The good — and sometimes frustrating thing — about working in fashion is the fact that you’re constantly surrounded by really well-dressed women. It can be awe-inspiring and downright infuriating, but that’s the truth. As such, I’ve spent a lot of my time in the industry studying their looks and, well, just asking a lot of questions about their outfits and their sense of style. The conversations over the years have led to one fundamental truth. It doesn’t matter the age of the woman, what she does, or even how much money she has to spend on her wardrobe. The most stylish women in the room have one thing in common: they always stay true to their personal style.
It sounds simple, but your personal style is what distinguishes the best dressed women in the room from everyone else. It’s not the trends and not the expensive handbag they’re carrying, but how the outfit highlights the woman who’s wearing it. These women have a keen sense of what looks good on their body types, what colors highlight their complexion, what shoes are cool but also practical, and what look best suits the occasion. They’re thoughtfully in tune with their fashion sense daily, and that strong sense of idenity guides them when they’re choosing an outfit for everything from a weekend getaway to a high-stakes business dinner.
Take stock of your wardrobe while paying attention to the pieces that are worn the most and the pieces that still have the tags on. Are there big gaps in your closet? Essentials you’re missing or need to be refreshed, like the jeans you’ve worn to death or the little black dress you keep telling yourself to buy but keep forgetting? Make a list of the items you need to buy or replace while removing the pieces you haven’t worn and placing them in piles for donation or consignment. Just the act of taking inventory will give you a more concrete idea of what your style looks like and what areas you need to invest in (or maybe stop buying) for a more complete wardrobe.
Dressing for yourself also means dressing for the body you have. Sure, we have insecurities and not every trend is meant to celebrate every body type. But don’t get bogged down in the stuff you can’t wear and don’t try to make it work if you know in your heart that it just doesn’t — or worse, makes you uncomfortable. Focus on the assets you want to highlight and let that become your signature. Dress an hourglass shape with a waist-cinching full skirt or show off your stems with slim-cut denim. These pieces will show off your shape and define your style.
Being dressed for the occasion is just as important as dressing for your body type. Think about how funny it looks when you wear clothes are that noticably big or too small; being inappropriately dressed is just as obvious. Remember who and what the occasion is about, and let that guide the dress code. If it’s casual without too much restriction, focus on the pieces you feel really great in and keep fit and condition of the garments top of mind, i.e. avoid anything too tight or too baggy and watch for holes, stains, etc. If all else fails, wearing something clean that fits well is always a win.
It’s tempting to live by the trends, especially since they’re more accessible than ever. But iconic style isn’t built on blindly following what’s in and what’s out. Stick to what you know about yourself (revisit your closet inventory if you have to), your body type, and your lifestyle, and remember that what works on the pages of a magazine or on a runway doesn’t always translate — and that’s perfectly OK. Find the trends that align with what you already love and incorporate them in small ways with the classics you already have.
If there’s a single action item to take from this list and start tomorrow, it’s this. I’ve often wondered how the best dressed style insiders and bloggers survive a month traveling for Fashion Week and still manage to look so chic. The secret isn’t that complicated: they plan for it. They lay out their outfits and photograph them before their trip, knowing exactly what goes with what when they unpack their suitcases. The more realistic version of this is to lay out your outfit the night before. Think about where you’re going and what the weather will be, and let that guide you. Not only will you have time to be thoughtful about your outfit choices, but you’ll also save yourself from the panic that ensues when you realize the blouse you threw on has a massive stain on it. A little advanced planning helps you present your best outfit.
The fact is great style doesn’t just happen. It’s the result of well-stocked wardrobe and a woman who really knows herself — but you don’t have to be a fashion blogger to get it. Just start simply with these everyday rituals and make everyone else wonder how you do it.