The “what” and “why” of personal style
One of the most frequently discussed topics within the style community is the development of personal style. As we, as a feminist collective, move away from the rules and messages curated by the patriarchy, it is of the utmost importance that we explore what it means to practice authenticity, ignoring the naysayers who only seek to tear us down.
There are many ways personal style is defined, but every Google search I’ve performed yields a myriad of posts and lists that just feel…like something is missing. The “how to” portion of personal style is certainly a necessary part of the conversation, but how about the “what” and “why” of it all?
That being said, I decided to do a little Q&A with Audrey to dig a little deeper into this topic and gain a deeper understanding of what personal style is all about.
Time for some questions and answers!
Shelly: Okay, first things first. What is your definition of personal style?
Audrey: Great question! Personal style is what already lives inside of you and how you express it on the outside. So, in other words, it is the personification of who you already are and how that comes to play through your outward appearance. It’s worth noting that this is not limited to your wardrobe. This could also be the way you decorate your home or the activities you enjoy doing. It is all-encompassing.
Shelly: Why is having personal style important?
Audrey: Well, the thing is, everyone already has personal style. However, figuring out what your personal style IS can be a little bit daunting. Starting with acceptance, that it’s something you already possess, is hugely empowering. Living authentically and being able to honor who you already are is extremely important.
Your wardrobe should never stand in the way of you doing what you want to do and who you want to be. There are already so many roadblocks for individuals to find their purpose and meaning – that which lights up their life – and a closet should never even be in the running for that.
When we utilize our personal style as a tool or a means to show up more confidently and self-assured, opportunities inevitably come our way. And when we know we are projecting true, honest, and accurate things about ourselves, the people with whom we are meant to connect are able to see us fully.
Shelly: What are some common misconceptions pertaining to personal style?
Audrey: The number one misconception when dealing with personal style is that people think that they do not have one. This is 100% NOT TRUE. Like I said before, it already lives inside of you, it is the core of who you are. The process of identifying your personal style can actually end up being the roadblock that leads someone to believe that they don’t have personal style.
Another personal style myth is that being stylish means that you are stuck up or pretentious. This belief is rooted in the patriarchy, manifested in the way that men pit women against each other, by finding ways to insult the people who actually inspire us.
Women supporting women
We have made a habit of tearing down women who appear to have something we do not. I think that there is an assumption that caring about the way you look is somehow linked to your moral compass or your code of ethics and I don’t feel that this link is substantiated. I don’t think it’s a real thing.
Caring about your appearance doesn’t mean you don’t care about others or issues much bigger than yourself. Oftentimes, I find that the clients attracted to Flourish care about others and their community in big ways. They need help NOT spending time worrying about what they’re wearing. They’d much rather be in the field, boots on the ground, making changes to improve the world they live in. The self-confidence that authentic personal style provides and dressing effectively is what stands in their way. And that’s where I come in.
There’s also a huge misconception that to be stylish means you have to spend a lot of money. This myth is heavily rooted in classism. The idea that only the rich can afford to look good in this day and age is nonsensical. We now have so many resources at our disposal, from thrift stores to Poshmark, to budget-friendly retailers like consignment stores. When we have a solid grasp on who we are and how we want to look, there is no limit to what you can find to bring that image to life.
Shelly: Can personal style change?
Audrey: I find that personal style can evolve. I think that if we were all armed with the tools that we now have from a younger age, we would see that the majority of our fundamental beliefs and our core personalities are not that different than who we are as adults. But, I feel that part of growing up and part of finding yourself as a grown-up is the process of elimination.
The meaning of life is to be a poser
When I was in school, the worst possible thing you could be was a poser, meaning, pretending to be something you’re not. I thought that for a long time and it was something we, as developing teens, actively avoided. But then I realized, there is no possible way you could have it all figured out if you didn’t at least “pose” some of the time.
For me, posing meant using clothing as a costume in a way, as an opportunity to say “what if.” Does this style feel right to me? Does it line up with the core of who I am? How would my interactions or opportunities change if this is who I am? It’s never too late to experiment with your style. But, going back to uncovering your fundamental beliefs and core principles, this outward discovery process should reflect who you already are.
How to take action
Shelly: To continue on that train of thought, how does one tap into their personal style? Where do you even begin?
Audrey: I always recommend as a first step to take note of what you’re drawn to. It doesn’t have to be wardrobe related. What kind of artwork do I like and what colors do I feel drawn to? What shapes make me feel good? Which patterns or silhouettes do I feel drawn to? What brands do I gravitate towards? These are all linked to your preferences.
The Pinterest exercise
One specific exercise I use personally and recommend to both my own clients and Found shoppers who want to dive deeper into their personal style discovery is to start a new Pinterest board. Save images that make you feel something. They don’t have to be clothing-related, just literally anything you feel drawn to. This project should not be a one-day-only activity, but try to spend about a week or two fleshing this out. Our moods and feelings change from day to day, especially as we sit and think about things.
After you’ve saved around 50-60 pins, ask yourself these specific questions: what colors do I see repeating themselves? Are there specific shapes or lines within these images I’m seeing over and over again, like rounded or abstract, severe, angular, or geometric? Am I finding myself drawn to certain types of outfits if I am pinning things wardrobe related? What do these combinations look like? Can they be broken down into repetitive combinations? For example, denim jeans with a power blazer? Sit with your findings and look for patterns. Use that information to look within your closet and your home. Am I seeing the things that bring me the most joy represented in my life?
Blazers are the common denominator among these three outfits. Look for patterns like this in your search!
Shelly: In what ways do you, as an educated personal stylist, assist with personal style discovery and development?
Audrey: We work on breaking up with the visions and pressures that other people have created for us, the pressure of looking a certain way. This can come from society, family, or cultural norms. Sometimes we just need a support system to help us accept that we have permission to pave our own path.
Flourish also has a tried and true method to kickstart your personal style journey. Rather than focusing on visuals, we turn inwards and talk about personality descriptors, how we spend our time, how we wish we spent our time, and how we wish to be perceived. These qualities are manifested through the eight Flourish Style Archetypes.
Style Archetypes as a tool for growth
Shelly: Speaking of Style Archetypes, where did this concept come from and how did you develop the Flourish Style Archetypes?
Audrey: Alyse Parsons, the author of Universal Style, was one of the first professionals to really hone in on the development of style archetypes. With over 30 years in the industry, she has provided a solid foundation from which to evolve. Both her system and the Flourish archetyping system are rooted in understanding who you already are, how you spend your time/how you wish you spend your time, and how you want to be perceived by others. And through understanding the cumulative answers, we have a very clear idea of who you are and what matters to you. These qualities are linked to how you communicate through your wardrobe.
I will say that the Flourish Style Archetyping method is the reverse or fundamental opposite of the David Kibbe method (which only looks at the physical body) because we focus on non-physical attributes. We are looking only at the interpersonal before making judgment calls about the limitations of dressing someone based on their physical features. Neither one is more right than the other, they just have different principles. As women, our bodies fluctuate regularly but the core fundamentals of who we are remain the same. So why not start there?
Harness the power of personal style
Everyone deserves the opportunity to uncover their own personal style, as it helps us practice being authentic and builds our confidence in who we are. We have been working on the Flourish Pinterest page, growing boards that reflect each of the Style Archetypes (and Archetype combinations!) to provide our clients with visuals that reflect their inner selves. If you’re struggling to get started, we’d recommend checking out our page as a jumping-off point!
If you feel like you would like more support, we are always available! You can schedule a discovery call with Audrey and start the process of discovering your Style Archetypes.