New year, new style? Most fashion icons we admire have something that can best be defined as a “signature style” – a way of putting things together that is unique to them. Think Jane Birkin, Audrey Hepburn and Brigitte Bardot back in the day, or Alexa Chung, Kate Moss and Olivia Palermo today. This know-how in selecting, editing and styling has put these fashion legends on the style map and won them worldwide admiration. But contrary to what many fashion magazines would have you believe, personal style is not an elusive je-ne-sais-quoi available only to the select few – with some time, research and effort coupled with an inevitable trial-and-error process, you too can channel your inner Alexa and feel confident, comfortable and chic in what you’re wearing.
And you can do it all without wearing one single shred of animal skin.
Finding your personal style is a process for most people, but when you couple it with vegan fashion, it can mean even more research and time, so be patient with the process and keep honing your styling skills. Important note: it takes time to overhaul your wardrobe, and it should take time. Getting rid of your entire collection of fully functional leather bags in favour of newly produced vegan leather is wasteful and does the opposite of what you intended: it harms the planet. Throwing away clothing just because it’s no longer your style is even worse. Sell or donate your unwanted items, or keep them until they fall apart, and then substitute with an appropriate vegan version.
Make a Pinterest board. This is one of the most fun steps of the process, and it’s absolutely crucial to it. Create a new board on Pinterest and add images to it that reflect the style you would like to have. At this stage, ignore the vegan aspect and feel free to fill up your board with absolutely everything that inspires you – the veganising will come at a later stage. Be mindful of the actual clothes, though: in the past, I’ve found myself adding photos to my Pinterest boards of things that I would never wear – because the image was beautiful and had an atmosphere about it that I liked. This is fun but not productive, and actually confuses the process. If you like the way those glittery shoes look on the model but know that you would never actually wear glittery shoes, then refrain from pinning.
Identify key elements. Take a good look at the board you’ve created and try to identify recurring things that attracted you to those images. See a lot of denim? Pastel colours? Knits? Pay attention to silhouettes you like – are you a fan of loose-fitting shapes or more rigorous tailoring? Do you prefer voluminous or fitted designs? Write down the garment types, styles, colour palettes and other details that frequently occur in your chosen images – those will become the guiding elements of your new personal style. Also, try and identify what overall vibe you want to channel with your personal style. Is it playful and adventurous, or stark minimalist? Is there a particular era or atmosphere that speaks to you? It took me a long time to get this right, but now that I know exactly what vibe I’m going for, shopping is so much easier.
Evaluate your wardrobe. I like to do this by very elegantly hauling everything out and throwing it on my bed. Go through everything – and I mean everything – in your wardrobe, and ask yourself how often you wear this, what you wear it with and if you are happy wearing it. You might rediscover things you forgot you had, or that you might fall back in love with. Other items might have reached the end of their lifespan and it might be time to part ways. Also, compare the wardrobe you currently have with your Pinterest boards and your key elements. This helps you identify the items you already have and the ones to put on your shopping list.
Discover new brands. Instagram is your friend here: take a look at vegan brands and find out which ones work with the colours, fabrics and silhouettes you mapped out as key elements of your personal style. For example, I like ByBlanch as they are masters of the ankle boot, which is one of my key elements. I also adore Unreal Fur, as they work with a range of deep jewel colours – another of my key elements. Get a good idea of the items you think would work well with your new style, and who makes them.
Read up on materials. Get your Pinterest board out again and check what materials frequently appear. For me this was tough because my board was pretty much a sea of black leather everything – biker jackets, ankle boots, trousers, skirts and dresses in black leather. Given that I never wanted to wear animal leather again in my life, this was a bit of a dilemma. But through the years the quality of vegan leathers available on the market has improved massively, and I can now shop for my leather-look favourites without the fear that they won’t last beyond the season. Identify the fabrics you’re a fan of and investigate the brands that work with vegan versions of them.
Go second-hand shopping. This is my best tip and it has become the backbone of my own ever-evolving style and wardrobe. Hunting down that perfect item is so much more fun than simply clicking on a link for yet another mass-produced garment, and when you finally find that rare gem, it’s so much more satisfying than walking home with carrier bags from fast-fashion chains. Second-hand shopping is one of the cheapest, most effective and most creative ways to shop ethically, and if you visit a charity shop then the (often tiny) amount of money you pay for your garment will go to a good cause.
One rule to ignore: body shapes. Society has this way of putting us into boxes, and that includes our body shapes. Every once in a while you will find these guides to dressing for your body shape that make it look like there are only four or five types of bodies in the entire world. That is absolutely ridiculous, and makes the process of finding your personal style much harder than it needs to be. If you dissect it carefully, the whole concept of dressing for your body type is fashionista code for “how to look skinnier”. It’s sad when we use the creative, liberating and infinitely fun self-expression tool that fashion is only to adhere to society’s limited and unrealistic beauty standards. So if you like horizontal stripes and are big-busted, go for them anyway! Screw society’s narrow standards. We are so much more than apples or pears.
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Photos by Brooke Cagle via Unsplash