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Stuck in a style rut? Try these tips

Fashionable Woman


Patricia Bailey - published on 05/22/17

Suggestions for inspiring Instagrammers to follow, finding the right fabric for your body, and more.

Personal style is an elusive thing, hard to pin down and even harder to universalize. Potter Stewart’s famous phrase “I know it when I see it” applies here. For example, at the airport: there is one girl in about a hundred who walks by with effortless grace and her whole look just works. She might not have the perfect body or a model’s face. There is no bling or flashy logo. But she has mastered her own personal style and it shows.

Time to break out of the style rut

What about us? There are often “hinge moments” in our lives when we feel like we’re ready for a fresh start. Sometimes this effort to renew our personal style can be the outward expression of a process that’s really interior. 

In other cases, specific life events or circumstances make it more difficult to keep up with our appearance. Many of us fall into a style rut during the years after our first babies are born. It’s a challenging time when we’re chronically exhausted and time-stretched.

Style ruts can also happen when we are dealing with self-acceptance issues, particularly from unwanted extra weight. How many of us have said, “I won’t shop for new pants until I lose those ten pounds”?

Stop punishing yourself for not being perfect, and don’t live in the fantasy of a future life when your ideal weight will unlock the door to other good possibilities. Those opportunities and gifts are there for you now, so go ahead and break that rut!

Finding inspiration

There are as many types of style as there are women, so there is no one “right answer” to the question of what makes for “good style.” But there are many resources that can help us find looks that fit with our own aesthetic and values. Here are some ideas to send you on your way:

  • Find a style blogger whose look resonates with you, then follow her on Instagram or subscribe to her blog by email for your daily dose of inspiration. Some suggestions to get you started: The Style Scribe, Gal Meets Glam, Memorandum, Dean Street Society, could i have that, Pink Peonies, Gary Pepper Girl, Atlantic Pacific, Style Pantry, and Extra Petite. Many of these bloggers show expensive clothes, but don’t let that discourage you. Use them just for inspiration. You can recreate similar looks with much less expensive pieces later on.
  • If you like the aesthetic of a particular brand, use their catalogs, lookbooks, and websites to see how they styled the various pieces. Use those images a template for your own outfits.
  • Pinterest is a great way to compile outfit images that you find beautiful or inspiring. You can arrange your pictures by season, by occasion (work clothes, going out clothes, etc.), by your favorite brands, or any way you please.

Dressing for your reality

Today’s fashion industry presents us with such an overwhelming array of choices that we have to narrow it down to pieces that will work for our specific bodies, lifestyles, and budgets.

There is such a wealth of information out there on how to dress for your body type, ranging from apples, pears, hourglass shapes, and inverted triangles to petites, tall proportions, and curves. Check out all the great outfit suggestions and compilations for your body type.

Each woman also has certain colors that make her face look more radiant and alive. Once you know which shades really “pop” on you, stick to that palette for tops and accessories (scarves, earrings) that are close to the face.

Young moms, take a look at Sonnet James, which makes dresses out of stretchy and stain-resistant fabrics and is aimed specifically at active mothers who get down on the floor and play with their kids. They machine wash and dry as easily as athletic clothes. Wear with cute sandals and you’re all set. You can also swap out yoga pants for skinny jeans with some stretch, or replace tired t-shirts with cute tops in machine-washable polyester that looks like silk. Try flats instead of sneakers, embellished sandals instead of flip flops, cute ankle boots instead of Uggs.

Weight going up or down? Consider setting aside pants and go for dress or skirt styles that have a little give so you fit in the same pieces for longer.

If budget constraints are the issue, try on clothes at the stores you most love, take note of your sizes, and then shop on eBay to find the same or similar items at a reduced price. ThredUp, Poshmark, and Tradesy are also good online consignment options for low-budget (guilt free!) shopping. Women who love high-end pieces can also find good discounts at The RealReal and Material Wrld. And of course, Marshalls and TJ Maxx are good discount options as well.

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