How I figured out my personal style in grad school

When I arrived at my MA program, I had a lot of clothes, and liked clothes, but was also one of those people who never felt “pulled together,” and especially not in a way that looked effortless. Fortunately, I had a habit of stress reading blogs. And I soon found capsule wardrobe bloggers. Through their influence, I figured out that my problem might actually be too many clothes, going in too many directions. So I started doing a couple of things to find the direction in my style. 

1) Study your own closet. 

The most common piece of advice I saw was to take every item out of your closet, walk away from the pile, and, in another room, list off the top of your head your favorite 5-10 items of clothes. Then, go back into the room and hang only those items up. I was told to observe similarities in the items I had returned, and I could not believe how clear the pattern was. I loved navy blue, olive, and black and white stripes. The pile on the floor contained pinks, greens, and purples–all aspirational colors that never really made it out of my closet. Since then, I’ve been committed to only buying 1 or 2 accent colors that compliment my core neutrals. I thought this would be a really boring move, but it turns out that the key to ‘effortless’ for me is that everything goes together no matter what, so I can grab most items in my closet and they all get along.

My outfit planner Cladwell, informing me that I definitely have a fave color:

2) Take creepy phone notes (or use StyleBook.)

Sometimes I see someone in public or online wearing a totally fantastic combo that I know I can make with my own clothes, but I would never remember that when I went to get dressed without typing out the combo in a phone note. You can also use stylebook, an app that lets you lay out outfits you can make with your own closet. 

3) Analyze Pinterest. 

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The other thing I did was started pinning clothing. I did a lot of targeted searches (e.g., I have a green pencil skirt and didn’t know what to do with it, so I searched ‘green pencil skirt outfits’ and pinned all the ones I thought I could make). Next, I started looking through my Pinterest board for repeated items that I didn’t own yet (this is how I discovered I needed a vest). I continue stealing outfit combos from Pinterest all the time:

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Taking the time to figure out what I actually like, picking colors, and picking a style have all been huge for me. I can’t recommend it enough. The time I spent up front saves me a lot of time and stress every morning, because all my clothes go together and make me feel comfortable. 

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