How to Improve Your Personal Style (Without Going Shopping)

legosuit

Today we have a guest post of a different flavor, from my friend Megan Collins, creator of the men’s lifestyle site, Style Girlfriend. As somebody who came to learn only recently how important taking a tiny bit of pride in one’s appearance can drastically alter how the day goes, I asked her to put together something for the men and women of the Rebellion and help look damn good in their battle gear without breaking the bank. Take it away Megan!

“We’re not so different, you and I…”

Yes, I’m quoting Dr. Evil from Austin Powers, but also myself. It’s something I (less creepily, I hope?) said to Steve, your Benevolent Rebel Leader, the first time we met here in New York City. My Dr. Evil line to him came from the realization that his mission with Nerd Fitness and mine with Style Girlfriend are the same – we want to help our communities on their epic quests to live better lives.

For me, and for the Style Girlfriend readers who stick around for the self-improvement journey, style is about more than clothes – it’s about empowerment and taking control of the story you tell the world; and you’ve gotta begin somewhere, right? For some, the first step to a new sense of confidence begins by overhauling their fitness regimen; for others, it’s with a closet purge.

The point is that you get started with a single change.

Let’s get this out of the way now: caring about your personal style isn’t silly, superficial, or vain – we know the domino effect that looking and feeling good can have in our lives. First you start exercising once or twice a week to lose a few pounds. You see positive changes in your stamina, your energy levels, and – yes – your body. You hear somebody ask, “did you lose weight?” or “what are you doing? You look great!”

Next thing you know you’re training for an Ironman, you’ve landed a promotion, and you asked out that cute guy/girl you’ve had your eye on for the last 1,000 lattes. What I’m saying is: little changes lead to big results.

The same domino effect is true of leveling up your personal style.

Why? Because the effort you put into your personal style impacts the first (and second, and third…) impression you make to the world.

It’s as simple, and as HUGE, as that.

Most of us don’t realize that we’re ALWAYS communicating, even when we don’t say anything – our appearance and our demeanor do the talking for us.

So what is your appearance saying about you? Taking control of your personal style matters, then, because great style is like having the best wing man or woman ever. Just as every super hero has a costume, we too have a style that conveys who we are and how we should be treated (and how we should treat ourselves!).

Great style – quite literally – makes you look good.

Before you think I’m about to go all Crazy, Stupid Love on you with a pop song-filled montage of credit card debt-inducing shopping trip and head-to-toe makeover, I’m here to tell you that it’s totally possible to improve your personal style without setting foot in the mall.

Here are three ways you can take control of your personal style and boost your confidence today – all without going shopping.

1. Work on your posture

squirrel posture

Improving your posture is a vital – and totally free – step to improving your personal style.

Standing and sitting with your shoulders back, head up, and spine straight – no slouching or hunching – gives you a proven psychological lift and appearance improvement.

Studies have shown that people have a better attitude about themselves – that they, in fact, believe more in themselves – when assuming a confident posture. In her TED talk on body language, social psychologist Amy Cuddy touted the benefits of “power posing” – standing like a superhero who just saved the day (think: hands on hips, chest puffed out), even when we don’t feel confident. Especially when we don’t feel confident.

Remember that “look good, feel good” connection we talked about? When you stand tall, your clothes hang better on you, and you’ll feel better wearing them. When you feel better, your confidence soars. Win-win-win.

So how can you improve your posture in the name of personal style? Well, the fix is two-fold.

First, practice mindfulness and be aware. When you notice yourself slouching, pull your shoulders back, tuck your pelvis underneath you, and pretend there’s an invisible string pulling from the top of your head towards the sky.

Second, don’t forget to strengthen your core when you are at the gym, which keeps your posture in check whether you’re thinking about it or not. Also, if you spend all of your time doing just chest exercises, bro, your shoulders will tend to round forward. Pulling-exercises like pull-ups, dumbbell rows, and bodyweight rows can help you pull your shoulder blades down and back and give you a healthier posture.

Thankfully, it’s easy to incorporate posture-improving exercises into your regular workouts. I like body weight resistance moves like the Cobra posture found in many yoga practices, and the “Superman” where you lay on your stomach then lift your arms and legs off the ground like you’re flying. Mostly because they both sound totally bad*ss.

Of course, you don’t have to go into full workout mode to gain posture-improving benefits. There are plenty of simple moves you can perform while sitting (cough*slouching*cough) at your desk: Try joining your hands together behind you, lacing your fingers, and pulling them down your back. After that, lift your laced fingers up as far as you can without bending forward, keeping your chest open.

2. Clear Out your closet

closet

Quick, can you think of ten things in your closet that make you feel like a million bucks?

It pays to get clear on the contents of your closet – often we overstuff our wardrobes and drawers with so many clothes we never wear (or don’t like) that it can be difficult to put together an outfit we feel good in each morning.

Imagine if Black Widow had to decide what colors she was going to kick ass in before going to save the world. Or if Captain America had 10,000 costumes to choose from? Superheroes keep it simple; they know what works for them, and they stick with the tried and true!

So, how do we figure out what looks good, what has to go, and what would benefit from a few tailoring tweaks? I believe a good closet purge is a must. As a rule of thumb, it’s good to clean your closet at least once a year. In this amount of time, your body, your style, and your wardrobe needs can change dramatically.

Here’s how I recommend you go about the process. Take everything out of your closet and drawers – yes, everything – and stack it all where you can see it. Your bed, the living room couch, the kitchen table…

Then, sort things into three piles:

  • give away
  • tailoring
  • keep

Give Away

Donate or sell the items you know you shouldn’t be wearing anymore – t-shirts riddled with holes, the grungy goods you promise yourself you’ll “only wear around the house,” and then somehow find yourself wearing to the grocery store, and then at the bar. Get rid of ‘em.

Beyond these past-their-prime duds, get rid of clothes, shoes, and accessories you haven’t worn in a year. And I’m not talking about the last time you thought about wearing it, or the last time you remembered you even owned it – the last time you actually (a) put it on, and (b) left the house.

Not sure what you’ve worn recently? Try this: Hang all the clothes in your closet backwards and all the way to the right of the closet (hanger hook facing awkwardly open-mouthed towards you). Every time you wear an item, turn the hanger inwards. Once you wear clothes from your “I wear this” pile, put it away in a drawer. You’ll quickly notice what you wear regularly, and which clothes only keep your closet (or the floor) company.

KEEP

You may ask, “Do I really have take out the clothes I know I’m keeping?” Yes. You’ll be more discerning about what goes back into your newly-pristine closet, carefully considering what deserves a slot on your style team. Also, you may notice that an item needs to be dry cleaned or tailored before it re-enters your wardrobe.

Another benefit? Seeing all your stuff at once helps you think about new ways to wear the clothes you own, which is basically like shopping your closet (See? I told you you didn’t have to go to the mall!).

TAILOR

Having a good tailor is like inputting the Konami Code (you know it) at the beginning of Contra. You don’t NEED one, but damn it makes everything infinitely better. He or she will be your secret weapon and shortcut to great personal style.

Your closet is most likely plagued by at least one ill-fitting item. Probably more. That’s why, like a favorite pizza place or car mechanic, you want to be sure you have a local tailor you can contact. Have you ever purchased clothing off the clearance rack, thinking, “So what if it doesn’t fit perfectly – at this price, it’s a steal!” Well, it’s not such a great deal if it’s never made it out of your closet because every time you put it on, you think, “Oh, riiiiight…this doesn’t really fit.” Then go, “Ah well,” and stuff it right back where you found it.

From an off-the-rack blazer that’s a little long in the arms to a sweater with a snag in the elbow, or a dress that’s poorly fitting in the wrong places, we all own clothes we tell ourselves we’ll wear, but never do. You can’t bring yourself to get rid of the offending items, but now they sit, ignored, in the back of your closet.

Put the Konami Code in! Toss those clothes in the “Tailor” pile, spend the paltry fee to go from ill-fitting to fantastic, and see your wear increase ten-fold.

You’ll feel like you treated yourself to an all-new wardrobe, just by investing a small amount of money into tailoring. For the price of a post-workout smoothie, you’ll bring home clothing that looks like it was made just for you.

[Note from Steve: if you learn ANYTHING in this article, let it be this one. I had never had anything tailored until a few years ago, as I was quite clueless and adamant about “I don’t care what people think about how I dress.” Oh how naive I was. I just wore things off the rack and figured that was it. However, since getting a few things tailored (inexpensively, I might add) to actually fit my body type, I am 100% on Team Tailor.

Let me put it this way: a $10,000 suit or $5,000 dress will look like garbage next to a $150 suit or dress that has been tailored to fit properly. Buy fewer clothes, and spend a few bucks on getting the things you do own to fit right. You can thank me later!]

To find a great tailor, seek out a well-dressed friend (male or female!) and ask them who they take their clothes to for tweaks. If you’re nervous or feel weird about asking an acquaintance, head to a local boutique and ask a salesperson where they send their customers. You’re sure to get a great recco.

3. Give yourself an attitude adjustment

superman-attitude

Most importantly, wrap your brain around the fact that you – yes, you! – deserve to feel good and look damn good too. It helps when you come to terms with the fact that, like it or not, appearance matters, and making a good impression matters!

So consider style through the same lens you use for fitness; namely, be psyched that you’re in 100% control of how you look and feel, and remember that making an effort (even a small one!) begets a big payoff.

Style is not about falling all over yourself for the latest trend. And it’s definitely not about spending all your money on designer labels.

Instead, style is the armor you can put on to take on the day. If you were going to march into your boss’s office and ask for a raise, would you skip your shower that morning and pull a dirty t-shirt out of the hamper? No, you’d wake up early, hit the gym so you felt your best, dress in an outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks, do a power pose in the bathroom, and then go speak confidently.

Putting effort into dressing well won’t automatically get you that raise, but the confidence that dressing well gives you? That’s what makes all the difference. That’s your armor!

Because truly having a positive attitude makes anything you wear look 1,000% better. If you’re nervous about wearing dress pants to the office when you always wear jeans, standing tall in your “power pose” helps. Knowing they fit you well helps. And the mental boost from raking in compliment after compliment from friends, co-workers, and even strangers on the street when you decide to level up your style?

These are the small changes that add up to HUGE results. Before you know it, you are jockeying for that new position, or out on a date with that girl/guy you never thought was possible.

I’ve personally seen those changes in my readers’ lives. If you feel good about yourself, you’re going to want to keep chasing that feeling – by going after a career you love, rather than one you just tolerate. To ask out the most beautiful person in the room. To get in control of your fitness. That confidence impacts your entire life.

So go out there and take control of your personal style today. Once you know how good you can look – without ever having to step foot in the mall – you won’t want to look anything but great, all the time.

To Recap:

  • Work on that posture! Be aware of how you sit and stand.
  • Audit your closet (or whatever word we use).
  • A tailor can make anything you have look good on you!
  • Attitude can be your armor

Men, women: what sort of questions do you have for me about looking damn good and feeling like you deserve it?

-Megan

Megan runs the men’s lifestyle site, Style Girlfriend. No matter your size, age, budget, or where you live, you are entitled to living with style. In a tiny town. On a tiny paycheck. Style is not reserved for those with 6-pack abs and a black Amex.  That’s why Style Girlfriend offers daily tips, tricks, and shortcuts to real guys seeking real advice on how to dress better and gain confidence.  Why? Because when you look good, you feel good.

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