Magazines, celebrities, and television shows may determine what’s in fashion, but YOU are the connoisseur of your individual style.

Personal style 3

One of the biggest myths around being stylish is the perception that one must have a lot of money to expend on endless shopping. I once believed this too. However, I have since learnt that personal style is not a function of my wallet, but a creative expression of who I am through what I put on. As Professor Phakeng rightly pointed out in her Meet the Scholar feature: “…style and beauty come from within, from who you are and not necessarily what you wear and how much it costs.

Being stylish is within the financial reach of many (and I’ll tell you how in another article), but first:

1) Who are you?

2) When you dress up in the morning, what do you seek to communicate to those whom you encounter?

3) What is unique about your identity?

4) What are your life principles & philosophies?

5) Are you confident enough to be yourself at all times (at least most times)?

6) What should your clothes ideally say about you?

I could go on.

These questions may seem a bit far-fetched, but they are central in working out your individual style. If you can successfully answer the questions above, even to the minutest degree, my job here is as good as done.

Fashion is fickle. Trends come and go with the seasons (literally!), but style is a constant because it is in you. A fashionista would buy a top because he/she has seen it on a mannequin or in the magazine’s must-have section. A person who understands style on the other hand, will assess whether the cut of the top is suited to his/her body frame & can be mixed and matched with a couple of items at home – that way, he/she can get more value for money & a chance to get creative with clothing.

Impulsive buying is not an issue for me because it is not in my best interest to have a closet bursting with clothing items, yet have nothing to actually wear in the morning.

Personal Style 2

How then can you figure out your individual style?

Now that you have an understanding of who you are and what you want to communicate to the next person through what you wear…

Have Fun, it’s a process…

Have fun trying on your clothes. Style has no room for tyranny. It will take a while to grasp your personal style and that’s okay, so long as you have fun while doing it. Figuring out your personal style should not be another task on your to-do list. It’s a process. Everyday I discover new ways to style myself. Some days it’s spot on, other days I say to myself “what was I thinking?” and laugh it off. There is no hard and fast rule here.

Understand your body shape

We are created in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are beautiful in every way. What looks flattering on Victoria Beckham might not have the same drool-inducing effect on me because I am shaped differently; beautiful nonetheless, but a whole different figure. In a few weeks, we’ll be exploring different body shapes + the cuts and styles best suited to each one. However, for now, let’s simply keep this point in mind.

Repeat your favourite item(s) in different ways

Do you have a shirt, skirt, or blouse you keep finding that you gravitate towards when at a loss for what to wear in the morning? Don’t fight it. Pick that item & figure out five ways to wear it differently. A scarf, a belt, a brooch, a waist coast or denim jacket over it? Anything is possible.

Let go of the clutter

Clutter is the reason your wardrobe is full but you have nothing to wear. Buried deep in that pile is rare gem you haven’t worn in over a year – you’ve probably forgotten you even own it. Over Christmas (because it’s difficult to find a real holiday to unwind), settle down with your wardrobe and separate your clothes into three piles – a Must-Have, Neutral, and Got-to-Go. Pile the got-to-go and give them to charity, and watch as you experience some clarity about what’s in your wardrobe.

There is so much more to say about understanding individual style, but I’ll leave you for now with the following points from Kate Hogg (1989):

1) Style is timeless

2) Style cannot be bought

3) Everybody has some sort of style (just like humour)

4) Some people are born with instinctive good style, while others can develop their with practice, self-discipline (no more impulsive shopping), and honesty

5) The key to individual style is to be genuine and true to yourself


Feature Photo – Alexa by Saul Torres (Creative Commons) | In-text Photo 1 – Ralph Lauren Collection by Fervent Adepete (Creative Commons) | In-text Photo 2 by Влад Иванов (Creative Commons)