Get onto the Style Highway and Out of Your Style Rut with 3 Essential Questions

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The Road to Success - Words on Arrow Going Up

Loved this article by Sal of Already Pretty about the difference between a Rut and a Signature Style  and it led me to thinking about how we get into ruts with our style, how we stop thinking more broadly about what would make us look great but still fits with our signature style.

One of the problems many women find is that they know they’re in a style rut, but they don’t know how to get out of it (which is why many come to see me professionally).  Many have gone shopping and bought something completely different, in an effort to jump out of that rut, but they get it home and never wear it because it doesn’t feel like ‘them’.  What they have done, is bought something that suits someone else, it’s not part of their personality style, which is why they don’t wear it or feel good in it.

When I’m shopping with my clients on a personal shopping trip, I will ask many questions about who they are, their clothing values (such as whether they are driven by economic, sensory, or aesthetic reasons when clothes shopping, just to name a few of the values) and find out how they want to be perceived.   This helps me find the clothes that suit who they are and how they want to express themselves.  The more I can understand who they are, the better I can choose clothes that I know will suit their personality.  The clothes that when they put them on they feel like the best version of themselves, not like they’re trying to be someone else.

I love it when the feedback I get from a client is “I never would have picked this up but I love it!”  This tells me that I’ve understood their personality and values, and I’m on their style superhighway, and I have taken them out of their style rut.

One of the ways you can start to figure out what the other lanes are on your style superhighway, is to sit down with pen and paper and write down a list of your favourite garments/accessories. Then for each:

  1. Describe what you love about it – is it the shape, colour, fabric, fit, feel, pattern, comfort, versatility etc. of it?
  2. Describe how it makes you feel when you’re wearing it – feminine, sexy, smart, professional, elegant, edgy, current, modern, vibrant etc.
  3. Describe how it makes you look when you’re wearing it – what is the message it sends the world?

These questions will help you narrow down what it is you love about your favourite (if rut) clothes, so you can then expand on those qualities and find other pieces that will move you onto your style highway.

You will find after you’ve written down a bunch of favourites that some words get repeated over and over.  That’s great – it’s telling you that that particular quality is really important to you and you need to make sure that anything new you buy has those qualities.  But then it may also point out something that you’d never realised or thought about before, and you can take those words and see if you can apply them to other garments that are outside your rut.  If they fit with the elements you love, you’re safely onto a winner.  But if they say something that isn’t you, put it back.

Keep these words with you.  Write them on a card and put it in your wallet. Write them on your mirror with a whiteboard marker, so that you can run them by anything you put on.  When your clothes don’t match your style statement, then you will definitely feel inauthentic and not at your best.

This is just one exercise you can do to help discover your signature style.  There are more exercises in my 7 Steps to Style system which also helps you understand how best to dress your body as well as putting together a wardrobe that works for you.

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9 Comments

  • Now that I’m back to sewing my own wardrobe again the options are endless. I have to do some careful thinking before starting a new project, this exercise may be very helpful!

  • I am in a dilemma about a dress I have just purchased. I have always dressed for my body shape, an X shaped size 10. It is very different from what I would normally buy; wrap dresses and pencil skirts. It is a cotton dress, a bit 50s style, cap sleeves, fitted top and waist, but then quite a flared skirt with pockets. It is a casual dress with a jungle prints/birds. Sounds a bit off, but everyone in the shop said it looked great and so did some other customers. However, I think it makes me look heavier and shorter than I am with all the skirt fabric. Should I listen to other opinions or go with my instincts? I am 57 and about 160 cms tall. The dress is not inexpensive (Hoss Intropia brand) and as I am retired need to be careful with my purchases these days. What do you think? Dress for body shape, or get out of my style rut?

    • The question I’d ask yourself Susan is does the dress make you feel happy when you wear it? Not all clothes are going to make us appear at our most tall/slim – but does this really matter? If the answer is yes – then return it. If the answer is no, and the dress makes you feel fabulous when you wear it – then keep it!

      • Thanks for the advice Imogen. I returned the dress. $260 is a bit much to pay or a dress that made me feel like a retro frump.

      • Dear Imogen, That was THE MOST brilliant answer you could have given! I wrote that down and have attributed it to Imogen Lamport. : ) Good for you for taking that stance. That is how I see it, too. I read another blog entry of yours (I think it was yours) where you said the most important thing when it comes to color choices is personality. Personality of the wearer trumps the “most flattering” colors. What matters is that a woman likes the colors she is wearing and is confidently happy when wearing them. I think this whole concept you have touched on is SO important, and also makes perfect logical sense. When I start Image Consulting, THIS concept is going to be a major player in my approach to styling others.

  • I agree. What fantastic ideas. I plan to set aside an afternoon to do this in peace and quiet. I’m confident it will prove a great insight into my befuddled wardrobe of 2 years!

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