(Originally published on 4/20/17 in The Record: https://buffstaterecord.com/9674/culture/fashion-lovers-guide-finding-personal-style/)
As the now-famous Yves Saint Laurent quote that seems to be on every girl’s Pinterest board says “fashions fade, style is eternal.”
For clarification, fashion and style do not actually mean the same thing. Fashion refers to physical clothing pieces that are trendy or “in” at the time, whereas style (in regard to clothing) is the personal expression of one’s personality through clothing. Style is much more personal, like a fingerprint. No two people can have the exact same sense of style.
That said, finding your own personal style can be pretty daunting. With the amount of style inspiration at our fingertips, it can be hard to find what works for you. With magazines, movies, fashion blogs and Instagram, it can seem like no matter how many clothes you own, you’re never going to be as stylish as the people you see in pictures. It can start to feel like you’re always either one outfit, or possibly even an entire wardrobe away from your dream look.
But your dream wardrobe is attainable; you just have to discover your own personal style first.
Erin Habes, a lecturer in the Buffalo State fashion department and style editor at Buffalo Spree, seemed to have an answer for how personal style can be defined.
“Personal style is where your true self shines through,” Habes said. “[You] define your personality through what you wear. It’s your overall total look; it’s the little details you love — that’s what defines your personal style.”
So how many different kinds of styles are out there?
“Anything goes. With the internet, fashion has become so broad. You can look at the 80s and 90s, and you had such a clear style. Skater, or valley girl, there were a lot more defined groups and style tribes. Because of the internet, we are now exposed to a whole world of style and we have become very homogenized,” Habes said.
So style has become much more broad these days. While options can be great, sometimes too many options can make it hard to find where you fit in.
Habes has some advice for people looking to hone in on their personal style.
“Whatever your hobby is, that should reflect in what you wear,” Habes said. “It takes really defining what your interests are and not being afraid to show it.”
What about money? Fashion can be very expensive, but luckily there are affordable options out there.
“I don’t think you have to spend a lot,” Habes said. “I would encourage being very thoughtful with your purchases. I think with consignment and thrift stores, you can find incredible pieces.”
While many fashion rules are arguable, one seems to hold true: It’s all about quality over quantity.
“If you choose to shop at Forever 21, don’t think about consumption. Instead of ‘Oh my gosh, I need to get 20 different things,’ find one that works with it. I think it’s a smart way to build a wardrobe,” Habes said.
Habes also stressed the importance of getting clothing pieces tailored. She said, back in the day, people used to get everything tailored. Clothes were never meant to fit every specific body, but to be taken to a tailor to be custom fit.
So, personal style should reflect who you are, clothing pieces should be tailored to fit you perfectly and thrift shopping is a great way to save money.
Lucy Lopez, a fashion blogger at Write.Style.Travel, has a few tips to share about personal style as well.
“I think personal style could be a number of things. It’s easily defined by clothes that make you feel good and like yourself,” Lopez said. “I feel like sometimes people just wear things because they’re trendy. Eventually learning your own personal style helps you figure out how to wear trends and still be yourself.”
How does one begin the journey of finding a unique style?
“I would say start with the basics,” Lopez said. “I do a capsule wardrobe — I focus my outfits around basics. Instead of buying an outfit, buy pieces that will go with what you have from home.”
As for her own personal style, Lopez said she is very minimal.
“I used to be very preppy, but now I’ve turned into minimalistic style. Now I play around with a jacket or shoes,” Lopez said. “I do follow some trends if I really like something, but I try to invest in things that go from season to season.”
According to Lopez, there are still some easily definable types of style. They include preppy, hipster, bohemian/Coachella-like, girly, minimalist, sophisticate, and the recently coined term “athleisure” (“letting the world know you can look really good in sweatpants,” as Lopez put it.)
Whether or not your style fits into a certain group or not is unimportant. According to these fashion lovers, your style has nothing to do with anyone but you. So experiment, thrift, try a bunch of different styles and invest in some good pieces. Find what works for you and makes you feel confident. And always remember, it’s okay to wear white after Labor Day after all.