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Finding Your Passion for Fashion and Inventing Your Personal Style

Like any great love, an infatuation with fashion is complicated. For many women, it's difficult to translate an avid love of the runway and high fashion editorials to their real lives. Aspirational culture, money, body type, geographic location, lifestyle … there can be a lot of obstacles to achieving the style you lust after. Add into this to the myriad "fashion rules" we're fed from childhood on a daily basis and it's no wonder we stand in front of our full closets with "nothing to wear."

Many women combat this by establishing a few mid-priced go-to designers from high end department stores and stick to well-made basics. They stick to "classic" style rather than risk the confusion of choosing a big fashion statement. This can be great for building a wardrobe of basics, but where's the joy? Flipping through your closet should give you the same excitement as flipping through your favorite fashion magazine, at least some of the time. (We all get bored with what we have once in a while.)

Any A-list designer, editor or stylist worth their fashion credentials tells us fashion should be fun. Yes, for many of us it's serious too, but it shouldn't be stressful and shouldn't give you anxiety. Here we'll list some advice for defining your personal style and strategies for achieving it.
Make Your Own Rules

There are a few sets of rules that used to trip me up when it came to defining my personal style. First of all, I was a big fan of What Not To Wear. I'm still a big fan of hosts Clinton Kelly and Stacy London, but they threw down a lot of rules, especially for larger women. The idea that you need to follow a certain rule to achieve a certain aesthetic in order to be acceptable in society is damaging. Not just to larger women, but to every woman with insecurity about some aspect of her body. It's your choice whether you want to flaunt or camouflage parts of your body that could be considered "flaws." I'm short and thick in the middle, so when skinny jeans came around, they were seriously the bane of my existence. Because of obsessively following Stacy and Clinton's rule that your pants should fall from the widest part of your hip straight to the ground, I wasn't able to wear pants tucked into knee-high boots for all the years it was what most girls my age wore. Then I got tired of my cool shoes getting hidden by my hem and ventured into a pair of sort-of-skinny straight leg pants. I didn't think I looked like a troll. Now I wear skinny jeans with knee-high boots all the time. I choose a "skinny" that's not too tight and makes me feel comfortable in my body. I adapted a trend that some stylists would ban because of my body type, and it's worked out fine. But if I decided the silhouette made me too self-conscious about my shape, that would be fine too.

Another thing that can be limiting is the idea that you have to stick to one style. There's this notion that you can be classic or you can be rock 'n' roll or you can be preppy and if you mix the different styles together you're a fashion disaster. I blame Sweet Valley Twins: you had to be an Elizabeth or a Jessica, right? Admittedly, choosing one style can be an easier way to dress. It's also a lazy technique of fashion writers around the globe. I'm sure even I have fallen into the safety of recommending styles for "the fashionista," "the downtown diva," etc. We're taught to label and categorize people from an early age and it's most vicious during the teen years when we're exploring our style. I've really liked punk rock and studded belts and dying my hair fun colors since I was in high school, so I don't think it's a phase that's going to go away. But I also have a mean preppy streak. Blair Waldorf's wardrobe makes me swoon. Again, countless articles give advice on dressing like a Blair or a Serena, but you know those two would raid each other's closets. And make the fabulous item in question their own. I finally decided I could add a studded belt to a preppy dress or wear pearls with a skull print. And the quirky style that ensued became part of my signature.

That's the takeaway here. There's more than one way to wear everything. Create your own style. You can love flowy hippie sundresses and still heart an equestrian detail. Conversely, if polo shirts and primary colors make your world go round, don't feel pressure to vary from your favorite look. You don't have to mix it up just for the sake of mixing it up.

Yes, it helps to have an eye for what works together, and that can take practice. Don't be afraid of wearing something you might later decide just didn't work. That's how you learn. Since having some sort of guideline to follow is helpful when shopping, make up your own rules. If you prefer skirts, wear a skirt even when everyone else is in jeans. If you hate skirts you can find a stylish pant for any formal occasion, don't be bullied by gender norms. If you've got great legs, show them off past 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever the latest cutoff is.

Most importantly, allow your rules to change over time. Otherwise, you're just creating another self-made style prison.

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