I’ve always been more fascinated with personal style than with what’s considered “stylish”.  Even as a teenager, I was well aware that there were people who were considered fashionable and stylish, those who wore the hippest brands and who knew the latest styles…and then there were those memorable individuals who just exuded personal style, who broke the mold and made any look all their own.

These people weren’t necessarily outlandish dressers, some of them wore clothes that were downright basic.  It’s just that they seemed to have a clear idea of themselves and it showed in the way they carried their clothes, nothing seemed too contrived or tried too hard.

The first time I went to Europe on my 12th birthday, I was blown away–everyone on the street had style and no one wore their clothes the same way. Unlike in Manila (back then) where everyone wore the same pastel preppy polo shirts with the ‘long-back’ and fitted jeans with their espadrilles, Topsiders or Bass loafers, in Europe, even jeans and a t-shirt were given an individual stamp.

Some wore their jeans loose, cinched tightly at the waist like a paperbag with a tight, long-sleeved, scoop-necked  tee and hoop earrings.  Others wore their jeans capri-style, with ballet flats, a cashmere t-shirt, and pearls.  Some girls wore their hair cropped really short, wore suspenders with their cuffed jeans and fitted tees, and a man’s oxford shoes sans socks.  And still others took the bombshell route, wearing tight jeans with pumps, smoky-eyes, and a loose, sloppy shirt falling off their shoulders.  I was floored…and I fell in love with fashion as a way of personal expression.

Now that I’m a fashion designer, I still love it when people take the clothes that I design and wear it their own way.  More often these days style comes pre-packaged by the fashion industry.  Designers, merchandisers, stylists, editors, ‘fashionistas’…we all work together to tell people how to dress.

But personal style is more than just dressing ‘right’ or looking fashionable.  It involves awareness of your own personality mixed with awareness of the style changes happening around you.  It involves choice, experimentation and adaptation–making a particular fashion style or trend work for you.  And, just as importantly, making it fit you (literally and figuratively–I can’t stress enough the importance of fit)!  It doesn’t involve changing your wardrobe with every passing trend, but instead, it builds on the styles that flatter you, and evolves with you as your needs change.

One good way to begin developing your personal style is to take note of the things that interest you outside of your closet.  Are you sporty, an intellectual, or a free-spirit? Do you prefer classical architecture or in-your-face structures?  Do you listen to rock, ethnic, classical, house?  Are you introverted or extroverted, a wallflower or an exhibitionist?  Tweaking a basic wardrobe with a few special pieces and some accessories that reflect these interests (hair color, nail color, socks, eyeglasses, umbrellas…even these often over-looked things count as accessories) is a start to defining your own fashion sense.

As you continue to refine your tastes and increase your self-awareness, your personal style will slowly emerge, and you will begin to look less like everyone else, and more like yourself.  And there’s nothing more fashionably inspiring than that.

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