Style is such a personal thing. The most important thing with any outfit is that you feel good in what you wear. That means that the clothes need to fit and feel good (your shoes need to be comfortable!). The color palette should flatter the natural tones in your complexion and hair. And you should look appropriate for the occasion (work, working out, relaxing, or a night on the town). Everything is so personal. If you have no style then where should you start?

First, go through magazines. Pick a few of the popular magazines that are current and flip through them. Any model you find that you like the style tear that page out and put it in a stack. Go through 4-6 magazines doing this until you have a good sized stack. Then start looking for similarities. What are the main colors in the pictures? What sort of clothing are the models wearing? For example, I am drawn to solids, certain colors (white, black, forest green, purple, and teal), flowy silhouettes (you would never see me tearing out a page with skinny jeans for example), and classic lines (think women in tailored suits). You wouldn’t see boho fashions, florals, or anything tattered and torn–but that is part of *my* style.

Once you have your big stack of torn pages, go through each one–what do you like about the style? Is it the accessories? Is it the way the colors go together? Pick out of the elements you like and this will help you define your style. Now, the real trick is taking these elements and turning them into you.

The majority of us do not look like models, and the most important thing in any outfit is making sure that you are comfortable in your clothes. So now that you have an idea of some common elements in your look, you have to make it yours. So go to your closet and pull out everything. If something doesn’t fit, ask yourself can tailoring fix it? If the answer is no, then it should go in the donate pile (or sell on craigslist/ebay pile if you think you can get some money back). Ask yourself if you truly love the piece? Have you worn it in the last 6 months (seasonal items aside)? Try to be ruthless. If you aren’t sure, create a “maybe” pile that you can always keep until you get some new pieces as replacements.

So once you have gone through your current inventory it is time to create a targeted list of what you need to add. Here are some outfits you should be able to create effortlessly from your wardrobe:

  • At least 5-7 outfits you can wear to work (these will depend on your work of course)
  • A great outfit you can wear to brunch
  • An outfit to wear to a casual wedding, church, or family gathering (for formal events you can always get something special)
  • An outfit to wear to a sporting event
  • At least 1 pair of really great jeans (1-3 gives you more versatility)
  • An outfit for a job interview
  • An outfit that makes you feel sexy

Think through each of these scenarios. Of the pictures you pulled out, which one maps to each of these events? If you don’t have a picture to represent it, then take out a pad and paper and write down what pieces you think make the outfit. If you are creative you can even draw out the pieces. Look at what you have and look and what you need to complete each of these outfits. What accessories do you need? Based on this draw up a shopping list. Since most of us on our budget it is not reasonable to expect all these pieces can be found in one shopping trip (nor that you could afford to buy all of the pieces in trip). So the trick is to work through this list, shop sales, shop outlets, look for bargain online. As you think of new pieces you can add them to the list.

Just remember fashion changes, so you need to keep up on the fashion magazines and what people are wearing. I also tend to stare at people whenever we go out (but not in a sleazy way) to see how people put fashion together and try to learn to mix and match elements from their outfits. And also remember that because fashion changes there are things to splurge on and things to skimp on. An easy rule of thumb is to think about something in “cost per wear”–great shoes or a great handbag you may wear hundreds of times, whereas a trendy top you might only wear 5 or 6 times–so make sure the costs add up!

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