How to Develop A Personal Style That's Both Ethical & Stylish

A few weeks ago I randomly signed up for a contest to win a free personal styling session with Share Some Style, a Chicago-based startup that connects personal stylists with customers who are trying to develop their personal style. I had forgotten completely about it until the next day when I checked my email over lunch and saw an email entitled "Congrats–You Won!" It would be the first time I won an online contest, had a personal styling session with an expert, and….be on TV.

Yes, you read that correctly. Apparently the contest was for a free personal style session that would be filmed and televised. In signing up quickly, I apparently skimmed over that important fact. Truth be told, I probably wouldn't have been so eager to sign up if I realized that it would be televised. As an introvert, being on TV has always been at the very bottom of my bucket list, if on the list at all. However, I was really excited to win the free personal style session since I'm in a period of transition and growth in my life: I'm now officially in my mid-twenties and wanting a more polished style, intentionally revamping my closet to consist of only sustainably-made items, and looking to infuse more creativity into my daily outfits. 

A day later, they emailed to let me know that the producers of the show wanted to go a different route and use one of the news anchors to have a condensed closet audit on TV. But they credited me a full closet audit with a style expert anyways!

So in preparation for the session, I decided to reflect on what I want my personal style to look like. I came up with four "S's" to serve as the pillars or ethos of my style: simple, stylish, sustainable, and sophisticated. 

I want my personal style to be simple

Einstein famously said that we should strive to make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. In developing a personal style that is characterized by simplicity, I skimmed through Pinterest, style blogs, and most helpfully, Share Some Style's Pandora-like bulletin board of styles to see examples of how simple could still be elegant and polished rather than boring and drab. Here are some examples of simple style that are far from boring.

I want my personal style to be stylish. 

There is a difference between style and on-trend in fashion. It's the difference between iconic fashionistas like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the Kardashians. While the classic Jackie-O style will never go out of fashion, the ombre hair and crop tops and high-waisted pants will fade away from the spotlight just as the Kardashians eventually will. This is one of the most difficult ones for me because it asks deeper questions: Who am I? What is my creative astetic? How do I want my clothes to reflect that? 

I want my personal style to be sustainable. 

Readers of my blog are no stranger to my commitment to sustainable and ethical fashion. This is something that I stressed as uncompromisable to my Share Some Style consultant. The trickiest part is finding clothing that fits all of my standards while being within a reasonable budget. 

I want my personal style to be sophisticated

Working in a corporate office atmosphere, I strive to look professional and sophisticated. Essentially, it's about dressing for the job you want rather than the job you have. This is even more important for those who are the younger end of the office worker spectrum. I don't want my younger age to be obvious from my clothing choices, even if I don't want to age myself unnecessarily in what I wear either.

(Side note: Apparently I am drawn to combinations of dark/light prints with pops of color, particularly yellow and blue.)

The main takeaway from my personal styling session was that I needed more basics. According to my expert stylist, I was missing key elements in my closet that are necessary to meet my criteria of having style that's simple, stylish, sustainable, and sophisticated. I needed a well-fitting, crisp white button-down shirt, some nude pumps, a navy blazer, and a few other key items. After the session, I asked my husband whether he heard that my stylish told me I had to go shopping. He didn't respond, just nodded. He already thinks I have too many clothes!

My first step in finding ideas for more basics that fit my criteria was to set up a Pinterest board on a capsule wardrobe—a collection of basics and favorites that can be mixed and matched a number of ways. I'll report back on how the capsule wardrobe is shaping and which new items I've invested in for my closet. 

If you're interested in a personal styling session or closet audit, be sure to check out Share Some Style and see if style experts are near you.