How to cultivate your own personal style: developing your personal brand

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, May 29, 2012

(ARA) – Look at Kate Middleton, Johnny Depp or Lady GaGa. Whether classic, wacky or sometimes just bizarre, their style says volumes about who they are, and your style can do the same for you.

Personal style is a brand that “communicates who you are without saying a word,” says Michael Watson, fashion instructor at The Art Institute of Charlotte. Fashion instructors from Art Institutes schools offer tips that will put you well on your way to cultivating a personal style that is uniquely you.

1. What is your lifestyle?

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“Establishing and understanding your lifestyle is the biggest step to developing your own personal style,” says Watson. “The more people understand who they are and what they value, will dictate fit, fabrications and different looks in terms of cut.” In order to really understand your lifestyle and key values, Watson recommends asking yourself who you are and what you value; writing down the key points about who you are; and deciding what you want people to know about you: Are you an innovator? Are you creative?

Julie Crawley, fashion instructor at The New England Institute of Art says, “It extends beyond style. What are your hobbies and interests?” She says a good place to start is online. Sites like, or Pinterest allow people to pull images together on mood boards and see what appeals to them. She recommends taking an inventory of not only your closet, but also your home.

2. What is your body type and skin tone?

Determine your body type and skin tone. “Everybody’s different,” says Watson. “Everybody’s got different levels of red, blue and yellow undertones to their skin.” Understanding these will “make sure the personal style is reflected the best on that individual,” he says.

3. Create a signature piece or look

Think Jackie Kennedy’s iconic suits and sunglasses or Coco Chanel’s understated style with multi-strand pearls. These ladies created a signature look that is memorable. Whether you are more of a minimalist or carry a specific style of bag, “people will remember this aspect, and it shows who you are,” says Watson. When creating your own signature look, Crawley also recommends finding a designer you like. “When you find out what appeals to you, find out which retailers sell what you’re looking for and stick with that brand,” she says.

4. There’s no room for clutter

Cleaning out your closet and gathering together items to be donated to charity can be a daunting task. But, it can also be one that reaps rewards; including removing clutter and making space for items that better reflect your personal style. Both Watson and Crawley say this is an important step. “Go through your closet and purge – get rid of things that don’t fit,” says Watson. Crawley agrees saying, “if you don’t like it, haven’t worn it in a year, or aren’t excited to put it on, don’t keep it.”

5. Put your knowledge to work at the mall

Crawley says having a distinct personal style will help make you a more educated and astute shopper. In the current economy, retailers aren’t buying as much, and they know which brands are going to sell, says Crawley. Consumers are also scaling back, making better decisions and buying less. Watson says when shopping, ask yourself the following questions, “does it fit into my lifestyle?” and “is it appropriate for my body and skin type?” If the answers are yes, buy it. “Understanding who you are becomes a factor in your decision-making.”

6. Don’t fall victim to trends

Trends are one trap that can derail your style. According to Watson, consumers fear that they are missing out on something and there is a “misconception that if it is a trend, you have to adopt it.” He says at any time there are seven to 10 strong fashion trends happening, and you don’t have to participate all the time. “Understand that you can pick and choose from the trend,” he says. “You can just take a piece from the trend, instead of adopting the whole look.” A great example would be a bag that incorporates the trend.