Five Hallmarks of Personal Style

Meg Fowler posted a request on Twitter this morning: "Tell me five hallmarks of your personal style."

I thought this was something I could reply to pretty quickly, since I am aware of my own personal style, both as I try to cultivate it and as it emerges on its own. But I found that I had to think pretty hard to come up with five “hallmarks.”

I assumed that a hallmark of personal style is a visual that everyone associates with a specific person. For some people, it might be a particular purse or bracelet or tie. For instance, I could say that polo shirts are a hallmark of my husband’s personal style. But I don’t really have any objects like that, that I wear to define my style. So I found myself relying more on general adjectives.

Me and D-Mac in TreeHere’s the list I came up with:

  1. Messy hair – It takes at least an hour and, sometimes, the help of a professional for me to achieve the neat, sleek, anchorwoman look. I just don’t have that kind of time, so I let my hair have its own way most of the time. And I do sometimes go out and about with wet hair, because it always looks so much better when I air-dry instead of blow-drying.
  2. Cool colors – Some of you may remember the Color Me Beautiful phenomenon from back in the ’80s. A friend of my mom’s was training to be a “color lady,” so my whole family got our colors done. I learned that I am a “winter,” which means that I look best in cool, bright colors; less good in cool pastels; and absolutely awful in warm colors. So, ever since grade school, I’ve always kept my wardrobe palette on the cool side. I try to keep exceptions, like my yellow shoes, away from my face where they won’t make me look ill.
  3. Never tailored – Some women can walk into Talbott’s or Ann Taylor, grab a suit and blouse off the rack, and walk out looking like a million bucks. I cannot. I have a very triangle-shaped body; button-down blouses don’t fit, anything I tuck in bunches around the waist, and anything that has a defined waist on it billows around my hips. I own one suit for occasions when that sort of dressing is required. It’s cheap, black, and the pants don’t fit right. Mostly, I wear dresses when I need to look nice and pulled together.
  4. Current – It bothers me to wear a t-shirt or jeans in an outdated cut. I’m not usually cutting-edge, but I do like to stay current.
  5. Socially acceptable – These two words, more than anything else, define how I choose to present myself to the world. When I get dressed, I always think about where I’m going and whether what I’m wearing is appropriate for that occasion. It’s my way of coping with being messy and not tailored – I may not be neat and pulled-together, but at least no one can say I’m not socially acceptable. For example, you will never see me wearing a thong in Burger King.

So, what are five hallmarks of your personal style? (Or less than five, if you can’t think of that many.)


  1. Dan says:

    Thanks for the post! I’ve always wondered where the seasonal coloring thing came from, and why nobody else seems to have heard of it. I’m trying hard to expand my wardrobe beyond the “winter” colors to some “happier” hues, so far without a lot of success, so I end up with a lot of light blue and light gray. Otherwise I’ll go with:
    1. Comfortable – it’s the primary function of clothing, and I won’t give it up.
    2. Timeless – since I never get rid of clothes, they have to be able to roll with the trends. This means avoiding unnecessary decoration, which I view as an expiration date. I also refuse to wear big or ostentatious logos, which is maddeningly difficult in casual men’s clothing, because brands and logos are also temporal.
    3. Appropriate – dress for the occasion, whatever that may be.
    4. Low maintenance (e.g. dry clean only and shoes that show dirt are to be avoided)
    5. Discounted – I can ditch this one in extraordinary circumstances, but generally a piece of clothing has to be less than $25 or discounted at least 60% to get my attention.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Ooh! Great post. I would say:

    1. Simple – I like simple cuts without a lot of frills or detailing. I find that if you stick to simpler cuts, you can spend less but still look good. When you start adding details, poor workmanship becomes more obvious.

    2. Solid – With few exceptions, I’m not big on prints. I tend to stick to solid colors. Right now, I’m wearing a patterned scarf on my head, but a black short-sleeved sweater and a straight red skirt.

    3. Timeless/classic – unless a classic staple happens to be “in” this year, I’ll avoid the trendy stuff. For instance, when pencil skirts were easy to find, I bought a bunch. I’m not even sure what’s in this year in terms of skirts (I gave up reading women’s magazines with the exception of an occasional issue of O), but I probably won’t buy it.

    4. Black accented with brights – since I travel a lot, it’s important that I can create outfits easily and don’t have to pack too many pairs of shoes. This means a lot of basic pieces in black (or occasionally charcoal grey) and lots of tops in bright colors. I have a couple of skirts in deep, chocolate brown, but I rarely take them when I travel because they require a different pair of shoes.

    5. Low maintenance – with the exception of a couple of suits, jackets, and a dress or two, I don’t buy dry-clean only. If I can’t care for it myself between business trips, I don’t buy it. I also don’t buy linen because I’m lousy at ironing. I’ll ocasionally buy a silk blouse, but it has to be something I absolutely love and know I’ll take the time to care for.

  3. LOL, thanks for the link ; )

    I just posted my own list at:

    In addition to the specific outfit formula I wrote about there, I also like things that are low-maintenance, figure-flattering, comfortable, current but classic, discounted, and definitely socially acceptable ; )

  4. What a great post… I’m going to have to think about this and get back to you because at the moment I can only think of 1 thing.

  5. I love this post!
    I’m going to need to think about this one; I am making a concerted effort to hone my personal style. I have a post planned soon on Color Me Beautiful! My best childhood friend and I were obsessed with that book. I am a spring or autumn, but those colors are awful on me; I wear “winter” jewel tones, too.

  6. Bonnie, glad to find another Color Me Beautiful “alumna.” My mom is an autumn, and she really does look good in those colors. Everyone else in my family is a winter.

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