Why there's never been a better time to find your personal style

·8-min read
Photo credit: Szymon Brzoska - Imaxtree
Photo credit: Szymon Brzoska - Imaxtree

There has been much discussion in recent months about how the climate crisis and the pandemic may influence how we get dressed every morning. There is a, perhaps optimistic, train of thought which suggests that we will soon move away from fast fashion and throwaway trends, instead creating smaller and more hardworking capsule wardrobes for ourselves, those which are filled with investment pieces that we will wear for years to come. If this is the case, and we stop chasing that next must-have item each season that everybody else also wants, will we start to value individuality more? Is finding our personal style going to become more important than ever?

“Fashion trends have shifted to more subtle seasonal themes,” Heather Gramston, head of womenswear buying at London boutique Browns, tells me, explaining that for her customer, it has become about buying pieces to update what they already have. “They are layering seasonal highlights onto their timeless and seasonless wardrobe essentials.”

Photo credit: Vincenzo Grillo - Imaxtree
Photo credit: Vincenzo Grillo - Imaxtree

This trend for “flashes of newness” has been seen at a number of luxury retailers, including at Net-a-Porter, where senior market editor Libby Page believes that our attitudes are changing for good.

“We are still seeing cult items emerge, which you could consider as trends, but customers are buying these in the same way as they might buy a collectible item – and these are pieces that are there to add seasonality to our customers’ wardrobes. However, the wardrobes themselves are more and more being built on a foundation of sustainability, staple pieces and seasonless styles.”

This is the case at Matches Fashion too, says head of womenswear, Liane Wiggins: “There is still an appetite for newness so I do believe trends will continue to emerge, however this is being countered with brilliant, timeless investment pieces that can be kept and worn for years to come.”

What retailers are seeing is consumers no longer changing up their look dramatically as soon as a new season arrives – or chasing a brand-new aesthetic because that’s what they’ve seen on the catwalk or on their friends. In fact, the entire concept of something being considered ‘last season’ is disappearing. Instead, consumers are building on what they already have with subtle wardrobe updates. This is a trend that celebrity stylist Aimée Croysdill has noticed, too.

“Sustainability is helping people to be more timeless with their decisions – instead of changing their whole style to suit a trend, they are now finding small ways to update their look each season. This is not only great for helping people to focus on their aesthetic, but it’s positive for the planet and for your pocket, too.”

Photo credit: Szymon Brzoska - Imaxtree
Photo credit: Szymon Brzoska - Imaxtree

This approach to getting dressed leads individuals naturally to focus more on what truly suits them, rather than buying what is determined to be ‘cool’. Copycat fashion is going out of style.

“It is no longer in vogue to simply copy or emulate a look straight from a runway show,” celebrity stylist Sarah Edmiston says. “Now, more than ever, the focus is about how to make the fashion work for you and not the other way around.”

For fashion writer and influencer Anna Vitiello, trends are not necessarily behind us, but we are now approaching them in a new way, which does lead us to consider more when it comes to making a purchase.

“I am not against trends, far from it – they have such a place in fashion and are exciting, and they inspire us to keep evolving – but, as with consumption, it is about changing our perception of what those trends mean to us. It’s great to be influenced, but knowing what works for us should form the base of it all. This is where personal style comes into play.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Anna Vitiello
Photo credit: Courtesy of Anna Vitiello

So, if there is going to be more emphasis on individuality in fashion, how does one figure out what their personal style is? For some, this might seem daunting, but it shouldn’t be.

“Establishing a capsule wardrobe is the first step – and how you style and put those pieces together translates to your personal style,” Gramston advises.

A capsule wardrobe doesn’t have to be a traditional blueprint that is the same for everybody though.

“This doesn’t have to be a black blazer, a white T-shirt and blue jeans,” Page says. “It can be anything that you see as go-to, everyday staples. It is less about the style of the items – this is personal to the individual – but more about buying those items that can be worn and styled in multiple ways for different occasions.”

It's all about identifying what works for you – your personality, your body shape and your lifestyle. It is this balance that personal and celebrity stylists try to figure out when they first meet a new client.

“Trying to determine a client’s personal style is the most fun part of the job,” stylist to the stars, Zadrian Smith says. “The research goes into who they are – we are trying to work out what the story is of the person we are dressing.”

Photo credit: Vincenzo Grillo - Imaxtree
Photo credit: Vincenzo Grillo - Imaxtree

Aaron Frew, personal shopper at Browns, agrees that storytelling is key.

“When a client has no idea what their signature style is, I ask them to send me five looks that they love, and from here, I have to dig deeper into their personal life and their job so I can start putting all these pieces of the puzzle together and create outfits that really will work for them.”

If you are really unsure of what might define your personal style, look at what has worked for you in the past, the pieces that made you feel your best, and break down how you can incorporate these elements into everything you wear going forward.

“Think back to outfits you have had where you felt your most beautiful,” Sidonie Jago, head of private shopping at Harvey Nichols says. “Likely, these outfits were the best cut, colour and style on you and should be recreated. The most stylish people I know have a few key styles that they look best in, and they repeat versions of the same outfits.”

Photo credit: Valentina Valdinoci - Imaxtree
Photo credit: Valentina Valdinoci - Imaxtree

For Vitiello, who has a very distinctive personal style which is admired by her tens of thousands of followers, it was a process of trial and error to find out who she really was when it came to her wardrobe.

“This is going to sound painfully cliché but it’s in knowing myself that I know what’s going to be right for me – and I mean that not just in a physical sense, but also in understanding myself better as I get older. Sure, oversized puffer coats might dominate the outerwear trend for AW21 and be the ‘cooler’ options, but I know that tailored outerwear feels much more true to my style. Often, knowing what you feel you are not is just as useful as knowing what you feel you are. I admitted to myself a long time ago that I’m not ‘cool’ and I don’t care to be, so I leave those trends to people that they truly suit.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of Anna Vitiello
Photo credit: Courtesy of Anna Vitiello

“My style is a combination of the things that make me feel like me,” she adds. “It is pretty much a mix of my heritage and what I want to say about myself that influences the way I dress.”

When advising others on how to determine what might work for them, Vitiello suggests starting by “having a truthful conversation with yourself”.

“There is so much out there to be influenced by that it can often be discombobulating. So, ask yourself what it is about a look that you like. Perhaps you love the colour but you don’t like the cut of the jacket, or perhaps you like the idea of dressing up in leisurewear, but you would need the bottoms to have a closer fit. Most importantly, try, try and try again. Have fun with it, experiment and make a few faux pas along the way – it’s the best way to figure it out.”

Ultimately, great personal style is just that – figuring out what suits you and having the confidence to stick to it.

“Personal style is one’s unique ability to tell the story of who they are without even speaking,” Edmiston says, while Croysdill describes it as “a reflection of your personality and wearing what makes you feel great”.

“It’s a symbol of your character, lifestyle and creativity,” Page says. “Nurturing your own unique look that will carry you through time can be so empowering and it is always more genuine and authentic than just mirroring what somebody else is wearing.”

Being able to pinpoint what makes you feel great is all about embracing your individuality – and this is a turning point in fashion that we should be celebrating.

“The shift in the fashion and beauty industries to collectively celebrate people loving themselves, flaws and all, is starting to manifest itself within the culture of what it means to be fashionable,” says Edmiston.

If we stop feeling the pressure to conform, perhaps we might just end up with the very best wardrobes we’ve ever had. In Jago’s words: “There is nothing more stylish than authenticity.”

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