Developing Personal Style


Imogen over at Inside Out Style (fantastic blog…I’ve been a reader for some time now) recently asked me to answer a few questions about my thoughts on personal style and dressing well. You can read my answers here, and be sure to check out the rest of her blog, especially her tips on body types!

Interestingly enough, quite a few things recently, including Imogen’s questions and the recent “Little Black Dress” Petite Fashion Challenge, have really started me thinking about my style and wardrobe. These things have brought me to a realization that completely snuck up on me…I’ve finally developed a personal style!

For now, I’m calling it “tomboy, country-club chic”, but it’s still a work in progress. ;)

The very existence of Alterations Needed is due in large part to my quest for personal style. Several years ago, I became really frustrated with fashion for a few reasons:

1. My wardrobe was a schizophrenic mess.You know that feeling of having a closet full of clothes, but nothing to wear? Nothing looks right, feels right, or goes together? Yeah, me too. I was buying items because they were on sale, or kinda-sorta fit, and since these two things were so rare to stumble upon, I didn’t think I had the luxury to stop and think, “is this really me?”, or, “will this fit in with the rest of my closet?”2. Being petite made the clothing I wanted to wear nearly impossible to find. It’s difficult to have a personal style when the clothing available to you is so limited to begin with. Given that only a few brands make petite (or petite-friendly) clothing, and even fewer of their styles are produced in petite sizes, our choices are limited. Not to mention the added cost of alterations.

I finally got tired of having nothing to wear and watching other women look amazing and confident in their clothes, while I looked…boring. I made a pledge to myself to dress the way I really wanted, no matter how difficult it ended up being. It was sometime after this pledge that I started Alterations Needed…

It seems I’m not the only one thinking about personal style, as Jean just wrote about the subject recently as well. The fun thing about blogging is you can watch your style evolution take place before your very eyes…just take a little jaunt through my style crimes the archives. But I’m no where near finished…

On my sartorial to-do list: find a suitable replacement for my denim addiction, add more quirk and humor to my outfits, and dig a little deeper into menswear inspired looks.

To follow up this post, I’ll be sharing some of the tricks I’ve used to develop my own personal style, in the hopes they’ll help other ladies searching for the same. Stay tuned… ;)


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Are you on your own quest to develop personal style?

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  1. Oh, yes. Definitely.

    I don’t suppose I’ll ever be finished finding my personal style. My tastes are expensive for one and I’m very hard to fit (more $$$). Due to circumstances beyond my control, I’m broke and have been for several years now. Even if I succeed in finishing my wardrobe, my tastes may not always be the same.

    It’s so nice to see you and other petites finally getting recognized for your wonderful blogs. I love seeing the body image revolution unfold! <3 Great interview!

    1. Thanks Jacqueline! You sound like me…expensive taste, hard to fit, and not enough money. :P

      Sorry to hear about your current financial situation. I’ve definitely been there, and am facing being there again, although self-induced (oh, the financial risks we take when we’re young! LOL).

      And, yes! Viva the petite body image revolution!

  2. Excellent post Kelly and I love how your answered the questions over at Inside Out Style – I will definitely check out her blog.

    I think you kind of hit the nail on the head – with so little brands and companies catering to petites it makes it difficult to find your own personal style without breaking the bank.  Actually I think this is an issue with most women, not just petites especially those on a budget.  I have actually thought about (and I STRESS the word “thought” :P) taking some sewing lessons so that I could perhaps alter my own clothes or even find some great thrifted items and tailor them to my needs.  Again, this is just a thought and likely a huge wish on my part. ;)

    So…since I STILL haven’t answered your question, yes I’m still on a quest to develop my own style :P

    1. Thanks Elaine! I think you’ll find that after having a blog for long enough, where you’re expected to look at least semi-decent and fashion-y, you’ll be almost pressured into finding a style that works for you. I know I have! The best motivation I’ve had is knowing my photos are being posted on the web for all the world to see!

      Funny thing about the “thinking” about taking sewing lessons…I’m seriously “thinking” about attempting to use my amateur sewing skills on hemming a pair a jeans. Poor little sewing machine has gotten zero use for two years. Eek!

  3. says: Olyvia

    I come from a humble background where the only clothes I had were donations from relatives, so it wasn’t until late college that I actually got to buy my own clothing (haha with my leftover school loan money) and now that I’m a full-time working person, I find myself actually new to the shopping world. With my own money, I started buying random clearance items that looked pretty on the rack, but end up stuffed in my closet because they don’t  fit right or didn’t match anything else. So I’ve also been trying to develop a better wardrobe and style to fit my age and make me feel more confident about myself.  I also always wonder how other ladies dress so nicely!  I use to blame it on my body type that nothing would look good on me because my body is unproportionate (ie. short legs),  but I find these petite blogs very helpful, and I’m starting to think I can look good in clothes too!

    1. Hi Olyvia! The problem is definitely NOT you and NOT your body type. You can look and feel fantastic in clothes too! You face a challenge since you grew up on hand-me-downs, so you had to start from scratch when it comes to learning to shop, and figuring out what you like. What I used to do when I just started trying to build my wardrobe was to save photos of outfits I liked from magazines (tear them out and tack them on a bulletin board near your closet), or save them in a special folder on your computer. Then you can go back and try to re-create those looks with items you have in your closet, or look for patterns that are attracting you to those photos, to get a better idea of what items you should be buying. Good luck…and most importantly…have fun! :)

  4. says: Anonymous

    Nice post, I enjoyed reading it! I am trying to find personal style but I try really hard to not BUY more clothes but rather try to work with what i have and understand what i like, what looks good and what doesnt. Ofcourse the 30X30 challenge has really helped. Are you doing it too?/

    xo Nav

    1. Hi Nav! I’m not doing the 30×30 challenge, but I think it’s a great idea! It’s very very easy to get caught up in buying new things every couple of weeks (especially with all these stylish bloggers posting great shopping finds all the time! Sheesh!), but I love the idea of re-mixing the wardrobe you already have.

  5. says: Angie

    you’ve come a long way since the beginning! i think blogging has helped all of us to develop a sense of fashion identity and increased our confidence in the way we present ourselves to both strangers and friends. after all, you’r the pioneer petite! 

    p.s. microbio is awesome! if only i had patience for genes and proteins … :) brains are weird.

    1. Thanks Angie! Every now and then I flip through my old outfit posts and cringe at what I thought was stylish or interesting back then. LOL. I totally agree, by putting my style “on display” with the blog, it certainly helped push to mold my personal style, and my confidence. Here’s hoping there is more to come!

      I ended up doing more cell bio than micro. Worked in cancer research start-ups, generating cell lines…boring…brains sounds like fun! :P

  6. says: Cher

    I’ve always knew what my personal style was, though it has evolved more over time with age, lifestyle,  and a little more money (less logos, jeans, and more quality pieces, etc). LOL. I’ve always been that tomboy, who liked to keep things classic and minimal, and liked to add a little edge. One thing that I am learning to do is to add a little bit more variety and experiment more with different styles just to make it fun. It gets boring to see the same thing day after day after day. It’s one thing to know how things work on your body with regards to fit, but it’s so easy to fall into a comfort zone where you just don’t branch out anymore. What’s the fun in fashion if you aren’t willing to take some risks? A year and a half ago, you probably would have never seen me in a dress at work. I’ve made my share of mistakes, and I still do, but that’s OK because I want to try out new things and that’s part of the process. For me, it’s not about not knowing what my style is, but what else it could be. It’s more than just finding “your style” but taking something that might not be what you normally wear and making it *you*. But maybe that’s just another step in the evolution of personal style. Once you’ve actually discovered what your personal style is, you try to incorporate new and different things to make it your own.

    1. Well put! I like what you said about making the clothes “you” instead of the other way around. Only considering clothes that are “you” can certainly put you in a very narrow mindset when it comes to fashion.  Very thoughtful. :)

  7. says: R.L.

    I can’t wait to see what you mean by adding more “quirk and humor”!  I am also currently in the process of finding my own personal style.  It can be tough to navigate when I see great items for a great on other petites and I have to decide if it’s really me and will it fit into my lifestyle.  I too am also looking to replace my denim addiction.

    1. Overcoming the denim addiction is going to be the hardest part I think. :P
      As for quirk and humor, I’m not sure where that will take me just yet, but I love when someone’s outfit makes me laugh, whether it’s a ridiculous fabric (seersucker suit perhaps? LOL), or unexpected detail like bright pink socks.

  8. says: PF

    I’m 42 years old, size P8 and I’m still working on personal style. It’s hard work!! Currently, I’m working on adding accessories to my wardrobe and simplifying or paring down my closet.  I dress business casual for work and I wear jcrew “everyday” chinos and fun graphic t-shirts or t-shirts with fun detailing on weekends. I love Kelly’s style because it’s one wardrobe that works for day/night, work/play, it does dinner/movies/dates and above all, they are classics.

    1. Thanks PF! Personal style IS hard! It takes a lot of thinking and trial & error. I appreciate that you think my style is classic. My first stab at trying to develop a personal style was classic “with a twist”. I think I’m evolving a little beyond that, which is fun. :)

  9. says: Anonymous

    I really enjoyed this post. I think a lot of my friends and family always thought me to be fashionable and well-dressed, but for years, I had an over-full closet and nothing to wear. This is the case no longer, as I totally overhauled my wardrobe, beginning a year and a half ago, and I’m thankful for it. Now I have a (pretty full) closet and lots of choices and options that I’m always happy to reach for. Blogging and reading blogs has really helped me get there. 

    1. Thanks Carol! That was another one of my goals…to have a closet full of clothes I enjoyed wearing, so that everyday I was wearing something that made me happy. I still need to edit a few things out, and add a few more necessities that I’m currently searching for, but overall, I’m pretty happy with the way things are shaping up. It’s really a nice feeling to open your closest and like what you see isn’t it? :)

  10. This post–and Jean’s, too–really resonate with me right now. I’ve spent most of my “fashion life” doing what you described, only instead of buying on sale I bought cheap things deliberately lacking character so at least I wouldn’t clash! The past few months, though, I discovered this incredible petite community online (first through Jean!) and have busily been speeding back through time on literally dozens of blogs ever since. Through everyone’s wonderful tips and honesty, I’ve managed to learn HOW to think of fashion, how to recognize the feeling I get when I really love something versus when I think I should, how to orchestrate colors throughout clothing, accessories, and even makeup (thanks Jen @frmheadtotoe:twitter !), how to create outfits that suit my purpose, my mood, and my personality.

    Instead of being daunted or frustrated by my desire “to be fashionable”, now I’m very, very excited about my wardrobe PLANS. I have plans! :)

    Thank you to all the fashion bloggers out there who’ve helped me!

    1. Hi Sarah! Your comment made me smile! Yay! Wardrobe plans!
      One thing I’ve learned is, clothes should make you smile. Most items I love in my wardrobe put a big grin on my face the first time I tried them on. Even if they weren’t perfect & needed a bit of tailoring…there was always this “ah ha!” moment. If there’s any hesitation…it’s not worth buying.

  11. says: Anonymous

    I started my blog because I have always enjoyed fashion and dressing up.  It was after documenting a couple outfits and really thinking about it that I realized I didn’t have much style.  Or rather… I didn’t like my style.  The quest is definitely a quest.  I dig your style.

  12. says: Alyson

    So great to find your blog! Totally agree with this. I’m trying to rid myself of what I call the “I have nothing to wear” syndrome that plagues so many of us. Finally, at 31, I’m learning not to buy bc it’s on sale or bc it fits if I don’t love it. Takes time!

  13. I have loved watching your style (and photography skills, and dog size) evolve over time. I do dig up vintage AN once in a while to see my fave red Burberry trench, DG oxfords, etc. I think your style has actually changed very little since when you started AN, but you are layering and accessorizing more which adds new interest to the outfits : )

  14. I think that is one of my favorite things about blogging: seeing a transformation in someone. Whenever I find a new blog, I like to go back and look through their archives, especially at their first few posts. Then I read their current ones. It helps me to get to know the individual better and to see where they started. It makes starting a connection with an individual you are only interacting with virtually, easier.

    Since I am new to your blog, I am looking forward to checking out the archives so I can see your personal style evolve!

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