“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” – Orson Welles
Personal style is deliberate and intentional. When determining your personal style, consider the following:
- Your identity – Your identity is intersectional and it cannot be fragmented, at least it should not be. Your style should reflect the fullness of your personhood, including the fluidity of your identity. For instance, you may be a feminine-presenting tomboy lawyer, or a masculine-presenting marketing exec father of two. When you decide what items will occupy your closet, consider all facets of yourself. My closet has business suits, button downs, silk blouses, G Star Raw and Supra sneakers, Bruno Magli loafers and oxfords, bow ties, skinny jeans that sit slightly below the waist (from men’s and women’s shops), and everything in-between. My identity is complex, and my wardrobe reflects that.
- The message you want to convey – Your outward expression of your identity and your inward feelings about yourself do not always align, and your style likely reflects that. Similarly, your style may reflect code-switching. On the weekends, your tattoos are revealed in all of their artistic glory, but during the week while at your office job, your tattoos nestle beneath cotton and twill fabric. During the week, your sneaker obsession is stifled, only to breath a little, and quite conservatively during casual Fridays. The message you want to convey could be fierce hair stylist, trendy graphic designer, conservative accountant, capable and competent attorney, or expressive dancer. Your style should be a manifestation of the message you want to convey.
- The event, environment, or activity – Remembering that your style is deliberate and fluid, your style presentation should also take into account the event, environment, or activity in which you are participating. Perfect example: my neighbor stopped me as we were walking to our respective cars and asked me whether she was dressed appropriately for a child’s funeral. After gathering myself from the thought of mourning the loss of a child, I quickly assessed her outfit: black dress with some sort of gold design detailing, tight and off of one shoulder, with matching platform sandals. I told her she looked amazing (because she did), but inappropriately dressed for the occasion. She looked like she was going to get drinks with her girls before turning up at the club. I asked whether she had a black blazer and some simple black heels. She had the blazer and sent her daughter to retrieve it, but she was not changing her shoes. The lesson here: your style should reflect your identity, but the way you present your style should also reflect the occasion.
- Your budget – Your personal style should operate within the boundaries of your budget. There is absolutely no need to live beyond your means, driving yourself further into debt because you want to keep up with your Instagram heroes. Rather than spend an obscene amount of money on shoes or clothing that you know you cannot afford, realize that you can look amazing and very well put together in $70 pants, the same as you can in a $400 pair.
- Comfort – I still celebrate the day that I decided that heels were the bane of my existence and that I would not wear them anymore, not to the club and not to the office. I am much more comfortable in a pair of penny loafers or oxfords than in heels. Once I allowed myself to be comfortable in my attire, I became more confident in my look. I always knew that I was a pretty woman, intelligent, and all those other things, but it was not until I stopped trying to fit within the box that society, my profession, and my family tried to put me in, that I really found my voice and my confidence.
Confidence – You should feel so confident in your look that you want to get your own number. Your personal style should make you feel like you are the baddest person in the room, like you’re Drake at King of Diamonds or like you’re Jerome from Martin. Most importantly, your style should make you feel confident in yourself.