I recently created a video over on my YouTube channel titled “How to improve your personal style”. I thought it might be helpful for others if I shared my perspective on why you may not happy with your own personal style, with tips on how you can change this… Our personal style and appearance isn’t just superficial – it announces to the world who we are, how we want to be treated and often reflects what’s happening internally or in the background of our lives as well. Throughout our lives, it can feel like our style no longer reflects who we are; it may also not feel fit for purpose in respect of our current lifestyle as well.
Most of what I am sharing with you comes from my own personal experience. I vividly recall experiencing a style crisis (or was it the beginning of a style transformation?) over the last few years, back in 2019. I started to look at my wardrobe and began to question if it was reflective of my style now. I also felt that I needed to downsize it, in order to prepare for my eventual move overseas. So, with that said, let’s take a look at the 10 reasons why you might not be happy with your personal style and what you can do to turn this around in your life to get you feeling more inspired and confident with your wardrobe.
1. You’ve been stuck in a style rut for too long
I recently ran a poll on the Community tab on my YouTube channel asking my audience if they had ever wanted to do a “style re-set” with their wardrobe. Now whilst 174 votes may not be considered to be a vast survey, the results were astounding. 89% responded that they have felt their style needed an update, leaving a remainder of just 11% confirming that they’ve always been happy with their personal style.
One of the reasons you may feel like you need to do a re-set with your style is because you may have been stuck in a “style rut” for too long. This is something I can share that I have experience with and for me this was noticeable in that I haven’t been very open minded in trying out different styles of clothing or silhouettes. I was wearing clothes which were too fitted in terms of the design and these were items which I regularly reached for 10 years ago – so even though these clothes were in my correct body size, the style of clothing was too fitted for my preference now and I hadn’t matured in terms of the items I was reaching for.
Another example of being stuck in a style rut is focusing on one aspect of your lifestyle when it comes to your wardrobe. For a decade I focused on building up a corporate style wardrobe for Monday to Friday which resulted in a considerable lack of a smart “off duty” wardrobe. Additionally I felt a sense of style fatigue which meant I would resort to jeans & a tee for the weekend. So even though I felt well-dressed for work, I didn’t feel that my smart casual/weekend wardrobe was stylish.
My advice if you’re stuck in a style rut is to conduct a review of the current items in your wardrobe and see whether your clothes, footwear and accessories still reflect your sense of style today. Are they fit for your lifestyle? Have you over-invested in workwear, or “going out” pieces which you rarely wear? Does your footwear need an update? Do you find you have the same types of items where you might benefit from incorporating some variety so you have options for a variety of occasions?
For me, I started to experiment with different styles of footwear since 2020. I never used to wear flats a lot but now I’ve discovered a new found love for loafers – you would never have seen me wear these a few years ago! Another example is trousers – I’ve been the flag bearer for the skinny jean or skinny trouser silhouette for so long, that I forgot other styles of trousers or jeans even existed. I’ve recently purchased a pair of flared denim jeans, straight leg jeans and high-waisted paper-bag style trousers and now adore these even more than my skinny jeans. But I wouldn’t have known this if I hadn’t considered taking a risk and trying out something different.
If you want to try something different my advice would be to either go in-store and seek out items you wouldn’t normally reach for and try them on. If you don’t have the time to do this and you mainly shop online, then try to shop with a retailer where you have free returns and free return postage if possible as this minimizes you loosing out on money if you decide the pieces aren’t for you and need to return them. The key is to just be open-minded and sometimes it takes us becoming frustrated with our wardrobe before we even consider trying out new styles and pieces.
2. Your style is no longer age appropriate
As we age, whether that’s going from teens to our 20’s, our 30’s to 40’s or beyond, our style choices reflect this progression in maturity. I had a revelation in 2019 when I purchased a dress and realized that I no longer felt comfortable in this style for the age I am right now. This is the style of dress I’d easily wear in my 20’s but just didn’t feel right now I’m in my 30’s – it felt too short and not something I’d reach for on a normal weekend. I wore it once to the beach and then promptly sold it on to someone who would hopefully love it more and get more wear out of it than I would.
Whilst I don’t think we should put rules on what clothes should be worn for different ages, I do believe we should strive to feel comfortable in what we wear and make an attempt to present ourselves in our best light. This might mean that we change up the hemlines on dresses or skirts, opting for higher quality fabrics as our earning capacity (or fabric preferences) increase, or perhaps focusing more on elegance than overt sexiness – it’s going to be different for every person…
My advice here is to to focus on looking appropriate for the occasion and feeling comfortable in what you’re wearing, no matter your age. This is one of the main keys to feeling comfortable with your style. If you do find yourself wondering whether something makes you look too young or too old, then perhaps it’s time to do a deep dive into whether your personal style has shifted over the years and to gain clarity on your current and future style direction.
3. You’ve changed your career or working environment
Something I think we can all relate to since the start of 2020 as many of us are now working from home more than ever. When we undergo a career change, we might find ourselves working in a completely different industry – perhaps moving from the corporate world to a small start up company. Perhaps you’re starting your own business or you’re working from home. Whatever your situation, when this happens, we can feel like our style might need a revamp.
I’ve been working from home over the last year and a half which has meant most of my corporate office clothes have been sitting in my wardrobe. I’ve started to reach for clothes which are more comfortable and have been focusing on the quality of fabrics more, such as knitwear. Another benefit to working from home has been it’s allowed me the freedom to ponder over which pieces I genuinely love – I’m not influenced by seeing what others in the office or city are wearing, what’s in the shops and I haven’t had to purchase a lot of clothes for work. I’ve been able to clearly see I needed to invest in “wardrobe essentials” and have started to appreciate how clothes can look good but still feel comfortable at the same time.
My tip for if you’re working from home now is to focus more on quality basic pieces, like knitwear and tops. I’ve started to really invest in t-shirts, blouses and knitwear – items which will look good in a zoom call but which also allow me to feel comfortable at home. I’m not investing a lot in pieces which are solely for office-wear – I want pieces which I can wear to the office and on the weekend as well.
4. You’ve undergone a major lifestyle change
Whether you’ve gone through divorce, experienced a loss of someone in your life, had majorly stressful life events, gotten married, moved house, changed jobs, retired or had a child, experiencing a major lifestyle change (whether positive or negative in nature) can often leave us feeling like our old style no longer reflects us now.
This is probably one of the deep psychological transformations which can happen and most of us don’t go through life without some of these major events occurring. Obviously, our style might be the last thing on our mind during stressful times however after the dust settles, we can begin to notice a misalignment between our wardrobe and our new self. I know I’ve undergone this myself after some major transformative experiences throughout my 30’s.
If you’re in a place where your life is feeling a bit more settled and you’re ready to take on a style makeover, the first thing I’d recommend is to take stock of your current wardrobe. Once you’ve identified what you do and don’t like, have a think about what style, colours or particular pieces resonate with you now. And then try to form a plan on how to bridge that gap.
Undertaking a style or wardrobe changeover can be expensive, so one thing I’ve been doing to ease this pressure is selling some of the pieces I no longer wear. This not only creates room in my existing wardrobe, it also helps to fund new purchases which are more in alignment with the style I’m moving towards. Making over your wardrobe and style should be a creative and fun process so don’t feel as if you need to rush it. Take your time and really plan ahead – this will hopefully minimize any unnecessary purchases or “what was I thinking” moments.
5. Your wardrobe doesn’t have a consistent colour palette
The lack of a consistent colour palette was a key challenge I identified in my own wardrobe a few years ago. For the longest time I’d purchase items based on if I felt the colour was pretty, rather than if it worked with my wardrobe. I didn’t have a cohesive wardrobe colour palette and often wondered why I had so many clothes but felt like I couldn’t create stylish outfits. I shied away from neutrals because I felt they were boring and to be honest I didn’t even know which neutrals suited me or enhanced my features.
I’ve recently begun to develop a true appreciation for neutrals and have started to create a consistent colour palette for my wardrobe. I’ve learnt that my personal colouring looks its best in cool toned colours, so my wardrobe now mostly features white, black, navy, blues, creams, pinks and the odd colour here or there. I know that strong warm toned colours such as orange, olive, mustard yellow and most browns don’t enhance my features. No matter how popular these colours may be (especially during autumn) I simply don’t reach for them, no matter how pretty the design of a piece may be.
If you don’t have a consistent colour palette, then I’d recommend you first take stock of what colours you do have in your wardrobe. The next step is to do some research to identify which colours suit you best and start investing in those. A simple Google search on “colour seasons” or “what colours suit me best” will quickly provide a ton of results which you can use to educate yourself on colour theory. Another tip is ensure you do have some neutrals in your wardrobe as well, because they really are the foundation of your wardrobe when it comes to versatility with creating outfits.
6. Your body shape or weight has changed
This is another reason which affects a lot of people out there and I image it can be so frustrating when we realize none of our clothes fit us properly anymore, like they used to. Your health is obviously the main priority here – as long as that’s in order then my tip would be to dress for the body shape you have now. Easier said than done, especially if this means that you need to actually spend more money on new clothes! If possible, have a look at if you’re able to alter some of your clothes which you love to suit your current body shape. If this isn’t an option, then considering selling-on some of your items which no longer fit you, is another way to bring in some extra cash to help fund some new pieces.
Another point is to ensure you’re dressing for your shape and height. I’m quite petite therefore one of my main style challenges is dressing for my height. I need the illusion of height whilst also ensuring my clothes aren’t so big that they drown my frame. In the past, I’ve gone too far in the opposite direction and selected clothing which was too fitted. I’ve also discovered over the last year or two, that medium to large sized handbags just make me look even smaller in terms of height. I’m now focusing on smaller sized handbags that are more suitable for my height – plus they’re also easier to carry!
7. Your accessories and footwear need an update
In the past I’ve often focused on investing more in clothes than in accessories and footwear. What I’ve learnt over the last few years is that accessories, and particularly footwear, are the items which can often make or break an outfit. I used to wear stiletto heels to the office Monday to Friday and then flats or sneakers on the weekend and that was essentially it! I had no variety in my “shoe-drobe” and kept wearing shoes which may have looked nice but certainly weren’t comfortable.
Over the last few years I’ve purchased a few pairs of loafers, low block heels, flat boots and ballet flats. I don’t think your footwear necessarily needs to be from a luxury designer however ensuring you have a variety of different styles of footwear is useful. Another problem I can share was I’d purchase footwear in really bright colours, which meant they weren’t very versatile!
With accessories, it’s amazing how adding a belt, a pair of sunglasses or a scarf can instantly transform your overall look. Particularly if you get the basics of your outfit right, then changing up a scarf or your belt can inject a sense of freshness to your outfits and overall style. I’m personally looking to invest in adding a few different belts to my wardrobe in the near future and a new pair of sunglasses in black are on my wish-list as well.
So my tips here are to take a look at your footwear and accessories – see how much use you’re getting out the pieces you have and consider whether freshening up this section of your wardrobe might help you to feel happier when it comes to creating or styling your own outfits.
8. You’ve changed your appearance – particularly hair colour
This is closely related to the colour palette tip but I think it deserves its own category because your hair colour can directly affect which colours work for you or not. Another thing to consider is if you’ve started or stopped using fake tan, because that will obviously change your skin colour tone. Your hair colour, eye colour and skin colour combination is personal to you, so when we alter this (most often noticeable with hair colour), this can mean your personal colour palette needs to change, to enhance your features.
For me personally I used to be a “bright winter” colour season. I have a high contrast between my dark hair and light green eyes and skin tone. However, when my hair is coloured, if it changes from a golden brown to an auburn colour, I then shift from being a “winter” colour season to a spring or summer.
If you have recently had a noticeable change in your hair colour (maybe going from brunette to blonde) or if you’ve even embraced going grey, then I’d recommend you to brush up on your personal colour season research. This is particularly important when it comes to clothes that we wear on our top half, as tops, shirts & knitwear are closer to our eyes and hair, compared to our bottom half.
9. You’re shopping at the same brands, all the time
Another point which I have experienced myself a lot in the past and probably still am! I like long-term relationships. With men, friendships, skincare, my hairdresser, my tailor, brands and retailers. But when it comes to clothes, this can mean I’m not being very open minded and end up purchasing the same styles and same clothes over and over again. I ended up going through a cropped, embellished cardigan phase with a particular brand in my 20’s. I also had a phase where I purchased 50’s and 60’s style dresses, this was when the Mad Men series was really popular. But shopping at the same one or two brands for years on end, to the exclusion of being open to others you haven’t considered, can have an adverse effect on your personal style.
I’ve discovered straight leg trousers and the high-waisted paper-bag trouser style thanks to trying out the French label, Sezane. I’ve begun to invest in quality knitwear, basics and coats thanks to trying out Reiss. I ended up finding some great quality jeans and discovering my love for pleated midi length skirts by trying out Ted Baker. But I wouldn’t have been able to find out which styles I feel comfortable in now, had I stuck with the same brands and not been open minded.
If your wardrobe consists of mainly one or two retailers and you’re not happy with your personal style, then perhaps it’s time to try out some new retailers. I’m not suggesting you go from the premium high street to fast fashion or vice versa – however using Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram can be a great way to discover new retailers from other people which you may not have considered. This has been how I have discovered some of my most favourite brands.
10. You haven’t invested in wardrobe basics
Another mistake I’ve made and which I’m really focusing on correcting now in my own wardrobe… Wardrobe basics or wardrobe essentials are like the foundation of a house. If you don’t have a stable foundation in place, the house won’t last. So, it doesn’t matter how many statement-ish pretty pieces, event items, going out clothes or eye catching colours you have in your closet…If these aren’t the pieces you’re reaching for on a daily or weekly basis, then these aren’t the items which form the structure of your wardrobe. Re-doing our personal style, re-setting our wardrobe, requires us to look at the foundations and although it may not seem exciting at first, we must consider the basics.
This is the advice I read about when I was younger and never paid attention to. Just like neutrals, I ignored it. So, if I could recommend one tip out of this list, this is the one! What are wardrobe basics? This is going to partly depend on your lifestyle and the climate in which you live in. And I’m going to be sharing a video specifically on this soon on my YouTube channel. But until then, some general suggestions are:
- Smart trousers
- Collared shirts
- Smart blazers or jackets
- Practical outerwear such as coats
- Footwear fit for your lifestyle
These are the items that we need, ideally in neutral colours. You don’t need to spend a fortune on these pieces but you will notice if you don’t have the basics in your wardrobe. So, if you have any questions about wardrobe basics, let me know and I’ll include that in a future video.
I’d love to hear which of these tips resonated with you the most and if you have any suggestions or recommendations, please share these in the comments section below so we can all learn from and help each other. I’m on this journey myself and there’s so much I still have to learn, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic too.