Build-a-wardrobe

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A drawing of a person drinking from a can labelled “Personal Style.” In the second panel, there’s a drawing of them looking surprised but appreciative of their experience. It is a redraw of the Kombucha girl meme.
Sip from this pool of wisdom and you’re sure to love it! lee lim

Curating all by yourself, handsome?

Is personal style a myth in a world full of trends? Well, not exactly. While it can be hard to find and create personal style in the world we live in, it doesn’t have to be.  

Let me start by acknowledging that trends can have their pros too. Sometimes, trends can be amazing tools for inspiration, especially when people are just starting to get into fashion or upgrading their current wardrobe into something they love even more.  

There are no strict rules on how to develop personal style, but with the availability of curated style personas online, it sometimes feels easier to pick and choose what to replicate. For someone who is just beginning to ponder on self-expression through clothes, accessories, or anything else they want to wear, it can be helpful to see what the mainstream fashionistas are doing. 

Social media has been the primary platform for generating microtrends, but it is also a hub for learning about fashion and it introduces the opportunity of creating a community with other enthusiasts who may not live in your area or who want to remain anonymous. Thus, we cannot disregard the individuals online who have played with popular styles to discover their own amidst the pressure to conform.  

This includes creators like @wisdm, @seannaltman, @jeaunicassanova, @juliaadang, and many more. These creators have made a name for themselves with their brilliant fashion artistry and continue to inspire their followers by imparting styling tips and tricks or providing a guide to building personal style. 

The great Yohji Yamamoto said, “Start copying what you love… At the end of the copy you will find yourself.” However, this does not mean that we should exclusively only replicate trends or fashion content creators, but that we should venture outside of the internet and experience the life around us.  

In issue 19 of the Carillon, my article on overconsumption had stressed the importance of microtrends contributing to the way clothes are marketed with a certain lifestyle or virtue. When we rely on our For You Page and what’s trending to dictate our likes and dislikes we end up losing our autonomy in what we wear, meaning the real battle in a world full of trends is building a personal filter and finding an exit in the echo chamber that’s been built by an algorithm.  

It might seem difficult to find inspiration outside of social media, but the key is to take it slow. Fashion is something that grows, it is not passive and neither is our personal style. Rushing into building a complete wardrobe will not serve anyone in the long run. Rushing will not only hurt the wallet, and the majority of what we accumulate won’t stick with us if we do not have a solid foundation of style preference to build off of.  

Besides, there is something so beautiful about seeing a closet filled with clothes that have been bought with a certain consideration and intent. Fast fashion makes it seem like we have to buy everything to grant ourselves an immersive experience. For example, we can acquire the librarian aesthetic by wearing a cardigan and a maxi skirt.  

But when we partake in slow fashion, we can truly examine what resonates with us and we might discover our identities not through buying into an artificial experience, but by living our lives authentically.  

So, if we take away the internet, how do we begin to build a wardrobe? It starts by looking at what we already have. If the current wardrobe is plagued by microtrends, I propose that you survey what you mostly gravitate to when you’re in a rush while getting dressed. It is guaranteed that each of us can point to one or two garments that we consider to be essential.  

This might mean a shirt you frequently wear to school, a pair of pants that goes with everything, or shoes that are for sure painless after hours of wearing them. One can assume that there is an underlying relationship between these essentials; it might be comfort, colour, material, fit, but most importantly it is something that you like.  

Another way to think about personal style is asking: what message or story do we want to tell with our clothing? For example, in most cultures, colours like red or yellow are associated with feelings such as intensity, boldness, passion, or optimism.  

With the usage of an attention-grabbing colour palette, we can signal a certain mood through a bright red jacket. If your goal was to take up space figuratively and physically, look at the volume of the garment. Oversized tops, bottoms, or chunky shoes might become your best friend.  

If you’re a sucker for detail, texture can give that extra oomph! Satin, ruffles, sequins, or knitwear can be an effortless way to present a vibe. Knitwear, for example, can signal coziness and safety. Creating depth can also be an interesting avenue to explore. If the weather permits, layering a statement coat over a plain shirt can add another level of personality to an otherwise lifeless outfit.  

You might be thinking that there’s no way it’s that serious. In response, I’d like to clearly state my intention for writing this article because I didn’t write it to give you a step-by-step guide on how to dress.  

I won’t be giving you a formula to follow, as personal style is something that only you get to form for yourself. No one can provide you the experience that comes with time when figuring out what you really like, devoid of the influence from ready-made styles.  

The process can certainly be boring and grueling, which can make it tempting to refuse to experiment. What I hope to show to you readers is the importance of thinking deeper about what we put on our backs and why we do so.  

Fashion is subjective and it can become a playground for anyone willing to go out of their comfort zone – that’s what makes it so fun! Self discovery is a journey that requires patience, and finding your own style is reliant upon the trek you’re willing to make.  

As the brilliant Iris Apfel (1921-2024) said, “Great personal style is an extreme curiosity about yourself.”  

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