When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg courted high-profile investors in May 2012, it was billed as the meeting of a lifetime. And Zuckerberg was ready to walk in the room and make an impression -- by wearing his signature hoodie.
While personal style is easily defined for some, like Zuckerberg, it's an enigma for others. If you're unsure about your signature style, the clues are as close as your closet. Are your hangers laden with sporty tops or buttoned-up blazers? Are the hues bright or subdued? Do the necklines and hems on your clothes feature ruffles or straight edges?
Odds are, you've already been defining your personal style by gravitating toward the colors, fabrics and styles in which you feel most comfortable and confident. So why develop it further? Your signature style says volumes about who you are -- without uttering a sound.
There's also this incentive: Attractive people earn up to 15 percent more a year than their less attractive counterparts, according to The New York Times, and that can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout a lifetime. And personal style is an important component of this perception. Just think, you could even use those extra earnings to continually update your wardrobe.
Don't be a Sheep
Sheep are herd animals; if one makes a move, the rest will simply follow. Given this unquestioning penchant to go with the crowd, it's probably not a good idea to pattern your personal style after their sheepish tendencies. And, if you're trailing after your peers to all the same stores at the mall, you just might be.
There's nothing wrong with tapping into trends, but be sure to develop your own interpretation of them. Use a trendy color in moderation by confining it to accessories, such as a bag, scarf or belt. Add a vintage piece that puts your own twist on a trend, whether it's the choice of fabric (velvet), style (bohemian) or color (floral prints).
By putting your own signature stamp on trends, you'll ensure your wardrobe has timeless appeal -- and avoid costly seasonal updates of your closet. Instead of completely redoing your clothing options every time a trend hits, you can swap out a few key pieces and step-out in style.
Create a Look Book
Many clothing retailers publish (either in print or online) "look books." These clothing catalogues-turned-fashion magazines feature entire outfits, often sorted by occasion, such as casual, career or special event. It makes it easier for shoppers to put together polished looks, rather than hunting and pecking through separates to create a (hopefully) cohesive look.
Although you can use a look book as an aid when shopping a specific retailer, you could create your own look book, too. Clip favorite outfits, separates, accessories and footwear from magazines and catalogues, and assemble them all in one place. Be sure to select your favorite items without overthinking the process. While your favorites may seem disparate choices, be patient. Once you've completed your own personal look book, you'll discover your selections follow common threads and are now easily identifiable components of your signature style.
Stick to a Signature Piece
Once you've hit upon a cohesive style that suits your fashionable sensibilities, drill down. You'll want to identify a signature accessory that you can wear with most of your outfits. Donning this signature piece with a variety of different looks will make your appearance memorable. Not sure how specific to get? Consider the iconic, oversized sunglasses of Anna Wintour, American Vogue's editor-in-chief. Or Gwen Stefani's red lipstick and Victoria Beckham's towering heels. The common denominator is that each accessory that makes their personal style is easily identifiable. They know what they like, what makes them feel confident and they stick with it.
Whether you opt for a perfectly fitting trench or a silk scarf as your go-to fashion accessory, keep this in mind: You should feel better when you wear it. If it doesn't suit your shape or if you feel like you just stepped out of a costume store, then it isn't for you.
Shape, Color and Environment
Fashionable trends are more like a stream than a manmade, landlocked lake; they're continually on the move, flowing toward a just-out-of-reach destination. For many otherwise well-put-together people, fashion's ever-changing nature makes it nearly impossible to keep pace with what's popular in the moment.
Instead of chasing change, let the shape of your body -- and your personality -- lead your signature style selections. If your body is more hourglass than column, you'll probably feel more comfortable in tailored wide-leg jeans that show off your curves, rather than skinny jeans that encourage your curves to blossom over the waistband. Likewise, if you're thick in the middle, forgo items that draw attention your waist; instead, opt for clothes that skim over your midsection, such as empire waist shirts or blouses.
If you're a creative type, don't let too-structured clothing stifle your personality. You'll probably feel more comfortable in relaxed vintage clothing or outfits with a deconstructed bohemian flare.
Make the Commitment
Once you've determined your signature style, don't worry: You need not be at its mercy forever. After all, your style should evolve over time, reflecting who you have become and the internal changes you have experienced.
For the time being, however, it's important to make a commitment to the signature style upon which you've decided. It takes time -- and consistency -- for your personal style to shine through. You'll also need time to boost your wardrobe with a few new essentials that suit your fledgling fashion sense, whether you're at work, at home or at play.
And, you may just get a great bonus along the way: Dressing well makes you feel well. It shows that you care enough about yourself and the people you spend time with, such as co-workers, family and friends, to put forth the extra effort.
Upgrading your style could upgrade your interactions with others, too. While some applauded Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's chutzpah when he wore a hoodie to a pivotal meeting with investors, others didn't quite see it that way. For some, the hoodie reflected a disinterested attitude. Facebook still launched a few weeks later with a $16 billion initial public offering. Now imagine what it could have been if he'd worn a suit.
Squeezing into a tight pair of Spanx can make you look better, if not feel better. Learn about shapewear by reading this article at HowStuffWorks.
- Bailly, Jenny. "Seven Ways to Find Your Signature Style." Oprah.com. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://www.oprah.com/style/Dress-for-Your-Shape-and-Find-Your-Signature-Style/5
- Centeno, Antonio. "Three Steps to Building Your Individual Style." The Art of Manliness. Nov. 11, 2008. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://artofmanliness.com/2008/11/11/your-individual-style/
- Hammermesh, Daniel. "Ugly? You May Have a Case." The New York Times. Aug. 27, 2011. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/opinion/sunday/ugly-you-may-have-a-case.html
- Larson, Kristin. "Dress for your Shape: The Circle." Real Simple. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/shopping-guide/youre-circle-00000000008047/index.html
- Millian, Mark. "Zuckerberg's Hoodie a 'Mark of Immaturity,' Analyst Says." Bloomberg. May 8, 2012. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://go.bloomberg.com/tech-deals/2012-05-08-zuckerbergs-hoodie-a-mark-of-immaturity-analyst-says-2/
- Pepitone, Julianne. "Facebook's IPO price: $38 per share." CNN Money. May 17, 2012. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://www.money.cnn.com/2012/05/17/technology/facebook-ipo-final-price/index.htm
- Phillips, Alice. "Celebrity Signature Style." Her Campus. March 29, 2012. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://www.hercampus.com/school/exeter/celebrity-signature-style
- Stebbins, Sarah. "Define Your Signature Style." Real Simple. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/clothing/shopping-guide/signature-style-00000000057328/index.html
- Wexler, Sarah. "Find Your Signature Style." Marie Claire. Jan. 6, 2009. (Sept. 8, 2012) http://www.marieclaire.com/fashion/trends/find-your-signature-style