10 Style Lessons Learned

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In high school I wore sneakers 100% of the time. Fashion magazines were fun, but being fashionable wasn't something I attempted in my own life until I got to college. It was a wobbly start, and I've had more fashion fails in the last 10 years than I care to recount. My style is totally different now, but more importantly the percentage of fashion wins has gone way up. That's how I define successful personal style - "wins" are the number of days your outfit makes you feel fabulous, and allows you to conduct your day with comfort and ease. In the past 10 years, I've learned a lot about style. So today I'm sharing my top 10 Style Lessons Learned: 

1. Mistakes are half the fun.

I'm a recovering perfectionist, so I get it - mistakes are uncomfortable. Nobody wants to make a fashion faux pas that will have the whole room abuzz. Looking back at some of my old style photos? I can hardly contain my laughter. But ultimately stepping out of your comfort zone and making mistakes are necessary for crafting your ultimate personal style. Learn to embrace the mistakes and don't fear taking a risk!

2. Never shop without a budget.

Having a budget may sound like a kill joy, but it actually makes shopping more fun. I used to feel guilty about buying any clothes at all, but now if it's in the budget, I don't even sweat it. I'm also a terrible decision-maker and having a budget makes that process so much more enjoyable. If you find a blazer you love that is marked down 80% to $100 - do you buy it? If your budget is $500, then sure! If your budget is $150 though, it might be a good idea to pass. Budgets: never leave home without one.

3. Fit is everything.

I've always had a knack for colors and patterns but it has been a long, upward battle for me to conquer fit. In high school, I was completely oblivious. Didn't have my size? No worries, I'll just get one that doesn't fit . As long as I liked the design, fit wasn't even a consideration. But fit, my friends, is everything. Don't ever settle for too big, too small or just-not-quite-right. Unsure how it fits? Snap a photo in a mirror or ask a friend to take one for you. And find a good tailor, for those moments when you love something but the fit needs a little tweaking. 

4. You can never please everyone.

Surely, there is a universal outfit that all of us would like? Turns out, there's not. Play it safe and someone will think it's boring. Let your creativity fly and someone will think it's too flashy. You can never please everyone, and that's truly okay. When we realize it's not even possible, then we are free to let go of the goal of pleasing everyone. Focus instead on pleasing just one person - you! - and feeling amazing in whatever you are wearing.

5. There's no shame in using a recipe to cook.

Nobody would fault you for using a recipe to cook, and I think style is the same. Using the things that inspire you - that girl on the street, Pinterest, celebrities - to create new outfits is totally cool and a great way to sharpen your own personal style. Take what you like, change what you don't, and voila - your very own outfit that reflects your unique style.

6. It's not about the clothes, but the memories you make in them.

Clothing may be art in many cases, but at their core they are a utility - a necessary way we cover our nakedness each day. If something is uncomfortable, too hot, itchy - clothes can distract from what we are doing. I'm all for a reasonable amount of "suffering for fashion" once in a while, but ultimately I prefer clothes that give me the freedom to say "yes" to whatever comes up like an impromptu walk outside. What really matters is where you wore it, what happened, and who you were with.

7. Style rules were made to be broken.

Black and brown? White after Labor Day? Miniskirts after 30? Yes, yes, and yes! The thing about style is that it's art, and art is impossible to define. Not having rules or formulas to follow can make getting dressed frustrating. But try thinking of it this way: no rules means ultimate freedom. Dare to break every rule in the book and find your own set of style rules to live by.

8. Buy what you really love.

It's a pretty straightforward concept, but I spent years complicating this process. I only bought things because they were $10, because I was solely focused on being frugal. I would pass on items I loved because I didn't have faith that I could figure out how to wear them (my best brainstorming happens at home - I buy it and figure it out later). Or I would buy "boring" things because I thought I needed more basics (even my basics have a little sizzle and that's totally okay). There are millions of choices out there, and several factors to consider when purchasing an item. Ultimately though I recommend only buying what you really love - that's the best way to wind up with a closet that's quality, not quantity.

9. Plan ahead.

I'm late to everything, and I also can't be creative under fire. So I like brainstorm outfits for events and meetings weeks in advance. I'm not strict about it - there's still plenty of flexibility to adjust to weather, or my personal mood. But I always have a few ideas on hand that I can consider in the coming weeks. I recommend the same for work wear. Take an afternoon to brainstorm your work outfits that week. It may take a few extra minutes up front, but your mornings will be that much faster, and that much more stylish!

10. Style and creativity can be learned.

The ultimate lesson from this post is that yes, you can improve your personal style. Style and creativity are just like any other muscle - exercise them, and they will only get stronger! 

What have been your biggest style lessons so far? Which style lessons and resolutions are you working on now?