10 Tips to Evolve Into Your Signature Style

Jul 12, 2017

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Our signature style is quite personal as it reveals to the world multiple layers of information about who we are, what we value, what frustrates us, what we are confident about, and I believe what we understand about ourselves physically.

Over the past two years, my attention to my own personal signature style has shifted as evident by fewer posts on this topic. But while fewer posts have been created, it hasn’t been because I wasn’t interested in the topic. Initially, I wasn’t sure what it meant. Lately, as I was contemplating my summer essentials (and shared a few ideas I was drawn to here), I have come to understand that my signature style has been evolving, and it needed time to find its bearings due in some part to how much my life has shifted. This, I have found, to be something to celebrate.

Part of the reason my attention has shifted from my clothing was that I have been trying to tap into and cultivate other details of my life and ensure they were indicative of my truest self: a daily routine I enjoyed but enabled me to be productive and healthy in my new hometown, caring for my skin and hair in a far drier environment than I have ever lived before (great shifts have occurred in both of these areas), diving head-first into eating well and becoming more confident in the kitchen (as you can see here, far more recipes (34!) have been posted in the past 24 months) as I now have endless food options at my fingertips and investing in personal relationships even more deeply as I continue to strive for a balance between work and play.

Over the past weekend, I went through my closet for the second time in the past two years. What occurred this time was a simpler purge, but it was indeed a purge. However, the decisions were simpler, and in less than an hour I had my closet reorganized with 20-30 fewer clothing items and two fewer pairs of shoes. And none of the items pained me to let go. Why was this so? I certainly hadn’t lost weight. In fact, the five to ten pounds I have been wanting to let go for two years now has shifted into muscle as I workout far more than I ever had upon moving to Bend, and while I eat healthily, I don’t deprive myself.

Truthfully, I have begun to feel more comfortable in my own skin, bien dans sa peau or translated “well in one’s skin”. No, I am not going to fit into size four jeans at the moment as I once had and cheered about; however, now I find myself cheering for more substantive details throughout my days even though I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to do a happy dance around the house in size 4 anything, don’t get me wrong. But it would. E a secondary effect caused by even better life changes and focuses. Do I want to remain svelte? Absolutely. But I also want to enjoy my days, the people I dine with and the time in the kitchen or the restaurants that offer such bountiful seasonal dishes. My body is stronger, my mind is clearer, as well I am always trying to improve the quality of food I eat on a daily basis which is why I recently purchased a vegetable spiralizer (for fewer than $20). This recipe was recently made for me by a dear friend’s daughter, and she immediately sold me on the idea of welcoming a new gadget into my kitchen.

But back to the style quotient. Feeling good in one’s clothes begins with feeling good in one’s skin. I have had months in the past which due to an excessively busy schedule and stress hinderd good eating habits (turning down a donut from a thoughtful colleague in the middle of an exhaustive week at work when all you want to do is be on the weekend already is hard). And in these times after enjoying the temporary sugar high, I immediately feel uncomfortable in my skin. It truly does come down to willpower, and the fact is, willpower is finite. When we run low on energy, we run low on willpower and we tend to make choices we normally wouldn’t have made if our willpower was recharged and rested.

But the truth is I love style.  I love communicating with my clothing. I respect the power of a well-chosen ensemble, no matter how seemingly simple it appears. Often in such a case, great mastery is revealing itself.

And while I don’t believe we should live our lives so we can fit into our favorite clothes; I do believe, at least what I have found during these past 24 months to be what’s best for me, that if you are living well, the clothes you wear exhibit this fact of your life.

So how can each of us live well thus enabling us each to make savvy sartorial decisions as we curate our signature style, a signature style we love?

First, get real with yourself. Be honest. So long as you hold on to clothes you will never wear, whether they fit or not, you are hindering yourself from true growth. Not only growth with regards to your signature style, but the life you are living and want to live. Step into your closet and begin to pull everything out (I share a detailed approach to organizing your clothing closet here).

As I made my list of items I needed to add or update, I found the list to be rather short which was greatly satisfying but quite a change from past clean-outs, and I pondered as to the reason why.

Aha! Over time, I had indeed welcomed into my closet items that were highly versatile, well made and classic in design as to be able to span many years – the simply luxurious approach! But it indeed took time. Cultivating such a wardrobe that is highly versatile and interchangeable, as well as, and most importantly, tailored to me individually, takes time. And regular attention: I noticed my favorite nude pointed toe pumps needed an update after four years of wear and tear (I love and wear them constantly to work – am looking at these as the replacement), and as such this was one item that needed to be replaced.

Let’s talk about 10 ways you can allow your signature style to evolve as you grow and settle into a life you love.

1. Forget the size

In one brand I am a medium and another for the same type of item, I am a small. As this is the case, especially if you are ordering on-line, order at least two different sizes, have them ship it to you, try it on in your own home, and ship back (you can usually do this for free) the size that didn’t work. I have been hesitant to do this only because I don’t want to pay upfront for two items, but in the long wrong, it’s not an issue as a full refund is given, and you are assured the item that fits you the best.

2. Wear what you love

I love v-neck tops. Crewnecks do no favors for someone like myself who has broad shoulders (if I could count on my fingers how many times strangers have asked if I am a swimmer or was one in the past, I would need 10 hands at least! P.S. I am not a swimmer). I have unconsciously forgotten this fact from time to time when I have purchased sweaters. Those sweaters are no longer in my closet, and v-necks are my must-have choice.

Similarly with denim. I love it. My life in Bend makes it easy to wear it all the time; however, I always want to dress it up or at least have that option. So I purchase well and have tops and layers that work well for more casual and semi-professional outings (blazers, camisoles, silk blouses, heels, etc.)

3. Invest in classic items and make them your own

Fashion trends and seasonal events can attempt to lure us away from what we know works well year after year, but classic works for a reason. For example, I have a classic short dark denim jacket that I layer over everything in the summer. The dress, jumpsuit or top I layer it over may change, but that jacket has been with me for at least four or five years. It never goes out of style (you can see it here).

3. Understand which silhouettes are your friend

Knowing your shape and then dressing it well will reduce the amount of decisions to make when perusing a clothing boutique in person or on-line. As I shared in 2012, there are 10 Style Commandments that will keep you dressing well for your body and happy in what you choose.

4. Stock up on Spanx

Some love, others not so much the power of Spanx, but as someone who enjoys the pencil skirt silhouette as well as the body-con midi dress, Spanx eases my mind and allow me to wear what I love. And that is ultimately what Spanx or any similar undergarment that smooths your shapes should do, enable you to wear what you love and feel good doing so. The Thinstincts mid-thigh shorts are what I am currently using as they are made for long days and are very breathable.

5. Invest in good grooming (skin, body, hair)

As I mentioned above, I have been focusing heavily on my hair and skin these past two years as I adjusted to my new environment, and while I never neglected them before, far from it, having skin that glows and hair that shines and is style in such a way that works well with your lifestyle and facial structure elevates the entire wardrobe and thus the woman pulling it all together.

I find that a woman, or a man, who is well-groomed (not overly so) who is merely wearing a simple classic item or two, finished with well made shoes and a handbag that works and complements but doesn’t brag is the most attractive signature style. And it is the person’s overall health, glow and appearance in the clothes that completes the look.

6. Well-Made Accessories

From the handbag, to your shoes, choose well and choose less. The cost per wear model certainly comes into play as you approach shopping for these items.

7. Repeated Use – Do It

Upon finding these medium-size hoop earrings and these boyfriend jeans, I find myself wearing the earrings with nearly everything and the jeans more than a few times a week. They work. They are versatile and can be dressed up or down.

8. Slow and Steady

Gradually add the items you need as you find what you love. Have patience and don’t feel you have to look “perfect” each time you pull an outfit together. What makes it ideal is the woman who wears it. What is your mood, are you enthusiastic about what you are doing? Are you happy with the life you are living? Clothing is fun, but it is an accessory to the life we are building for ourselves. We should recognize and respect its power, because it truly is powerful for good progress in our lives if we know how to use it effectively, but choose to see building your signature style as a journey, just as life is. And as you toss out the bright boisterous colors and replace them with neutrals, perhaps it’s because you no longer need your clothes to do the talking and the woman is finally ready to step into her own without hesitation.

9. Limit Bargain Hunting

As stylist Tiffani Rogers shared in her post about Outlet Shops, there is a reason items cost so little at outlet malls. Since you are purchasing fewer items, remind yourself that the material as well as the skill used to craft the item are worth investing in. Return to brands that offer quality, and don’t feel you have to explore other labels to mix it up. If you have favorite brands that you love (for me: Theory, Equipment, Le Frame, just to name a few – shop TSLL Shop for my favorite essential items), return to them as needed. However, this doesn’t include consignment. Consignment is the perfect addition to your shopping repertoire as it offers brands that will last.

10. Keep It Simple

#7 plays beautifully into the final point. Make your wardrobe a simple affair you tend to each day. As many beautiful, unique items that are available to purchase, I have learned by experience, they don’t need to be in our closets to appreciate them. Instead, purchase the white button up shirt, make sure your hair is coiffed as you like it, love your skin and let it shine with just enough makeup to look effortlessly stunning, pull on the denim jeans or tailored pants that create a beautiful silhouette, select shoes you love, slip your favorite simple earrings into your ear lobes and sling your handbag made by a designer who doesn’t need to put their label everywhere on the outside onto your arm. Voilà!

When you step into a style that works for you, the feeling is electrifying, and when you feel good in your skin, it doesn’t matter what clothes you are wearing, you simply feel good. That is the goal.

So today, ask yourself how your closet is working for you. How many times do you walk inside or open the closet door and see a multitude of items but only one or two viable options? Paradoxically, the trick is to eliminate, reduce the number of items and add items just enough items that you are excited to wear and can work with with at least two different items already in your closet. When this is achieved, all you will need to do is maintain. Assess one or two times a year, make your list and little by little evolve ever closer to the signature style that best aligns with who you are and whom you wish to become.

“Clothes aren’t going to change the world. The women who wear them will.” —Anne Klein


~View more Signature Style posts here.


22 thoughts on “10 Tips to Evolve Into Your Signature Style

  1. Shannon, Thank you for your wonderful ideas! I agree with all your points, especially #9. I am 55 and have bought one quality every item every few years and now have a stunning wardrobe. I wear my pashmina Hermes scarf almost every day; my black Burberry every time it rains; my red Chanel wallet on a chain, which takes jeans and t shirt to a whole new level. I think in the long run I have saved money because I do not buy purses and scarves every year. For footwear I have my 10 year old waterproof Stuart Weitzman boots that travel well. Most seasons I do not even need to shop. Although I do have another quality item of my wish list since I read Ines de la Fressange: a reversible Hermes belt…

  2. This is so timely, Shannon. Recently I’ve felt the need to downsize my closet and the phrase I’ve used to inspire me is “curated.” More thoughtful decisions, with purchases of quality items that truly reflect who I’m becoming. It could be because I’m in my early 50s, but I’ve definitely felt a shift coming and am thankful for this response.

    When you said it didn’t pain you to let anything go, I also feel that and am grateful for the progress it allows. Keep up the great work – I always read your blog posts over a cup of tea to enjoy them even more!

  3. Thank you Shannon for a great blog post. I am in my mid fifties and I too have to share my closet evolution. I love my simple Dooney and Bourke bag. I love my silk camisole and my light gray blazer. When I get dressed in the morning, I don’t have to think because I know I have items that I love to wear. My friend and I went shopping one day. We decided to come back in about an hour to meet for lunch. She came back with an armful of colorful fun, cute clothes and I came back with a couple of pieces that were solid in colored and could be considered boring! As a studied my selection, I realized my pieces were helping me get closer to my capsule wardrobe.
    I took a deep breath and realized how happy I was with the simplicity in my hands and I let go of being in the current hype of the latest thing. I felt a sense of calm wash over me, smiled and felt liberated! This is a journey and the building of my unique style continues to take time and to understand what I want to cultivate in my life.

    1. Lynette, Thank you for sharing your experience. It truly is a journey, and the ease and confidence you feel is precisely one of the most rewarding benefits of cultivating one’s true signature style. 🙂

  4. Shannon, I love this post, as well as the experiences shared by the readers! I am struggling with re-making my wardrobe and fighting the urge to buy things that may be of the moment, instead of enduring classics. I am truly a classics girl at heart, but tend to make impulsive buys that don’t readily translate into a cohesive wardrobe. I wondered if you could share your thoughts as to Ann Taylor and Loft as quality and simplicity of style goes? Do their clothes hold up well through the years? Related to eating healthful foods, are you planning to do anymore capsule menu plans? I’ve enjoyed the previous ones, as well as your wonderful recipes in the menu section of your blog! Thanks for your continuing supply of inspiration!!

    1. Hi Sheri – I used to do this, too – buy rather impulsively and end up with a closet that was “busy” and made me feel I had nothing to wear. To deal with this problem, I used Pinterest to help me save looks that I loved and through that, saw patterns in style, color and texture. This guided future buying decisions and my style evolution.

      Not to say that I still don’t do the occasional impulse buy, but now, I ask myself “Do you truly love this?” and “Does this fit the person you want to be?” before I buy. And I ask myself if I’d rather have the item or the money in my hands. Actually, this works well, because I end up having more money to purchase higher-quality items, vs. a closet of fun things that end up taking up space and don’t serve me. It’s an ongoing learning process!

      1. Thanks for sharing your tips and experiences, Deanne! I do want to get to the point of having higher quality items vs. the busy closet full of “fun things” that caught my eye at the moment. Hopefully, I can learn restraint and the beauty of buying needed items, fewer at a time, in order to have lasting classics that will last a lot longer, earning their place in my wardrobe!
        I like the use of Pinterest and do collect ideas that are appealing. Will continue to refine my efforts!

    2. Sheri, Great questions and I have a feeling you are not alone regarding your experience with the impulse purchases. We are drawn to beauty, that is not bad, but I think simply knowing as you do is a huge step toward making the best decisions for your wardrobe. To answer your questions about Ann Taylor and Loft. I recommend items from both each year. While these items will not last a lifetime, they will last for a good 3-4 years. For their price point (medium-upperlow), you do receive a decent item, but it isn’t top quality. I think we all have to purchase the best quality our budgets allow and this would be a good purchase for its price point. To answer your question about a summer capsule menu (which is what I think you were wondering about 🙂 ) I am working on it now, and while it won’t be out at the beginning of summer, it is coming at some point this summer. 🙂 Thank you for your interest and for stopping by. I do hope you are having a lovely summer.

      1. Many thanks for your thorough and helpful response! Enjoy your summer, Shannon, and I look forward to reading more of your insights in the days ahead!!

  5. Great post Shannon. For me patience has been the key in creating my wardrobe. So satisfying to find a great addition to my wardrobe that will stand the test of time. I would love your picks from the Nordstrom Anniversary sale. Will you be posting your take on the sale?

  6. Bravo, Shannon! A well-written post on the true essence of style. In order to evolve one’s signature style they must know thy self. Keep up the great work, xo

  7. Great post Shannon! I have been mulling over rebuilding my closet for so long, I’m definatley drawn to a classic style, with a bit of trend here and there, this post resonated with me for sure and I’m looking forward to starting the process!!

    1. Sometimes, at least for me, it took time to really be energized as I had to process that my style had indeed evolved and embracing what it had evolved into needed clarity, which takes time. Enjoy the journey!

  8. I love the posts on capsule wardrobes and capsule menus! It would be great if you could do some articles on how to identify quality clothing. I’d also be excited to see a year full of monthly capsule menus using seasonal produce and recipes (especially vegetarian…). Thank you for all your posts. Cheers!

  9. Love this post!! My style is all over the place at the moment so I really valued it!! I also loooooooooved this passage from your newsletter “In all of this is a worthwhile lesson, if you have an idea, if you have a vision, if you have a dream, a goal, bringing it to life will take time. I have shared this before on the blog many years ago, but it often feels at times that the universe is asking us if we truly want something. Not necessarily to test us, not necessarily doubting we can handle it, but simply to ensure we might fully be able to appreciate the beautiful gift and opportunity it may provide when what we say we want so badly arrives. A preparing of the mind in many ways perhaps.”

    I needed to read this!! I’m struggling to write my first book & im feeling far more exposed than I expected. Thank you xx

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