How to Find Your Personal Style

There is such a huge difference between personal style and fashion. There's even a pretty big gap between style itself and fashion. But that's even broader and tougher to explain. (Although I have tried before, here, here, here, and here, and I will, undoubtedly try again.) Personal style is a powerful tool: it's your first impression, or rather, other's first impressions of you. If you have strong personal style, there should be less any I have nothing to wear situations. Fashion is what they sell you and style is what you make of it. And although that can sound rather simple, there is actually a lot of work and training that goes into styling. Personal style as representative of yourself as your name, which is to say, it is what you make of it. And why not make it the most you can? 

Step One: Find Your Aesthetic
I know that's a word that's been thrown around a lot lately, but I am a strong believer in aesthetic. The dictionary definition is a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement. Put simply, your aesthetic is your character. It's who you are, who you want to be, and how you wish to show yourself to others. Setting an aesthetic for yourself to follow is almost like setting rules for yourself. But you shouldn't think of it as something constricting, because if it's hard to follow, it's not for you. Your aesthetic is not set in stone; it should change and adapt as you do. An important part of having personal style is keeping it personal and true to yourself. And no, aesthetic does not just mean wearing the same outfit everywhere. That's lazy. Style is putting in the effort to achieve a look, whether that look is effortless or takes three hours.  

Step Two: Be Open and Be Aware
Never turn your nose up to anything, but also know when something just isn't for you. Don't just shop for clothes in the obvious places (shopping malls & stores), but instead venture out to little curious places (thrift shops, Goodwill stores, and garage sales) and be open for exploration. Build a collection of characteristically "you" pieces. You should be able to describe your aesthetic with a single photo of your wardrobe. A person with a true sense of style should be able to find something anywhere. Never buy a complete look off a mannequin or display. That's somebody else's styling at work. Your style shouldn't be what stores serve you, it should be a creation completely your own. Be aware of other's aesthetics and style, but be even more aware of your own. A display in a store may be flawless in aesthetic, but don't let that trick you into thinking it's your own.

Step Three: Stick to It
This is the step that really defines your personal style. You could have a great eye for style in individual outfits, but if you can't string them together to create a cohesive lifestyle, you really don't have personal style. Like I said before, sticking to your style shouldn't mean restricting yourself, it's more knowing yourself in your purest sartorial form. Be able to differentiate style itself and personal style. Know when something looks good, and when something is for you.

If you practice these steps in your own way, you should achieve personal style.

Style icons and tips below!

Jane Birkin, although English, is the classic epitome of French, cool-girl style.

Caroline de Maigret is the modern epitome of French, cool-girl style.

Yes, fictional characters can be style icons, but no, that does not make them stylish. Well, the actors can play them in a way that matches their sartorial style, or their costume directors can create a wardrobe that matches their style, but that is still the work of either an actor or designer, not the character.

While it is okay to take personal style inspiration from a historical period or a character, or both, be sure to make it your own and not mirror or obsess over a picture.

This is Jeanne Dumas, a rising French style icon to keep your eye on. 

The reason that half of the examples of personal style I used were French is because they have an aura and eye that seemingly naturally plays to their advantage. French woman seem a bit more indifferent when it comes to other's opinions on their style, especially when compared to average American women. While the French might wake up with messy hair and leave the house, Americans will work two hours on their hair to make it seem effortless. 

The other half of personal style champions I chose were, indeed, American. While Americans are subjected to the judgement of others, American values and teachings make for very strong characters and people. Americans have a certain "stick it to them" -ness that makes them proud, of many and anythings, and, in some cases, their style. Even if they may not be totally confident, they will be sure to promote confidence, which is key to any type of style.

All images via Pinterest or Instagram.