Developing your personal style is a journey. It starts off in childhood, where you’re drawn to things naturally (I had a twirl test for all skirts in elementary school) and typically results in some questionable combos (reference grades six through eight for me). And then, as an adult, you’re a little more comfortable with what works on you, what you love, and how you want the world to perceive you.
My early post-college days involved a lot of figuring out of life things, but also the final stages of cementing what I liked to wear—blissfully, my current state involves a lot less worrying about my clothes. Like everyone, I got here naturally, but I also have a very wise former colleague who offered me an odd-but-genius pearl of wisdom to make things a little easier. “You know, whenever I’m worried that I look a little crazy in whatever I’m wearing, I remind myself that somewhere in New York City, there’s a man walking around with a cat on his head,” she’d offered up one time after hearing me complain that maybe whatever I was wearing was just too strange. And she was totally right. We’d seen this odd guy standing around midtown, standing still as a statute with a cat, also sitting still as a statue, directly on top of his head. I’m imagining he wanted tips for photos (it was impressive), but it was a perfect example that my neon orange shift dress isn’t going to attract a second glance.
Older and more confident, here are the rules that I don’t give a darn about. The beauty of personal style is that you can totally follow them if you want, but please, just don’t feel like you must.
#1. White Only Works in the Spring and Summer.
Ugh! No! White is such a fantastic, crisp, palette-cleansing color that I’d like to wear it as much as possible. Cream jeans have been having their moment, but I’m planning on wearing my optic pairs until we’re firmly in 2015 (they look so chic with other pale neutrals). And 75% of the white dresses in my closet, excusing eyelet and linen, feel funky with black tights, booties, and a sweater.
#2. Get Rid of Things You Haven’t Worn in Six Months.
This would certainly make my closet a breezier space to rifle through, but I don’t care. Being a clotheshorse is a glorious hobby and there are things I’ve owned for two years and worn once, but I adore them. They’re special and require a very certain situation, but whenever those moments arise, I’ll be ready. And I guarantee, I’ll be so, so happy that I bought it.
#3. Black and Brown and Black and Navy Never Work.
Out of the dependable, constant neutral colors, I can’t imagine a single color combination that wouldn’t work. I would’ve thought we’d all abandoned issues with black and other colors, but I still come across squeamish girlfriends (and dudes—dudes are the worst) who can’t handle it. Stop thinking it’s a no-no and try everything together.
#4. Clothes Must Be Washed After Every Wear.
Remember Mom’s lessons when you were little? You wear something, you take it off, you toss it in the hamper. There are clearly moments where this is absolutely the right chain of events, but not always. If I wore something to only sit at my desk for a few hours and it’s not dirty at all, I’m sorry, but I’m hanging it back up. Washing and dry cleaning is harsh on garments and the more you do it, the quicker you’ll see the damage.
#5. Don’t Wear the Same Thing Too Often.
This is the newest one I’m trying to embrace. I was fascinated to hear Zac Posen say he thinks re-wearing is terribly chic and it’s a sentiment I’ve noticed reading more and more places. The idea of anyone remembering what someone else wore is kind of silly (if I saw a coworker in something from last week, I don’t think I’d have any idea). Plus, it supports the growing trend of consumers abandoning fast fashion and shopping less, but investing in higher quality pieces that’ll last longer. It’s a tough rule to break, but I’m up for the challenge.