How To Find (And Curate) Your Personal Aesthetic
How Do You Find Your Style?
I’ve always known my style well, even as it has changed throughout the years. I found Tumblr at an early age, scrolling for hours pre-Pinterest and pre-Instagram. (Thank goodness for that—suburban Orange County wasn’t exactly checking my style boxes.)
I studied the outfits of Alexa Chung—even down to the haircut—harder than any school subject. And, I threw just about every trend at the wall to see what would stick and feel most “me.” I swiftly transitioned from Juicy Couture tracksuits to 100% thrifted outfits, traded my polo shirts for band tees, and found myself—and my style—along the way.
Personal style reveals so much about who we are and what our experience is at at any given point. But when our style is in flux or when it strays from what we knew it to be, it feels elusive and hard to grasp. We’re prone to change—our styles change as we change. The biggest question is, how can we actually hone in on that personal aesthetic?
It starts by going easy on yourself. Developing your style is akin to nurturing your personality—it takes time and patience. I love this quote from Leandra Medine Cohen:
“Let your style happen to you. Let life begin to show on you, allow nature to take its course and then adjust, modify, accept what you are and make it the best. But there is an ingredient that I believe is often overlooked and seems to be at the crux of defining your style, and that is honesty. You can’t know your style until you know yourself.”
Though my personal style has certainly developed over the years, I’ve nailed down some helpful tips for anyone looking to do the same. So, let’s dive into the journey of finding oneself—ahem, one’s style.
1. Identify your icons and inspiration
As I mentioned before, my 14+ year-old self idolized Alexa Chung. French girl beauty? I wanted English girl beauty, and I wanted it bad. I got the haircut, tried to find the cheeky vintage tees, and despite having vastly different body shapes, even tried to replicate the outfits piece-by-piece.
That obsession has morphed into an appreciation (and recognition that some things just don’t work for me). Since then, I’ve looked to people whose style feels similar to mine and whose body looks similar to mine, so I have a better understanding of how something is going to fit me. It’s helped a lot to not feel crushed by the realization that I will never have a model figure, too. Go, body neutrality!
When considering style icons, think of movie characters you love, musicians, or yes, even Instagram-celebs. No shame in lovin’ on the celebrity game—they have stylists for a reason.
The same rings true for home decor style, too; find people whose lifestyles and spaces feel relevant to yours. Since the start of sheltering-at-home, I’ve been on a mission to re-zhuzh my home. I moved, too (0/10, do not recommend in a period of global disease), which helped me sell, donate, and gift goods that were aligned with “old me” and bring in items that felt in line with “new me.”
Remember when I said personal style is a reflection of us? That means it’s going to change with the seasons and grow as you do.
When looking for inspo, whether it’s for your home or for your clothing, think about what makes you feel good. Is there a look you saw in your beloved Instagram Explore page that gave you a tingling, gotta-have-it feeling? Chase that! If you’re coming across styles that repeatedly give you that “are we flirting? Is this a date?” butterfly sensation, I think that means you’re onto something.
Once you’ve pulled together your icons and inspirations, find the throughline. Are there certain colors involved? Shapes? Styles? Finding your personal style isn’t about finding one look and sticking to it like glue, but you should be able to find some common denominators in these #inspo pics you’ve sourced.
2. Moodboard it out
Don’t go heading to the mall (or Depop…or Etsy) before you’ve created a vision board. If you’re a tactile person, you can absolutely print and paste pictures, words, ~vibes~ together. I like to do this in Photoshop, too! It helps to visually lay out all of your interests to hone in on them.
Laying your inspirations out visually is a great way to see commonalities in who and what you are drawn to. My mood board tip is to apply all sorts of media. Color swatches, beautiful images of wine by the pool if that’s your thing—really envision the life you love and paste it down, school-project style. Once you’ve created this vision board, you can see what aligns with what you already own and what feels far off.
3. Practice patience (and self-compassion)
Instagram, Pinterest—they’re all double-edged swords. The same tools that can help you find inspiration around the globe are the very ones that’ll always leave you feeling like your taste, home, or personality are never quite it, never quite “enough.”
This is the pressure of perfection, which we’re bound to feel when Instagram highlights only the most curated moments. We know all too well the pressures of maintaining a perfect home—don’t get too caught up in them. Sometimes I feel like the vision in my head doesn’t match my look IRL, and that’s okay. Baby steps!
Finding your personal style is like trying on lots of hats, or dresses, or two-piece sets, and seeing what works. Next time you’re scouring an influencer’s account whose life is full of baguettes and biking through Amsterdam, really consider what it is about their lifestyle that you want to apply to your own and go for it.
Personal aesthetics develop over time, and they age like fine wine—take time with your maturation. 🍷
Alyssa Julian is the Social Media Lead at The Good Trade. She’s LA born and raised, and when she’s not scrolling her phone for the latest trends, she can be found at the farmers’ market, camping out of the back of her Subaru, or searching for adoptable dogs on Petfinder. If she’s not off-grid for the weekend, try looking for her at her home studio, where she’s probably making cups for a new coffee shop. Say hi on Instagram! 👋