Ah, the ever so elusive style concept. Many of you have been requesting a little more hands-on post on how to turn something so abstract like an overall idea of your style into an actionable guide for your wardrobe.
Let's start with a definition: What exactly is a style concept and why should you have one? A good style concept represents your individual personal style and your aesthetic preferences. It is a summary of all of the different elements you want to base your style on, woven into one coherent story line. Creating a style concept is the best way to really become aware of your exact likes and turn a mish mash of individual ideas into a refined personal style that expresses your aesthetic ideals 100%.
A concept always needs a specific context. You can have a style concept for your overall personal style, but also for smaller contexts, for example for a single season, for a specific activity (a work wear style concept) or even just for a single outfit. In this post I will be using the seasonal context to describe the anatomy of a style concept, because in my opinion one season, i.e. either 6 or 3 months (depending on whether you are on the fashion industry calendar or not), is the ideal planning timeframe for curating beginners. If you are still in the process of defining your style, a seasonal concept will help you really get to the bottom of your current likes, without having to commit too much. But even if you already have a good idea of your personal style you might still want to update your style concept at the beginning of a new season. I like to do a quick update of my wardrobe, including its style concept, about every three months or so, just to reassess everything and to incorporate new elements (for more info check out Fall Wardrobe Updates: The Complete Guide). Because of the short-ish timeframe, seasonal updates also allow you to include a few more practical considerations, for example on your wardrobe structure.
Bottom line: Working with a style concept is aways a good idea. Now, onto the tricky part: How can you create your own? To get you started and de-mistify the whole process, you'll find a little how-to guide on the 7 components that a good seasonal concept should include below, followed by a complete sample style concept. If you have already done a bit of inspiration search, this guide will help you define the individual aspects of your style concept a bit better and point you towards aspects you might not have thought about. Alternatively, you can also use the 7 components as prompts to guide your search.
As a little extra, I have created a basic template that you can use to summarize your style concept. Click here to download it.
The 7 Components of a Style Concept
mini mood board
A style concept always originates as an abstract idea. Try to capture this idea by choosing three pictures that best summarize your style concept's overall aesthetic. Do not limit yourself to outfit photos: Choose images of details, objects, landscapes, art, etc, but make sure that, when viewed together, your three images really express the look you are going for.
In addition to photos, writing a list of elements is another good way to figure out what exactly you want to include in your style concept, and also which things you don't want to include. Try to express your style in a list of 20 or so elements. Think specific items, groups of colours, details, moods, combinations, fits, proportions, etc. If you specifically want to exclude a particular common element, like slim-fitting tops, write that down too. 20 is a good number to aim for - don't stop at ten, or whenever you can't easily think of more things. Break through that initial barrier and dig a little deeper.
A defined colour palette is a key component of any concept. Your wardrobe's colour palette should above all complement the overall mood of your concept. Read this post for a full step-by-step guide on how to develop your own colour palette.
5 key pieces
While the first three components were purely about your overall aesthetic vision for your style, the next two components should outline how you want to translate that aesthetic into actual outfits. Your five key pieces are those that you consider essential to represent your style and that you plan on wearing a lot. Footwear, outerwear and bags are classic key pieces, but you can also choose accessories such as a watch, a skirt or a piece of jewellery.
Your uniform is the flagship outfit of your seasonal style. It should represent the essence of your style concept: If you had to choose one outfit to represent your style concept best, what would it look like? Read this post for more info on uniforms.
The last two components of your style concept are by far the most practical ones, designed to help you figure out how to implement your visual ideas and outfits into a wardrobe structure that fits you and your lifestyle. The first step towards building a wardrobe structure is to choose a few main proportions, i.e. specific combinations of item categories, such as flared skirt + non-fitted shirt + mid-heel boots.
Check out this post for many more ideas. Make sure that you pick proportions that not only represent your style concept, but that are also tailored to your body shape and your lifestyle.
From your proportions you can then deduct your wardrobe categories, i.e. the main categories you need to have in your wardrobe to create outfits that express your style concept. Bear in mind that this is just supposed to be an estimate, a first sketch of what your wardrobe structure could look like.
Here's a sample of what a 7-component style concept could look like: