Defining Personal Style

Understanding and defining my personal style has always been something I’ve struggled with. I have always instantly recognized fashion that I like on others, but for years and years, when it came to dressing myself, I always ended up picking out all kinds of random items that never really came together in a complete wardrobe. To this day, I don’t think that I have a very good, or defined style – on most mornings, my goal is just to get dressed in a presentable fashion as quickly as possible.

Something that I truly hate though, is waste. It drives me crazy to have a closet full of clothes that I don’t wear, and for that reason, I’ve tried much more in the last few years to pin down my own “personal style,” and build a closet filled with items that I not only love, but that I will actually wear, and that come together in a cohesive wardrobe. I am still quite a ways off, but I wanted to share one of my tips that I’ve found very helpful when deciding whether to add an item to my closet – the personal photo board.

Screen shot 2013-12-29 at 11.42.39 AM

By personal photo board, I mean a little collection – either digital, physical, or both – of images of style that you not only like or admire, but that you can see yourself wearing. This is important. I admire all kinds of style and fashions on others, but many times they simply won’t work for me – either my lifestyle or my body type rules it out. I have both a digital version (a bunch of photos saved online) and also a physical (those same photos printed and stashed in a thin binder). You can see a little snapshot of my photo board, above.

I use these boards not only as inspiration for style that I like, but to help edit and better understand what would actually work in my wardrobe. When hemming and hawing over an item, I always go back to my board and ask – does this item fit in here? Would this mythical super fashionable woman on this board buy this item and how would it work in her wardrobe? Going through this process has allowed me to “neg” quite a few items that probably in the past, would have made it into my closet, and sat there unused. My board has also pushed me to include a few items that I wouldn’t in the past – by visually seeing how it might be used in my closet.

So now that I’ve shared my own tip…how about some of yours? What have been some of the steps you’ve gone through in defining your own style – what works, and what doesn’t? Do you have a “board”?

PS: An inspiration board can be anything – photos on your hard drive, images printed out, etc. I might also suggest a personal Pinterest, or Tumblr, dedicated – easy to maintain and you can access them from anywhere. Have fun!

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  • Prêt-à-Porter
    January 31, 2014 at 8:00 am

    That’s how I did it too, eons ago before blogs and street style. Though be careful about wardrobing that mythical woman…she doesn’t exist because she’s you. I have a mythical Sicilan Helmut Newton widow in the depths of my closet. ;P Lately I’ve been thinking about worth it vs. not worth it in terms of what I realistically do and (rarely/don’t) wear.

    • Tabitha
      January 31, 2014 at 8:35 am

      Ha! I used to have her in my younger days, she’s a stunner!

    • Katherine
      February 1, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Hi, I love your description of that Helmut Newton widow! I can totally picture her (with the face of Monica Bellucci too).

  • Ella Pretty Blog
    January 31, 2014 at 8:14 am

    I think inspiration boards are always a good idea – I’ve made ones for beauty, decor and style in the past. It really helps you focus on what draws you to an outfit.

    Funnily, one of the biggest things that helped me define my personal style was blogging my outfits. Taking outfit pictures helped me figure out worked and what didn’t.

    Oh – and I also adore instagram “OOTD” posts for getting outfit inspiration – love seeing wearable fashion rather than over-styled outfits that could be impractical for everyday life.

    MY BLOG: ♥♥♥ Ella Pretty ♥♥♥

    • Katherine
      February 1, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Instagram outfits are some of my favorite as well – plus you can go back and easily see an overview of someone whose style you admire!

  • Tabitha
    January 31, 2014 at 8:34 am

    This is why I love Pinterest, my style board there really does keep me on the straight and narrow.

    • Katherine
      February 1, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      Do you have a Pinterest Tabitha? I’d love to see your board!

  • Amy
    January 31, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Yes! This! And I was so slow getting on the Pinterest, but then I realized that a *secret* board was the best place to keep photos of outfits and styles that I think equate to my personal-style vision. My only difficulty is the “professional” attire that a mid-western lawyer with ever-changing climate issues can assume and still remain true to my aspirational style goals. (JCrew pencil skirts: I would be nothing without you.) Thank you for putting this out there.

    • Katherine
      February 1, 2014 at 2:00 pm

      I agree, I’m not a sharer on Pinterest at all but I love the idea of a secret board. Stay warm!

  • Graceful Shopper
    January 31, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Fascinating post, especially coming from someone who I see as having a more defined sense of style than most! (Just look at your previous outfit posts and you’ll see trends). For me I found myself donating bags of clothes every season…all trendy or bright colours or anything I bought to shift my comfort zone. I realized I didn’t need all this stuff to look good and I had a comfort for a reason, so I would look at photos of myself with my kids in natural states and noticed I looked and felt best in certain outfits. They recently over the past few years became my uniform. Mini skirts, tights, boots in winter, straight fit jeans and flats in spring, maxi skirts and dresses in summer. Simple tops with no pattern. Neutrals with red sometimes but mainly black, grey, white, beige. I jazz it up with jewelry, bags and hair.

    • Katherine
      February 1, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      Love the idea of looking at photos of you in your natural state and seeing what you feel best in -! Thank you for sharing.

  • Girlie Blogger
    January 31, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    No I do not have board. I’m probably too old for boards. But now that you wrote about boards, and how they’ve helped you, I think I will start a board now.

    I, too, had problems defining a personal style. Just when I got the hang of it, my body changed because of pregnancy. What worked before doesn’t anymore :O( Oh well.

    Thanks for the post anyway. I think it helps many other women. Let’s hope their bodies bounce back better than mine did during pregnancies.

    • Katherine
      February 1, 2014 at 2:01 pm

      Thank you for sharing your story – I hope you will be back in no time 🙂

  • Mel
    February 1, 2014 at 1:38 am

    Dear Katherine,

    I am very much into minimalism since I can remember myself, but I always envied clothes & shoes looking good on others, then bought them for myself and ending up having closets full of unused stuff! With the money I have spend over the years I could have easily bought a small apartment! (seriously!)

    The ”solution” of every season was either to give stuff away to cousins and friends, sell it to consignment shops, or filling boxes with ”maybe in the future” stuff!

    After becoming a mommy 16 months ago and by setting new priorities in life, I also changed my way of spending my money. Defining your own style is the most important to avoid unnecessary purchases.

    ”Back to my style roots! – I said to myself one day – …enough with this extreme consumerism…this doesn’t make me happier…”

    I reduced the color palette that flatters my complexion to five colors, and so it is much easier to combine everything. Also important: finding the style that flatters your body shape and makes you feel comfortable in your clothes. For me: think of Audrey Hepburn style, that is what is most appealing to me. Simple clear forms and lines, neutral colors, quality over quantity.
    I avoid following trends, try to be always well groomed and neat, and try to have as less as possible. I want every possession to serve a purpose and to give me joy. That’s what adds value in life, that’s life quality.

    And speaking about stuff….just yesterday I stumbled over a hilarious clip about stuff that I want to share with you. Enjoy! :


    • Pret a Porter P
      February 1, 2014 at 3:15 am

      that clip is hilarious!

      • Katherine
        February 1, 2014 at 2:09 pm

        Yes it is!

    • Katherine
      February 1, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Dear Mel, thank you for such a lovely comment and for sharing your individual story! I would love to hear about the five colors in your palette and you are right about it then being so much easier to combine everything. Also Audrey is a great person to emulate 🙂

      I loved the video – I hope you don’t mind if I might share it on the blog!

      • Anonymous
        February 1, 2014 at 11:50 pm

        Hello again Katherine,…I will love to see this video on your blog!! After all it’s not mine… 😉

        My favorite colors are: Black, White, Navy Blue, Greige ( a good example is the following link that shows how big the color palette of this hue is: ) —->So beautiful colors to buy for cashmere sweaters—- and Khaki-Green.
        I have very light skin ( my foundation is always the lowest color, currently Armani Maestro nr.2) and my hair is very light brown with a reddish hint. I do believe in good skin, barely there make-up, lipstick that flatters you, and nice hair!
        After decluttering my closet I decided that these particular colors work good for me!

        This does not mean that I don’t have a beautiful Chanel-like long jacket in pink (!), or a golden sequined skirt from Escada that I combine with a simple white shirt ( it was THE hit on a wedding ) or a perfect brown biker jacket….or….But 95% of my wardrobe consists the colors mentioned above.

        How many fashion mistakes in the past just could have been avoided if I knew myself better?!.. But hey!….that is evolution of our style, isn’t it? And I am sure we all have gone through such things more or less. Learning from mistakes is the best way not to make them again!! Hehehe!

        Wishing you a nice Sunday,


        • Katherine
          February 2, 2014 at 1:15 pm

          Your palette with your coloring sounds beautiful! I love Greige and remember I first learned what that color was when I was researching a Balenciaga bag many years ago, lol. Thank you for sharing more details behind your palette and wishing you a great Sunday as well!

    • Shirling Vanessatime
      February 7, 2014 at 6:08 am

      Lol 😀

  • Mel
    February 1, 2014 at 1:38 am

    PS: happy February! 🙂

  • Ammu
    February 1, 2014 at 1:49 am

    I suspect you will recognise your personal style if you go over your outfit photos on this blog 🙂
    Sticking to a uniform has helped me hugely, as has developing expensive tastes, which means I can’t make impulsive purchases. I do keep a stash of visually inspiring images but I tend to find my own wardrobe more inspiring these days, in terms of spurring on future purchases.

    • Katherine
      February 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      Uniforms are very helpful…and love that you are finding your own wardrobe the most inspiring! Your location must be an inspiration in itself as well…with all the beautiful fabrics available.

  • Bella
    February 2, 2014 at 8:40 am

    I appreciate your post. I, too, am wishy washy when it comes to defining my style. Theres a part of me that gravitates toward high fashion. I love beautiful clothes that I know don’t fit my lifestyle (stay at home mom!) and have bought many things that I’ve never had the opportunity to wear. Your advice on having a board that have clothes that I “would actually wear” is right on point! Thanks for that!

    • Katherine
      February 2, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      Best of luck with your board!

  • Marlene
    February 3, 2014 at 6:55 am

    I actually have to chuckle when I think about the “history” of my personal style. I’ve come one full circle. I used to wear a best jacket I could get my hands on, a t-shirt and my favorite jeans. 22 years later, it’s still the same combination that I feel most comfortable with. BTW, that clip is hilarious!! So true.

  • Anonymous
    February 5, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I have a special folder on my computer, called “style” in which i collect all the pictures i stumble upon that i find inspiring for me. I have it since 2007! it was a pre blog era. i have tones of pictures from it might be a street style outfit, a piece of furniture etc. amazing thing is that i sometime browse the whole thing and i seldom cancel anything because I still like everything. I think i know my style well than.

  • Shirling Vanessatime
    February 7, 2014 at 6:19 am

    I dress depend on my mood but since I am working in creative field mostly I dress in jeans and tops almost everyday…sound boring 🙂 I keep the pictures that I love in my pinterest, do you have one Kat? I would love to see it if you have one.

    • Katherine
      February 7, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      I don’t have one right now 🙂 Maybe one day!

  • Tulipheadkc
    February 10, 2014 at 12:48 am

    I’ve kept style folders on my computer and actual folders filled with magazine pages for most of my life but somehow it never completely translated into the purchases I made and outfits I wore. In 2011 I had something of a style epiphany. I was in Venice during Carnevale. Not only was I exhausted and slightly hungover from 3 weeks of travel, but also damp because it was raining and too crowded for an umbrella. Please don’t misunderstand- wet & crowded Venice is still Venice and worth the discomfort for the sheer joy of being there. As I roamed the streets I found myself in front of the Hermes boutique and saw the “perfect outfit.” It was exactly the opposite of what I was wearing seasonally and aesthetically. I took a quick photo, not even full length, but have referred to it many times. I’ve thought about the woman that would wear that outfit; imagined what else is in her suitcase & closet. After searching for the shirt the mannequin was wearing online I realized it’s not the actual pieces that were important but the reaction they elicited. I’m still not that woman but getting happier in my choices every year. At least I’ve stopped dressing like a 14 year old boy (most of the time.)

    Thanks for taking the time to post about your style evolution and travel!


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  • Summer
    April 17, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Hi, I was wondering who was wearing the silk cami paired with the white pants and pointed heels?

    • Katherine
      April 18, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      I believe that is Miranda Kerr