How to create a personal style

There are certain things that no-one can take away from you…learning, self-respect, attitude…and style!

Forget about fads – knickerbockers, bubble gum jeans, puffball skirts, crop tops.  There’s something way cooler, sexier and possibly cheaper than conformity.   It’s personal style and no one can flaunt it like you!

Jackie O’Fee, owner of Auckland-based Signature Style sums up style versus fashion.

“The reality is that every trend doesn’t suit every body…and yes, I mean that to be two words. Your shape is your own and we’re all built differently. True style is knowing what works for you, and then selecting the trends that suit you rather than letting them dictate what to wear.”

At a recent business conference, a presenter commented that the interviewer makes their mind up about a person within the first three minutes of an interview, spending the remaining time seeking pathways that make them right.  With limited time to communicate who we are, how we present ourselves at that first meeting can create unconscious bias about who we are.

Great personal style reflects our uniqueness and highlights our strengths. With the proliferation of online stores and import brands, the opportunities for style statement are endless and accessible to most budgets.

Finding your personal style starts with choosing complimentary colours, considering the context of your lifestyle and the characteristics of your body shape, so you can shop with ease and confidence.

Complimentary colours

Know your colours and stick to them.

Jot down your favourite colours.  Which do you feel good in? To open up your choices, consider which colours go together or would work well with a different accent colour.  I love green and pink, lemon and brown, brown and dark pink/nude and black with brown.

Knowing what you look best in is so helpful when building a wardrobe.  At Signature Style, one of O’Fee’s services is a professional colour analysis. “The colours that never go out of style are the colours that look best on you! You’ll always be able to find something in your colours in the shops.”

For a little self-help in defining whether you’re ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ and how to start creating a colour palette, Hungry Wardrobe has a few tips.

Do certain colours stay in fashion?  According to O’Fee, there’s navy, taupe and, of course, black and it’s variants.  “We’ve had navy hanging around now for about five years (hooray!) and there’s usually a version of taupe out there too. You can always find black (but it’s a bit boring – seriously), grey and cream.”

Context of your lifestyle

Like your life, aspects of your personal style will change over time.  To help shape your personal style, you could start with reflecting on your key weekly activities and the percentage of time you spend on each.  For example, you may spend time at work, caring for young children, doing the school run (I like the ‘athleisure’ options), nights out with friends, corporate functions, BBQ’s, etc. Knowing the current percentage mix in your life will help to prioritise spending and choose style options to support you as you transition through these roles.

Physical characteristics

Consider your personal characteristics and physical strengths to help you make fabric and fit choices that draw the eye to your best features.

  • Many style experts agree to accentuate just one feature with your clothing. You may be tempted to go for more (lucky you), but one is the most striking.  Retain a little mystery…and mix it up!
  • Consider your body shape and both what you want to cover up and reveal in the styles you buy. Where do you want the hemline to fall?  As O’Fee says, “Ladies who are short-waisted and busty are likely to feel ‘all boobs’ in a leather biker jacket.  If there’s more weight around the hips and thighs with a bit of a tummy, a long-line boyfriend blazer isn’t the best choice.”  Focus on where you want the eye to fall and make clothing choices that draw attention to these areas.
  • Consider your personality. Do you love the vivaciousness of florals or feel more comfortable in muted patterns?  Are you sensual and love luxurious fabrics like chiffon or cashmere?  Perhaps you want a mix of patterns to reflect different moods or settings.  Having an overall theme that you enjoy will help guide your choices on patterns and textures and how much you spend on staple items.

Start shopping

Once you’ve reflected on colours, your lifestyle and characteristics of your body-shape, you’re ready to shop for ideas!  Online is an ideal place to start – check out Instagram, Pinterest and designers’ websites for ideas.

The Recycle Boutique, H&M and Dressmart are ideal for budget-conscious options, as is Louvisa for accessories.  Similarly, online fashion brand Birdsnest offers a wide range of clothing for different body shapes, with a free online style guide.

Personal style can be admired, but not imitated.  With a strong personal style, there’s no need to buy on lukewarm feelings.  Personal style ensures that a first impression reflects your strengths and uniqueness and supports you to perform at your best in your ever-evolving roles.

High maintenance on a shoestring budget

The first thing we tend to notice about people when we meet them, is their physical appearance. And unfortunately, it works both ways! While true beauty shines from the inside, looking well groomed helps us to feel good about ourselves and therefore, make a great first impression.

But let’s face it – there can be times in life when discretionary spending is limited. Here are my five tips to help you look your best, for less. From when you shop for clothes, to what products and services you choose and where you buy them, you can keep up appearances, without the price-tag.

Tip one: Shop off-season

Don’t pay full price for clothes. Why? Because they are a high volume, depreciating commodity. Buy clothes at the end of the season, not at the beginning. With a little patience, there’s a good chance that dress or suit will reduce in price.

You may unearth that classic gem in places like Dress mart Onehunga or other ‘seconds’ outlets. Better still, stock up in January when retailers are shedding surplus stock and ask family for gift vouchers for Christmas.
By shopping off-season, you are working in the opposite direction of retailers, who push their new season stock early, making you think you need to ‘stock up’ before the need arises. Through buying your summer clothes at the end of summer, your winter clothes at the end of winter, you are planning your next year’s wardrobe in advance. At 30-50% off the original price, shopping off-season makes a-lot of sense.

Tip two: Bring back the basics

Clever marketing drives us to purchase a product to provide an immediate ‘fix’. But it seems people aren’t paid as much to promote the benefits of natural products. You only need to look at the internet, Facebook and other social media to see how Advertising tries to change our perception of what we need. How did she look 10 years’ younger in just 14 days and fool her husband into thinking he had a younger woman? The secret ingredient is retinol or the latest, vitamin c mixed with hyaluronic acid. You look across and see the ‘promoted’ flag on the article. But still you click, hooked into the result. And there it is, paragraph after paragraph of evidence about this miracle cream, eyes glossing over the small print: ‘Individual results may vary’. Right at the end there’s a free trial! But hold it, there’s a catch. Before you enter your delivery address, there’s a prompt for credit card details. YES, they will bill you after the 30-day trial! And if you cancel, they may still have your phone number stored, so can stalk you.

I wonder if massaging in an organic oil and slapping on a light sunscreen to the face every-day, combined with fresh water and exercise, would hydrate, protect and re-generate skin cells as much as the high-end varieties? Get the basics right – don’t buy into the hype!

Tip three: Choose budget beauty services

Ladies, we can easily spend $200 a month at an upmarket salon, but what we’re really paying more for are higher rents, fluffy towels and luxurious surroundings. Drop-in places such as in malls and places referred to as ‘beauty parlour’, can offer a trimmed down service. Guys, you are generally better at this: just head to your local barber.
No, you are unlikely to enjoy soft music and lighting, in fact the room may smell of disinfectant (if you’re lucky), the table may squeak with cheap plastic and be covered in a purple, fraying towel. The staff are unlikely to treat you like Victoria or David Beckham, but they get the job done. No one will be the wiser. So, choose budget beauty services – don’t hang around for extra love.

Tip four: Pick pre-loved

As we all know, a great perfume or aftershave gives the final finesse to any outfit and becomes part of our personal ‘uniform’ or identity. If you go to Smith and Caugheys looking for an eau de parfume or eau de colonge, chances are you’ll be set back at least $120. Trawl Trade Me and I wouldn’t mind betting that sooner or later, someone will be selling the same item, perhaps with a few sprays less but in otherwise perfect condition. It’s the product you’re buying, not the packaging!

Tip five: Supermarket savvy!

After discovering that the savings are around $20 per week compared with shopping at other supermarkets, I’ve become a Pak n Save regular, at least for the staples. If this doesn’t spin your wheels, the receipt includes a fuel voucher for 4c off per litre and discount coupons on the back. I’m not suggesting that braving Pak n Save can help your appearance, but slashing money off one of your biggest weekly expenses is worth smiling about. Relating this back to appearances, accessories are harder to skimp on. To redeem yourself for any social embarrassment from clamouring about with 10,000 others and lugging your washing basket out of the boot to pack your toiletries, you could siphon those savings into an account for a touch of Prada or Hugo Boss.

So, there you have it. By shopping off-season, sticking to basic beauty products, choosing budget beauty services, picking pre-loved items and being Supermarket savvy, you could afford to create that great first impression, for less.

Beauty is only skin deep, and once you’ve got that first impression out of the way, you – and the other person – can focus on the one thing that truly matters – the person you are on the inside!