Read an Excerpt
UNLEASH YOUR TRUE FASHION PERSONALITY
You are just steps away from becoming a lifelong Bargain Babe. But before you brag about your savings to the girls, we need to tackle one essential step: identifying your personal style. It’s your fashion compass, the thing that keeps you on course when confronted with endless options. It’s what tells you a beautiful flowy bohemian printed dress is right for you, while that belted shirtdress has your best friend’s name all over it. Without having a sense of personal style, shopping will overwhelm you, and you’ll find yourself with a closet filled with clothes but nothing to wear. When you aren’t confident in your own vision, you wind up with purchases simply because (1) they were on sale, (2) your sister thought you looked adorable in them, or (3) a salesperson did some fast commission-boosting talking. None of those reasons are good for your style or your wallet.
You might be looking to develop your personal style—which we’ll do in the next couple of chapters—but you have an intuitive sense of what you like and don’t like. You aren’t going to start wearing leopard prints and miniskirts all of a sudden when you’ve gravitated to tailored suits your whole life. The point is, a little self-knowledge can lead to a whole lot of shopping as you learn which stores, websites, styles, and designers work for you.
Find Your Style Personality
From shopping with countless women, I’ve discovered that many fall into at least one of the major categories below. Which description best matches your style personality? You may be a combination of two or three. Don’t worry, you’re not a style schizo. These are guidelines to get you thinking about your look so that when that oversize ruffled pirate shirt by a top designer that wouldn’t even look good on Heidi Klum has been marked down from a thousand dollars to a hundred dollars, you can walk away with confidence.
THE CLASSIC GIRL
You consider “trend” a dirty word. You love a crisp white shirt, a well-cut trench, and a wonderfully tailored shift dress in midnight black. Audrey Hepburn is your style icon.
THE BOHEMIAN BABE
You gravitate toward fabrics that have fluidity and ease and hate anything too tailored. The sixties style icon Talitha Getty is your fairy godmother.
THE TREND-DRIVEN DIVA
You love being current with the latest trends and styles. Your friends come to you to ask what’s in this season. Vogue and Elle magazines are your style bibles.
THE POSH PRINCESS
Your style is very pulled together and chic. You’re a fan of structured silhouettes and outfits that have a precise theme. Think Blair Waldorf in Gossip Girl.
THE COLOR-IS-MY-MIDDLE-NAME CUTIE
You’re not afraid to tango with tangerine or salsa with saffron. A love for color ignites your mood. You light up the darkest rooms. Michelle Obama’s fearless choices inspire you.
THE NOIR-IS-THE-NEW-BLACK BETTY
Never mind what the magazines do or don’t say, black is the new black in your book. It’s your go-to hue no matter the season or the state. You prefer to look like a New Yorker even if you’re strolling the sands of Malibu.
THE FEMININE FRILLY
You embrace your girly side with sweet details like lace, ruffles, and bows. The color pink reigns supreme. Think Mariah Carey with her love of sparkles and butterflies.
THE SEXY SEDUCTRESS
You like to stir up a little trouble by wearing form-fitting fabrics and showing a little more skin than the average gal. Salma Hayek and Beyoncé are your style icons.
THE VINTAGE VIXEN
You love making a piece from another era look modern and fresh, preferring one-of-a-kind vintage items to off-the-rack ready-to-wear. You love watching celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe hunt for treasures, and you think Sienna Miller has a killer eye.
THE SPORTY SPICE
Sneakers and cargo pants are your idea of wardrobe staples. You look for plenty of flexibility and room for movement in your clothes. Venus and Serena—on the court—are your role models.
You may envision yourself as a Posh Princess, but you spend all day taking care of two very messy toddlers. Or you are a Sporty Spice at heart but run a large corporation where you are expected to wear serious suits every day. While it’s great to have fantasies and desires, you also need to realistically tailor your look to your lifestyle. This will ensure you don’t waste money on clothes that are for a totally different person’s life. Ask yourself the following questions to get thinking about the clothes that will really suit you.
WHAT ARE MY WEEKENDS LIKE?
Your weekends might involve a lot of socializing and family activities. One huge style myth is that casual or comfortable means schleppy. The truth is, casual has never looked so good. There are stylish jackets in comfy sweatshirt material and flattering silhouettes, not to mention a million cute pairs of jeans. There are also dresses that are so comfy you feel like you’re in a nightgown.
WHAT ARE MY ROLES?
Are you a mom to mini future NFL players whose hugs come with dirt and grass stains? Shout it out and dress in pieces that can easily be washed. Are you an assistant? Dress for the position that you want, not the position you have. Are you a dog walker? There are fabulous sneaker options (supermodel Veronica Webb suggests Puma and Tiger). No matter what your role or title, there are stylish options to suit your lifestyle.
WHERE DO I LIVE, AND WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE?
Weather and region play huge roles in your lifestyle. If you don’t like the overall personal style of the region that you live in, dare to be different and wear what suits you. If you are in a cold climate, think about buying beautiful pieces that keep you warm and make you feel good: elbow-length, bold-colored gloves, wool newsboy hats, chunky colorful knit sweaters, knit dresses, fur- or wool-lined leather boots, thick textured tights—oh, the list just goes on and on.
WHAT AM I ALWAYS DOING?
It seems like an obvious question, but take a few minutes to think about it. Are you always running late with no time to do your hair? Stock up on stylish hat options like fedoras instead of the mom-jean equivalent for heads—baseball caps. If you catch public transportation, go for stylish flats instead of frumpy sneakers.
WHAT ARE MY GOALS AND WISHES?
This is a perfect time to open the door to trying new experiences. If you want to start hosting parties or try salsa dancing, make a mental note when shopping. Be open to purchasing pieces that are not a part of your daily routine but will become a part of your expanded lifestyle.
SHOP TALK WITH… Amy Elisa Keith,
People magazine writer
“Casual doesn’t mean sloppy. You can still be comfy and casual while looking polished. Wear a crisp white tank top or a new white V-neck shirt with jeans, and throw on some hoop earrings with it and a great pair of flat sandals. If you’re wearing baggy sweats, stay away from a baggy shirt. If you’re wearing sneakers, wear a bit of makeup and accessorize.”
Get Inspired to Shop!
Inspiration allows your personal style to continuously evolve. And it can come from nearly anywhere. Designers base their collections on inspirations that range from the color and texture of their favorite kitchen spice to where they went on their summer vacations. It’s that free and spontaneous; there are no rules! Inspiration can take your attitude about getting dressed from depressing to delightful.
How will evolving your style help you become a better shopper? Well, first of all, this is supposed to be fun. So the more you can experience fashion as an exciting way to express yourself, and not as some preconceived notion of how you should look, the more you’ll enjoy your clothes. But digging yourself out of a fashion rut (yes, I’m talking to those of you who have the same dress in every color of blah), or opening up to wider possibilities that still fit your general style, will give you many more options when you hit the stores in search of bargains. If you know how to play with pieces, you’ll be able to incorporate lots of hidden gems passed over by the ordinary shopper.
Now, some may think that you have to live a glamorous life filled with champagne days and diamond nights in order to be inspired. But it does not matter if you live in Ibiza or Idaho: it’s all about tapping into whatever sources give you a rush. Start by heading to your local bookstore or newsstand. Peruse fashion magazines, lifestyle books, catalogs, and party planning books—they’re all full of fabulous, inspiration-laden photos. Think of a woman whose style you really admire, whether she’s a celebrity or your next-door neighbor. Take note of the confidence that she exudes. Maybe she wears full skirts or boasts bold-colored tops or always has freshly blown out hair. Take particular note of women who share similar traits to your own, like hair or skin color. If you’re blond and have a blond coworker who always looks great in nude and cream, try the same. Always be on the lookout for well-dressed women who share your body shape, then analyze their look. Maybe you have a petite frame like Eva Longoria Parker. Find inspiration in her ability to always look amazing, whether at a basketball game or on the red carpet, and apply it to your wardrobe. When I style segments for television, women always say, “Hmm, I would never have thought to do that!” Sometimes the courage to try something new comes only after you’ve seen it done successfully on someone else. On the other hand, it’s just as important to observe another person’s mistakes to prevent your own personal fashion disaster.
Get in the Mood
Another way to visualize a more stylish you is to create your very own mood board. It’s a great visual reminder of your goal. What exactly is a mood board? It’s a personal collection of images, fabric swatches, photos, postcards, pages torn from magazines, and anything else that inspires you. Walk into any fashion designer’s office, and you’ll find mood boards galore. Fashion editors and stylists also create mood boards to generate looks for their magazine pages or clients. Inspiration is fashion’s lifeblood—I can’t stress that enough. Without inspiration, the fashion industry would not exist. To look your best, you need to tap into the same process.
The PTA moms seem to have scrapbooking covered, so now it’s time for us fashion girls to have a little project. Your next assignment is to put together a mood board with all of your life and wardrobe inspirations. Think of it as the most fashionable arts and crafts project that you will ever make.
Creating Your Mood Board
Making a mood board is lots of fun—and even somewhat therapeutic. It allows you to get in touch with your inner passions and the alter ego (hello, inner showgirl!) you’re afraid to unlock.
Begin by clipping, collecting, and stashing any image or material that catches your eye—you can edit down later. Snag a sharp pair of scissors (or pinking shears for a pretty zigzag border effect) and a box of push pins. Assemble the mood board on a canvas of your choice. An easy option is a large corkboard that you can pick up at any office supply store. Or, if you want to be très chic, try using a thrift store painting with a cool vintage frame and just cover the picture with your materials.
If you are a techie and prefer smooth fingertips to paper cuts, you can create a virtual mood board. Compile images from online, or even scan your materials. After saving, cut and paste them all into one document, sizing and arranging to suit your liking. You can print the finished product or even make it your screen saver!
Regardless of the format, make sure that you spend a little quality time looking over your mood board, even if it’s just a few seconds every day. By constantly checking your gallery of inspiration, you will effortlessly become your own best fashion editor. Your office, closet, or near your bedroom mirror are great places to keep your board. And you should create a new mood board at least twice a year, just before spring and then again for fall. A few items may remain constant—a photo of your style icon, perhaps—but it’s only natural for your mood and needs to change with the weather. For instance, an image of a great Fendi fur coat might be swapped for a shot of your favorite summer Miami, here I come thong sandals.
MOOD BOARD MATERIALS
- Tear sheets from magazines, catalogs, and newspapers
- Portrait of you looking your best (gotta have something to top, right?!)
- Photos of style muses (a couple of my personal favorites are Diana Ross and Jackie O, but most people are not as dramatic as I am!)
- Pictures of inspiring family members
- Favorite designer looks
- Pictures of items that you plan on style stalking until you get your hands on them
- Favorite colors and prints displayed on ribbons, fabric swatches, paint swatch cards, or home decor images
- Heartfelt items (a special brooch that you wore on a memorable occasion, the button that fell off your coat the night you met your husband). Not everyone puts this kind of thing on their mood board, but I’m a fanatic for romantic memories
- Life mantras and mottos—whether they’re from Jesus, your late grandpa, or your favorite poet, inspirational quotes and words can really tie together your mood board
Covered in glue, surrounded by stacks of your favorite magazines or dreamily staring at a picture of your fantasy boots, you are getting your fashion juices flowing. Now let’s move on to real materials. I’m talking cashmere, silk, leather… you know, clothes. Fired up by inspiration and grounded with a vision of your personal style, you are ready to get into the nitty-gritty of building the perfect wardrobe.
© 2010 Daisy Lewellyn