If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve tried to pick a style aesthetic or fashion icon before. And chances are, you did it all wrong.
As someone who loves fashion, I’ve tried to figure out just about every fashion type under the sun. Kibbe type, color season — you name it, and I’ve looked into it. (I don’t find either of the things I just mentioned particularly helpful, by the way.) One thing that I have found helpful, however, is having style icons or a fashion aesthetic.
Have you ever gone to the mall and just shopped around aimlessly? Guilty as charged. It’s fun, and you can sometimes find a lot of great pieces that way. The problem with this is that when you get everything home and you look in your closet, you have a mish-mash of lots of different clothing that doesn’t really paint a cohesive picture.
When you think about style icons, they’re usually known for dressing a certain way. Whether it’s classy, elegant, edgy, preppy, boho, or beachy that comes to mind, their style probably followed a certain aesthetic. There will be an undercurrent throughout what someone with great style wears.
There will be an undercurrent throughout what someone with great style wears.
And this is where the train can sometimes go off the tracks because now you’re taking an online quiz to find out what your style aesthetic should be and googling the essentials for that style type to wear. Let me stop you right there. I promise there’s a better way to go about this. Following some list of preppy style or romantic style or whatever it might be will only make you look like the walking checklist of the style type, and you will have lost the most important part — style.
So rather than taking quizzes and reading lots of online lists, allow me to walk you through what I have found to be the most important parts of picking a style icon or aesthetic and actually starting to achieve it with your wardrobe.
Fashion Icons Versus Style Aesthetics
It’s true that picking either a fashion icon or a style aesthetic will move you closer towards developing a wardrobe you love, but I think that fashion icons are the more useful of the two. While a style aesthetic is very clear cut, a fashion icon will have some versatility to their style while keeping that same undercurrent throughout everything they wear. I think the latter will help you to develop your personal style and avoid the checklist phenomenon.
A fashion icon will help you to develop your personal style and avoid the checklist phenomenon.
So where should you pick your fashion icon? It can be a celebrity, a classic style icon like Audrey Hepburn, or even someone you know. TV show characters are actually a really great option because you’ll have more outfits to use as inspiration than movies, and the fashion directors will usually do a really good job of having a common theme in the way they dress that character.
Think About Your Personality
I can’t stress this enough. You have to actually be able to see yourself wearing the clothes. I may love Zendaya’s style, but I know that I would never feel comfortable in what she wears. It’s too bold for me, even though I love it on her. So while Zendaya might be a really great style icon for someone else, she would be a terrible choice for me.
Don’t think too hard about it. This part is easier than you think because it will generally be what you’re drawn to anyway. Sometimes it can be because you want to be a certain way — dress like the person you want to become and your behaviors will naturally follow. Other times it can just be that you relate to them in some way, so their style likely aligns with your personality well.
Incorporate Varying Levels of Formality
This one is so important. Having a style icon is no use if you never have an occasion to dress that way. You’ll want to pick multiple style icons so that you can give yourself a range, but make sure that they all have a similar element to their style so that you don’t lose the cohesiveness we talked about earlier.
For example, my main style icons are Blair Waldorf, Jackie Kennedy, Rory Gilmore, and Rachel Parcell. They each have elements of preppiness and femininity to their style, but Rory’s outfits are much better inspiration for what I wear to school than Blair Waldorf’s.
And where Jackie Kennedy’s looks would be better for a job interview, many of Rachel Parcell’s are better suited for going to church on Sunday. Put all those things together, and I have style inspiration for all the different occasions in my life I have to dress for. Heck, Jackie Kennedy and Blair Waldorf are both some of my ultimate wedding dress inspiration!
Can You See Yourself in the Clothes?
I mentioned before how it’s good to think about your personality when picking a style icon, but it can also be really helpful to consider the way you look. What’s your body type? Hair color? Skin tone? Those are all things that can affect what’s most flattering on us and in turn what we’re going to feel comfortable in.
Personality and style go together.
Another similarity among my four main style icons — they all have brown hair and fair skin. Your style icons certainly don’t have to look like you, but it can help you determine what’s most flattering and begin to envision yourself in similar clothing.
How To Start Actually Dressing Like Your Style Icon
Look at photos of lots of different outfits of your different style icons and take note of patterns. Do they wear a lot of dresses? Skirts? The same style of jeans all the time? Notice the little patterns, and the next time you go shopping similar pieces will jump out at you. Oh, that’s so x. Before you know it, your wardrobe will look more cohesive, you’ll be happier in the outfits you wear, and you’ll start to develop a sense of personal style.
Pinning your favorite outfits can also help a lot. In the beginning, you could even try to find pieces similar to a certain outfit when you shop to try to recreate it. But over time you’ll probably find you can achieve the vibe of what they wore without following an outfit to the tee. And you can start to make it your own!
Having a fashion icon can be a powerful tool for developing your personal style when you do a good job of picking who they are. If it’s wildly different from the way you currently dress, I advise you to just stick with it. Wearing a new style of clothing can be like a new haircut — it might take a little time for you to get used to it. Dress with your new fashion icons in mind every day if you can and before long it will become natural.