Ahh personal style–the popular and very marketable term used to drive American post-modern individualism and the precarious method figuratively shoving women into imaginary and often off-based binaries. Someone asked a woman I know how does she define her personal style, and like the witty BK woman she is, she said, “I don’t.” How useful it is to name your personal style and who exactly are these names like “classic prep” and “rocker edgy” for?

I’ve always found the idea of “personal style” to be the most fascinating paradox–we are encouraged to know our personal style yet the agenda item to know who we are is tabled and nearly curtained for the next reel. I mean, how can you really know your personal style when you don’t know who you are?

“Know thyself, and dress accordingly”

But personal style can be advantageous and financially healthy–who wants to burn cash on pieces we seem to never wear?–when it’s met with honest intentions.

In my own quest to develop and edit my self-concept–how I see myself and how I want the world to see me–I’ve come up with a short list of ways to tell when we really, truly know we have personal style.

1. You are clear: You’ve developed a firm grasp on who you are and who you are not. Your look speaks your style so you don’t have to.

2. You dress for you and for the people who matter: Sure many of us would like to believe we don’t give two damns about what the next person is thinking of our look–but we do. We dress for our lovers and ex-lovers, our co-workers, and our friends. And not only are having a blast impressing or flipping folks off with our risqué mini–we’ve crafted both a practical and versatile wardrobe that fits every facet of our character and the spaces we dwell in.

3. You wear everything in your closet: You don’t have that dress or denim jumpsuit you’d never wear–you donated those to the Goodwill downtown with the trusty tax write off. Your wardrobe is right now and is constantly under your sartorial edit.

4. You never copy: We all have those friends or not-so-much friends who literally cut and paste our looks. You shouldn’t get angry with this friend or consider un-friending her–rather you should consider helping this friend develop a solid presentation of the woman she is, what she wants to project, and help her dress accordingly. Bottom line, friends that copy your look are friends who don’t have a clue who they are.

5. Shopping ain’t nothing but a thang: Because you have such a sturdy vision of your personal style–whether you give it a name or not–shopping is never a headache. You’re in and out of online stores and boutiques because you know precisely what you’re going for.

6. You are brave: You’re not afraid to make a sudden and bold change. You recognize your complex and layered self and have assigned a look for each layer.

7. You spread love: You’re rarely threatened by the next woman–even if she’s carrying your bag. Instead you recognize and acknowledge the beauty in other stylish woman–because you’ve planted and nourished a similar seed in yourself.

8. His opinion matters but not that much: You don’t allow your new conservative boyfriend to alter the presentation of yourself–he hates your natural or wants your extensions out? Oh wells—he can kick glaciers, or learn to accept you for who you are.

9.You covet style, not labels: Sure you stan for everything out of Jason Wu’s Fall 2011 collection–but you won’t go broke to cop it. Instead you find inspiration points and like materials at a price point you can afford in this moment in your life.

10. Your style is everywhere: You’re personal style is so potent, it spreads. Your taste can be found in everything from your bed spread, kitchen flatware to your cubicle at the work place.

–Geneva S. Thomas

What’s your personal style? Do you choose to define it? Sound off!

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  • Brittany

    Why can’t there be more posts like these? I love these kinds of posts!!

  • Geneva, you’re writing is dooooppppeee!!!! I love that I can see the social relevancy you’re pulling into a topic that a lot of critics and a loof intellectuals might write off as commonplace. You do a solid job of taking a popular dynamic, keeping it fun but suggesting a deeper possibility.

    It’s also great that I agree with everything you said. haha.

    This was my first, and NOT last, time here.

  • ShannonLeo

    This is one of the best helpful/ reminder post ever. These are the things little girls should learn in school!!!