At the End of Your Robe: Pegging Your Personal Style

by Julie Greene on March 6, 2009 in Lifestyle,Money

Stylist Julie Greene offers expert advice on looking fierce in a financial crisis.

mirrorFor the last three weeks, I’ve been encouraging you to let go of your closet clutter, get more mileage out of the clothes you own, and make a little cash from your cast-offs. Now it’s time to work on developing your overall sense of style.

Why now? During times of uncertainty people often begin to question who they are and what they want to be. As we navigate the muddy waters of these times it’s important to understand how we communicate in nonverbal ways, including with the clothes we wear. Honing your style can actually save you money—knowing what clothes and accessories work best on you will prevent you from unnecessary buying. And anyway, you probably have some extra time on your hands.

So take this opportunity to re-evaluate your image and discover your unique aesthetic. Over the next few columns I’ll help you build your own “personal style network” so all your clothes function together to make a unified statement about who you are. Start with these ten tips for uncovering your look.

  1. Develop a celebrity crush. The constant media attention on celebrities has an upside: we have a steady stream of styles and looks to draw on for inspiration. Pick two or three celebrities whose fashion sense you admire (that goes for you too, fellas), and watch how they dress.
  2. Know what shape you’re in. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, each one beautiful. The clothes that look best on us are the ones that follow our natural silhouette and compliment our body type. Are you more “pear-shaped”? “Hourglass”?  Check out these in-depth guides to body shapes, for ladies and men.
  3. Learn your colors. Sounds cheesy, but not all colors look good on all people. That’s why it is important to understand what your favorite colors are, and find tones and shades that look best with your natural palette. Holding a range of colors up to your face in natural lighting is the best way to decide what’s flattering. When you look in a mirror, the color should brighten up your face. Helpful hint: All the colors in your iris are natural colors for you, so look into your eyes…
  4. Be materialistic. Are you allergic to wool? Does silk make you want to sing or sleep? Is cashmere your go-to, or are you an easy-to-care for cotton type? Determining your fabric preferences and what suits your life is key to assembling a closet full of clothes you can’t wait to put on.
  5. Find your signature. Samuel L. Jackson has the Kangol hat, Nicole Richie the bug-eye glasses. The most stylish people we know have a trademark item that sets them apart. Yours doesn’t have to be trend-setting or outrageous, but knowing if you are a “hat girl” or a “T-shirt guy” will help shortcut your style.
  6. Uncover your assets. Even though we may not always feel like it, we all have wealth in some department. It’s your job to find out what’s wonderful, and then highlight it. Maybe you have great shoulders, a sexy back or great biceps. I challenge you to take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror and find those parts that are outstanding.
  7. Understand your weaknesses. On the other hand, nobody is perfect, not even the supermodels. But take comfort in knowing that our clothes are designed to cover up body parts that we are less than thrilled about. Even T-shirts have a wide variety of cuts that can flatter or hide our flaws.
  8. Consider your environment. What we do on a daily basis is a huge factor in determining our style. If we live in California and work outside we will obviously dress much differently than if we have office jobs in New York. Keeping your lifestyle in mind may keep you from spending money on delectable party dresses you don’t need to chase around the kids, or expensive suits and ties if you never set foot in an office.
  9. Know what you want to say. The clothes you wear tell the world what you are all about at a glance. Don’t let an interview or a first date be the only time you think hard about how you dress. You never know who you are going to run into on the way to the drugstore in the middle of the afternoon, especially these days.
  10. Fulfill your dreams. Many of us are at a crossroads right now. Whether you’re looking for a job or contemplating a complete career change, dress for the person you aspire to be next. I’ve said this before, but I truly believe that if you start dressing for the part, you will get the part. Before you go out and spend your hard earned money, know where you are headed, and base your choices on what the future can surely hold for you.

Your clothes speak volumes about who you are and influence how people respond to you. You can use your clothing as a visual resume to sell yourself to the world. Knowing who you are and what you like will help you make intelligent choices when it comes to clothing purchases, paying off in oh so many ways.

Julie Greene is an independent fashion stylist, wardrobe consultant and writer. She lives in New York City. Have a style question? Send it to us.

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