I was honored to be a panelist at the Redefining Healthy conference, organized by blogger Darlene of  Suits, Heels, and Curves.  The focus was holistic health, with the morning dedicated to yoga and emotional health and self love.  I was part of an afternoon session on “Discovering Your Inner Fashionista,” which turned out the be an amazing experience.  There was a lot of fantastic talk about body positivity and how to cultivate personal style, and interaction with the attendees was the best part.  Because it was a true discussion, I didn’t get through all the points I prepared below, but I think the spirit of them definitely came through!

For everyone who couldn’t be there, I want to share my four steps to developing a personal style that is authentic to you and who you want to be:

1) The first part of the process is letting go of all ideas of what “works for your body type.” Now, I’m not saying wear any old thing, but a lot of the fashion “rules” we’ve heard and absorbed over the course of our lives are based on body shaming, misogynist ideas about beauty. In order to really find our own style, we have to consciously let go of these outdated rules. So many of them are about hiding or fixing your body, not self expression, which is what fashion is really about. Letting go of these thoughts is not instant or automatic, and it takes some mental work, but it is SO worth it.

2) The second step is to find inspiration. There’s this idea in fashion that designers often employ, asking who is “the girl” for a style. Putting aside any ideas about what you don’t think you could pull off, who has style that inspires you? It could be a celebrity, a blogger, someone you see on the street – NYC is the best for that – or even someone you spotted on Pinterest. Does a certain designer’s aesthetic really appeal to you?  How would you describe their designs? Write down adjectives, collect images, and use that as a starting point.

Helmut Lang Asymmetrical Cropped Sweater

The edgy, minimal style of designer Helmut Lang is a big inspiration for my personal style.

3) The next step – and this is important – is to find a supportive community. For me, it was Gwynnie Bee, which is a clothing rental service – kind of like Netflix for clothes. One of the things that inspired me to start my fashion blog was seeing how vibrant and positive the Gwynnie Bee customers were, and everyone was sharing pictures of their outfits and uplifting each other. This helped me build confidence to press outside of my comfort zone, which is an essential part of cultivating your own sense of style. If you find yourself in a community that thrives on tearing other women down in the guise of “tough love” or “just giving my honest opinion,” get out of there! I’ve found that a lot of that type of body shaming is nothing more than projection of their own deep seated insecurities. That is somewhat understandable, because we all have an uphill battle with that, but you don’t need it in your life. It is definitely not conducive to developing personal style. You want to surround yourself with adventurous creative people who aren’t slavishly devoted to making everything “slimming.”

4) Finally (and this part is the most fun), TRY STUFF ON! Try it all. Prioritize pieces that work with your ideal vision of style, with the girl you want to be, but don’t feel restricted to just that. Try on anything that catches your eye. Try on styles you never thought you could wear. You might be surprised. And if it doesn’t work, don’t feel like you failed, or that your body isn’t good enough. There are clothes made for all different shapes, so if it doesn’t fit right, that doesn’t say a single thing about you. It only says that that piece of clothing is not worthy of a place in your closet. And don’t feel weird about the number on the size tag, either. I’ve always suspected it, but now, working in fashion, I know it’s true: Women’s sizing makes NO SENSE. Sizes are as much about fairy dust and unicorns as they are about actual measurements. There can be crazy variations in sizing within a brand, let alone across them. Don’t worry about the number – just focus on getting the fit that makes you feel awesome.

That’s it!  Not too complicated, right?  Now let’s chat about personal style: Where are you in your process of developing yours?

As for the outfit details:

Asymmetric hem sheath dress: T-Bags Los Angeles (via Gwynnie Bee; available in straight sizes here)

Long line vest: Worthington (old, similar here)

Ankle strap flats: BCBG (sold out, love this similar 10 Crosby Derek Lam pair)

Handbag: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)

OOTD picture by Georgette of Grown and Curvy Woman

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate or referral. All opinions my own, as always!