Let’s start with some clarification: What do we mean by “personal style?” Your style is the unique way you present yourself. It covers a wide range of expressions, from the way you dress, to how you style your hair, to the way you make art.

Your style is based on your aesthetic choices. It’s your voice. It’s how you want to be seen by the world.

We spoke with several business leaders to determine how we can define our styles, particularly when it comes to our wardrobe. But first, let’s talk about why personal style is essential in the first place.

Why Clothes Matter

Whether or not we’re fashion-driven, understanding what our clothes say about us and what we want them to say about us is essential.

“Clothes are a tool. They’re not the goal,” says Scott Annan, CEO of Mycube Safe. “Putting together a wardrobe with a consistent style develops your sense of self. When shopping or putting outfits together, you better understand your likes and dislikes. You might love keeping up with current trends, or you might prefer a style that doesn’t fit the popular mold. Either way, designing a stylized wardrobe is a way to show up for yourself with integrity.”

Your outfit choices can be empowering. They can also help you achieve your goals.

Vimla Black Gupta, CEO of Ourself states, “Clothes can be practical tools. For example, if you’re training for a marathon, you’re going to invest in workout apparel that works for your body. You’re going to select shoes that support the way you run and clothes that make you comfortable. Clothes can also be used as visual displays of confidence and ability. If you’re working toward a promotion, you’ll dress according to the company’s values and brand while you’re at work. Clothes aren’t everything, but they can help us build the life we desire.”

Now, how do we select our wardrobe? How do we choose clothes that align with our style and support our goals? 

Start With Your Closet

Tan France, a fashion designer and television personality on the show Queer Eye, holds a MasterClass to help viewers define their style. He suggests starting by analyzing your closet.

Dr. Michael Green, Chief Medical Officer, Winona claims, “If you don’t know where to begin when figuring out your style, take a look at the clothes and accessories you already have. Separate the pieces into a toss and keep the pile. Toss the clothes that no longer fit, that you never wear, or that you don’t feel comfortable wearing. Then, select the pieces that make you happy. Notice if they have anything in common. They might belong in a similar color scheme or have similar textures and patterns. These similarities will serve as the launching point of your style.”

After sifting through our current wardrobe, France recommends looking for style inspiration.

Find Your Inspiration

You have a wide range of access to fashion icons and style tips. Look at the people around you, and make the most of your access to social media. These don’t have to be moments of comparison. Let them be opportunities that inspire.

“Notice what you like in someone’s outfit or in the way they style their hair,” suggests Jae Pak, Founder, Jae Pak MD. “You’ll recognize trends in your preferences. You might be able to pinpoint a particular fashion style you want to explore. Take the elements that speak to you. You don’t have to emulate everything about someone else’s style. They are your starting points for creative expression. Try something that interests you, and if it works, integrate it to your style; if it doesn’t work, simply let it go, and try something new.”

If you want to get crafty with it, some recommend creating a mood board based on your style inspirations.

Ann McFerran, CEO of Glamnetic states, “The process of constructing your style can be just as artistic as the completed wardrobe. Use a crafting method that works for you. You might set up a physical mood board where you paste pictures of your style icons or write down fashion tips and quotes that inspired you. There are also apps such as Pinterest where you can organize images into categories. When you’re out shopping, these boards are easily accessible.”

Once you’ve found your inspiration, it’s time to make some purchases. 

Get the Basics

Even with a clear idea of the style you want, the process of trying on and buying clothes can be overwhelming. You might feel you can’t find the specific clothing you want, or you might have a budget to keep in mind. So, what pieces do you get first?

Stephanie Watson, a writer for HowStuffWorks, claims that “every spectacular wardrobe has to start with a few basic pieces.” France refers to this as a “capsule wardrobe.”

“A capsule wardrobe consists of pieces in neutral colors that you can easily mix and match to create new looks,” says Rachel Reid, CEO of Subtl Beauty. “These might include T-shirts or blouses, jeans, a blazer or coat, a go-to bag, and a dress or a pantsuit. All of your basics have to have some things in common: they must fit well and be in good condition. If you’re lacking any of these items when updating your wardrobe, start there.”

Mark Sider, CEO, Co-Founder of Greater Than agrees. “When you have your basic items, shopping is less stressful. You don’t have to worry about not having the clothes you need to create appropriate outfits for work and everyday life. You can use these basics for casual and more formal events by layering and accessorizing. Once your foundation is in place, you can feel free to experiment. You can find your statement pieces through pops of color and bold accessories and prints.”

The final and possibly most important tip for defining your style? It’s staying true to who you are and trusting your instincts.

Trust Your Instincts

Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a fashion guru or keep up with the latest trends to have a strong sense of style.

“Fashion is always evolving,” says Caleb Ulffers, CEO of Haven Athletic. “If you enjoy the fashion world, then model your style based on it. You might find inspiration in the top brands and their new releases or vintage trends and past icons. If you’re not particularly interested in this industry, there is no need to force yourself to be. You are free to choose items that make you comfortable and confident. Finding your style should be an enjoyable experience. Trust and do what feels right to you.”

At the same time, we can use some help and encouragement.

Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce, Sunshine 79 states, “At one point or another, all of us have felt stuck and uninspired when it comes to our style choices. We may have lost sight of why the style was important, and we selected easy-to-wear clothes that didn’t serve us to their highest potential. For some of us, these loops began with negative shopping experiences. For others, they began with the discouragement that comes from comparison. But the beautiful thing about style is that it’s not about competing. It’s about showing your authentic self to others. If you feel stuck and uninspired when it comes to your wardrobe, ask for help from someone you trust. They can help you choose which items in your current wardrobe you no longer need and give you ideas for new purchases or new outfits.”

We hope this list has given you pointers for defining your style.

If you’re still feeling a little hesitant when it comes to style, here are some closing thoughts by Haim Medine, Creative Director, Mark Henry

“You do not have to reinvent yourself,” says Haim Medine. “Finding your style doesn’t mean molding yourself to a brand that doesn’t feel like you. So many of us have felt intimidated by the words ‘fashion’ and ‘style’ because we never felt like the target market for those industries. But the truth is, style is not reserved for any group. It belongs to everyone, and each person has a unique take on what style means to them. Buying clothes and putting outfits together doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience. It’s just one more way you get to show the world who you are.”