence. When you think of style as a form of self-expression, it becomes clear that you should express yourself in ways that feel true to you: in ways that spark joy.

Below are a few sources you can watch to inspire and guide your closet cleanout:

  1. "Extreme Closet Cleanout" by  @best.dressed on YouTube  
  2. “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” on Netflix 
  3. "How To Clean Your Closet" by  @sophiapruett on YouTube

Explore and put together new outfits… 

The natural next step after cleaning through your wardrobe is to work to build a new one. You don’t necessarily need to go out and buy all new pieces. Instead, you should first go through your newly organized wardrobe and work to put together new outfits. Try to create new outfits using pieces that you already have, while keeping in mind the outfit inspiration you gathered at the beginning of the guide. This helps to give a fresh perspective on the pieces in your closet, working to revamp your style using what you already have and love. 

When putting together new outfits, try to explore and go out of your comfort zone. Of course, you don’t want to go so far out of your comfort zone that you lose confidence, but, rather, just far enough that you can find a new side of yourself that you want to hone in on. Perhaps try mixing patterns and prints or wearing colors you never would have thought to wear together. 

(outfits left to right:  @margot.lee,  @daniellecarolan, and  @karenbritchick

Little changes like this are incredibly valuable when it comes to developing your style. They can open your eyes to new ideas that you feel really confident in and excited about; or they can show you what you feel you should avoid in the future. Either way, these explorations serve the process and help you better define what kind of style you’ve come to develop. This helps when it comes to adding on new items to your wardrobe, as well.

HOW DO YOU APPROACH THIS IF YOU’RE ON A BUDGET?

While buying new pieces to fill your wardrobe may sound enticing, it’s not always the most reasonable step to developing your style. Nevertheless, there are a multitude of options to continue to develop your style that don’t involve a substantial financial burden. For instance, you could borrow from your friends, utilize accessories, or try your hand at thrifting.

Borrow items from your friends… 

Rather than investing in pieces you may not wear again, utilizing your friends’ wardrobes is a great way to save money while still trying out new styles and pieces. Not only is getting a group of friends together and having a ‘wardrobe swap’ a fun excuse to hang out, but it also allows you and your friends the opportunity to try out pieces and styles you may not have thought of buying for yourself. Of course, instead of making it an event, you could always simply ask to borrow a specific piece that you’ve been eyeing.

Either way, borrowing items from your friends is a great way to branch out without breaking the bank. When doing so, try to borrow pieces that are a little more unique, rather than the basics. Investing in good quality basics, like a well-fitting pair of jeans or a little black dress, is always a good idea. Instead, think of this borrowing process as an opportunity to try on more unique pieces before committing to investing in them. 

(outfits left to right:  @caroline_beuley,  @yunah.lee, and  @marinaporl

For instance, maybe you’ve been wanting to try out a more bohemian style, but aren’t sure how it would look on you and if it would fit your personality. Or, perhaps you have always loved mesh pieces and statement hats, but have never owned them for yourself. Now’s the time to try them out! It can sometimes be easy to feel pressured when shopping for new clothes, which leads to impulse purchases of items you never find yourself wearing more than once. This step is a fun and helpful way to avoid this situation, as it helps you know more clearly what you’re looking for while curating your wardrobe.

Start by accessorizing…

Another way to save money while still developing and revamping your style is to look for versatile accessories. By investing in accessories, you widen the array of style and outfit options at your disposal without spending the money on an entirely new wardrobe. When looking for accessories, it’s important to find a mix of basic and statement pieces. Basic pieces are perfect to use with any outfit, making them a great investment and addition to your wardrobe. Statement pieces are perfect for elevating your more basic pieces of clothing, or for accentuating an already unique ensemble. 

(photos left to right:  @caroline.chagnon,  @best.dressed, and  @thesophiejeanblog

Accessories can include necklaces, belts, earrings, hair pieces, bags, scarfs and even shoes. Essentially, you want to look for anything that can add a level of uniqueness and excitement to your clothing. Something that speaks to you and makes you feel confident. You should buy pieces that make you excited to style them. 

If you feel that accessories aren’t for you, then you don’t need to add them to your wardrobe. Instead, look through what you have and try to find versatile pieces within that, or buy a few more using the same ideology from before. If you find that you tend to gravitate to white shoes, then maybe look for some with a unique edge: maybe they’re platforms or have checkerboard laces. Overall, the point of finding accessories is to add a new level to your already existing wardrobe. It also works to add versatility, which expands the options within your closet without necessarily exhausting your funds. 

Thrift or buy second-hand… 

Thrifting is another great way to stay within a budget, while still finding new pieces and developing your style. Thrifting in live thrift stores, online thrift stores (like  ThredUp), or even buying second hand on apps (like  Vinted or  DePop) is a great way to find brand-name items for a more affordable price. For the purposes of developing your style, this is incredibly beneficial, as it allows you to find more items and get more unique pieces, all while staying in budget. Below is a guide to affordable thrift shops in LA and NYC:

Sometimes, however, thrifting can be a little too overwhelming and it’s easy to become defeated and want to give up. But it doesn’t have to be a chore. Just like the process of developing your style, thrifting should be fun! Below are some useful videos to watch that outline strategies for thrifting without getting overwhelmed:

  1. "A Beginner's Guide to Thrifting in 2020" by  @haleyscornerr on YouTube 
  2. "How To Thrift Like a Pro" by  @best.dressed on YouTube
  3. "10 Thrifting Hacks" by  @letitiakiu on YouTube
  4. "Thrifting Tips for a Thrift Queen" by  @livingaskarina on YouTube 
  5. "Thrift Flip" Series  by  @best.dressed on YouTube

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to develop a style that’s all your own! Have fun and remember:

“REAL STYLE IS NEVER RIGHT OR WRONG. IT’S A MATTER OF BEING YOURSELF ON PURPOSE.” - G. Bruce Boyer

If you only take away one thing from this guide, let it be that your style is up to you. Society has a tendency to try to dictate what you can and can’t wear, which makes finding your personal style difficult. But, at the end of the day, your style is all yours. Developing your style is about finding who you are and developing the confidence to show it off to the world. Embrace yourself! That’s what style is all about! 

We love communicating with the #paradoxcommunity, so be sure to let us know your favorite tips from the article or share your own style story in the comments! For skincare products, beauty tips, and more content like this, follow us on  Instagram and  Pinterest. Be sure to check out our articles “How To Build Your Beauty Cabinet Without Getting Overwhelmed” (here) and “10 Inspiring Boss Babes You Should Be Following On Instagram” (here).
Erika Fonseca
Erika Fonseca



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