A guest post by Hayley Lau.
This year I’ve been thinking lots about mindful spending.
I think it’s seriously important for us to buy more from handmade and indie sellers than big box stores. To buy quality over quantity. To buy less – which enables us to really treasure what we do have, instead of constantly searching for nicer and bigger and better, and is way better for the environment.
I’ve found that one piece of this mindful spending puzzle revolves around knowing and embracing our personal style. Not the one belonging to the girl from that really hip blog. Ours. Ours alone.
What’s the use in spending lots on a handmade purse, if it’s just going to be added to a pile of little-used purses bought from chain stores? Alternately, what’s the use in spending just a little on a handmade purse in order for it to be okay if it does get added to that unused pile? Handmade loses value when it becomes disposable.
How are we supposed to make do with what we own, when our collections don’t quite express us?
When we know our things don’t work for us, we’re tempted to keep searching and buying to see if new things will.
What is personal style?
True personal style doesn’t change with the trends. It is a lasting expression of you in colour, form and sensibility.
I used to run a successful clothing line that was growing nicely.
But something felt off. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, though. I later realised that the style of my line didn’t reflect my true style.
The problem was that I was too focused on what I thought my style should be, instead of asking myself, what do I adore, above all the rest? I was too interested in what looks good on other people, what the trends were on the indie blogs I liked, what I was used to. What I really needed was to first turn my attention inwards, because the foundation of my style is in me, not out there.
My sense of style was lost because I was lost. When I removed the clutter that I didn’t love, I felt more free and clear. When I began to accept and explore the styles I loved, instead of the styles I thought I should love, I began to shine through my possessions.
Style isn’t just about appearance. It’s about how you feel.
Something you love, something that’s absolutely your style, will make you feel strengthened and good and whole.
Choose a thing you love and ask yourself: why do you love it?
I have a pair of boots that have lasted the style test of time. I’ve had them for ten years and I still adore them. I love them because they’re rustic, earthy, simple, with a little bit of character. That’s the life I want to lead. Those are the feelings I want more of in my life. That’s why I love them. It’s about the feeling. The aesthetics are just an extension of that.
The Meh Trap
Sometimes I trick myself into thinking something is my style, then I lose interest soon after I buy it. That means it wasn’t really ‘me’, because my true style isn’t so fickle.
I call this the Meh Trap. If we really questioned the thing, and were in touch with our sense of personal style, we’d know the new thing wasn’t for us. Meh stuff is kind of hollow, whereas stuff that’s our style really fills us up.
But the thing is okay, we think. It’s nice enough.
Nice enough isn’t good enough, though. It leads us to buy more, buy cheaper, and puts us out of touch with our true personal style.
Low prices make us fall into the Meh Trap. Discounts and sales do, as well. Urgency can make us settle.
When you’re strongly aware of your personal style, you’re less influenced by things that aren’t right for you.
Then there’s the Hype Trap. Think very carefully about what’s right for you, and try to accept that your youness is perfectly enough. Then you can avoid wanting something because it looks good on someone else – a friend, a blogger or a fashion model.
Some tips for getting in touch with your unique personal style
- Distinguish between the possessions of yours that you know aren’t serving your personal style, the ‘meh’ items, and the adored ones. Donate or get rid of as many things as you can handle, and feel the difference.
- Sit down with a blank page or a screen and write about or draw your favourite possessions. How do they make you feel? What do they have in common? Think about how they align with your values, your personality, the treasured parts of your life. Your true personal style will be intertwined with all these aspects of you.
- Note down some words or phrases describing your style, which, if they were to encompass everything you ever wore or bought, you feel you would never tire of. To find mine, I had to do lots of questioning and freewriting. I imagined I was in a room filled with things of the particular word or phrase, and gauged whether it made me feel full and good and perfect. Some of my words are ‘natural’, ‘simple’, ‘small but interesting details’.
- Start a style scrapbook or online bookmarking page (like we heart it) and be really, really picky about what things you include in it. Beware the ‘meh’ stuff.
Do you feel like you’ve got a firm handle on your personal style, or do you have some work to do? What’s your personal style journey been like so far?
Hayley Lau is a former clothing designer, interested in the intersection of overconsumption, remaking things and everyday mindfulness. She writes about ethical craft and mindful living at Thinker Maker.