Do You Have a Personal Style? Or is it a Personal Uniform?

Some people have a personal style image, for instance, they always look elegant and rich, or they always look like a hippie, or a biker, or a business executive, or sexy, or bedraggled, or whatever.  That’s a personal fashion style, whatever the specific garments or accessories chosen.

Take Kim Kardashian, for example.  That’s a sexy, body-conscious style.  It doesn’t matter if she is wearing a pencil skirt and blouse, or a pair of leggings and a t-shirt.  She uses fit and the garment’s cut to emphasize her body’s curves.   People who focus on looking sexy usually pick one body part to emphasize, such as cleavage,  butt, or perhaps arms or legs.

 Think of someone you know personally.  What is their image?  What elements convey their image?  If you analyze their outfits over time, you will see how they consistently choose similar styles, or colours, or accessories that send a message as to who they are.  It may be that they always choose neutral colours in expensive fabrics, which sends a subtle message of wealth.  Or they may always choose bright colours, indicating high energy.  Or perhaps they wear thicker, sturdier fabrics which suggest toughness.  Their accessories might always be handcrafted, which conveys yet another message about the wearer.  I would suggest that you not be too obvious if you are analyzing the outfits of someone you don’t know well, since it could look a little like stalking!!

Some people have a signature garment, something they always wear, that represents them somehow.  One example of this is Chip Gaines from the HGTV show ‘Fixer Upper’, who always wears Gap 1969 jeans and cowboy boots.  Or my friend who always adds a leather jacket to his outfit.  This is an easy shortcut for those who don’t find it fun to analyze fashion or to put together outfits.  And it can be just as effective as planning the details of an outfit.

Some people rely on a personal ‘uniform’ because it simplifies their life and works for almost all of the situations they find themselves in.  I know someone who always, always appears in a white button front shirt and black dress pants and flat black shoes. She may add a scarf, or cardigan, or even a jacket, but the basics remain.  I often wonder how many white shirts or black pants are in her closet. A lot, I think.   I used to wear a ‘uniform’ of black top, black pants and black ankle boots with a different jacket daily.  (At one point, I realized I had acquired 38 jackets so I must have been craving a bit more variety. But it worked for me at the time.) Goth style is a ‘uniform’, in a sense, due to its bleak colour palette and almost medieval styling details. Punk rock has a sort of ‘uniform’, since I doubt a pink leather jacket trimmed in gold would look half as edgy as black with silver. Not all ‘uniforms’ are decreed by official institutions.

A personal ‘uniform’ can be a little more creative than a signature garment, because your ‘uniform’ might consist of different styles of plain black tops, for example.  You might have V-necks, round necks, long and short sleeve styles.  It’s still a uniform, because it’s solid black, and a very plain style.   Once you start adding styling details such as pleats, tucks, or embroidery, you are expanding your uniform’s variety.

Some people crave variety in their clothes.  They hate solid colours, and need at least one print garment in every outfit.  Others are the opposite.  They only like solid colours. Some people need different textures of fabrics in every outfit; some like only smooth fabrics.  It’s just personal taste, after all.  You can meet society’s sartorial expectations (such as a dress code at work or at an event) while expressing your personal taste.  Although you can expect some comments if you wear a tie-dyed tuxedo or one made from faux fur!

Developing and maintaining a personal fashion style is definitely more difficult than relying on a signature garment or a ‘uniform’.  It requires time and attention to every aspect of the process, from shopping to choosing your daily outfit. (Well, actually, perhaps the bedraggled look may be pretty effortless.)  But consistency of the overall effect is the goal, while allowing variety.

If you’re interested in devoting the time to discovering or creating your own personal style, watch for future blog posts dedicated to this topic.