Emulate a Classic Style Icon
Maybe you’d like to emulate Elizabeth Taylor’s flair for dark glamour, Katharine Hepburn’s gender bending or Josephine Baker’s envelope-pushing sartorial choices. Rather than trying to reproduce an exact look, consider their fashion M.O. and model your personal style after that. Make a Pinterest board or collage of your icon’s best looks for daily inspiration. (Hint: You don’t have to choose just one icon — pulling in elements you like from multiple inspirations will give you the most unique results.)
When it comes to cultivating classic personal style, it’s essential you choose clothes that flatter you. Remember, tailoring is everything. But dressing for your body isn’t about making an ever-longer list of “things I could never pull off.” Instead, adopt a “try anything once” policy and then look for the cuts that showcase your best assets. Is there something you always get complimented on? Highlight that point rather than trying to create the illusion of flawlessness. You’ll know when a piece plays to your strengths because it’ll make you feel like the best version of yourself.
Understand Your Colors
It’s a myth that fashionable women wear all black; a true style star has a good idea of which hues make her pop. (Case in point: Every time a redhead like Jessica Chastain or Julianne Moore made jaws drop in a jewel-toned gown.) If you know what colors work for you and stay consistent, your personal style will seem classic no matter which shade is declared the color of the year.
Determining your season isn’t witchcraft; just consider your skin’s undertone, your eye color and whatever shade your hair is right now and consult a color wheel to determine your personal color profile. Look through pictures of yourself and take note of the colors that cause you to fade into the background and the ones that really help you shine.
Analyze Your Favorite Outfit
Do you have an outfit that makes you want to take a selfie every time you put it on? Think about the last time you were really feeling yourself and then break down the elements of what you were wearing. Then, analyze the contents of your closet and look for ways to recreate multiple versions of that look, either by grouping together similar pieces you already own or by bookmarking details to keep in mind on your next shopping trip.
Build on Basics
Every classic wardrobe rests on timeless, layerable, multiseason staples that can be worn with everything. Invest in neutral colors and prints that never go out of style, like stripes, florals and plaid. No matter what individual flair you add to your look, these clean and classic elements act as the thread that runs through all your outfits and pulls your personal style together.
Define Your Signature Piece
Gwen Stefani’s red lip, Kim Kardashian’s head-to-toe monochrome, Diane Keaton’s menswear, Kate Middleton’s coat dress — style signatures are the hallmark of women with “a look.” You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to curate yours, just notice what you’re naturally drawn to and run with it. It may be as simple as the gold locket you never take off or that bag you can’t leave the house without.
Do you find yourself always making a beeline for the floral skirts on the rack? Catching repeat offenders like these in your wardrobe doesn’t necessarily mean you need to diversify — that go-to item just may be your signature piece. The key to ensuring that your look is classic is keeping it simple. You may not always treasure a trendy novelty piece the way you would something elegant and versatile.
Quality Over Quantity
You don’t have to spend a fortune in order to put together a classic wardrobe built on quality over quantity. In fact, price isn’t always a guarantee of how well something is made. Look at the label for a high content of natural fibers (cotton, wool and leather tend to be more durable than synthetics, like polyester or vinyl). Take the piece out of the dim lighting of the dressing room to examine the lining, buttons and seams for markers of quality (is that embellishment sewed on or glued on?).
Quality over quantity also means not being afraid to recycle your favorite pieces frequently — even celebs with endless closets wear the same perfect boots or jacket over and over again. A focused wardrobe composed of a few choice pieces will not only help refine a classic personal style, but will ensure that you can wear those signature pieces for seasons to come.
Know What’s You
Having personal style isn’t about being a chameleon that can take on any and every trend. Think of someone with a strong look, like Anna Wintour; there are some things that you could just never imagine her wearing, right? Decide what pieces you would wear no matter which way the fashion winds are blowing and what styles are a definite deal-breaker in your book.
Someone with classic personal style doesn’t live by fashion “ins” and “outs” — remember that just because something is trending or looks amazing on your BFF doesn’t mean you have to get on board, too. The opposite is also true: If flats are your thing, keep rocking ’em even when everyone else has moved on to wedges. (Chances are your personal standard will come back around again soon enough and you can say you’ve been wearing it all along.) Trust your instincts to know what’s “you” and what’s not, but don’t forget how fun being adventurous and bending the rules can be now and then!