If you have ever felt nothing but intense boredom at the sight of your closet and wished you could just throw it all out and start from scratch, you know what it feels like to be stuck in a style rut. A most miserable place where clothes you once loved and felt inspired by, now just seem dull, played out and underwhelming.
The key to getting out of a style rut is to break through old thinking patterns and the comfortable, monotonous routine you have built up for yourself, put on your creative hat and immerse yourself in new inspiration.
That's where this post comes in. It's a collection of 50 creativity techniques, thought experiments and styling challenges designed to help you delve deep into the essence of your style, get inspired and generate a ton of new ideas. Use them to break through your creative block and redefine your style from the ground up.
ESTABLISH CREATIVE HABITS
1. Train yourself to be attentive to the things around you. Anyone and everything can be your inspiration. From the songs that you hear to the people you meet to the everyday objects around you. So start paying attention.
2. Make a habit of translating your instant reactions to something, whether it is your own outfit or someone else's, into specific tangible elements. If you see a great look ask yourself what exactly makes it so great and which individual elements you could copy. Practice by dissecting your top 5 favourite blogger looks right now.
3. Start building up a library of inspirational books and magazines that you can dig into whenever you need an extra boost of creativity. Think beautiful coffee table books, photo-heavy travel guides, home decor books, september issues and so on.
4. Identify your personal inspiration triggers. What kinds of things do you notice when you are out and about? Beautiful architecture, flowers, a certain colour, graphic design or shop decorations? What kinds of activities tend to give you a surge of inspiration and make you want to create/make/do something? Make it a point to expose yourself to those triggers the next time you feel uninspired!
5. The blogs and magazines you read are like a mirror of your (ideal) style. Make a list of your 30 favourite online and print sources and try to find a common thread.
6. Expand your inspiration horizon. You probably already read lots of blogs about fashion and beauty, but for a broader focus and more things to see, test and create make sure you also expand your list of regulars to areas like male fashion, decor, design, photography, etc.
FIND NEW SOURCES OF INSPIRATION
7. Use the Adobe Kuler colour wheel to practice basic colour theory. Select a base colour and then build three different colour palettes around it: a monochromatic, a triad and a complementary one.
8. Take your camera for a little walk around your neighbourhood and snap a picture of everything that inspires you visually in some way. Once you are done, take a look at your pictures from a top-level perspective: What overall themes can you spot, what kinds of things did you photograph, what angles did you use, what colours are dominant, etc.
9. Your aesthetic ideals are not context-specific and, even if you are not aware of it, are probably already pretty prevalent in your own living space. In fact, if you are not too happy with your wardrobe at the moment, your living space might currently be a much better indicator of your style. Take a quick tour through your house/apartment and take a picture of everything that speaks to you visually, whether it is a tiny detail, an object or an arrangement of several things. Think everyday objects, pieces of art, posters, decorative elements, a pretty piece of embroidery, the way the sunlight hits the edge of your couch, packaging, jewellery, anything.
10. Create three different colour palettes of at least 6 shades each by arranging real-life objects on a canvas. Use flower petals, scraps of fabric and paper, decor objects, book covers, jewellery, etc.
11. Go to an art gallery with a notebook and a couple of hours to spare. Take notes on every tiny detail that you like from colour combinations to shapes and overall themes.
12. Figure out if you naturally have more of a macro or a micro focus when it comes to taking in new inspiration. Macro: When you open a page in a magazine, you immediately notice the overall constellation of layout, type and images. Micro: Your eye immediately springs to individual items, colours or smaller details. Being able to switch perspectives when you want is a very helpful creativity technique, so practice!
13. Need new ideas for this year's spring season? Go the traditional route and grab a stack of your favourite magazines. Find at least 5 different elements you could introduce into your seasonal wardrobe. Think colours, patterns, specific pieces and so on. While you are at it, also jot down some notes on how you could pair these elements with your existing wardrobe (outfit ideas, colour combinations to try etc).
14. If you want to redefine your personal style from scratch, build a good old mood board. It's hands-down the best way to visualize how lots of individual elements could be woven into a coherent story line.
15. Figure out which colours you naturally gravitate towards by setting a timer to 20 minutes and scanning Pinterest for images with inspiring colour palettes. Try not to think about it too much, just scan and pin everything that immediately catches your eye. Pin each inspiring image to a separate board and, once the 20 minutes are up, see if you can spot any overall themes.
16. Get inspired by nature! What do you gravitate more towards: a colourful bouquet of flowers or a serene coastline?
DISSECT YOUR CURRENT LOOK
17. Subconsciously or not, our clothes send a message about who we are, our values and attitudes. What does your wardrobe say about you? If a stranger looked through your closet and then met you in person, would he/she be surprised?
18. If you had to explain your personal style to a stranger as 5 – 10 elements, what would they be? Consider colours, shapes, overall themes, moods, etc.
19. Make a list of every single outfit you wore last week. Now, figure out how each of them could be upgraded without changing the overall concept of the look. What items would you change, which details would you tweak, etc.
20. List your five WORST outfits of the past five years. Now break them down: what exactly made them so awful? The colours, specific items, the fit, the material?
21. What is your main motivation for spending any time on your style at all? Do you use fashion as a creative outlet or an expression of your values/personality? Does dressing well give you confidence?
22. If you had to choose between the two, would you rather be a chronic over-dresser or a chronic under-dresser? Why?
23. Are there any things you now wish you had worn at some point in the past, but didn’t because of a lack of confidence or rules set by others?
24. Get super specific about your style rut: What exactly is boring/annoying/frustrating you? Take this diagnostics quiz if you need some help.
25. Consider all of the big and small things you do on a day-to-day basis (working, meeting friends, exercising, lounging on the couch, carrying your groceries, etc). Completely ignoring all visual aspects, come up with an outfit that is 100% practical, functional and tailored to your individual lifestyle.
26. Make a list of the top 5 most stable and the top 5 most variable elements of your style throughout the years. Which elements have always been a component of your style for as long as you can remember and which do you tend to switch up the most. Can you identify anything that separates the two groups, e.g. are most of your stable elements beauty-related and the fluid ones specific items, etc.?
27. Think about one of your typical outfits, one that represents your overall style well and that you feel comfortable in. Now imagine an outfit that is the exact opposite of your typical look. Do you hate everything about it or are there individual elements that you actually like but that just don't fit in with the rest of your style?
28. Which emotions have the biggest impact on how you dress? Do you dress differently when you are very happy or very sad?
29. A thought experiment is a creativity technique that works by removing all outside restrictions and using a completely blank slate as the starting point for idea generation. Image all of your clothes were lost in a fire. Which 15 items would you buy first?
30. As a cartoon character you only get one outfit, but that single outfit perfectly represents the essence of you and your unique style. In a cartoon-version of your life, what would your exact look be from head to toe? Think clothes, hair, make up, jewellery and so on.
31. Quick: Pick three movies that you adore for their visuals. If you were a character in them what would you wear?
32. Take a moment to reminisce about your three favourite vacations so far. Let's say you got to move to each location for a couple of years. What would you wear on a day-to-day basis and why? How different are your three looks?
33. Imagine your life was perfect: you had your dream job and lived in a beautiful house (or apartment, mansion, beach hut) in your dream city and spent your days exactly how you want. How different would your style be compared to your current look and why?
34. Imagine you lived during the 1950s and had your ideal look all figured out. What would you be wearing on an average day? What is your look for special occasions? Repeat this exercise for the 20s and the 70s. What elements of your style remain constant, which could you incorporate into your present-day look?
35. If you could only wear a single outfit for the next two months, what would it be? Consider every detail, from your main items to accessories and make up.
36. Jackpot: You get to steal one outfit each from your three biggest style icons. Which do you pick?
37. You know how Beyoncé used to channel her alter ego Sasha Fierce to allow her naturally shy self to be ultra confident and free on stage? What would your own style look like after a Sasha Fierce treatment?
38. In a hollywood version of your life, what actress would play your part and what kind of outfits would she be wearing (bearing in mind that hollywood tends to glamourise things)?
39. Which five items would you buy today if you had an unlimited budget?
40. It’s way too easy to fill up your Pinterest boards with super bold and bright outfits that might speak to you on an abstract level, but that you wouldn’t actually wear in real life. Inspiration is good, but rather than pinning a ton of pretty high-fashion pictures, also try to look for images that can help you shape a wardrobe that is right for your own lifestyle. Find 10 outfits on Pinterest or your favourite style blogs that you would wear exactly as pictured.
41. List three things you love on other people but think you could never pull off yourself. Go on a mission to make them work on you by trying out lots of different versions or toning down the intensity (e.g. wear a subtle flick instead of bold winged eyeliner).
42. Practice calibrating your outfits. Start out with one of your go-to looks and then either dress it up or down by amping up or toning down its individual elements one-by-one, e.g. add, remove or change your make up, add or remove accessories, tuck in hemlines, switch out your shoes, add a different jacket, etc. See how far you can take it in either direction.
43. Go through your existing wardrobe and build at least 10 complete outfits that you have never worn before in that constellation.
44. For three days switch up your hair and make up routine: if you usually spend 15+ minutes on your make up in the morning but tend to just give your hair a quick brush through, go bare-faced but create a new creative hair style each day. Alternatively, if you usually accentuate your eyes, wear a bold lip colour and so on.
45. Go into a store that you consider to be totally not your style and challenge yourself to find one complete outfit that you would actually wear. Even if it takes you three hours!
46. Imagine you looked great in every colour imaginable and could rebuild your wardrobe from scratch. Read this post and then develop an ideal colour palette for your shiny new wardrobe, complete with main colours, neutrals and accent colours.
47. Pick 20 pieces from your wardrobe and try to create 20 different outfits like in these posts (include shoes but no other accessories). The key here is to choose versatile pieces in complementing colours, styles and textures. Imagine a couple of different occasions, style your outfits and snap a few pics for reference!
48. Pick a simple outfit, something like dark-wash jeans + a white t-shirt, and challenge yourself to create 5 completely different looks using only accessories, hair and make up.
49. Play around with the level of contrast in your outfits, both in terms of colour and style. Colour: Create at least one completely monochrome look and another that’s a mix of light and dark shades. Style: Build an outfit that consists of only basic and statement pieces, and another that’s based on mid-range pieces that are neither basic nor super eye-catching. What end of the spectrum do you prefer?
50. Meet up with a friend who has a very different style (but a similar dress size) and swap clothes.