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7 Crucial Steps to Developing Your Style + Wardrobe

I get a lot of questions about fashion and style, but as big of a part as it plays in my life I struggle answering them. It’s not something I ever “learned” so it’s something I struggle trying to teach. It’s something that came naturally to me that I never had to think about. I was literally sketching outfits in the first grade, so trying to explain something so instinctual is a challenge.

But fashion and style are important, and something that I want everyone to be able to enjoy, explore and have fun with. So I’ve worked to boil down my perspective into something at least somewhat helpful and digestible to people struggling with defining their own style.

Don’t follow rules“don’t wear white after Labor Day.” “Don’t wear this color if you’re this skin tone.” “Winter is for dark and muted outfits.” None of these rules matter, and they never have. The sooner you abandon these arbitrary, outdated rules the better off you’ll be.

Go with your gut – if you see something you like, GET IT. Don’t ask yourself if you can pull it off. Don’t talk yourself out of the things you like because you’re afraid of taking risks or of how you’ll be perceived. Get the metallic pants. Get the sequined sneakers. Get the cheetah print trench coat. And make it work.

And on that note, don’t be afraid to experiment – so many people fall into this trap of thinking they have to dress one way all the time. They have to look preppy or boho or like a fashion nova Instagram ambassador ALL THE TIME. They’re afraid to venture out of these narrow categories, and as a result both their creativity and wardrobe suffer. You don’t have to look one way every day. Just because you listen to obscure Indie music doesn’t mean you have to look like you’re going to Coachella every day and just because you plan your life around the Lilly sales doesn’t mean you have to look like you’re going to a derby every day. Mix it up people. Live a little.

Assume things look good on you – so this is a little easier said than done, and I had somewhat of an unfair advantage growing up because until I went to college, I was a toned twig. I was never insecure about my body, so I was adventurous. My style has seen a LOT of phases, and I’m not proud of most of them. But I’ve been able to pull off some ridiculous outfits simply because I believed I could in the first place.

Take it slow with trends – trends are fun to experiment with, but don’t dive headfirst into new trends just because you see a bunch of Instagram models wearing it. I’d argue that religiously following trends is actually harmful and counterproductive to developing your own style. When you jump on any and every new Instagram fad you end up flooding your wardrobe with things you don’t actually like and that you don’t know how to put together. There’s no flow or consistency in your closet, you just have a bunch of random items that look like they came from a clearance bin at some boutique going out of business. Approach trends with caution.

Shop by yourself – I used to work in retail, and I noticed that a lot of the time people’s friends convinced them to buy things they didn’t like or weren’t flattering, or talked them out of items they really liked and looked great on them with bogus criticisms. I don’t think it was intentionally malicious, and I realize that shopping with your friends is fun, but it usually isn’t as efficient. I think anyone striving to develop their style should avoid shopping with their friends when possible to get a better picture of what they like and what looks good on them — not what their friends like or think looks good.

Don’t feel like you have to spend a lot of money to achieve a look – so many people think that looking well put together means that you have to shop exclusively at stores with 3 or more dollar signs next to them on yelp and google when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Investment pieces have their place, but I get nonstop compliments and inquiries about pieces I either got on sale, at thrift stores or at cheap stores that people walk past without a second thought. I kid you not — I got a dress at BJ’s once (yes, I mean BJ’s wholesale) and wore it to the upscale women’s clothing store I was cashiering at in college. Customers and coworkers alike were gushing over it throughout my shift and every time I told them where I got it their jaws practically hit the floor. Looking put together has a lot less to do with how much you spend than your ability to bring an outfit together.

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