June 13, 2024

As a fashion editor, I often write about how to find your personal style, but the truth is, it took me decades to do the same. Growing up, I was very concerned about blending in with my surroundings, so for a chunk of time, my outfits could best be described as “Staten Island Italian — Teen Edition.” Even when I began working in the fashion industry, I struggled to find a sense of style that truly represented me and not what I thought I was supposed to be. I splurged on clothes I could barely afford and couldn’t quit trying to re-create whatever “It” trend I had spotted on the runway.

I’m not sure when I made the switch, but part of finding my own personal style was by accident. For a while, I suffered from folliculitis, and I’d often wake up to hundreds of tiny pimples all over my neck, chest, and back. Panicked, I would grab a bandana or scarf in order to hide my breakout, and it soon became a styling trick I couldn’t quit. The line between wearing this piece out of necessity and wearing it intentionally became blurred, and I liked that I had my own signature look rather than hopping on whatever was “in.”

@samathasutton / Instagram


The cumulative effect of all of that is I’ve landed on a personal style — a uniform made up of only the pieces I seriously love, regardless of what everyone else was wearing. However, I won’t say that it’s not an ongoing process. Finding your own style means evolving with it over time, and my tastes are constantly changing. Whenever I’m feeling a little lost, or my closet starts looking chaotic, I turn to a few tricks to get me back on track.

Whether you’re at step one of developing your own sense of style or just in need of a refresh, here are seven tips for making sure your wardrobe is working for you.

Reconsider Trends

I cover trends every single day as part of my job, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to shop them all. When I found myself searching for carrot-leg jeans, I had to stop and ask myself some serious questions. Was this lust inspired by hours of looking at and talking about this questionable shape, or was it actual love?

I decided they didn’t bring me the same joy as my go-to mom jeans, so I skipped that one (and saved some money). It should be a no-brainer, but it’s important to consider what you personally like versus what your favorite celebrities or influencers are wearing. You can always appreciate a trend from afar without forcing it into your own wardrobe or look.

Forget the “Rules”

@samanthasutton / Instagram


I think a lot of finding my personal style has been reassessing what I thought I could and couldn’t wear. For instance, my whole life, I never felt like a “Dr. Martens person” because I associated those shoes with more of a rock star aesthetic; however, my white platform Chelsea boots ended up being the pair I wore with everything.

You don’t have to be X, Y, or Z to fit into a specific box in order to incorporate something into your wardrobe (age included!), and it doesn’t have to be a certain season or occasion to wear the items you love. If you keep looking at that one piece with a strong yearning, wishing you could pull it off, I’d encourage you to try it. That may be the key to unlocking a style profile that feels off-limits but really isn’t.

Consider the Core of Your Wardrobe

@samanthasutton / Instagram


Something else that really helped me develop a personal style was finding items I knew I could rely on every day, which weren’t necessarily on-trend but brought me joy. It’s how I would describe my previous relationship with bandanas, but then it became puff sleeves, ruffles, and polka dots. People I worked with even jokingly (and lovingly) called my sense of style “Fashion Clown” because I tended to gravitate toward pieces that featured those details and wore them all the time. Even when I style celebrity photo shoots, I can’t escape adding white boots or sneakers. It’s my personal choice because I think a neutral shoe looks great with everything.

Think about the versatile pieces you yourself can’t quit, then style your outfits around them. If you’re already gravitating toward Birkenstocks, don’t just save them for casual days. Pair them with dresses and jeans, or experiment by adding some socks to your look. If you love wearing button-downs, use them as sweaters, layer them under overalls, or wear them as cover-ups. Soon, these staples will become your signature pieces, aka something people immediately associate with you in a positive way.

Stacy London

“I would try putting things on together that were ridiculous, that totally didn’t belong together, but out of that came some amazing magic.”

— Stacy London

Play Dress-Up with Your Own Clothes

@samanthasutton / Instagram


Is there something you own and love but you never wear because you don’t have the ‘straight off a mannequin’ ideal outfit to put it in? Maybe there’s a different way to wear that piece you haven’t thought of yet, and it can work with what you already own. Former stylist and TV personality Stacy London revealed to InStyle in 2021 that she became reacquainted with her wardrobe this way.

“I spent a lot of time in my closet during the pandemic because what else was there to do? And I took it upon myself to play, to take out clothes that I haven’t worn in years — maybe they don’t fit anymore, maybe it was time to get rid of them,” The Truth About Style author told us before adding, “But also just play with what I had and experiment, go shopping in my own closet, and look at my clothes through different eyes so that I could come up with something new. I would try putting things on together that were ridiculous, that totally didn’t belong together. But out of that came some amazing magic.”

Think Less About Fast Fashion

Another trick that helps me spice up my wardrobe is browsing vintage stores or shopping secondhand sites like Etsy, The Real Real, or Depop. With so many decades worth of clothing at my fingertips, I’m much more likely to buy something that I personally love without being influenced by the hot trends of the moment. Maybe I’ll find a fun floral dress with ruffled sleeves, inspiring me to type in that search term and shop multiple options, later making that style a major part of my wardrobe (it’s happened before!). Plus, it’s a great way to embrace throwback-inspired trends while still having clothes and accessories that feel unique and special to you.

Of course, you want to make sure these pieces can be worn with your staples (the green shoes you can’t stop wearing, your growing collection of chunky earrings, etc.) and that they’re items you really do love rather than impulse purchases. However, don’t worry so much about putting a label on your style if some of what you buy feels eclectic or “punk” while other items are more basic or “girly.” The thing about personal style is that it’s just that — personal. So, if you want your thing to be old band tees styled with voluminous skirts, go ahead and do it.

The point is to choose wisely. You can buy two to three special, standout items that epitomize you rather than walking out of a mega-store with 14 pieces and end up happier and with more outfit ideas — I promise.

Expensive Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Better

Price has played a significant role in me finding my own personal style. Looking for affordable everyday clothes led me to shop for $13 Gildan sweatshirts and checkered Vans, a classic shoe priced at $40. However, just because it’s not expensive doesn’t mean you can’t make it look the part.

Less Is More

According to London, developing your own sense of style is all about asking yourself the right questions: “‘How do you make your style work for you in every aspect of your life? How does it bring you joy? How does it have utility in your life and your closet? Do you feel that your closet is a place that is cohesive, or are there big holes so that it’s hard for you to wear 80 percent of your wardrobe, and you wear 20 percent of your wardrobe 80 percent of the time?’ You want a wardrobe where you wear everything. Where you love everything.”


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