Updated: Feb 25
One of the challenges we face as women is expressing a unique and authentic personal style as we go through life's transformations.
This is the thorny, but ultimately rewarding, task of developing a personal style that clearly shows the person we are now, as well as the person we have always been. A personal style that has evolved as we have evolved, but also seems familiar to us, and those who know us, as being 'our style'.
Obviously, everyone gets older, and life changes for men too, but for women, because our age is tied to our reproductive system and hormones, and there is so much more pressure from society to remain perpetually stuck in our mid-20s, we can find that, as we cross through age brackets and decades, we can wake up one day completely lost as to who we are and how to portray our uniqueness and identity through what we wear.
We know we are different now and we don't neccesarilly want to go backwards in time, but we do find that we don't quite know how to express ourselves from the inside out in a way, that not only looks good, but is an expression of who we are in our soul.
Because the soul doesn't age, only the body does, and therein lies the problem with carving out or rather, redefining, our personal style in our 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond.
The problem is we don't feel any less young, cool or stylish than when we were younger but we can't argue that things have changed. There is this weird 'at sea' feeling because you have not found a new style that fits with who you are now but are not really able to go back to how you used to dress.
Style can be something that we feel we have lost when we go through age brackets, but we can also feel lost in the same way when we go through big transformations. These are seismic changes in our life such as changing our social position, getting married, motherhood, changing our career, maybe even changing our residence.
And when we go through these transformations, many of us feel lost after the dust has settled and we wonder how to retain our authenticity and adapt it to our new set of circumstances or new identity.
However, if we are active about addressing this issue, rather than allowing ourselves to feel invisible, we can use our personal style to fully thrive in this new phase of our life, not just passively resign ourselves to it.
Just as a wayward personal style can be the marker of your inner feeling of being lost with your present identity and your need to evolve or adapt, style can also be the way to find yourself again. It can offer a way to connect to a personal part of yourself, that is just for you and doesn't belong to anyone else in your life.
It can, therefore, be an important means of self-expression at every stage of our life, to reset our personal rudder to the most authentic direction for ourselves at any point in time.
For me, age-appropriateness is a complete red-herring because most of the time it is more correct to talk about whether something fits and flatters, regardless of age. In fact, the age-appropriate misnomer often leads people to frumpy, ill-kempt and unflattering style choices that belie their often youthful attitude. They feel they should be wearing this and not that, and so lose their essence and their individual shine.
Others go the opposite route, holding rigidly to a style they carved out in their teens, refusing to adapt it or modernise it, thinking that doing so will mean they are old or uncool.
In fact, nowadays nothing could be further from the truth. You can take your signature style from decade to decade with a few tweaks to account for your change in lifestyle, responsibilities and body.
Imagine the example of someone who was a punk rocker in her younger years and that identification has remained an important part of her unique signature and cultural mindset.
In her twenties, she may have been the girl in the rock group with piercings and a goth-rock style. She got married and has a young family and now finds her normal style just seems to look scruffy and doesn't really fit in with her circumstances and environment anymore.
She is lost. How does she adapt?
Each person is different and at each stage, we need to evaluate who we are now and whether our style fits in with our present environment and circumstances. The trick is to stay true to you while also adapting to the present. When you nail this, your personal style will represent you well, but it will also present you well.
In the case of the example I just gave, in this case, she would ask herself, whether that rock persona means anything now? Was it part of her core identity or just a phase?
It is likely that some part of it may still resonate. It may be that, for example, she still identifies with the rebellion and non-conformism that it represents. So she may adapt the style that she came to call her own, by opting for trousers instead of jeans, a crisp shirt rather than a band tee, but still go for darker colours (as pink will never sit well with her) and incorporate some edgy details.
Redefining our personal style, while staying reconnected to the authentic parts of us that we have lost over the years, involves us not necessarily dropping our identity and adopting something completely new, but finding what it is within us that remains a core part of our identity, even if it has been so neglected it may as well be covered in mothballs!
This is the key to retaining a distinctive personal style that is constant through phases and stages of life even while we change the way it specifically expresses itself.
If you want to read more on how to specifically find your authentic style, then read my short book linked below.
It approaches personal style, not in terms of strict rules and dos and don'ts, but from a holistic perspective, so that it aligns with who you are, your true energetic essence, and allows you to create a signature style that is practical, effortless and fun!