the quest to pin down one's personal style can be a little daunting. we look in the mirror at ourselves every single day, but we don't always SEE.
the key to finding out what appeals to you, and what works with your personality and your body (and it's idiosyncrasies), is to train your eye to SEE: to look at what's really there when you look in the mirror and find ways to work with it, to define what appeals to you visually and what resonates with your soul.
when you find and define what you really love, you can find yourself, and be able to show the real you to the world.
one great way of training your eye to SEE is to create inspiration boards and mood boards.
some of you may have inspiration boards (or something similar) already in your home: perhaps a corkboard covered with inspirational photographs, scraps of paper, bits of nature, fabric...anything really. sometimes these inspirational scraps don't make it on to a board, but they form a pile, fill a file, or are pasted into a scrapbook.
all that matters, really, is that you gather images that speak to you, if you haven't already started to do so. flip through magazines, books, the internet, and gather anything that sparks your imagination. perhaps you love the folk embroidery on that ancient dress featured in an art or culture magazine, the juxtaposition of the colors on two paint swatches from the local paint store, the color combination or graphic design on that museum or club flyer, the arrangement of pleats on that couture dress in that elite fashion magazine, a postcard of an ancient roman statue, a clipping of a beautiful piece of modern architecture or interior or the face of a sad child from national geographic, the texture of that scrap of fabric...whatever.
the point is to gather, gather, gather little bits of things that define what YOU REALLY LOVE, and who you REALLY ARE. think carefully about each choice. look and make decisions. take your time.
once you have gathered these things, and you have a sizable pile of these scraps and other objects, you can begin the process of refining said scraps and objects. spread them out on the desk, bed, table, floor, couch, or what have you. you will likely find that you can start to put the scraps into loose categories, or personal "trends". favorite color combinations, textures, and types of expressive images will probably come up again and again. odd little things will be floating around as well... set them to the side, but don't get rid of them. they still speak to you, and thus, are still important. you may be able to use them again, with this mood board, or another.
a mood board, as i know it, is a more refined inspiration board. a mood board is smaller and more concise than an inspiration board, and it can express anything you'd like it to express, and can be the creative jumping off point for anything you'd like: a book idea, a painting or piece of art you'd like to make, how you'd like to design a room in your home, a clothing collection for your fashion design firm or a page you'd like to design for your webpage or blog, or in this case, how you would like to define your wardrobe or personal style. it can be nothing more than a feeling or an attitude. things we see evoke emotions within us, and by extension, those who view us or the things we favor.
try to narrow all your scraps down to a smaller number. it might even be a fun challenge to narrow down your scraps to say, 7 or 10 images that REALLY say something about you. if someone asked you to define yourself in this small number of images, what specific images or scraps would you choose? make thoughtful choices.
below are two mood boards i made for my studies at parsons, to give you an example of a finished, refined mood board...
the point behind this particularly fancy mood board was to make a collage that defined the type of individual that i would like to design for. i gathered what i believed were related images in a tight color scheme (yellow, black, pink, and the like), and organized them in what i believed to be a pleasing, sensical manner. i scanned each picture into the computer, printed them out on heat-transfer paper, and ironed each image on to a piece of fabric, and sewed it on to the fabric i used as a base. i added machine and hand-stitching/embroidery with floss and yarn, and added a few buttons as well. some images merely give a feeling about this customer: planes=a traveler, buildings, graffiti=an urban dweller, lover of renegade art, jeans=a casual, young attitude, and so on.
this mood board was about how i would define my own brand, should i have one someday. it should say something about me, and what i want to express to my customer about said brand. the theme behind this collage/mood board was "pop organic". in this case, only seven images were used, to tightly define and express who i am and what i want the world to understand about what i like and what i design.
mood boards or inspiration boards do not have to be that complicated or involved, of course. not all of us are artists and not everyone wants to go to that effort... the simple act of gluing inspirational images to a piece of paper, tacking those images and scraps to a small board, or making a photoshop collage in a way that works for you can serve the same purpose.
the end result should be a collage that you can refer to when your mind or eye becomes unfocused...you can remind yourself of who you are and what you love. the mood board is a concise expression of what your mind and your eye favors. it may help you later when you turn to your closet or the shops in order to find pieces that you really love, that support your own unique expression of your personal style. perhaps the things that inspire you or define you may change over time. that's just an excuse to make a new mood board! :)
the idea is to keep looking, and keep SEEING.
and on the topic of inspiration boards and the actual gathering of inspirational images:
i recently discovered this this great flickr group, all about inspiration boards. perhaps you too will find it inspiring! http://www.flickr.com/groups/inspirationboards/pool/
speaking of flickr: they have a great feature that can assist you in gathering inspirational images that appeal to your eye. at the top of everyone's photos is a link called "add to faves"...click on it to add a buddy's photo to your own personal favorites, to refer back to again and again.
here are some of my most recent favorites from the photostreams of my fellow flickr users, as an example: