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The three words that will solve your fashion dilemmas

Alex Fullerton
‘I’ve been able to cut down all that excess which once felt so overwhelming and now only own pieces that adhere to my Three Words,’ says Fullerton - Rekha Damhar

Standing in front of my wardrobe I was overwhelmed. The volume of clothes (and shoes and bags…) I’d accumulated in my then role as fashion director of Stylist magazine was enormous. But choosing what to wear day to day was actually an easy task. Despite the quantity, I passed over the vast majority of pieces and returned to my most-worn jeans, an A-line denim mini dress, or a trouser suit when I needed to look particularly smart. I could certainly relate to the findings that most women wear 20 per cent of their wardrobe, 80 per cent of the time.

I had heard of the Three Word Method, where you choose three words to describe your style, through industry friends, although no one seemed to quite know its origins. As I flicked through the rails in my wardrobe, a lightbulb came on… I saw that my favourite pieces, the ones I loved to wear and relied on day to day, all fit the same adjectives: denim, Sixties and tomboy. It was 2017 and I was writing my first book, How to Dress. I knew I had to incorporate the concept into the copy as well as continue to dress myself with those three words at the forefront of my mind.

Alexandra Fullerton in November 2021
Fullerton has worked in fashion for more than 20 years and has styled celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Kylie Minogue and Maya Jama - Getty

Today I contribute to Glamour and have now worked in the fashion industry for more than 20 years. In my role as a stylist for editorial shoots, working commercially on ad campaigns or when creating a look for a celebrity such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Kylie Minogue or Maya Jama, I am as flamboyant and eclectic as the brief allows – but in my own wardrobe, I have blissful calm.

As I have shared the benefits of Three Word Method through my growing side hustle as a personal stylist (and the term has become even more popular thanks to TikTok and the stylist Allison Bornstein), it’s coincided with the growth of more considered consumption. Ricocheting from trend to trend each season is not good for the planet and marks you out as a fashion victim (not a good look). There is an obscene amount of clothing on the planet and by styling yourself more mindfully, you’re taking a step towards building a more sustainable wardrobe.

Adhering to dressing and, crucially, shopping via the Three Word Method is the most efficient way to save money, time and streamline your wardrobe. Since my own style awakening, I can attest that I rarely suffer from morning wardrobe rage or find myself crying that I have “nothing to wear!”. I’ve also been able to cut down all that excess which once felt so overwhelming and now only own pieces that adhere to my Three Words.

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in New York in 2019
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s three words: minimal, sexy, neutral - Getty

Seeing the results on women I work with led me to go one step further and create a website, my3words.co, where you can shop via your own words. Scrolling through pages of dresses to pinpoint one that suits your style is confusing and exhausting, despite utilising all the filters (and I’m a professional!), so I’ve curated edits that reflect the 12 most popular words requested by women in the UK.

It’s simple: head straight to your words and find pieces that instantly chime with your style. My goal is for women to be as familiar with their three words as they are with their star signs, and I’ve curated edits for comfortable, considered, rock chick, bohemian, minimal, fashionable, tomboy, vintage, classic, feminine, dopamine and French style.

How to find your Three Words

So how you can find your Three Words? Start by thinking about the clothes you wear most often. What do you feel happiest in? What gives you a confidence boost and what do you turn to when nothing else works? What gets you the most compliments? Think honestly about your lifestyle and what suits your body shape. There will be a common thread. You’ll be able to describe your looks by style, colour, silhouette, fabric or era. As you go through your own garments, I’ll wager the pieces you rarely wear won’t fit your Three Words.

Once defined, the game-changing element is that the next time you shop, you must stick to your words. I’ve been known to wander around stores, repeating my Three Word mantra under my breath to remind myself not to be distracted by all the pretty prints and sparkle.

The Princess of Wales in a purple trouser suit in November 2023
The Princess of Wales’s three words: polished, classic, feminine - Getty

How the Three Word mantra can change the way you dress

Michelle Steele owns the Earsham Street Deli in Bungay, Suffolk, and describes discovering the Three Word Method as “an epiphany”. She uses the analogy of being in an interiors shop; “I might like lots of different things, but they wouldn’t all go in my room, so I wouldn’t buy them. It’s the same with my wardrobe. Learning the Three Word Method was like a penny dropped. ‘Of course, I don’t wear that, because it doesn’t fit with my three words!’ Now, when I’m drawn to things, I can still love them, but it doesn’t mean that I need to buy it, because I know I’ll never wear it.”

When you adhere to the method, you’ll find you’re saving money and time, and you’ll have streamlined your wardrobe. It’s efficient, but you’ll also feel like you in what you wear, and I believe it’s integral to understand the psychological aspects of how we feel in our clothes, rather than just their aesthetics.

Alexa Chung at the Vanity Fair x Prada Party in May 2023
Alexa Chung’s three words: preppy, French, tomboy - Daniele Venturelli/Getty

Lisa Haydon-Bennett is a psychotherapist I shared the method with. “This unique approach helped me define not just my style, but how I want to feel in myself,” she says. “The process went so much deeper and I came away feeling clearer about both myself and my style. It gave me such a self-esteem boost.”

When I talk to friends about fashion, the Three Word Method invariably comes up – particularly as it’s been having a viral moment on social media this year. It’s a favoured party trick to guess people’s adjectives (“You’re… bohemian”) or apply the method to celebrities… (Rosie H-W would be minimal, sexy and neutral, while the Princess of Wales would be polished, classic and feminine, and Alexa Chung might be preppy, French and tomboy).

In describing the calm you can find in choosing your words, I can see their minds whirring to decipher their style. Your words may pivot throughout your life as jobs or lifestyle changes occur, but clarity could still be yours. If you’re ready to banish those BNWT (Brand New With Tags) buys languishing in your wardrobe and want to bring simplicity and style to your life, choosing your Three Words is the most effective method to action that change. So, what are yours?

For more information, visit my3words.co