We're moving on September 30! We have a new domain and a new web site, so from now on, please visit us at our new address:


(Don't forget to update your bookmarks, too!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Identify Your Signature Style, Part I

Art by Nick Cave, former Alvin Ailey dancer and fashion designer. Source.

Although I dress confidently, I am a sucker for how-to's, lists, do-overs, et al. I'll read any fashion article that starts with "Five Ways To . . ." I swear I found one on a lesser website (not a blog!) that was titled "How To Dress More Elegantly" and started with "Buy more elegant clothing".

This little article from Real Simple has some gold in it: Define Your Signature Style. It's real simple (heh), can be applied to any wardrobe, and appeals to my sense of orderliness without being oppressive.

I'm going to take a couple of posts and apply the guidelines to my own wardrobe, and hope that you'll play along, if you choose. And share in the comments! Here's the verbatim text for Step #1:

Step 1: Identify What’s Working

You probably have a handful of go-to pieces you instinctively reach for when you want to look put-together. Now imagine having a rack full of them. The first step toward achieving that goal is figuring out what makes those favorites so, well, favored, says Amy E. Goodman, the author of Wear This, Toss That ($27, amazon.com). “Pull out the five things you would wear every day if no one was keeping track,” she says. (Emphasis mine). Choose something in each clothing category: tops, pants, dresses, and skirts. Then ask yourself a few questions about each piece. Jot down your answers so you can use them as a shopping guide later.

    How would you describe the item? Crisp and tailored? Soft and ruffly?
    What image does it project? Smart and professional? Edgy and fashionable?
    What color is it? Does the shade brighten your complexion?
    What fabric is it made of?
    What is the silhouette like? Nipped at the waist? Flowing and hip-grazing?
    What parts of your body does it accentuate?
    What parts of your body does it de-emphasize? Is it comfortable?

Your answers reveal: Your style barometer. Use your notes to help pinpoint what you like. “Be careful of buying replicates,” says Goodman. You may learn you prefer darks and flared shapes, but you need only one good pair of black bootcuts. “Think of it as nailing down a signature look, not getting into a rut,” she says.


OK, here I go. The five pieces I'd wear every day are:
  • Dark wash straight leg jeans
  • Black long sleeve tee, slim cut but not tight
  • Striped long sleeve tee, slim cut but not tight
  • Black pencil or full skirt
  • Knee length black knit dress, sleeveless for layering

Five Reach-Fors

I'm not entirely sure about the image this projects, except it feels like "me", "she likes black", "move to NYC", or "boring!". Not ruffly nor edgy. Everything is soft, easy to wear, neutral and fairly casual. I like body-skimming clothing that shows off my slim form. I like a waistline and I emphasize my upper body. I avoid bright colors/prints.

What this question does not take into account is that these pieces are the backdrop for lots of accessories. So one of my signatures is: blank canvas for creativity.

The warning against duplicates hits home: I keep buying slim black tees and striped Breton tees, because I love them. I probably own enough now for the remainder of 2013.

Next installment will be Analyze Your Mistakes!

Over to you: What are your five reach-for pieces? What do they reveal about you? Or do these articles make you numb?? No wrong answers!


  1. I dress quite the same.  That striped top is really cute!


  2. Oh Patti, I hate to say it but I am in the numb category! I have tried to,put my natural aversion to one side and think about the questions, but I find it impossible to answer. I wear all lengths, most shapes, most colours, most patterns/prints, but don't mind black either. I wear mostly vintage but have favourite items from the 50s through each subsequent decade. I don't wear trousers very often, but enjoy it when I break out the palazzos or a jumpsuit.
    So I really cannot narrow myself to any signature style - what does this say about me?! Aimless dabbler, unable to focus, butterfly brain?
    Versatile, experimental, adventurous?
    You tell me! But I have had fun thinking about it. xxxx

  3. Patti_NotDeadYetStyleJanuary 8, 2013 at 1:10 PM

     Well, that is you -- versatile and adventurous and always fabulous Curtise. Please don't ever narrow yourself! We shall call your signature style "Curtise"!  : >

  4. Ah, thank you, Patti, you ARE kind!
    Your selection demonstrates your clear sense of what is right for you - an easy, effortless casual chic. xxx

  5. Good stuff!  (I'm a sucker for lists, too.)  Looking forward to the next entry.

  6. Your list is about what I'd choose in a warmer climate. For me, here in rainy old NW England, though, it's skinny jeans, leather jacket, chunky polo neck jumper, striped long-sleeve tee, and wool pencil skirt. I don't stick to these things strictly at all, but if I'm phoning it in, those are the ones I'll inevitably go for.

  7. My go-to pieces are usually all plain - so that I can attempt to jazz them up with a pop of colour. 

  8. Great post!!! I've found looking at my outfit posts helps me narrow what does and doesn't work

  9. That absolutely cracks me up, "buy more elegant clothes"
    What genius came up with that brilliant idea??????

  10. My 5 items would be:  a little black dress, black bootcut trousers, black pencil skirt (skimming but not tight),black and white striped 3/4 sleeve top (skimming, not loose), cream fine gauge V-neck sweater.

    I supposed I'm boring and too into black and white, but like you, I love wearing my accessories against a black canvas.  

  11. Your choices are pretty classic. I'd go along with the jeans and the black tee, probably the pencil skirt, too. Then I'd have to add a turquoise top and some kind of blazer.

    This is a great exercise and would also help in deciding what to pack for trips!

  12. PinkCheetahVintageJanuary 8, 2013 at 11:10 PM

    This post is such perfect timing for me.  I am in the midst of doing a major overhaul to my wardrobe.  I want to be able to wear 90% of my closet EVERYDAY (10% accounts for special occasion clothes) instead of 30% of my closet 90% of the time.
    Does that even make sense to anyone the way I said it?
    I am going to read the link you put up now and pick my top 5 pieces!
    Thnx Patti

  13. If it were possible, I'd like to wear that outfit in the illustration of this post, at least for a photo shoot in an alleyway downtown. Your pieces are classic and elegant. I don't think I can define my style... My five favourite pieces change weekly. But I also love women who wear any genre of clothing with panache.

  14. "Buy more elegant clothes" - lol! For the past year I've been working on my style and it's still a work in progress, but this is great advice! The five pieces I'd wear every day would be dark wash straight leg jeans (a wardrobe staple!), a long soft cardigan, a blazer or structured jacket, a casmere blend v-neck sweater and a basic slim cut, short sleeve top, all in neutral colors. A bit boring perhaps, but that's what works for me:)

  15. Finding a personal style is difficult sometimes.  I only really have one go to piece which is a black turtleneck, everything else I change up all the time depending on my mood! :)

  16. I actually like the advice to buy more elegant clothing. If you don't have the right pieces in your wardrobe, you can't put together the right outfits.

    I do tend to have a winter work uniform. Black pant, solid color top, pearls or patterned scarf. In the summer, of course, its pearls or a statement necklace nude heel, with a fit and flare knee length dress. I have dozens!

  17. Like some other commenters, I fail at the first hurdle. There is no "five items I would wear if no-one was keeping track". So perhaps, really, that's a win?

  18. That's one of the ways I've been working on cultivating my closet. My reach for pieces are my All Saints star sweater, bright blue dresses, metallic grey boots, colorful cords, and unique tee shirt style shirts.

  19. As someone who recently counted 4 green sweaters, 3 pairs of gray pants and 3 denim skirts, one that's gray - I would have to put a green sweater, gray pants and a denim skirt in my most-reached for items.

    It will be interesting to see what ends up on your mistake list.  Often I find that my mistakes are better at defining what I like than my go-to list.

     Since you  prefer clothing with waistbands I'm going to guess that you've got some kind of shapeless shift dress on your list.

  20. I would be picking the same items too, Patti. As a mama of two, I am into picking clothes that are easy to put on yet makes me look presentable and can withstand my mama life. Lately I have noticed I have quite a few skirts because I find them easy to put on, but no miniskirt that is. My go to would be like the classic blue jeans and white top or jeans with gray/black top something like that. If not jeans, then a printed skirt with solid top. I am also into vintage pieces as well, so I guess my style would be something vintage with a litle mix of modern. I am no fashionista really, but I go with what is best for my body type, and I am comfortable in. I am also a less is more kind of person. I love that black full skirt. I am on the lookout for a really good fitting black pencil skirt as well. Happy New Year!

  21. Patti_NotDeadYetStyleJanuary 9, 2013 at 8:50 PM

     Ginger, you are some kind of genius!  : >  My mistakes go up tomorrow . . .

  22. Patti_NotDeadYetStyleJanuary 9, 2013 at 8:51 PM

     That is *just* the way I "see" you, MM!

  23. Great post!  Boy, the items you picked are exactly what I live in... i did a list once of the perfect minimal wardrobe and all of those items were on it!  Look forward to the next installment.

  24. Off the top of my head I would say that my five staples are straight leg, on waist blue jeans, a white blouse (not a shirt), a longish waisted grey skirt with fullness, a lilac cashmere cropped cardi and another in a good bright pink.

    The next list - mistakes! I've bought so many pairs of shoes that were comfortable in the shop and anything but once I've got them home. The same thing with certain clothes, comfort comes first and I have bought things that I can't stride out in and straps that fall down. If I don't feel comfortable then that purchase is definitely a mistake!

  25. I had to really think about this. So I had to say to myself, "If there is a fire what would I grab". I got 10 items. 3 jackets/blazers I love, 5 print tops;1 blouse 4 knit T shirts, and two pants one red/orange and one jeans. That was so hard to do.  All of them don't really go with each other. I grabbed the stars of my closet not the basics. Hmmmm now what?