Does Personal Style Make A Difference?
Does style make a difference? Look at the photos above and the answer should be obvious. A lot of people want to argue or debate whether style makes a difference in how a person feels or is perceived. That is until they experience the change for themselves. How they feel on the inside affects how they portray themselves on the outside. The attention they get from the people around them. Everything in your life is interconnected to your dating and relationship life. Including your personal style.
You have noticed that some people look great in skinny jeans and others who wear tight dresses look effortlessly sexy. Some people look innocent while others look fierce wearing virtually the same outfit. However, when you try the same look it comes off as odd and uncomfortable. Worry not, as I am going to give you tips, secrets, and an introductory-level guide to fashion and style.
I can’t give you a total fashion lesson on a website. This is more of a starter on where to look so you can start moving in the right direction. In our upper-level course offerings, we are able to get much more in-depth. Further below I give you some resources I personally use or have tried, to build my own style. These are some of the resources I recommend to clients so they can start building their wardrobes.
Style is not something you are born with, it’s something you learn, discover, practice, and integrate into your life. Believing you are stylish is one key to unlocking your personal style. The other key is knowing who you are as an individual. The third key is to understand that while style takes into account personality, it is not an analysis of your personality.
Creating a style is about creating an image that is harmonious with your physical features and your type of beauty. Selecting the clothes that look best on you, then adding your own personal touch, the personality side of it.
No matter your body shape or size you can have a great style that feels good. This is in spite of other people’s judgments, diet, culture, or fast fashion. People tend to confuse style with personal style. Style is the clothing or accessories by themselves. Personal styles are the clothing and accessories plus your own creativity and flair and how they complement your physical features.
If you get it wrong, people who see you develop the wrong impression of who you are, or what you are about. This is why your personal fashion identity is important to your relationships, dating, and everyday life.
What Is Personal Style?
It’s no wonder why this is such a common question and why people tend to be resistant to it. Personal style is more than just clothes. It is a personal feeling that includes your religious beliefs, culture, community, and how you represent yourself. As a starting point, a style category you identify with has as much to do with your inner values and personality as your appearance does. It is a celebration of the unique human being you are.
Still confused? Here are a few more ways I tend to explain personal style.
Personal style is:
- Feeling at home in your clothes.
- How you feel in, and about, your clothes.
- How you dress every day. This isn’t a fantasy or an imaginary wardrobe. It’s also not just your “fancy” clothes.
- Your mindset about clothes. This includes how you feel about the fashion industry, money, and self-expression.
- It is about your habits like shopping, laundry, and morning and night routines.
I hear a lot of reasons why people think they can’t have style. Reasons like, “It’s too expensive,” or “I don’t have the time,” or “They can just accept me as I am,” or “I don’t care about fashion.” The truth is, it is more than possible to build a style if you take a little time and listen to your own self-talk. The world is a judgmental place and people do make a judgment based on your personal style choices.
Your style is all about you. What do you feel most like yourself in? Do you care about sustainability? What are your thoughts on over-consumption? What do you wish you could wear? These questions and more play a role in your personal style.
What Personal Style Is Not.
Friends, the media, and the social-emotional norms that surround clothing are total bullshit! Personal style is not just about finding what is “flattering” or staying up with the constant cycle of trends. It has absolutely nothing to do with your age or pronouns. It does not matter whether a stranger looks at you and goes “Oh,” “Ew,” or “Wow.”
Your personal style has nothing to do with:
- Copying what you see influencers wearing.
- Knowing your result from some random quiz.
- Constantly shopping.
- Accepting that it’s something people are born with while others are not.
If you thought any of that stuff was true, you are not alone. You can forget all of that nonsense and start reimagining how personal style works. It is personal and starts with having a reasonable starting point. A reference that gives you enough information that you can see yourself putting something together that feels good to you.
When You Know Your Style, Magic Happens!
It’s time to look at the benefits of discovering your style. I can sit here all day and tell you about my style and what it has done for me. Let’s just say I started to play around with style and fashion when I was around seven or eight. I really didn’t get into it until I was thirteen when I watched soap operas with my mom. I started emulating what I saw the characters wearing. Then I studied fashion when I was sixteen and came into my own at around twenty-one.
I will tell you that a few things happen when you fully understand which clothes feel good on your body. Having this understanding is the foundation of what it means to “have” a personal style. I had a wardrobe full of suits, silk shirts, chino pants, casual dress shoes, and dress shoes. A few women I knew made the comment “I want to see what he looks like in jeans.” At the time, I didn’t own any jeans.
This is what I like to call “style clarity.” This clarity is all the things that help you know your current style: colors, preferences, proportions, lines, details, and style aesthetic.
Without this style clarity, you will always be looking for that “something” that always seems to be missing. You’re stuck copying what others are wearing. When you shop, you buy something because that is what you are told is fashionable. Constantly chasing without owning who you are is the reason you have no firm foundation for what your style is.
The first thing you do is stop worrying about what others think about your clothes. Whatever they say is no longer of any real consequence to you. Whether that is an insult or compliment no longer matters. I’m not saying that compliments are not nice to hear, or that insults are annoying. What I’m saying is that these remarks will not get you stuck in wearing only one type of outfit, or go scurrying to find the right kind of outfit.
Through your personal style, the self-assurance you develop makes shopping for clothes easier, and possibly even fun. Knowing what to wear each day and for what occasion will save you money and hours of worry or headache. You don’t have to think about what people might say or think of you. What your style communicates to others is all that needs to be said. It is your inner voice expressed in a visual outward way.
I don’t want you to confuse style authenticity with the temporary “green light” you get when you wear something that looks like it just came off the editorial photo page of a magazine. Just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean you disregard observing and respecting your own likes and dislikes regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.
The positive impact of understanding your personal style will come to you in more ways than you can imagine. It’s not just about your clothes. It’s about how you wear them, what they say about you, and the image you want to project.
Personal Style Tips and Secrets
Before I get into the concepts, I want to pass along some secrets and tips I have collected over the years while working in the fashion industry. Keep these in mind as you get further into the concepts of discovering your style. When something seems to conflict, there is probably a tip or secret to guide you.
Secret: No Rules Are Hard and Fast
Rules that make you feel good are the ones you hold onto. Rules that make you feel restricted need to go. The thing about fashion is that it is adaptive, fluid, and unique. Your personal style guide is what makes you feel good and confident.
Tip: Outfits Matter as First Impressions Are Visual
You need to ask yourself what image you want to project. How people would describe you based on their first impression if they never talked to you. The truth of human behavior is that people think of something based on what they see presented before them. Make sure what they think is what you want.
Secret: Less Than Four Items Isn’t An Outfit
A t-shirt and jeans aren’t an outfit. They are just clothes that blend into a crowd and are therefore forgettable. A great outfit has four or more standout pieces that make it memorable. A plain tee, jacket, jeans, and a layered necklace or nice watch is an outfit.
Secret: Style and Fashion Are Not The Same
Fashion is fantasy. It is also the tangible things you see celebrities wearing, the items in the store, and things in magazines. Style is about the feeling and elements. It is about interpretation and finding what works for you. Accepting who you are rather than following trends.
Tip: Less Is More
More people need to understand this single tip. Pick an item and make that your focal point of the outfit. That is the difference between overwhelming and gaudy compared to classy and chic. If the shirt or top is the focal point, the rest should be basic face-and-body-accentuating basics that allow the focal point to pop.
Tip: The Runway Is Not Real Life Clothing
The clothes you see on the runway during fashion week are not looks meant to be worn every day. Those looks are meant to show what can be done and to inspire creativity. You can look to runway fashion as inspiration for the cuts, lines, and intricate details. You just don’t want to recreate the precise look. If you want something that is fun, current, and somewhat timeless look to the movies and television shows. The looks created for those characters and actors are more realistic and everyday wearable.
Secret: There Is No “One Size Fits All”
Every body is different. A “one size fits all” garment is a surefire way to quickly get into a fashion disaster. The “one size” does not take into account the different sizes, widths, and lengths people have. Do you honestly believe a woman who is a size 14 or a man with a 32″ waist would perfectly fit a size 8 or 29″ waist? It’s not going to look right.
Secret: Clothes Show More Than They Hide
If you wear clothing in an attempt to hide who you are, it shows. The world will pick up on the fact that you are out of touch with your body type, age, personality, or the social situation you are in. In addition, the clothes you wear have an effect on how you feel about yourself. Choose neutral color pallets in high-quality fabrics to help people hone in on the focus piece and the best part of you.
Tip: Buy What Fits
People get hung up on being a certain size. They tend to buy something because the tag says it’s their size. In truth, companies ‘play’ with sizes to flatter consumers. Different manufacturers also cut for different body types. Just because the tag says it will fit doesn’t mean it will. Buy what fits, regardless of what the tag says.
Secret: A Good Tailor Is Better Than A Expert Stylist
A great outfit is dead on arrival if it doesn’t fit properly. Your clothes should always be well-fitted. Below I will provide you with some sites where you can order clothes that are specifically made for your body. You provide your measurements and the clothes are then made to those specifications. If you buy off the rack, take the garment to a tailor for alterations.
Secret: You Are Not Dressed If Don’t Have Accessories
When it comes to style, accessories are important. They punctuate your style and add the fun. You just don’t want to go overboard with too many of them.
Secret: Choose Natural Fabrics
Artificial fabrics may cost less, but they also cheapen your look. Natural fabrics feel better and last longer. People can also see the difference between cotton and polyester. Cotton is sustainable, soft, hypoallergenic, and naturally hydrophobic (water-repellant). Polyester is made from a petroleum chemical reaction process and is not biodegradable. Polyester has a natural sheen that cotton does not have. The polyester fabric does not breathe well and has a low wicking point that can leave the wearer feeling moist and clammy. Have fun with natural fabrics by playing with colors, cuts, and patterns.
Secret: Generic Clothing In Stores Is Often More Expensive Than Designer Clothing Online
You can get up to 90% off typical retail prices on designer labels by looking around online. Shops like Poshmark and eBay are places you can find high-end labels for pennies on the dollar. You can find new or almost-new designer items for far less than what a big-box or discount store sells generic items for.
Tip: You Act Different In Expensive Clothes
When things are expensive we treat them differently. We act a little differently when we wear them. We tell ourselves that the item is special and we are special when we wear them. The psychology is that we assign a story to the item that makes it special. When things are expensive the feelings of specialness come more easily. You don’t have to break the bank with every item. You can look great with ordinary items by acting as you would if they cost a lot more.
Secret: Head-To-Toe Trends Only Look Good On Models
Models have a full professional crew that helps them look their best. The model just needs to bring the item or product to life. The trend for this season is Crochet and floral prints. Try to find a way that works for you. Trends usually work for most people in small doses only. Try things on a small scale first, like a floral print scarf, Crochet vest, or necklace before going all in.
Tip: Try Stuff On, You Have To Do It
People look at something and instantly decide it is not their color, cut, or length only to love it after they try it on. If you find something that piques your interest but don’t think you could pull it off, go to the dressing room and try it on. You have nothing to lose by trying it. Below I have two resources for you where you can save money, try things out, and get designer labels.
Secret: Knowing What You Love Is Just As Important As Knowing What You Hate
Fashion is supposed to be stress-free, happy, and fun. You are not supposed to be intimidated by it. The easiest way to find your personal style is to list what makes you feel comfortable and confident. Then list what makes you feel, unlike yourself and uncomfortable. No matter the trend, stay away from the items in your “don’t like” list. Try different looks that help you embrace your personal fashion.
Secret: Most Body Types Are Flattered By Wrap-Style Skirts
For women who have an hourglass figure, you want to reduce bulk to showcase your waist through different styles and fabrics. Fabrics that stretch and hug will bring out your natural lines and accentuate your frame. A woman with an hourglass frame should have a simple wrap dress or skirt in their closet as a go-to piece. The skirt can easily be paired with a blended knit fabric scoop or V-neck for a slimming neckline finish.
Tip: You Have The Wallet. You Are The Boss
When it comes to fashion and personal style you are the client. You are not there to make fit the fashion, fashion is made to fit you. Ease into your personal expression and don’t try to figure it out all at once. Don’t be afraid to step out and make a statement.
Tip: Stay True To Yourself
Know what you look good in. Don’t be a slave to what the trends are doing. A few timeless basics are trend-resistant and always look elegant.
Secret: The Best Clothing Item Out There Isn’t Clothing At All
The next ‘it’ item you see or hear about this season will be the next season’s “We should never see that again” item. Everything you read about in magazines, news snippets, and online articles is just marketing and propaganda. Look at the person telling you what to wear and not wear. A week later they are probably doing the exact opposite of what they said. True personal style looks great to the world and makes you feel even greater inside. Your confidence and natural beauty come through no matter what you are wearing when you are confident in your style.
Tip: Don’t Spend Too Much Time Choosing An Outfit
Spending too much time on choosing what to wear or buy can ruin the rest of your day. Keep things simple and get rid of items you can’t or don’t wear on a regular basis. Spending too much time making a decision is known as decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is the result of a phenomenon where a person makes too many or spends too much time making a decision. Spending too much brain power will drain you of decision-making power later on in the day. Invest in core staples to keep your wardrobe simple to put an outfit together. You will then have the energy to make better decisions on bigger items that really matter.
Secret: You Can Combine Sales-Rack Items With Expensive
In fashion there are rules. Some you can break, some you can bend, and some you can ignore. One of the ones you can ignore is that you can only buy and pair expensive items with expensive items. It is perfectly acceptable to mix cheaper pieces with expensive items.
Secret: You Are Not Too Good To Shop Second Hand
Secondhand, thrift, and consignment stores are your best friend. Not only do they allow you to have a bigger budget to shop with, but they also expand your creativity. You can find a few items that were key from past seasons and pick up some fun pieces for the upcoming season.
Tip: Stop Trying
Little effort can get you big results. The key to a stylish wardrobe is to get a few staple pieces that make up the core. Then use these foundations to build upon. The core items may only need one or two additions to elevate them to a timeless style statement.
Secret: Everyone Can’t Wear Skinny Jeans
Some body types are more suited to bootcut or flare jeans. A person with a rounder-shaped body should look for styles that elongate their figure by emphasizing their upper body. To draw attention up you would pair darker color bottom pieces with a lighter shade and pattern tops. To balance your upper and lower half you can show a bit more shoulder and have necklines that have details or embellishments that draw the eye upwards.
Tip: No Waist? Fake it
Everyone doesn’t have a waist. If you have a body type that is round or box-shaped you can create a waistline. Your goal is to create a silhouette that creates curves and elongates you. Select pieces that place a strong emphasis on the waistline. You want to avoid items that have a straight boxy cut or loose-fitting items. You also do not want both the top and bottom to have the same monotone colors. If you are in doubt add a belt that stands out to give the illusion of a natural waist. You can take a boxy-looking sweater or classic box-cut black dress and add a thick belt to add instant curves.
Tip: Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should
Creating your own style and standing out from the crowd doesn’t mean you go overboard. Fashion is about making a statement while having the garments accentuate your body and who you are. Going too far will have you go into the WTF realm of being trashy.
Secret: Trends Are Suggestions, Not Rules
When building your personal style include staple basics that are trend-resistant. This allows you to not take rules so seriously and bend them. If something does not match your personal style or isn’t flattering, don’t run out to get it. Style is about taking what is out there and making it your own by combining it in unique ways that show who you are. It is not going out to look like a clone of everyone else.
Tip: Put It Back If You Have To Adjust It More Than Once
A great style means that things properly fit and are comfortable to wear. If you try something on and it has to be adjusted more than once to feel right, put it back. This goes for undergarments as well.
Secret: Find Your Signature Piece
If you watch the 2006 movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ you may notice how Meryl Streep’s character Miranda Priestly always wore a single white Hermes scarf. That was the character’s signature piece. If you are familiar with the pop artist Lorde then you know she is known for her dark goth look and dark lipstick shades. Bruno Mars is known for his bold button-down shirts, while Enrique Iglesias always wears a baseball cap. The lesson here is to find your signature piece. It can be something big or small that you naturally gravitate towards. It can also change over time.
Secret: Women, Makeup Can Make Or Break An Outfit
Many women want the ‘natural look.’ The reality of that look is that it takes time and a lot of products to get the look right. It’s important to know what complements your features, and coloring and works for you. The two basic looks you should master are your daytime and nighttime looks. To figure this out it would be a good idea to contact a professional. Not a store clerk or part-time salon person who has some in-store training. You want a real professional. Then learn how to apply the looks yourself.
Tip: Never Buy Anything Too Small
Pass on anything that is not in your size. Don’t even buy it as a “diet inspiration,” even if it is the last one. Impulsively buying items because you think you can make them work will drain your wallet and confidence. You cannot fix something if the fit is wrong. Tailors are your friend, they are not miracle workers.
Secret: Highlight, Don’t Hide
Everyone has areas they want to hide. Hiding areas you don’t like is going negative. Going negative usually brings more attention to the area you want to conceal. The secret of the stars and models is to dress so you highlight your favorite areas. Bring the focus to areas you love. By highlighting the parts you feel most confident about you look better and begin to appreciate things about your body rather than worrying about ‘problem’ areas.
Tip: People With Curves Make Their Own Rules
Plus-size models are gracing the pages and covers of magazines everywhere. It is no longer unusual to see a woman who is size 14 climbing the ranks in the fashion world. Men who don’t have washboard abs and look like they don’t hit the gym every day are becoming more common. These people and designers don’t listen to the “rules” about what ‘curvy’ people should and shouldn’t wear. The confidence they show in their photos and layouts shines.
Tip: Match Your Metals
While some people argue against it, matching your metals will always be in style. Keeping one metal tone, whether it’s silver, gold, bronze, or brass, is one way to elevate your style or look without overdoing it. The metal accent on your watch, belt buckle, purse buckle, necklace, bracelet, and even shoe hardware should all match.
Secret: Styling A T-Shirt Is A Skill You Need
T-shirts are versatile and a go-to in every wardrobe. If you sport t-shirts or have a uniform tee you can pull the look together with a few accessories. A well-fitted t-shirt of any color can be French tucked into denim. You can wear it with a statement skirt or under a blazer.
Tip: Avoid Cheap Accessories
Instantly elevate your personal style with high-end, quality accessories. Quality materials in accessories like handbags, belts, watches, and jewelry made with real leather and genuine solid metal instead of coatings last for years. These should be style staples that pull the outfit together. People tend to think they can’t afford high-end style. But, you will save more and get more value out of one good investment piece than multiple pieces that are cheaply made. Even a cheap t-shirt can be taken up a notch if you splurge on good accessory pieces.
Secret: Sunglasses Hide Your Sins
A good pair of classic-rim sunglasses never go out of style. Unless you are a sports star forget the sports glasses. The classics are called classics for a reason. There is also a reason why celebrities are almost never caught without their shades. Sunglasses are the best accessory because they are versatile, practical, and stylish. If you are tired, have a hangover, or are just having a bad day, sunglasses can cover everything.
Secret: Women, Style Doesn’t Mean Heels And Dresses
Women who are not super girly can experiment with more casual pieces and even menswear. You can be a tomboy at heart while still feeling and looking feminine. I cover this look further down.
Tip: You Can Copy Someone Else’s Style
Yes, you should be true to yourself. However, the insiders of fashion know that style is a journey, not a destination. A way to help you fast-track to finding your style is to identify what fashion artists speak to you. Look at what aspects of their personal style you specifically relate to. Is it the lines, prints, colors, or fabrics? Whatever it is, put your style into words that describe you. Then use those words to help you explore and develop your own style.
Secret: Ask For Help
A professional stylist can see constants and variables that you may be missing in your style. Don’t be afraid to ask or consult with a pro. A person cannot be totally objective when looking at or evaluating themselves. If you were building a house yourself you wouldn’t be afraid to ask for assistance from an architect. An architect knows the math to build a home that can withstand variable weather conditions. Your closet and style are no different.
Personal Style Concepts
Developing or creating your personal style can be confusing. I am going to give you a concept that may help a lot of you. The secret for personal style is finding your style essence that follows your natural lines and the shapes of your face. When your clothing repeats the shapes and lines it looks more harmonious and natural on you. If the lines and shapes are broken it looks off or uncomfortable. The outfit seems to be separate from you.
By identifying your style essence you begin to discover the fabrics, patterns, and silhouettes that work for you. Once you have your style identity you then work to find your style color that helps create a natural appearance. Then finish everything out by bringing harmony to your wardrobe with your own personal touch and flourishes.
If you are still confused here is something I heard on a fashion set from a designer who was working with a new model who was having a problem giving the look we needed. I wasn’t paying that much attention at the time, but I did hear this comment and it stuck with me ever since.
“The clothes may not be your exact personality. It is not about that. The clothes give the impression of what you want to convey. That impression is what makes the world listen to you. It’s about what your physicality is expressing. Taking control of your life and achieving what you want. That is the essence of fashion.”
As you read on you may find you don’t particularly fit any one area. That’s okay because nobody does. Personal style is trial and error before we find what works. It’s finding different pieces that communicate who we are and want to be seen as.
Beauty comes from many different places and each identity will portray different aspects of those places. Different types of looks will bring out and emphasize different areas of beauty within you.
There is a reason for this: when clothing follows your overall appearance, meaning the natural lines of your face and body, your look becomes more harmonious. So, that translates into your style identity when your clothing repeats your natural lines. Don’t confuse this with the body shape theory based on fruit and vegetables. That theory is focused more on symmetry within a silhouette. Style identity is about a harmonious look by repeating or mimicking natural body lines in your clothing.
In fashion, a line is either structural or decorative. A structural line is a line that holds a garment together. A decorative line is used to create a visual appeal. Both can be used to enhance a wearer’s appearance, how the viewer sees the garment and the person wearing it, and have the viewer’s eyes follow the lines up, down, or side to side.
Let’s take a look at an example:
In the left photo, Emma Watson is wearing her natural lines. The clothing looks like it is part of her. The neckline of the jacket follows the shape of her face. Even the lower section of the jacket mimics the shape of her chin while accentuating her waist. The dark buttons move the eyes upward.
In the right photo, the lines of the clothing don’t follow her lines. I’m not sure even she knew what this was. She doesn’t look comfortable or her natural self in it. She seems to be in three separate pieces with this outfit. When the clothing doesn’t repeat her natural lines she loses her natural sultry look.
The photos below are another example of Lady Gaga when she is wearing an outfit that follows her lines and an outfit that does not.
This isn’t a beauty thing. Lady Gaga happens to be more unconventional and pulls off great looks that others simply cannot. What you should see is that the dress Lady Gaga is wearing on the left seems to be separate from her, it doesn’t look harmonious. She looks uncomfortable, almost as if something is missing to pull it together. The outfit on the right has Lady Gaga looking more herself and that inner power she has comes through.
When you look closer it starts to make sense. Both Emma And Gaga’s appearances are more straight and angular with sharper edges. Clothing that has soft silhouettes and round shapes does not really work on either of them. Neither Gaga’s nor Emma’s natural appearance communicates girly. Their natural appearance communicates intensity and boldness. This is why the suits look so powerful on both of them.
There are photos of both of these women wearing dresses that do look great. However, those dresses have straight lines and harsher edges. The round edges and soft silhouettes look better on those with a body and face that are more curvy and soft. Two actresses that look good in softer silhouettes are Hayden Panettiere and Mila Kunis.
Development Of Style
If you get deep into style theory you will hear of style essences. While not totally correct, it is another way of describing an identity. Essense theory has its roots in the principle of yin and yang. I want to emphasize something here that you need to keep in mind. Style and fashion are not a science. It is a subjective art that is imperfect that is often rooted in pseudoscience. In other words, it is imperfect.
The style essence theory describes the contrasts between a range of personalities and the natural world. This theory is traced back to Belle Northrup who was a professor at Columbia University in the 1920s. Northrup, as far as we know, was the first to categorize people into two scaled general areas based on general personality, facial features, walk, voice, and physical features. She then assigned each of these areas different colors, fabrics, details, and lines.
Going further back, the first written exploration of color and fashion was done by German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Goeth published his book “Theory of Colors” in 1810. His work was an aesthetic approach instead of purely scientific. Goeth looked at the physiological effects of color and developed the systematic color wheel.
In 1839, Michel Eugène Chevreul wrote a comprehensive theory about color contrast and a tendency for a color to appear to shift toward the complementary of its neighbor, both in terms of hue and darkness. He offered design principles for fabrics, tapestries, carpets, clothing, and military uniforms to name a few.
Albert Henry Munsell was a painter who took Goethe’s work and went a step further in 1905. Munsell created a three-dimensional codified color system that accounted for the sensitivity of human vision. Munsell’s system of value, hue, and chroma is still in use today.
Johannes Itten was a Swiss Painter and designer who, in 1928, began looking at what colors made portraits look better when certain colors were used in conjunction with specific hair and skin tones. He expanded the color wheel to include temperature, contrast, and saturation. He published “The Art Of Color” in 1961.
In 1928, Robert C. Dorr observed the harmonious effects of paint color when using the same undertone color of either blue or yellow. He developed a key system to account for a person’s complexion regardless of race or color. He worked in textile, then as a color consultant for cosmetics companies. He taught his color system from the 1950s until his death in 1979.
In the 1940s, psychologist William Herbert Sheldon became popular for his studies and for placing people in direct categories based on body type, known as somatotypes. His work has been discredited and all work has been removed from easy public view. The work can only be viewed with a curator’s permission as the work was based on anthropometry and eugenics. However, the influence of body type classification is still felt in fashion and style today.
Also in the 1940s, Suzanne Caygill ( a dress designer) started to popularize color theory with a classification of color seasons. It became more popular in the 1950s with her CBS Television show “Living With Suzanne.” Caygill’s system took off in the 60s and 70s, then again in the 1980s with her book “Color: the Essence of You.” An interesting note is that Caygill based her system on research developed by Dorr.
In the 1950s Grace Margaret Morton from the University of Nebraska expanded on Northrup’s theory. In the 1960s Harriet Tilden McJimsey from Iowa State University expanded on Morton’s work. Both Morton and McJimsey were professors of textile and design. Something to note is that Morton was of the thought that people were either yin or yang and rigidly fit into a particular category. McJimsey introduced the phrase “essence” and is credited with categorizing archetypes. McJimsey was of the mind that no one exactly fit one style definition over another.
In the late 1960s, Director of Personal Style Counselors, John Kitchener updated the style essences to the form most people are familiar with today. Kitchener is credited with adding two essences bringing the total to seven. Kitchener took over the Style Counselors business from Joan Songer who was a student of Suzanne Caygill.
Then in 1975, a research dermatologist named Deborah Chase published a book “The Medically Based No Nonsense Beauty Book.” The medically-based book looked at how skin pigments affect skin coloration. This influence took us back to color only as it did not look at lines or fabrics.
In 1978 Bernice Kentner published “Color Me A Season.” Kentner was a licensed cosmetologist but like Caygill drew ideas for the book on interior decorating color theory. The book became very popular and went through several printings through the 1980s.
A few years later David Kibbe, an image consultant, published the book “Metamorphosis” in 1987 with 13 style archetypes. The book was geared to teach techniques so people could understand the lines of their bodies, not dictate what they can wear. The book is no longer in print. Kibbe has updated his system and narrowed the archetypes to 10 by removing the natural, gamine, and classic types, but has not published any updates. Kibbe is reported to have a new book contract and used versions of the original 1987 book can be found starting at around $350 per copy.
As you can see there is a lot of back and forth in fashion and how to discover your personal style. Follow one theory and it’s all about color. Follow another and it’s about personality. Yet look at another theory and it’s about lines. The truth is you have to look at all three and have a sensible starting point. Nothing is going to be perfect because fashion is a subjective form of art.
Yin And Yang Principle
How do fashion and style fit into the Tao principle? Well, we have to go back to Belle Northrup who introduced the idea. Understand that different designers and stylists have their own ideas. In fashion, I recommend that you learn what you can until it makes sense. Then walk away and apply what you learned.
The most accepted theory of yin and yang in fashion is the shapes of a circle and square. The circle is yin, while the square is yang. The yang shapes are angular and have sharp edges. The yin shapes are soft and more rounded. When you apply this to clothing you can start to see sharp angular lines or soft flowing lines.
How does this apply to people?
According to Northrup yin and yang people have opposite qualities:
Yin: Darkness and the moon, the yielding nature of water, the softness of moss, and the frost traces in winter.
Yang: Sun and the light, the weightiness of granite, the rigidity of metal, and the potency of the flame.
This later developed to:
Yin: Gentleness, delicacy, demureness, lightness, grace, piquancy, and naiveté.
Yang: Strength, force, dignity, power, serenity, vigor, and sophistication.
Which later became:
Yin: Small, delicate, round, soft, gentle, flowing, light, low-contrast, graceful, youthful.
Yang: Large, angular, long, striking, dark, high-contrast, strong/firm, dignified, powerful, sophisticated, poised.
As you can see as the years passed the definitions shifted. There are two points I want to make that Northrup and Kibbe made.
The traits will always be seen as positives for the purposes of fashion and style. Yin is not weakness, frailty, and subjection, but instead gentleness, mildness, and delicacy. Yang is not aggressiveness, crudeness, or being overbearing, but instead strength, poise, and dignity.
The overall theory here is that natural beauty is achieved when the clothes we wear respect our natural features. Neither yin nor yang is more beautiful than the other. They are beautiful in their own ways by creating their own harmony.
Systems & Limitations
I’ve always had a problem with systems. By definition when you have a system you always get the same result by following the steps. If you wanted a yellow cake, you would follow the steps and have a yellow cake at the end. Not chocolate chip cookies. So, by following a system everyone who used that system would come out dressed the same way. In a subjective art such as personal style, the word technology is a more useful term. As you have read above there was an adaptation over time. Technology adapts and changes with understanding and time while resulting in a known outcome. By definition, systems do not change.
The phone is a technology. So are the radio, the television, and the automobile. The phone started as a wall-mounted crank. The radio started out as a large piece of furniture with a small weak speaker. The television started out as a large piece of furniture with a small garbled black and white screen. The automobile was a rough riding platform open to the elements. All of these have changed over the years and come with lots of different features. At the core, all of these items still provide the same basic functions they did when invented.
Color has been the focus of a lot of the style systems out there. The most popular is the season color system by Caygill. Some systems have four seasons, others have over 13 variations. However, color alone does not define a personal style.
Since Sheldon introduced body types it has been wildly popular to try and place someone into a box and say “this is who you are and what you should wear.” That doesn’t work and attempts at that have always been short-lived. In the 1950s McJimsey introduced the first fully thought-out body type system.
Body type beauty dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt circa 1292 to 1069 B.C. Over the centuries, decades, and years the view on body image and beauty has changed.
Garments to exaggerate and shape the body began around the 1700s. In the 1700s and before fashion magazines there were fashion dolls. Dolls could be bought in the modern fashion of the day. If a person liked the fashion they could have a tailor make the clothing at full scale.
The ideal body shape also changed for both men and women throughout the ages. It has moved from rounded to slim and from muscular to no body tone at all. The problem with body typing is that the preferred body shape changes roughly every generation. You could choose to dress according to a body type theory. However, you want to keep in mind that the ideal body type image may change, forcing you to change your personal style once again.
You should look at theories as a starting place to develop your individual look. Kibbe became famous because his system was designed to be all-encompassing. People interpreted it as a person should belong to one – and only one – of the thirteen types laid out in the original book. Kibbe has never agreed that people only belong to a certain category. In theory, that sounds great. However, not everyone fits into a type. The reason Kibbe took the types Kitchener developed and combined some of them to expand the selection to 13 types.
Let’s take a closer look at one of the most famous models. According to the systems, Marilyn Monroe had yin qualities and was classified as a romantic. She had soft round features. She also had a youthful innocence and cuteness that was part of her sexiness and allure.
Not everyone reading this is going to agree with the selected celebrities used as examples. That’s okay they can disagree and say my classifications are incorrect. This is just a starting point to give you an idea of how to get your own personal style. As I’ve already pointed out, no one in fashion agrees 100% on anything.
The thing about Marilyn is that her innocence was her allure. She had that innocent and youthful quality that would come out while still retaining her feminine sexiness as an adult woman. Marilyn could also wear designs of clothes that didn’t look odd or make her look like a woman who dressed in clothing designed for children.
Another woman who is classified as a romantic is Adele. She has the same soft yin qualities. The photo on the left has a slight cute quality with Adele wearing an oversized sweater. The photo on the right is one in that Adele is wearing a flowing blouse with a pattern that has softened edges. From Adele’s hips down the outfit is more form fitting with broken angled lines. This gives Adele that alluring look made famous by Marilyn.
On the other side is Emma Watson. Emma also has the soft romantic yin qualities. Unlike Marilyn, Emma doesn’t look cute when dressed in whimsical designs. Something looks off and she doesn’t look as comfortable. In the photo on the left, it seems that the outfit is wearing Emma. On the right, the dress looks like it was made for a younger Emma. Most would agree that Emma has more of a Gamine look to her.
The problem with systems is the inflexibility they have when it comes to a person creating their own personal style. If Marilyn was pushed to wear only the romantic archetype people would have denied seeing her playful qualities. Marilyn had two different looks that she could pull off.
Style Essence Open Approach
If you are not confused enough, hang on. There are lots of theories, systems, and advice out there that can really twist your mind. However, I’m going to give you a foundation where you start your journey. This begins with John Kitchener who began the argument people are a blend of style essences. I advise all my clients to use these as starting points and not become locked into just one look.
If we go back to the examples, we still have romantic archetypes. However, Marilyn would be a blend of Romantic and Ingénue. Emma and Adele are more Romantic and Classic. Most of the descriptions you will find with these archetypes going back to Northrup will follow the same basic principles. Don’t try to place yourself into a single essence. Find one that fits you the most and feels right to you. Then play with the essenses on either side to see what works the best for you.
Style Identity Spectrum
When I first heard of style essence and fashion style it confused me. It didn’t make any sense and it was hard to figure out how to photograph the models in the best possible way. Then I sat down and talked with a stylist who told me to look at all of it as a type of beauty that sits on a spectrum. On one side you have angelic and ethereal while on the other you have powerful and theatrical. In the middle, you have classic which is balanced, elegant, and formal.
The more yang you go from the center you get, the more angular and sharper. These are your rectangular and square shapes that influence the essence. The more influence there is the more bold and striking the essence becomes. Yang shapes have sharper edges that are straight and large. The clothing tends to be heavy and stiff to achieve the straightness. The colors tend to be darker and bold in their brightness. These colors are what make the essence striking. The three yang essence styles from least to most are Natural, Gamine, and Dramatic.
The more yin you go from the center, the softer and rounder you get. The yin qualities are more delicate and gentler. The shapes of yin are small and rounded as they approach a circle shape. Yin clothing is lightweight, flowing, and draped to achieve its own movement. The colors are softer and lighter to achieve the gentleness. The three yin essence styles from least to most are Romantic, Ingenue, and Angelic.
In the middle of yin and yang is the even blending of the two. This is the classic essence style where the shapes are not very sharp or very rounded. This results in a very understated type of beauty that shines through the absence of sentiment. The classic style is neither gentle nor striking. The clothing is simple and timeless.
Now that we have a basic understanding of the types of beauty we are dealing with we can look at each one individually.
Style Essence Explained
The Angelic Ethereal Style
This is the most yin of all the style essences. This style gives the impression of softness. Many would say it is mystical, mysterious, or ‘old soul.’ Some might say that the people who have this style seem to come from another time and place, possibly even dreamlike.
Note: The characteristics are typically adhered to by the fashion industry as a whole to achieve a particular photographic look. A person may not have the characteristic look, but still, have the qualities to pull off the style look. Do not get trapped in trying to place yourself in a particular style identity. Choose what speaks to you and use it as a starting point.
Angelics tend to be narrow and tall. For the females, the narrowness is more of a rounded narrow versus a straight one. The faces are oval-shaped that may have exaggerated features. Lending to the mystique and mystery their eyes may have a distant look as if they were somewhere else in their mind.
In the photo above are some famous people who have the features of angelic ethereal style: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Willem DeFoe, and Sophie Dahl.
For any essence or style identity to work, it is important to remember that the garment needs to mimic and repeat your face and body’s natural shape and lines.
To communicate the mysticism, mystery, and wisdom of this style essence here are the principles you will want to incorporate:
Watch any movie or television show and see how the costume director dresses any actor who portrays an angelic or ethereal character. Nothing says mysticism or evokes a sense of otherworldliness like transparent, iridescent, and shiny textures. You also want to incorporate ethereal colors. Color selection is simpler than you think if you look towards the night sky, at natural crystals, or at the sea. Think about blue, green, pink, purple, cream, and metals as a start.
Ethereal creatures float and flow, and so should your fabrics. You want a fine texture that moves like that of fine silk or satin that is nearly translucent. When selecting accessories try to choose those that are from the earth that looks rare and iridescent and in their natural shape.
As mentioned above the essence of the style is flowing. To achieve this the garment material should be draped and wrapped so it hangs loosely. If the entire garment cannot be draped or wrapped elements of it should be loose so it flows on its own. Stiff cuts or materials will not work with this style.
Everything about this style identity says flow. Stiff shapes will look odd and out of place. The best way to achieve the flow is through flaring shapes. As stated above, elements of the outfit can achieve the desired style of communication. The pant bottoms can flare, the dress can flare, the sleeves, the hem of the top, or the jacket can all flare. The idea is that the clothing cannot sit still, it has to move.
Most mythical creatures, such as angels, often have wings. The ability to fly and float on the wind makes them look powerful and majestic. This is why any wing-like design or actual feathers you can find incorporated into the garment will add to the overall look. Can’t find wings or feathers in the outfit? Look towards accessories (not feather boas). Look at rings, bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and pendants of winged creatures.
You can wear patterns, but be decerning about them. Remember that you want fine texture. Designs should be flowing to match and repeat the flowing nature of the garment. Patterns should also be abstract to mimic the flow. A stiff or plain pattern will break the flow and look odd.
The Ingénue Style
The style name is pronounced “änjəˌno͞o,” not “in-jee-new.” In movies, television, theater, and literature you will find this stock character. It’s that endearing person who is innocent to the ways of the world, and possibly a bit unsophisticated. This has the yin of delicacy and childlike innocence that is small-scale, decorative, and gentle in its essence.
A person who is ingénue is typically described as having a short or petite body. When dressing for ingénue, it is the smallness of the body that makes the clothes look great. Do not take this to mean that only shorter or petite people can have this style identity. It means that oversized or long clothing looks overwhelming on them.
The facial features of ingénues, even as adults, are delicate and childlike. They tend to have more of a heart-shaped face with eyebrows that are not arched but are soft and rounded. The lips are bowed shape with eyes that are large, round, and slightly wide-spread. The overall appearance is sweet, gentle, and playful.
In the photo above are some famous people who have the features of ingénue style: Amy Adams, Ryan Gosling, Keira Knightly, and Tom Holland.
Remember that the ingénue style essence is petite, and delicate, with rounded lines and soft curves. It is associated with playfulness and innocence. To get the best look you want to incorporate the following:
When selecting clothes always think petite. Small-scale compact shapes and designs. Shorter jackets, dresses, skirts, shorts, and jeans or pants cut to the proper length. Anything oversized will look overwhelming. When you choose accessories they should be small, delicate, or dainty looking.
Even though the design of the clothing is petite, they are not simple and far from plain. Keep the trim decorative and playful as it accentuates the gentle playfulness of the essence. A ruffle, bow, or gentle flare works here.
As mentioned above you want a gentle flare. The garment should slightly move on its own, but not as much as the angelic style. The fabric still needs to be light but can be a bit heavier and stiffer than the angelic. Just make sure it has its own movement with soft lines.
With the compact design, and gentle movement, the best prints are small-scale. Patterns should not look as if they follow any particular order. To keep with the playful nature they should appear unusual or unpredictable.
Delicate and gentleness is the overall theme here. You don’t want anything too bold. To achieve this you want to tone down the colors. To keep from going too formal and keeping with the playful tone select more pastel or light colors. This doesn’t mean you can’t have bold colors. Just keep the bolds to a minimum or as a focal point accent.
In keeping with the light color, patterns, cut, and trimming you want intricate texture. This could be called the signature of this essence. Many choose light-colored lace as the material of choice because it communicates innocence. On the other side of the spectrum, dark-colored lace communicates sensuality, which is not ingénue. If you cannot find lace, or if you are male, find a lace-type texture or feel.
The ingénue style is one style that works well with articles of the past. The reason is vintage styles tend to have an affinity to intricate details and trimmings that benefit the ingénue.
The Romantic Style
This style is known as the sensual deep yin essence with its combination of soft yin features with mature sensuality. It is yin-like the ingénue essence but instead of innocence, it creates the visual impression of sensuality and glamor. In the abstract sense, one would think of expensive jewels and romance with the overall theme of indulgence and luxury.
A person who has romantic characteristics tends to be of average height. Height is not a characteristic of this style. Though one who is very tall or petite tends not to do very well with romantics. The signature is with rounded curves. This is why clothes designed for romantics look so amazing on them. It is a soft roundness as opposed to an angular straight body type. This does not mean large breasts and wide hips. For men, this would translate into wide shoulders and narrower hips.
The features of romantics tend to be very full and dark hair with full lips and sensuous alluring eyes that are large in nature.
In the photo above are some famous people who have the features of romantic style: Emilia Clark, Kit Harington, Alexis Bledel, and Bradley Cooper.
The essence of the romantic style communicates luxury, indulgence, maturity, and sensuality through soft rounded lines and curves. To get the best look you want to incorporate the following:
To achieve sensuality a tight-fitted garment communicates this better than a loose-fitted garment. The fit wraps the curves and does not leave a lot of room for the imagination.
Ruche, Drape, and Wrap:
Romantic clothes are soft and flowing, so follow the natural curves. To get the softness and flow you want to drape and wrap. Ruche (pronounced ro͞oSH) is when a material is pleated, gathered, fluted, or folded to mimic or repeat the soft lines or curves. Surround yourself with the small details. When looking at accessories you want similar draping and gathering incorporated.
When looking at garments do not forget the look and feel of the fabric. Remember that luxury and indulgence are what romantics communicate. The tactile feel should be soft. Cheap materials and fabrics are not going to have the desired effect and will look as if you are trying too hard to achieve it. Keep in mind that your accessories must also have the material standard.
Small prints work for ingénue, larger prints work for romantics. A signature for the romantic is large dreamy prints that do not seem to follow a known pattern. The print can be on any one accessory, the full outfit, or a single garment piece.
A romantic would not be a romantic if they didn’t wear all manners of deep red. Think of the ultimate romantic flower, the red rose. It’s red, has curves, it’s soft, and it is delicate. You don’t have to limit yourself to just red though. Remember luxury and indulgence are what you are communicating. In that regard, you can also incorporate jewel colors and tones such as blues, greens, and purples.
An element of sensuality is mystery. It is possible to conceal while you still reveal. Need a hint on how to do this? Look at lingerie and the materials it is made of. Satin, lace, and sheer materials that are partly transparent. You can incorporate this principle into your wardrobe by having parts of your outfit dark and partly transparent. Just know that your dark color needs intricate detail so it doesn’t come off as intimidating. Going dark is a great way to incorporate a bit of mystery and danger while still saying sensuous.
The Classic Style
Timeless elegance, formality, and tradition are what the classic style essence communicates. With a balance between yin and yang, there is a neutrality and blending of the extremes. A person who views the classic style may think of aristocracy and lavish estates.
A blending of yin and yang also means a blending of the physical features a person has to the point that they are symmetrical. A classic individual could be seen as flawless as they do not have any exaggerated or prominent features. Height is not a characteristic aspect of the essence, as a person’s symmetry takes the lead. A person’s features are neither soft nor round, sharp or angular. Their bodies are neither rounded nor curved, nor straight and narrow.
Trends are not a part of what a classic essence seeks. They are timeless with a bit more formality and elegance to them.
In the photo above are some famous people who have the features of classic style: Ashley Greene, Ryan Reynolds, Amber Heard, and Jon Hamm.
Balance and symmetrical lines are the core of this style. Elegance and formality are what this style communicates. To achieve this look the principles below are what you should incorporate into your wardrobe:
Trends or trending fashion are not something that belongs in the classic style. The style is timeless because it looks as good today as it did in ages past. It is classic because the style has withstood the test of time. The classic silhouette is about clean, simple, symmetrical lines with a slight emphasis on the waist.
While yin is soft and yang is hard so is the classic. It is versatile with the blending of shapes and lines. Tapered clothes that hug the body, but have a little bit of their own flow. They do not necessarily move on their own like an angelic, ingénue, or romantic. The fabric weight is not too heavy or too light, but balanced. Blends of fabrics and textures between garments also work well. Because a classics’ look is balanced, the details of the clothing become very noticable. You don’t want clothing that has loose threads, fading, or wrinkles.
A classic has an understated elegance about them. The color choices are mostly neutral so they do not take away from the classic’s natural features. If you want a pop of color, take a look at the overall outfit color first. If wearing a darker overall color try a dark shade of color for the pop. If you are wearing lighter creams, then try a dark tint of color to add pop.
In keeping with the natural features, the design details are kept to a minimum. The style does not require extra flourishes to make it stand out. Anything too big or too small will look out of place. Extra items such as pockets, zippers, or buttons can detract from the symmetry.
Plain tends to be best in the classic style. However, patterns can be worn so long as they are not attention-seeking. You want to keep the patterns subdued. The reason for this is that a person who has classic features can be easily overwhelmed by a pattern. Simple symmetrical patterns tend to work best.
Much like the romantic, premium materials are a must. The textures and materials convey the quality and luxury of the elegant designs that live within the classic space.
The Natural Style
Casual, sporty, and freedom are what this style communicates. This is the first of the yang styles and it is more laid-back than the classic style. There is a visual impression of the wild outdoors with a relaxed sportiness. A spirit of adventure and freedom that is unspoiled.
People with the natural essence tend to have a sturdy body type. Characteristically they have a width bluntness versus thinness and angles. The appearance of strength as opposed to the delicate body is what makes natural clothing look great on this body type.
This doesn’t mean that a woman reads as more of a man. It simply means that a woman has a more active or sporty look. Naturals tend to have slightly wider shoulders than their hips. When compared to others, a natural will have a facial feature that is irregular or somewhat prominent. Much like that of a natural landscape. The look of the features communicates that the person is approachable and easy-going.
There is a laid-back elegance to the natural. The casual look can be pulled off without it looking as though any effort was made and not looking sloppy. The overall characteristic you are looking for is strength, irregularity, and length. The natural communicates adventure and sportiveness.
In the photo above are some famous people who have the features of classic style: Bert Kreischer, Gigi Hadid, Zach Galifianakis, and Jennifer Lawrence.
There are two signature elements to the natural style. These are activewear and slightly oversized garments to create the relaxed image you are going for. To get the look of any essence is to select garments that repeat and mimic the natural shape, theme, and lines of the essence. To achieve this look the principles below are what you should incorporate into your wardrobe:
The silhouette is unstructured. This is achieved by having long elements that hang naturally from the body. Elements that repeat or mimic the body’s natural bone structure. These can be items such as scarves or cardigans that break up a defined line. When looking at accessories, select those that have retained their natural shape, or have an irregular shape to them.
Comfort goes hand in hand with a relaxed fit. This also goes with the essence of being casual. It is okay for the clothing to be loose, just don’t let it get baggy.
A petite body is not able to accommodate many layers like a natural is able to. Layers also lend to the unstructured overall look of the silhouette. If temperatures do not allow for the layering of clothes you can layer with accessories. Multiple bracelets or necklaces can add to the look.
When it comes to colors there is a wide selection that comes from the outdoors. The best colors come from natural dyes. Harmonious colors tend to be darker greens, off-whites, and earthy browns as a starter. Play with the colors you see in nature.
If you are selecting patterns and prints then asymmetrical works best. The style essence is irregularity while not being bold. Prints and patterns should have a natural vibe to them. Items such as floral, animal, and tribal keep with the unstructured principle. The details should have a rough texture as if it were handmade. Larger prints can also work.
Natural materials work for a natural person. Natural materials have a roughness and texture to them. These would be wool, cotton, denim, and furs to start with. You can also explore linen, large knits, crochet, and chambray as they look amazing on naturals.
The Gamine Style
Pronounced “ga-ˈmēn” this personal style is playful with a visual impression of being rebellious, creative, bold, and youthful.
Originally, the gamine style was a yang variation of the romantic essence. The gamine look is a combination of Phillip Howard’s 1899 style definition of “waif” meaning a very thin child who is androgynous and sloppy. Howard regularly published definitions in the William Taylor monthly magazine throughout the 1800s.
The overall style started to change in the 1950s and 1960s to the definition we know today by adding a sense of style and chic to the look. The look is attributed today to women more than men. However, it does apply to both.
A Gamine is a person who has strong influences of male or female attributes and can comfortably wear male or female clothing. A person who is Gamine could be perceived as mischievous, teasing, or sexually appealing.
The gamine essence is characterized by a petite or short body. Though, anyone can have the style essence. The look is eccentric, unusual, and not serious. Clothing that is oversized will look overwhelming and odd on a gamine.
The characteristic is that a person looks young even though they are an adult. They are childlike, but they do not look innocent or cute. This perception of mischievousness and rebellious non-conformity is what pulls the look off. A gamine look seems to be everywhere and full of undirected energy.
In the photo above are some famous people who have the features of classic style: Kate Moss, Eddie Jamison, Lilly Collins, and Daniel Radcliffe.
You want to be careful with this style. The look is to communicate a youthful, rebellious, playful image while portraying self-assurance and coolness. You do not want to look like you are dressed in children’s clothes.
Signature elements of the essence are the fits and patterns that are normally associated with the opposite sex. The next is creative patterns that are playful without looking as if you are dressed as a child. The overall effect of the style does not make you look more masculine (if you are female), or feminine (if you are male). It has the opposite effect of making you look more masculine or feminine.
You want to mimic the natural lines of your face and body to get this look right. This means you need to follow the direction of the delicately rounded lines and soft curves so they are repeated often, but with a sharpness in the silhouette.
To achieve this look the principles below are what you should incorporate into your wardrobe:
Gamines are associated with being small and petite. This means that shapes and designs will look best when they are small and compact as well. Long and oversized will not look right on a gamine. The silhouette should look fitted and slightly sharp. Stiff clothing such as blazers, pants, or trousers should taper at the waist, wrists, and ankles. Any accessories should remain small and compact.
Part of the signature for this look is in the tailoring. For men, the tailoring will be more rounded and soft. For women, the garments are more straight and narrow. As said earlier, the essence is wearing fits that are normally associated with that of the opposite sex. Keep in mind that all clothing in this style essence should be fitted so it does not look oversized.
When it comes to prints and patterns nothing is too unconventional here. The only thing you do not want to do is have big designs. Small and compact designs and prints work. Patterns and prints that are busy and animated with an element of contrast work well. Gamines can even mix patterns to enhance the unconventional look.
Keeping with the unconventional theme and expression through creativity we come to colors. Think expressive, impactful, and unexpected to bring out the mischievousness element. Colors that are rich and dark work best. You want at least two or more colors, preferably contrasting.
Jewelry doesn’t work well with this look. However, the details do count and are important to sell what you want to communicate. Anything that adds additional interest such as cuffs, pleats, buttons, ruffles, belts, or creative collars is better than something plain. Just make sure the items are small and unique in some way.
Vintage and retro work very well in the gamine essence. The reason is because of the material, creative designs, and playful flourishes added to the garment’s look. Older vintage looks often tended to mix stiff and soft fabrics. To keep from flowing too far in the yin and romantic essence, you want more stiff fabrics than soft ones.
The Dramatic Style
The dramatic style is the most yang of the personal style essences. When thinking about dramatic and clothing it is easy to associate being bold, wild, exotic, and extravagant. This is not an easy-going and relaxed visual style.
This style is one where you want to give an overall impression of dignity. intensity, poise mixed with drama, and theatrics. While you have poise and dignity someone should get the impression that there is an element of wildness and danger.
The dramatic essence tends to have sharp-edged, straight, and angular body types. This does not mean ultra-skinny. It means that a person’s body definitions have a sharp straightness and narrowness to them as opposed to a softness and roundness.
To give you more of a definition you want to look for these facial characteristics. An angular jawline that is sharp, has a prominent long nose, and prominent high cheekbones. The shoulders tend to have an angle or slope. Other features that appear narrow or “thin” would be the eyes and lips. These natural long and angled lines are what you want to mimic and repeat.
In the photo above are some famous people who have the features of classic style: Russel Brand, Sigourney Weaver, Zachary Quinto, and Jennifer Connelly.
As with the gamine style you want to be cautious with the dramatic style. It is easy to go to far and look like a mess. You want to convey danger and intensity through an expressive nature. In other words, a hint of a rebellious attitude is tempered by dignity and poise. This gives the essence its name – “Drama.”
This essence is about creating an intense, highly expressive, and dignified image. This is done with unconventional and creative looks. This is about looking powerful yet elegant in an unconventional outfit. Instead of looking staged or clownish, you look like you are ready to do business.
There are two main signatures for this style. Creative and unusual patterns and, bold futuristic or contemporary edgy statements. These main signatures communicate exotic, extravagance, danger, dignity, and poise. Remember the yang feature of angularity, narrowness, and straightness.
To achieve this look the principles below are what you should incorporate into your wardrobe:
Asymmetry will add interest to the outfit. The coordinated lines move the eyes along from one area to the next until they reach the central focal point.
Shape & Design:
Remember that this style’s essence is bold. Dramatics can easily wear oversized garments and look sloppy. The key is that the materials are not light and delicate. Oversized garments can give an overextension of the lines so they flow outwards. This lends more interest to the garment.
When it comes to accessories you want something large and bold. Prominent features require prominent feature accessories.
The key to prints and patterns is asymmetry. The prints should be large and bold as if it is a statement piece. When looking at accessories, such as a tie or purse, you want to follow the same principle.
Like the prints above and the texture below, the element of color also creates drama. Bold colors can bring interest and a sense of wildness and danger. Even if the entire outfit is a monotone color, a single bold color can be a statement piece.
The principle of being unconventional and unusual comes into play here. To add more drama add fabrics that create even more interest with texture. The plain texture does not follow the principles of creating drama, and will therefore look boring. The entire garment can look uninspired and fall flat if the shape of the garment does not follow the principles of creating drama.
Creativity is the cornerstone of the dramatic style. Keep in mind that yang is not small, soft, and delicate. It is large, textured, and stiffer to give the asymmetrical lines needed. Be bold and creative in selecting pieces.
Putting Personal Style Together
You now have the core information to start creating your own personal style. Everything you have read is a guide. It is a starting point for you to explore and build upon. Be creative by combining colors, fabrics, and textures to create your own look. Don’t be afraid to fail a few times. Over time your personal style may change, which is to be expected as we grow and our outlook on life changes. What we thought was stylish when we were 13 isn’t so fashionable when we are 23.
Resources For Creating Your Style
As promised, here are some sources I use and recommend for creating your own personal style. These are sources where you can create your own look that is unique to you. You can use these resources for creating your own custom or bespoke clothes and other items.
The resources I’m listing are not just printed t-shirts. I do have one resource for this, but they are of a higher quality than most of the sources you may be aware of. Not to mention the extremely wide selection of items to choose from.
I do my best from staying away from made-to-measure clothing. However, it is an option if you are in a rush. My problem with made-to-measure is the overall fit. While it may be the right length and fit the waist, it doesn’t fit in other areas. Nothing says “you” like your own custom clothes that are made to fit you, everywhere.
The resources I am providing are online sources that have reasonable prices. There are also other sources that you can find, but you need to go to their locations in order to get measured and fitted. If you live in, or close to, a major city those options may work well for you.
iTailor – This is my personal go-to clothing maker. They make just about everything for men. They do have a limited amount of clothing for women as well. Before using this source you will want to get your body measurements taken by a tailor shop.
Once on the site, you can select button-down shirts, polo-style shirts, suits, jackets, tuxedos, vests, t-shirts, pants, jeans, ties, shoes, and belts. Select your fabrics, colors, and details, then enter your measurements. The thing I really like is you are not charged for the customization. They will make your item to those measurements for a perfect fit.
Sumissura – When it comes to women’s clothes there are lots of options. Much more than for men. This is my go-to recommendation for women. Before ordering anything, make sure you get your measurements taken by a tailor. You can select suits, blouses, shirts, pants, coats, dresses, skirts, and more on this site. Choose different colors, fabrics, and details, enter your measurements, and they make it for you. The item is made specifically for you.
eShakti – This is another site for women. This site offers another line of clothes for women. The designs are already made, but you can customize them to your taste. Adjust the length, sleeve, and neckline then enter your measurements for a perfect fit. You can select dresses, tops, bottoms, jumpers, event wear, denim, and more. It is worth checking out.
Frilly – Frilly is a site that I sometimes recommend. They have a unique selection of clothing and outerwear that is made to order. The customization isn’t as intuitive as the other two sites. The clothing can be more expensive, but it is unique. Which is why I recommend checking it out.
MTailor – I have never personally used this site before. I have had some clients use the site when they did their own research. The only women’s wear on the site is jeans. The site is primarily for men. You don’t take your own measurements, the site uses a technology that records your measurements from a video. When I researched reviews it was mixed. Some loved it, some had problems with the garment fit. It might be a site worth checking out and seeing if it is for you.
Sene – Along the lines of MTailor, Sene uses a unique questionnaire AI to figure out your measurements. The item you select is then handmade to specifications. The thing I like is that if it doesn’t fit, you get a 100% guaranteed remake until it does fit. They do make both men’s and women’s clothes. One item they make that most others do not are shorts. They have a unique selection that is worth checking out.
Indochino – Indochino has been around for a while. You have the option of visiting one of their locations or customizing online. A lot of people love using this company. The prices are a little more expensive. But, you are not charged for the customization.
Ratio – This site specializes in men’s shirts. A few clients swear by this site and its quality. Like Sene, they use a questionnaire and AI algorithm to create your personal pattern template. Then choose the material or style of shirt you want, customize the details, and they make it. They do guarantee the fit, or they will remake it.
Fame and Partners – A recent client made me aware of this site. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but everything is made to order. A few items are made ready to ship with standard sizing. The thing I like is that there are lots of categories and fabrics available that are not offered by some of the other companies.
Woodies – Woodies is new on the men’s clothing scene. They use an algorithm to figure out your size profile. They have some unique materials and designs along with some updated classics, like the bomber jacket. They are a highly rated company with some great reviews on their quality materials and craftsmanship.
Proper Cloth – Proper Cloth is a good company for men’s clothes. It’s a bit on the pricey side, but the clothes will last a long time. They have a wide selection of items to choose from including one of the finest cashmere sweaters that are not found elsewhere.
Kin Custom – If you want everyday and sports wear this is my site. The quality is outstanding. You can get 100% overall printing of your own designs done on an array of items. Joggers, shirts, sweats, shoes, pillows, blankets, bags, etc. The list keeps growing. The printing is known as dye sublimation which means the colors are embedded in the fabric. It won’t fade like direct-to-garment printing, or crack and peel as silk-screened prints do. I’ve had items made with lines down to 1mm and they were crystal clear. It can get a little complex with their designer, but if you take your time, it’s worth it.
Personal Style wouldn’t be personal if you wore the shoes that everyone else wears. Manufacturers figured this out some years ago. So, your big-name sports shoe companies like Nike, Adidas, Vans, and Puma started allowing people to customize on their sites. That’s your sports shoes though. Elevate your style to something people recognize, but can’t put their finger on what brand it belongs to.
Don’t just have a print put on a shoe. Anyone can do that. Swapping out colors of a popular shoe brand is kind of interesting. But, customizing the entire shoe sets you apart. It sets you apart from everyone else. Some of the clothing sites above do make custom shoes. The sites below specialize in custom shoes.
Alive – This was the first site I came across back when I started looking into custom shoes. You can create just about any shoe style you want on this site. The classics, kids, to sport styles. All in detailed Italian crafting. If you want to go further, you could create your own shoe brand through this company.
Shoe Envious – Men’s shoes are rather simple. Women have a lot more options for different occasions. This site will allow you to create an almost endless array of shoes from flats to heels, slip-on to straps. The embellishments can get pretty wild if you are not careful. Don’t worry, they have a 100% fit guarantee.
UDandy – This is one of my go-to sites for custom classic men’s shoes. Driving mocks, oxfords, monk straps, and more are available in a wide range of materials. Including different custom soles. The price is reasonable for good quality shoes from a well-known brand. So, to me, why buy retail when the same price will get me custom?
Idrese – This is another company I really like for men’s custom shoes. Lot’s of different options for many of the classics like Chelsea, Chuka, and Octavian styles. These are made in Spain and have a bit more Spanish flair than Udandy which is made in Portugal.
ToeSmith – If sneakers and sliders are your things, this is your site. Create just about any design you want, or select from a wide array of designs from other designers.
Burju – Wow is all I can say about this women’s shoe site. You can select your standard heel or go thigh-high laced-up heel if you want. Depending on what you want the prices to range from reasonable to $1,300. It’s anything that goes on this site.
Carmina – Carmina has custom shoes and boots for both men and women. The difference here is that you can get styles like balmoral, jodhpur, and Chuka monk. You can also select exotic leathers such as alligator, crocodile, and lizard.
Civardi – These shoes are also made in Spain. These people are passionate about their shoes and designs. There is a wide selection from sneakers, to casuals, to golf shoes. You can also get belts made as well to match the shoes. Some materials include alligator and ostrich. The interesting thing I found is they have whole-cut shoes. This isn’t an easy process, yet they have it as a custom option.
Hockerty – This site has lots to choose from. Customizing can cost extra, but they do offer some interesting custom options. My only warning here is to watch that final price to keep from busting your budget on a single item.
Jimmy Choo – Shoes and Handbags that are made to order. There are also a lot of other items to choose from as well. Not everything is customizable, so keep that in mind on this site.
One of the final touches to creating your look is sunglasses. They can make a huge statement about who you are and bring everything together. These are not easy to find because glasses by themselves are more technical than you may think. You can easily find costume and logo-type sunglasses everywhere. Locating truly bespoke sunglasses can cost thousands. However, I have located a few places where you can do some customization.
TBD Eyewear – To go true custom you need to contact the company. On the site itself, you can select a few frames, arms, and lenses.
Joiuss – There are lots of frame styles to choose from. Then you can select the lens style you want. There are some unique frames to choose from that may match your personal tastes.
Mascot – A pretty good selection here. Again the frames are standard in the collections. If you go to the custom tints, the selection becomes a bit more interesting.
Coco Leni – There are some interesting designs in this collection. Contact them for full bespoke.
Zenni – This site took me a while to figure out. You can get both prescription and non-prescription glasses here. Lots of lens options are available with customization. Select the frame then select different lens options. The end price is rather reasonable. For the prescription, you will need your PD number.
Roka – This company is much like Zenni. You can comb through the wide selection of frame styles and then select the type of lenses you want.
Perfume and Cologne
Not done until you have your own custom scent. You’re looking great, but what about smelling great? This is where you put together a scent that is all about you. I have used almost all of these companies. The more you get into custom scents the more you understand how complex it can get. I recommend keeping it simple at first, then getting into crafting your own.
Hawthorn Lab – This men’s cologne company uses a lifestyle questionnaire to put together a custom scent for you. To change things up you go back and change up your answers. On the plus side, the scent you get will complement each other. I personally found them nice, but were rather basic and not as complex as I would have liked.
Scent Crafters – This is a good company where you can mix up to three different scents. I would recommend researching what each scent smells like before just mixing something and hoping for the best. You can then mark your bottle and customize it. Look around the site to get some knowledge on making your own scent.
Waft – I’ve used this company in the past. It’s rather basic and you can create cologne or perfume on the site. You go through a quick questionnaire of what type of scent you want. Give it a name and message if you want. Then select a favorite type of popular scent. It will give you a breakdown of that scent. This will be used as your scents inspiration. Then select three ingredients. Once that is done you select your bottle size. You have your main bottle and two smaller bottles that contain a complementary scent.
Fragrance By Me – Similar to Waft, you choose a bottle and then choose three popular perfumes. The system analyses these and comes up with a base scent. You can also add other notes, but you are restricted to three. Once you have your selection, place your order.
Maison 21G – This is my top recommendation for anyone trying to create their own scent for the first time. It’s simple and the results are very pleasant. Select starting with your personality, a favorite brand, or scent. If you take the personality side, and your honest, you will get a good combination scent with a breakdown of the primary scents used, how long it lasts, and how it changes over time.
TGSE – The Greatest Smell Ever site is a good site for making some complex scents. I do like that it’s broken down into the base, mid (heart), and top notes. You can also mix three of each for a total of nine scents. You can’t have more base notes if you want them. Each scent also has its own price. Something I found troubling was the limit of scents available. That’s just me though, I like lots of options. It’s a good site, and you should take a look to see if it works for you.
Me Fragrance – This is my go-to site. I use them a lot. The first thing I like is that you get a great education on scent and mixing. They also help you craft the scent as you put it together. On top of that, you can have your scent in lots of different options. Lotions, body wash, shampoo, bath salts, body oil, etc. As you craft the scent it lets you know if your balance starts to go too far off. You are limited to a total of six scents, but you have lots of different scents to choose from. My last few bottles I got stopped and asked what I was wearing. Sorry, it’s custom made.