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Is anyone else feeling lost in this post-pandemic fashion world? Thanks to platforms like SHEIN and ROMWE that are often promoted on TikTok, the trend cycle feels faster than ever nowadays. I feel like as soon as I buy a trendy item, it’s no longer fashionable. To combat this problem, I’ve been spending time trying to find my personal style rather than simply buying trendy pieces all the time. It can be overwhelming at first to find your personal style, so I spoke with professionals who can help.

I chatted with fashion experts Amy Salinger and Lauren Messiah to learn how college students can start finding their personal style in college. Salinger is the founder of Style Method NYC, where she helps style her clients and bring them more confidence, and Messiah is a personal stylist, entrepreneur, and author of the recently released book: Style Therapy. I learned so much from Amy and Lauren, and I can’t wait to share their tips with you, too!

Reflect On Your Lifestyle

First, think about what your day-to-day looks like, and dress accordingly. Salinger explained the importance of “function first, fashion second,” meaning your style needs to reflect your lifestyle. “You have to be realistic about what you're doing,” Salinger tells Her Campus. “[But] that doesn't mean you can’t be fabulous!” For example, if you go to yoga classes every day, try filling your closet with athleisure outfits. If you’re on campus every day, fill your closet with good jeans, cute tops, and any wardrobe item that makes you feel comfy and confident. 

Fill Your Closet With Basics 

Both Salinger and Messiah stressed the importance of filling your closet with basics first, then adding fun statement pieces later. Basics typically include white, black, and grey shirts, nice jeans, a classic blazer, and other items that can go with nearly everything.  Salinger says that once you have the wardrobe basics down, you can start experimenting with “fun and funky” looks — she even shares inspiration from her Pinterest page with her clients. Fashion “basics” can mean different things for different people, so refer back to your lifestyle and preferences to find your ideal style staples.

Find Your Power Color 

Knowing what colors look good on you can be helpful in finding your personal style, because once you know what colors look best on you, you can build a wardrobe around that color scheme. Rather than looking at color theory, which might tell you what colors to wear based on your skin tone or what “matches” best together, Messiah says it’s important to notice what colors you feel great in personally. She tells Her Campus, “if you're tapped into how you feel in the clothing that you wear and the feedback that you get from others, you can find your colors.” So, notice what color you get the most compliments in and the one that you feel most confident in! Chances are, that is your power color. For example, I always wear yellow. It’s always been my favorite color, and I realized I gravitate towards more of a mustard yellow than a vibrant banana yellow. I now know that cool tones that work with yellow look best on me, and make me feel the best, too! 

Quality Over Quantity

Salinger emphasized the importance of buying good quality items. That means avoiding fast fashion. We already know fast fashion isn’t great because the clothes are cheaply made, workers typically aren’t treated fairly, and it can be harmful for the environment. So, especially when looking for basics, look for quality items. Nordstrom Rack, for example, can be a great place to find these pieces. “Cost per wear is something you need to think about, especially with wardrobe essentials,” Salinger tells Her Campus. When you buy quality items and avoid fast fashion, chances are, the people who created your garments were treated better and you’ll get quality items that’ll last forever, no matter how much your personal style evolves over time.

Personalize With Accessories 

Once you have your basics down, add accessories like hats, jewelry, jackets, and bags! I always justify spending a little more on a nice purse — you can use one with just about any outfit and it’ll last years. For me, I feel like a nice purse can elevate a look, and as an overpacker, I always have a ton of stuff I need to bring around with me. 

Similar to dressing in your color, try gold or silver accessories. I am personally a gold gal, but again, when it comes to developing your personal style, it’s all about what you feel best in! For example, Hailey Bieber is almost always seen wearing gold hoops and Gigi Hadid elevates street fashion with a cute pair of sunnies. Adding some accessories is an easy way to make it look like you “tried” without trying too hard, and you can never go wrong with a simple necklace or baby hoops. 

Be The Main Character

There has been a recent trend to be the main character of your life, and I 100% recommend it. Salinger tells Her Campus, “You want to be the person at the party that people look at and go, ‘damn, I wish I had worn that today!’” She recommends being “the best-dressed person underneath the umbrella of appropriateness,” meaning that you can stay true to your signature style while still taking into account the setting and vibe of the place you’re dressing for. 

When it comes to finding your personal style in college, Messiah tells Her Campus, “you’ll never have such a ‘free’ dress code...you’ll never be cooler.” So, take this time to experiment with your personal style. College is all about learning who you are, and how you express yourself through fashion is a huge part of that. 

When I have a bad day, I put on a cute outfit. It reminds me that even if I have no control over anything else happening in my life, I always have control over my outfit, and nothing feels better than strutting across campus in a fire ‘fit.

Wear What Makes You Feel Confident

Feeling confident about what you’re wearing is about channeling your inner confidence, too. Messiah calls an outfit a “suit of armor” that can help you take on the day. There is nothing more important than feeling good in what you are wearing, and your body language usually reflects that. When you wear something you love, you stand a little taller and smile a little bigger. So, find a personal style that makes you feel safe, empowered, and ready to tackle whatever college throws at you! It’s not just about what you wear, but also about how you feel. 

Find What Feels Good For Your Body

As Salinger explains on her website, everyone has a different body type, which makes everyone unique when it comes to finding personal style. Although many media outlets are working to diversify models’ body types, not every media outlet is — which can lead college women to compare themselves to others and aim for unrealistic body standards, which can be harmful.It can be easy to compare ourselves to models and influencers, but it’s important to remember that social media isn’t real life, and everyone’s pictures are edited. 

Messiah tells Her Campus, “You’re doing it wrong if you’re looking to someone else to be your guide on exactly what to wear.” If you need inspiration, it can be helpful to have a style icon who shares some similar features but doesn't feel like you have to dress exactly like someone else or feel like you need to match a certain standard. It’s okay to take inspiration from them, but don’t try to copy a celebrity's entire wardrobe, because it won’t be genuine to you. 

I’ve already raved about Hailey Bieber’s gold hoops, and I love how they take her streetwear vibe to the next level. Now, I take inspiration from her, and rarely leave the house without gold hoops in my ears. I also love Taylor Swift’s current cottagecore aesthetic and how it inspires me to channel a more bohemian look. 

Try The 7-Day Selfie Challenge

When working with her clients, Messiah often tells them to take selfies and document their outfits every day for a week, then reflect on how they felt and how others interacted with them each day. She explained how you can very quickly notice a pattern of what makes you feel good based on what you wear. If you’re ready to start finding your personal style this fall, try the 7-day selfie challenge and see how it makes you feel! You can also think of it as your own photo journal and it’s a reference point when building future outfits. 

After talking with Salinger and Messiah, I learned that fashion is so much more than just the clothing we see on models or in stores. Fashion is about how you feel, and it should be fun and empowering. What you wear has the ability to transform your confidence and your life. Over the past few weeks, whenever I’ve had a bad day, I simply put on a cute outfit for a little bit of joy. Good luck discovering your personal style, and remember how fabulous you already are! Your wardrobe should just be a reflection of that. 

Amy Salinger, founder of Style Method NYC 
Lauren Messiah, Stylist, Coach, and Author of Style Therapy

Grace is a Senior Media Art and Design major at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She has lived in Virginia her whole life, but plans on moving to New York City after graduation. Gracie loves to travel and plans on being a travel writer post-grad. Her favorite places to visit were either Munich, Germany, or Cusco, Peru. Besides Her Campus, Gracie is in Gamma Phi Beta, works as the Creative Coordinator for Bluestone Communications JMU, and writes for the culture section of The Breeze, JMU's newspaper.
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