How To Analyze Your Personal Style

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Sarah G. Schmidt's home


One of the ways I try to get to know someone and their style is to ask questions. A.lot.of.questions. How people respond and what they share can be so helpful in getting some understanding. What people share personally helps to lay out the foundation. Then, together, we can build upon that and get them a personal style that they love.

While putting together an upcoming personal style event for a group of women I went back to the questions I have gathered over the years from meeting with clients. One key element to helping refine someone’s style is getting to know someone. I can only imagine how daunting it may be to have someone in your home and in your closet working closely with you. Common trust and a lot of kindness are two things I strive for.

People sometimes ask me, “So what are these questions you ask people?” To that I say I’ll share some with you and maybe more importantly, I share why I ask them.

Up front, I ask them to consider your typical week and share…

How do they spend their days? Evenings? Weekends?

And how to they get around? Personal vehicle, transit, bike, other?

How often do they travel and what for?

I ask these series of questions so that I can understand what their life looks like. If I have a client who is a nurse at the hospital, that person is likely in scrubs for their workwear. This is important, as we won’t need to ensure they have a lot of business suiting. Maybe an outfit or two for specific days – such as an interview or work event - and that’s about it. I am not keen to fill anyone’s wardrobe with clothing they won’t wear. That would be a disservice to their closet and wallet.

It’s also important to see how they get around town. Someone who cycles into work is going to have different needs than one who drives. The different need may be as simple as what bag they take into work and how much they can lug around. Sure it’s a small detail, but it’s important to me.

How and why people travel is important too. If you travel a lot for work and need to arrive in a suit that very different than a person who jets off to the mountains every weekend. I like to support the life you already have and help to make the clothing part of it run smoother.

Next I’ll try to understand what their current style situation is. I’ll ask things like…

What is one thing you like about your style? What’s one thing that you find challenging about your style?

Can you tell me about favourite outfit and why you love it?

Now tell me about an outfit or item you don’t like to wear?

Learning about what’s working – and not working – for a person is a huge help. I want to know what makes them feel good; what they love to wear. Once that’s out in the open we can use that to create multiple looks that compliment that feeling.

On the converse, I too, want to know what they don’t feel good in. Sometimes it’s a matter of the fabric scratching, sometimes it’s a bad fit, and sometimes there is a tough memory attached to it that is time to let go of and move one from. Knowing what you don’t like helps create boundaries. I hope that the client will learn to avoid those style landmines less and less over time.

After that I continue to dig a bit deeper…

Who do you dress for?

Yourself? Someone else? If someone else, who is that?

Is there anything that you’d like to stay in line with or avoid?

Knowing for whom one dresses for is paramount. It’s totally normal to dress for more than one person.  It’s only a potential hiccup for me as their stylist if a client is dressing more for someone else than for themselves. For instance, wearing a dress that your spouse loves for a date out is a nice gesture. Holding onto a dress that drudges up a painful memory with you and your deceased mother is not so nice.

I also want to know if there are ethical or moral considerations. Considerations can be the makeup of the clothing (fabrics, source, how it’s made, stance on second hand clothing, etc) or the brands themselves (favourites, working conditions of the factories, reputation, etc). Knowing what and who they want to support matters.

Now that I know a bit about them from their point of view, I am curious to learn how they think others see them. Clients either nod knowingly or are totally flabbergasted when I share that first impressions are made within 1-10 seconds. Here’s a study that says seven seconds. This one says it’s instant.

I’ll ask them to talk about how they are seen…

What do you think your clothing says about you to a stranger you’d walk past?

Is that a genuine expression of who you are (or want to become) or would you tweak some things?

Does it feel good?

This part is really telling. It’s funny that some people can be so accurate. I think that’s because we all make quick judgments or assumptions when seeing total strangers. Those studies above prove that it’s human. Studies aside I think it’s more important to know that one can use it to their advantage. I challenge my clients to dress how they want to been understood. If that’s a genuine expression of who they really are, that’s the ticket. How you dress and how you would like to dress should be aligned.

Specifications details like size, budget, and colouring are important, too. I tend to leave them to the end as I have yet to find a budget or body that I can’t deliver upon. Everyone deserves to feel as amazing as I know they can look.

If nothing else, I want people to know there are no wide sweeping “rules” that I make clients adhere to. That’s so not my jam. I believe that each person is unique and your wardrobe should flatter that uniqueness.