I’ve always admired people who have a uniform.

I’m not talking about soldiers, or nurses, or any of the hundreds of other professionals who have ACTUAL uniforms, here (Although I admire those people for other reasons): I’m talking about those people who have/had a style which is identifiably theirs. Audrey Hepburn. Dita Von Teese. Hell, even someone like Amy Winehouse, with her huge beehive and messed-up ballet flats. I don’t have to actually admire the uniform itself, you see, to admire the fact of its existence: the idea that the person wearing it has created a “signature style” that is instantly identifiable, in the sense that when you see something in that style in a store, say, you think, “That’s SO Audrey/Grace/Gaga/whatever.”

This, for me, is what personal style is all about. It’s something very different from fashion. Fashion is about following trends, and changing your look from season to season, at the whim of those who dictate the changing trends. Anyone can follow fashion, and flit from one look to the next, and, of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It can be fun to experiment with different looks: to try them on for size, before moving onto the next one, then the one after that.

How do you find your ‘signature style’, though?

Some people are just born with it, I guess: they’re the lucky ones. They instinctively know what they like AND what suits them, so they get to go through life looking effortlessly stylish, without even having to think about it. I kinda hate those people, don’t you?

As for the rest of us, though, style isn’t always effortless. Sometimes, in fact, it can take years to work out what YOUR personal style is. When I look back at photos of myself in my late teens and early twenties (and, OK, my late twenties too, if I’m being honest…), for instance, I realise I had absolutely no idea what my style really was. I was just copying other people, following trends and buying things I liked the look of, without stopping to wonder if they actually looked good, or worked with my wardrobe. Which I think is probably pretty typical, really.

Gradually, though, I’ve managed to talk myself down from the shopping ledge, and arrive at a style I’m comfortable with, and which is identifiable as my own. I rarely stray too far from that style, and I’m OK with that too, having learned the hard way that following trends just empties your bank account, and gives you some really embarrassing photos to look back on, too. For me, this was something that happened naturally, over time: I didn’t ever sit down and say to myself, “OK, today I’m going to work out what my personal style is”, or anything like that. If I had, though, I think this is how I’d have done it…

how to find your signature style or fashion uniform - even if you don't think you have one
01. Take everything out of your closet. Yes, every single thing.

I think every major style change (or life change, for that matter) has to begin with a good ol’ closet clearout. If you’re anything like me, I bet you’re hanging on to tons of clothes you don’t wear, or which don’t work – and you’re probably buying more of them, too, purely because you don’t really know what else to do. It’s OK: we’ve all been there. First, then, take everything out of your closet, and put it somewhere close to a mirror. Yes, you heard me: a mirror. This is possibly going to get a bit scary, but the next thing you need to do is this…

02. Try everything on

In doing this, you’re not just checking to see whether the various items fit: you also want to ask yourself how they make you feel. (Yes, I’m aware how cringey that sounds…) Do you feel comfortable? Confident? Or are you just desperate to take that thing back off and move onto the next thing? Basically anything that falls into the latter category has to go, no matter how expensive it was, how new it is, or how much you like the way it looks on the hanger. Pay attention to the items that don’t work, and, more importantly, WHY they don’t work for you: you can even make notes if you feel like it. Your aim is for every single item to own to be something you feel good in: so once you’ve taken that long, hard look in the mirror, it’s time for the next step…

03. Organize your closet

Replace the items you’re keeping, and put the ones you’re ditching to the side – you can deal with them later. When you’re re-filling your closet, try to apply some kind of order to it: I normally organise my closet by type, and then by colour – so all of the dresses go together, then all of the green dresses go together, and so on and so forth. You might prefer to organise yours by season or by activity  (work clothes together, casual clothes together, etc etc), but however you do it, try to find a system that makes it easy to see exactly what you’ve got: you can see how I organise my closet here.

04. Start a Pinterest inspiration board

Or a scrapbook. Or one of those “photo walls” serial killers always have, where they plaster their bedrooms with photos of the people they’re stalking. OK, maybe not that last one, actually…

I like to use Pinterest (you can follow me here, by the way), because there’s an endless amount of outfit inspiration to be found there, and because it’s so easy to create boards for anything you fancy. In this case, the idea is to create a board for outfits you like, then start pinning. As you do this, don’t think too much about whether you own the items in the photos, or what they’d look like on: the aim is simply to work out what you like, without being influenced by budget, trends, or anything else.

05. Analyse it

Once you have a decent amount of images (I’d say you’ll need a couple of dozen, minimum, but you can’t really have too many, here…), it’s time to sit down and take a look at what you’ve got. It shouldn’t be too difficult to start spotting some common themes amongst the various outfits you’ve pinned, and as you analyse them, you’ll start to notice that you’ve pinned a lot of causal looks, say, or preppy looks, or girlie looks. The common factors amongst the looks you like will be starting to give you some important pointers as to what YOUR style is.

It’s not quite as simple as that, though, unfortunately. No, as much as you like the outfits you’ve pinned, you’re going to have to acknowledge that they won’t all work for you: some will be totally unsuitable for your lifestyle/climate, for instance, while others just won’t work for your shape. You’ll know which types of outfits these are from the closet clearout you just did (Er, you DID just do the closet clearout, didn’t you? Just checking…) From that, you’ll already have a rough idea of what kind of styles and shapes just aren’t “you”, so you can eliminate these from your inspiration photos, and see what you’re left with. (If you’re not left with ANYTHING, it’s time to start again: sorry.) Now for the fun part…

06. Make a shopping list

The items you’re left with in the exercise above will form the building blocks of your “signature” style – well, let’s hope so, anyway. (It’s important to note here that you might make a few mistakes along the way: not everything you THINK will work for you will actually work, so be prepared to repeat a few of these steps until you’ve got this thing nailed…). Now all you have to do is find them: easy, right? Er, not so much, actually. But make a shopping list anyway: you’re going to need it.

07. Identify the brands that are the best fit for your new style

My final tip, and something I find really useful when it comes to “signature” style, is to work out which brands are the best fit for your new style – both literally (as in, they make clothes that fit you), and stylistically. If you’ve worked out that you like preppy or classic clothes, for instance, brands like Boden and J Crew are your BFFs. If you’re a modern, minimal dresser, you might like Zara or Topshop. Kate Spade makes very “girlie” clothes, with lots of fun prints, while Oasis and Warehouse are a good source of contemporary classics with a feminine feel. And so on and so forth.

What you’ll also find is that most brands create collections of clothes which are all designed to work with and compliment each other, so while it might sound boring to shop exclusively from one or two brands, if you’re still trying to find your personal style, and are essentially shopping for a whole new wardrobe, it can make sense to do exactly that – at least at first. You don’t have to do it forever, obviously: once you’ve gained some confidence, and have really gotten a feel for what you like, you’ll be able to pick up different pieces anywhere and everywhere, but for now, sticking to a couple of favourites will help you create a cohesive wardrobe, full of pieces which will mix and match easily.

Oh, and one more thing (Yes, I know I said that was my last tip: I’ll shut up soon, I promise…)

08. Keep on experiementing

It’s very easy to get stuck in a style rut – sometimes without even noticing. What worked for you five years ago might not STILL work for you today, so it’s important to keep on trying new things, even it just means taking a few different items into the fitting room, and then discarding then. You don’t HAVE to change your style if you don’t want to: but don’t rule it out, either!

  1. I don’t know if I have a signature style or coherent look, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it! Especially as the likes of Audrey are remembered for it and fondly – how can it therefore be wrong?! Surely, it’s what some of us fashion bloggers are aiming for – to be associated with items of clothing – I definitely associate you with Topshop midi skirts 😉

  2. I think that a lot of people form the past wore what was in fashion at the time, only now we are truly free to experiment with wearing whatever we want. Audrey Hepburn didn’t create her look asuch, it created for her by designers like Edith Head and she appropriated it as her face and figure was so different at the time. She did however make it famous, even while telling women that they could wear it too. But for the most part, most of the old Hollywood actresses didn’t really create a style, they didn’t have much option but to follow the latest fashion as there was nothing else. Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo truly created their own look out of masculine attire for everyday wear and Marlene Dietrich did later on after some of her films but generally, I don’t consider many of these people to be style icons. Fashion icons yes but most of them, they didn’t have much personal style, they wore what was available and few made a style of their own. Now there is such variety that I think ‘how can someone not have a personal style?’

  3. I love this idea! I’ve never followed fashion, but I do have a uniform of such. It errs on the side of fifties housewife/works in a digital start up. Prints, colours and midi skirts and honestly don’t look to seasonal fashion. I add tights/cardigan in cold weather!

  4. Interesting post Amber. 🙂 Im mainly following bloggers that have their own style, I have a soft spot for retro/vintage styles. I find the concept of fashion rather boring, do we really want to dress the same way as everyone else?? Im not sure I have a signature style myself but one keyword is colour I guess. 😉 Im absolutely bonkers about colours, especially bright ones. 🙂

    1. Yeah, I’ve always felt fashion was about looking like everyone else, whereas “style” is about looking like yourself – I do think I’m probably too lazy to want to bother keeping up with tends, though!

  5. I don’t know if I have a coherent style or a signature look, to be honest. I sort of pass by the “new in” sections when there are trends about which I know aren’t going to suit me or be my cup of tea, so whether that makes me consistent or stuck in my ways, I guess there’s something there. I do, like you mention, try to mix things up so that I don’t get bored of the things in my wardrobe, and try to wear them differently.

  6. To be totally honest, I have been in shops before and seen particular items of clothing and thought: “That looks like something Amber would wear.” I’m not quite sure what that says about me, except that I’ve been reading this blog (and mostly not commenting) for a really long time. (I should note, usually the item in question is something I would totally wear if it flattered me too, so it’s 100% a compliment. 🙂 )

    I think of it the same way as I think of food really. Fashion is like the pinteresty trend of the moment, some of which are fantastic (hello, salted caramel!), some of which will probably look a bit silly in a few years time (looking at you, cake pops), and some of which your great grandchildren will be embarrassed to know you partook in (superfoods!). In a wider and slightly more academic sense, fashion speaks to broader tastes (like, at the moment we are big on fairly simple flavours and fresh, locally sourced ingredients, whereas if you were an Elizabethan you’d be like “put ALL the meats and exotic spices in my dinner, servant!”). Then style is what you do with these recipes. It might be “my cake pops make grown men weep” or it might be “I actually don’t care that prawn cocktails are dated, I happen to think they’re delicious.” Or it might be both. Or you might make the meanest rosewater bread rolls this side of the Restoration, but you might also add sugar and vanilla to accommodate modern tastes. Great chefs, like very stylish people, are experts at working with all of the little bits and pieces of fads and fashions to make their own unique and delightful creations.

    Er, I hope that analogy makes as much sense in writing as it does in my head!

    1. Ha, I think that’s how I worked out what my style was, too – wearing the same things, over and over again! At least you know you’re getting your money’s worth, though 🙂

    1. It’s always interesting when people do that, because I’d say 8/10 times, the item in question isn’t something I’d wear AT ALL – it’s always fascinating to see how other people interpret “my” style!

  7. I too admire people who have a very personal style that’s recognizable as “theirs”. I’m still trying to figure out my own style (and purging my wardrobe!), but at least by now I know what looks good on me and what type of clothes I favor. I’m all about vintage inspired fashion, full skirts, and wiggle dresses. It makes me extremely happy when people define my style as “glamorous” 😀 (I write this while wearing Primark pajamas though, oops.)

  8. Fabulous post Amber! People having a signature style are surely one step ahead of those who are fickle when it comes to fashion. That’s a big reason why i am an Audrey Hepburn and Duchess Kate fan! And you are definitely in that list Amber <3 The way you pull off those stripes and midi skirts is outstanding! They suit you so well and you always remind me of some vintage English heroine!

  9. I am finally finding my own signature style, and it has been the best thing to happen to my closet cleaning self. It is so easy now to go through my stuff and get rid of the things that aren’t me. It has taken some time, but I am very happy about it. My son teases me about how all of my dresses look the same, but that isn’t a bad thing, really. 🙂

  10. Thank you for these words! I’ve been feeling not fashiony or unexpected enough these days and I’m thankful for the encouragement to continuing being myself. Great post!

  11. Hi Amber. I was just wondering, would you say that there’s a conscious element to developing a signature style? I.e. that it’s something you have to develop?

    1. I guess it depends on the person: for some it seems to be a fairly instinctive thing, whereas for others it’s more of a conscious decision to dress in a particular style!

  12. I feel that style changes as you age. I remember when I was younger I followed many trends and now that I’m older I just pick the trends that I love and skip the rest, I don’t care anymore about the “colour of the year” or the “it bag”. I’ll wear something them even if it’s not trendy that year…With fashion I personally like to mix and match, mix old with new.

  13. I’m a huge advocate of developing a uniform for yourself, and it’s always the first piece of advice that I tell other people who want to cultivate good style. Not only does it make getting ready in the morning easy, you’re also guaranteed to love every outfit you put together.

    I do admit that it’s placed me in a rut before. My usual uniform is a flowy top, skinny jeans, and close-toed shoes. This summer, I put myself on a no-jeans ban to make me think out of the box, even for a little bit. I learned that I can be very comfortable with skirts as well, and I’ve ended up adopting it as a “secondary” uniform. I’ve also recently started crocheting, and I’ve been adding crocheted pieces to my wardrobe. So while my uniforms serve to make my style easier to put together, it’s ever changing and never boring (I hope!).

  14. Hey! Interesting post. I’m on a path of self discovery and I’m stuck on style ATM. One thing that caught my eye was what you said about comfortable or confident. What if you know you look ‘good’ in something but that makes you feel uncomfortable? For instance I feel comfortable in a baggy jumper but look like a sack of potatoes… put me in a fitted dress that shows of my cleavage and I put Jessica Rabbit to shame but I won’t dare leave the house. What happens when confidence/comfort aren’t really the best guides? I’m assuming I need to work on my inner confidence first right? Honestly though, I don’t think I’ll ever leave my comfort zone and wear something flattering. I just look ridiculous (in my opinion).

    1. When I talk about “comfort” I don’t just mean physical comfort – so, if you wouldn’t dare leave the house in something, that means you’re not going to be comfortable in it, regardless of whether or not you think you look good in it, if that makes sense? So the trick is to find a way to wear the dress that you WOULD dare to wear out of the house, or to look for another option instead – easier said than done, I know!

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