Developing your own sense of style

When I was 12, my favorite outfit to wear to summer camp was my black and white striped tee with holes cut out of the shoulders, paired with light blue denim shorts, sneakers and green tights.

Kids literally thought I was crazy, especially for wearing tights during the summer. Looking back, I’d have to agree. The whole ensemble was a complete train wreck.

Thankfully, my style evolved as I grew up. I no longer wear platform sneakers or my Hot Topic “parachute” jeans from eighth grade. Throughout the years, I’ve defined myself as a person and I’ve come to develop a style that reflects who I am.

Sure, it’s nice to roll out of bed and go to class in sweatpants. I can’t argue with that. We can’t all be Victoria Beckham, spending every second of our lives in haute couture.

Still, your personal appearance is your first impression to the world and should reflect your individuality. Using your wardrobe to make a statement can be very liberating and, for me at least, is always worth the extra effort.

You don’t have to follow the trends. In fact, it’s better if you don’t. How are you supposed to stand out if you look like everyone else? You don’t need to be “fashionable” to be stylish.

Maybe you can’t stand Ugg boots or skinny jeans or leggings. So don’t wear them! Instead of buying an outfit from Abercrombie & Fitch, spend your money at an obscure boutique. It’s better to find quality pieces of clothing that aren’t so common.

Here are some tips to help you define your style:

1. Know what looks good on you. Wear cuts that flatter your figure and colors that accentuate your best features. Know what trends you can pull off and which ones make you feel silly. Find pieces that feel right to create an outfit that’s truly you. A second opinion never hurts, so try on different styles with a friend, or even with your mom (she’s around for a reason, you know).

2. Experiment with fashion by wearing a new style every day. Refuse to be a typecast! It’s always fun to surprise people by being fashionably unpredictable. It’s also a great way to figure out what styles look best on you and what you’re most comfortable wearing.

3. If you’re creative, invest in a sewing machine. Customize clothes that you already have or create pieces from scratch with patterns from a craft store.

4. Never underestimate the power of accessories. They add that extra oomph to an outfit. Wear an oversized bag or a flashy clutch with a simple outfit, or pair a scoop-neck shirt with big earrings instead of a necklace. Mix and match to find the perfect combinations. You’ll be amazed at your creations.

5. Develop a style trademark, like Jackie O. and her giant sunglasses or Mary-Kate Olsen and her shabby-chic. It’s easy to find a signature style trait that sets you apart from the crowd. If you look great in headbands, start a headband collection and coordinate them with your outfits.

6. Don’t let the thrift store gross you out. Second-hand clothes are unique and eclectic, not to mention affordable. These places are gold mines for creating original and quirky outfits. Serious hunting at the thrift store can lead to great vintage finds. And as long as it isn’t stained and doesn’t smell, I say it’s fair game.

So go home and open your closet. Dig through your shoes and sift through your accessories. Create ensembles from what you already have and shop for new pieces to add a fresh twist to old outfits. Wear your creations with pride. You are an artist, and your outfit is your masterpiece!