Hi all – Disqus randomly closed comments on this post, so I’m reposting. No idea what happened – apologies!
Susan e-mailed me after reading this post about Boho at the office:
I was reading that you don’t consider yourself Boho, and it got me wondering how you describe your style? I’m fascinated with how people describe themselves, and I wonder if you don’t describe it, if you find that limiting, or if you do with some number of adjectives, pictures or metaphors. I’ve read somewhere to come up with two adjectives to describe your style. I think that sounds like an interesting exercise.
Many, MANY moons ago, I did some noodling and landed on “arty eclectic with a broad streak of retro influence.” I must now admit that I’m not entirely sure how I came up with this phrase. I put “eclectic” in there because I’m a total style dabbler and wanted that expressed in a succinct and positive way, and “retro influence” because I don’t do full-on vintage all the time but instead hint at styles from decades past. “Arty” probably arose because I like asymmetry and funky pieces, but it might’ve also gotten shoved in there because I don’t feel like I comfortably fit into any of the typical style categories. And because I view style not necessarily as an art form, but a means of self-expression.
At this point, I’d probably revise my little phrase to “eclectic retro rocker.” I’ve always dabbled in rocker looks, but with the messy hair I’m letting those leanings seep through more often. Retro and eclectic still definitely apply, though, so they can stay. I’m both a word person and someone who works in a style-related field, so I may have an easier time attaching descriptors to my own style and the styles of others. But I’d be happy to share a few tips for those of you interested in describing your own styles, especially since doing so is something I ask you to do as a client, in my book, and in the mini makeover guide!
The big buckets
It can help to start with broad strokes, so ask yourself if your style seems to fall into one of the most-used categories: Preppy, minimalist, classic, edgy, Bohemian. Other less-used but potentially helpful buckets include romantic, androgynous/tomboy, sporty, retro, and bombshell. Do any of these fit, even partially?
Even if you struggle to pin a broad term to your own style, you may still be able to identify a few other people whose style you admire and seek to emulate. Style icons needn’t be famous; They can be people in your own life, fictional characters, anyone. Can you think of a style icon? What do you love about her/his style? How would you describe her/his style? Do those terms apply to you, too?
Making a nice, long list of terms that describe aspects of your style and dressing preferences can give you some clarity. Are you dressy, casual, colorful, neutral, textural? Are your clothes sparkly, soft, sculptural, flowy, or embellished? Try a stream-of-consciousness brain dump and see what happens. A few key descriptors may rise to the top.
Patterns and signatures
Take a peek in your closet and look for items that appear in multiples: Do you have gobs of moto jackets? (I know I do.) Tons of ballet flats? Is your closet overflowing with maxi dresses and billowy blouses? How about cowboy boots? More than one pair? If you have a couple of styles or items that get bought and worn often, they may be contributing to your signature style. What patterns can you identify in your wardrobe? Do they describe a specific style?
Still photos offer startlingly different perspective from mirrors, so consult a few snapshots. If you do this, you’ll need multiple images for reference. What common threads do you see? Any signatures or patterns? Do your outfits remind you of any potential style icons? Can you put your style into one of the big buckets?
Talk to someone in your life who sees you frequently and knows you in a variety of settings from casual to personal. How does this person see your style? How does she/he describe your dressing choices? Don’t think this is a last resort option, either, friends! The people who know you well can offer insight and clarity even if you’ve already got some pretty solid descriptors.
This is not an exact science and these steps may still leave you drawing a blank. But hopefully getting the ball rolling will help. The vast majority of us never take the time and energy to understand our personal styles well enough to describe them, but it can be a really valuable exercise. Once you know how to describe your style, you can begin to refine it. As you shop, you can pass over items that don’t fit within your ideals. As you purge, you can jettison items that aren’t harmonious with your personal style. Putting some words around your style can be subtly but powerfully beneficial.
Can you describe your style in a few words or a short phrase? Do you wish you could? Think any of these exercises might help?