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How Do I Find My Style?

Tips for finding a formal look that’s totally you.

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Formalwear is just a little (ok- a lot!) different than casual cotton skirts or laid-back jackets. Since a cocktail dress or suit and tie aren’t something you sport every day, you may be wondering: How do I find my style?

School dances, grad parties and sweet sixteens require outfits that are dressier than street clothes. But don’t worry, finding your formal look is simple: look out for inspiration, find your style icons, create your own look book, then only buy what you truly love.

1. Look to photos for inspiration.

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Check out these style galleries of celebs in gorgeous dresses for style inspiration. Pick up a couple of your favorite magazines and set aside some time to look through them. Cut out pictures of styles that you love. After you have a pile of cutouts, look back through them to find similarities. Did you cut out a bunch of photos of girls with tulle skirts? Are there a bunch of guys wearing skinny ties? Do you see a lot of chunky jewelry, wingtips or even a certain color? These are all clues to what your personal style is.

2. Look beyond celebrity style, too.

Look out for real-life style stars, too. Fashion blogs, photo websites like Pinterest or WeHeartIt are great for finding out what real girls and guys are wearing. Create a folder on your computer dedicated to holding photos of formal looks you love. Or, create a Tumblr or Instagram to catalog your faves. Once you have a bunch of photos, go back through them spot things you picked out more than once. Just like the magazine cut outs, these are clues into your personal style.

3. Create a look book.

Create a look book online or using a notebook. Arrange your style photos in order of appeal. Consult your book before you go shopping, or take it with you.

4. Find a style icon.

Figure out whose looks you admire on the red carpet, on TV and in movies. Are you drawn to Taylor Swift’s long, sparkly gowns? Who is your fave cast member, style-wise, on Pretty Little Liars? Pick a few of your favorite well-dressed celebs or TV characters and use them as your style icon. When you’re shopping, try on outfits that are similar to what your icons are wearing.

5. Consider your personality.

Your personality is a great clue to what your formal style is. Write down a bunch of words that describe you, and then ask your friends and your family to do the same. Do you consider yourself conservative? Do people describe you as quirky? Outgoing? Flirty? Classic? All of these words are character traits, but they’re also clothing styles. If you’re a reserved, conservative kind of girl, you may want an ivory or pastel colored dress with demure heels. If you are quirky, outgoing guy, you might want a patterned bow tie. Use your personality to discover your style.

6. Only buy what you love.

Following trends can be tempting. But before you drop some cash on a dress or a suit jacket, stop and ask yourself- does this fit my personality? Is this something from my look book? Would my style icon wear this? If it feels like an impulse buy, or you’re just buying it because you only kinda-sorta like it, put it back on the rack. But if you saw your favorite celeb wearing a dress just like it, or if they’re dress shoes that look exactly like three similar styles in your look book, you’ve scored.
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