5 Steps to Develop a Fashion Sense From Scratch

Once in a while, we’ll get emails from readers who are rather new to the fashion appreciation club. Previously they weren’t that interested in clothes or what they wore, but now they feel inspired to explore their style sense. And since the fashion world can be rather intimidating—Which trends do I try? Where should I shop? What the heck are jorts?—we’re quite delighted to provide a road map to get them started.

If this sounds like you (or if you just want to refresh your current style perspective), scroll down to check out our five steps to developing your unique fashion sense.

A good way to begin defining your style is to attach a few descriptive labels to it. Start by listing as many types of style genres as you can think of—classic, preppy, hipster, edgy, glamorous, bohemian, minimal, etc. Cross off the ones that you’re certain don’t embody your desired style, and narrow in on a handful of words that speak to your sensibility. Then make a word cloud with the remaining words—write the ones that represent your style the most in the largest font, and ones that you may like to dabble in, but don’t feel as strongly drawn to, in smaller font. This word cloud will serve as an excellent point of reference to guide your sartorial choices as you begin your fashion exploration.

Take note of outfits you see that you like, and break down the components of the look into a formula—for example, blazer + V-neck tee + cutoff shorts + block-heel sandals. Then re-create the look with your own items.

Examine your closet and pull out the pieces you wear the most. Even if you aren’t happy with your current wardrobe, you’re likely to have a few pieces you gravitate toward. Ask yourself why you like these pieces—is it the cut, color, style aesthetic, fabric? Once you become clear on what you like about your favorite pieces, you can use those as a jumping-off point for making future purchases.

Pay attention to which pieces your peers compliment you on. Not only will your self-esteem get a boost, but it can also help inform which styles look best on you. Sometimes it’s hard to be objective when you look in the mirror at your own outfits, so noting which clothes get compliments is a way to get an outside opinion.

If you want to change anything about your style, you’re going to have to step out of your comfort zone. Similar to how college students take internships in varying industries to see if they’re a fit, you should experiment with different fashion genres and clothing styles until you strike on something that feels right. Keep in mind that everyone with great style has gone through this (sometimes slightly awkward) experimentation phase too!