Developing Your Signature Look

The first step to simplifying your wardrobe is to develop your personal style and create a signature look or uniform. A signature look is a person’s flagship – the definition of their personal style. The exercise of distilling your style into a uniform or signature will force you to be analytical about the way in which you want to express yourself through your style choices. You’ll also gain a better understanding of your wardrobe as a whole. This will help both when you are making new purchases and when you are discarding old clothes because you’ll be able to recognise which items fit within your style and which don’t.

The ultimate benefit of a signature look is that you won’t have to worry about having “nothing to wear”. Since you will have a well-defined go-to look, all the pieces in your wardrobe will mesh together to make outfits that always suit your style. It’s the first step in building a cohesive, curated, minimal wardrobe.

If you still need convincing that creating a signature look is the way to go, just look at style icons throughout history. You’ll recognise that many have an iconic, flagship look that is the essence of their overall style: Emmanuelle Alt has her skinny trousers and boxy jackets; the Olsen Twins’ stick to a monochrome, androgynous theme; and Victoria Beckham has smart tailoring, for example.

How to create your signature look

1. Explore your style concept
Start by collecting images that you feel most encapsulate your style (or desired style). Pinterest is a great place to start, but also check out your favourite blogs, Tumblrs and Instagram accounts. Collect outfit photos – full body, close ups of details – and aim for images of people wearing the clothes as opposed to product shots. Be selective – only pick outfits you really like and try to notice what it is you like about them, whether it’s the colour combination, the accessories or the way a piece has been styled. Spend as long as you need (you’ll probably need at least a couple of hours) and aim for approximately 100 examples – you need a large enough quantity to be able to extract themes across the images.

You can be really fancy and use Photoshop to create a mood board of all your images, or just save them to a dedicated Pinterest board. If you prefer to take an analogue approach, you could also print images or cut them out of magazines to create a physical board.

Keep in mind your lifestyle and personal preferences. You don’t need to be too analytical at this stage, but take note whether an outfit you’ve chosen would translate into everyday wear for you – would you feel physically comfortable and confident in it? Try to include realistic outfits as well as more “inspirational” ones.

2. Extract themes and key elements
Review your mood board and start pulling out themes. Here are some patterns to look for:

a) Colour: What is the general tone of your mood board? Are there any dominant colours? Have you included any prints, patterns or textures? See if you can pull out five or six colours that best represent your mood board and your style. You’re developing your colour palette – you can continually refine it, but this will start to inform the types of colours that will make up the basis of your wardrobe.
b) Outfit components: What common components make up your chosen outfits? Are any of the outfits very similar; save for variations in colour or other minor tweaks?
c) Other commonalities: Do any other common threads run through the images you have chosen? Do you favour a particular type of accessory or jewellery?

3. Pull it all together
Write down three to five bullet points to sum up the overall style of the images you have chosen:

  • monochrome or muted tones
  • block colours (no prints or patterns)
  • separates
  • simple cuts
  • androgenous

This exercise will give you a picture of the elements that make up your signature look, which will help you to figure out the different types of pieces you’ll need and how they’ll work together in your wardrobe. In the next step you’ll be drilling down and defining a catalogue for your everyday wardrobe based on your signature look.

A note on multiple wardrobes:
This guide focuses on building a single foundational wardrobe for your everyday life, but what if you need more than one wardrobe? For example, you might have to wear smart clothes to work. There might be some overlap, but initially it’s best to treat this as separate to your casual “off-duty” wardrobe. Focus on the one you consider to be your “everyday wardrobe” first – either the one you wear the most or feel most “you” in and follow the steps in this guide. This wardrobe will be the foundation, and once you feel like you’ve cracked it, you can complete the process again with a different wardrobe. The total amount of clothes you end up with should reflect the amount of time you spend in each situation. If you wear your work wardrobe five days out of seven, for example, more of your clothes will probably be work wear.

Also, you may want to have seasonal wardrobes, one from spring/summer and another for autumn/winter. Unless the climate changes drastically across seasons, you probably don’t need entirely separate wardrobes for different seasons, just layers that you can add or take away. I recommend building your wardrobe based on the average climate where you live and the types of clothes you wear most across the year. You can always add holiday or very season-specific clothes later to help you transition across seasons.


image via VooBerlin