When you finally move out of your parents' house, starting life as a new, independent adult, finding a personal style can be one of the most rewarding ways to express yourself and your personality. As much as we say beauty is on the inside, it's also worth remembering that when we feel beautiful, we feel better and more confident.
Much as we'd like to think it isn't true, attractiveness matters in life. One 2017 study measured the effects of physical attractiveness on electoral outcomes for recent German national elections and found that the most important factor was attractiveness, more so than competence or even likeability.
The same is true for corporate success as well, as this 2019 study found. After following 203 recent graduates for two years, scientists found that the more attractive participants received higher career exposure and visibility from the very beginning of their careers.
But attractiveness is a circular concept: you look your best when you feel confident, and you feel confident when you think you look your best.
It's hard to identify why we think someone is attractive – even the study of young adults mentioned above determined the attractiveness of participants based on 10 ratings from doctorate students and staff at a university, rather than some kind of objective scientific scale. Much of what we consider attractiveness is extremely subjective, and how a person holds themselves matters just as much as what their face looks like when it comes to deciding if they're good-looking or not.
That's why it's important, when choosing a look for yourself, that you pay close attention to how you look and feel. Ultimately, the goal is not to win a beauty contest, but rather to have a style that is true to who you are.
In a fashion world governed by fleeting trends, it pays to spend some time investing in a wardrobe that makes you look and feel your best, no matter the season. From the shoes you wear to the glasses that adorn your face, this guide will help you find a look that will flatter you while not compromising on who you are.
1. Find clothes that reflect your style and priorities
Clothing can be both practical and fun – the best outfits are both. When you're selecting clothing, there are a few crucial factors you should keep in mind that are good for ticking both the function and form boxes.
The most important thing to remember is that even if you pick what others might consider the ugliest item in the shop, if you love it, that makes it all worthwhile. While it makes sense to want to look your best, the real test of clothing is how it makes you feel.
Clothing should be comfortable above all else
I'm not saying you should wrap yourself in a large sleeping bag (unless you want to, of course!) – all I mean is that clothing will be more flattering if you're not constantly pulling down or hitching up. If you're torn between two options, always go with the one that sits most comfortably on your skin, even if it may seem less "flattering" at first.
Sticking to materials that are non-scratchy and not likely to sag or stretch is an easy way to make sure your clothing is comfortable. Many clothing companies (like these seven sustainable brands) make high-quality materials their number one priority. Finding one that you like is a great place to start finding a clothing style that suits you.
Choose colors you like
You probably already know the typical advice to match jewel tones to cooler skin, and more peachy colors for warm-toned skin. But don't be afraid to ignore that advice when it comes to feeling your best. Personal wellness includes how you feel about what you wear, not just ticking a box of "attractiveness" that someone else put together.
While it's true that color can influence how good something looks, you should always pick colors you love. It's almost always possible to find a shade that will suit you in it, and even if not, it's still worth it to make yourself happy.
Mix up solids and patterns
Give yourself a way to express your mood and personality no matter how you wake up feeling. Maybe on a day when you're wishing you had just one more cup of coffee, you can lean to more muted neutrals and basics. If you're feeling on top of the world and want to be more eye-catching, why not try to mix patterns together? Don't be afraid to get jazzy with your patterns – plenty of fashion gurus say it's okay to mix florals with animal prints.Who What Wear put together a great guide that helps you get down the basics, but feel free to go off piste and try your own ideas with patterns!
2. Pick accessories that match your personality
Unlike many other elements of fashion, because accessories are so varied and more optional, there aren't as many "rules" around what's suitable or not.
Just ensure they meet your basic needs – and then go have fun!
Choose the right glasses
Picking the right set of glasses is all about understanding what you're working with and going from there. Especially with glasses that you'll wear every single day, picking something flattering to your face is a staple in a flattering look. "Much like everything you wear, the choice (or choices) you make regarding your glasses ultimately comes down to how you feel when you look in the mirror—which is precisely what you should do," writes Barry Silver, an eyeglass researcher, in his guide to how to choose eyeglasses.
The glasses you wear often aren't optional, but they can make a huge difference to your wellbeing. Select glasses that help you live a better life, whether they're smudge-proof to reduce busywork or help you look at your screen with less stress.
In other words, picking glasses is the same as choosing clothing: glasses should be about what makes you happy. This comes down to looks, yes, but also functionality. Beyond making sure you like them and they look nice, make sure they're sturdy and fit your face well so they're not always sliding around.
Which shoes will you walk in?
You wear shoes every day of your life. Invest in two or three staple pairs that fit perfectly, go with most outfits and occasions, and will hold up to long wear. Remember comfort is crucial – no matter how attractive your outfit is, if you're limping due to blisters or have pinched toes, it will not be worth it.
One great idea is to pick a shoe in black, one in brown, and one in a more fun color, like purple or red. These can be flats, boots, gym shoes, or heels. By nailing down the basic colors, you'll have an option that goes with whatever option you choose. The fun option lets you express a bit more of your personality and choices in your shoewear. Even though shoes should be the most practical part of your outfit, it also makes sense to have fun with what you put on your feet.
Hats are often ignored - but they're an easy way to have some fun
Hats are a great way to add a bit of your personality to your outfit and look. Many people don't consider hats to be part of their staple look, but why not? Along with giving you an extra way to expand your personality and look, hats also provide important functions: they keep your head warm in winter; they keep the sun out of your eyes and off your face in summer.
Beyond ticking basic functionality boxes, why not let your hat inspire an adventure? When you get a new beanie, try going for a hike in the winter. Did a beret hat catch your eye? Why not go treat yourself to a coffee-and-french-pastry excursion?
When it comes to choosing the best-looking hat for your face, there aren't many rules - the most important thing is to make sure it does what you bought it for. Beyond that, Hats.com has a useful guide to matching your face shape to a suitable hat. Here, this means opposites. If you have a round face, choose squarer, more angular hats like a fedora or cloche. If you have a square or rectangular face, floppy and wide-brimmed hats look best.
The most important thing to remember is to ensure you pick styles that you love rather than the ones you think may suit you best. Perhaps the two will overlap, but if not, always choose personal preference over the "in" look.
3. Treat yourself to a makeover
Makeup is a dangerous tool in the wrong hands - if you become overly dependent on it, you may begin to feel like your natural self isn't beautiful enough.
The key is to remember that your features are your own, and makeup isn't a crutch to simply conceal the worst and highlight the best. It's a tool to help you experiment with different styles and looks, which can be extremely fun and rewarding. And if you ever begin to feel like you can't let anyone see you without makeup, try to tone down your use of it to remember how beautiful the natural you truly is.
Try different experiments
No matter if you're male or female, you can both experiment with colors and styles, or stick to basics like concealer and mascara.
Unlike clothes and accessories, there are lots of inexpensive quality options you can choose that can help you try out what you like.
The most flattering makeup look follows similar rules to flattering clothing. But you should always feel free to break those rules and go for what makes you feel happiest. A bold lip might not always be in season, but on you, it is.
Learn from the experts
Being online nowadays means you have totally free access to a whole host of beauty gurus who are excited to share their knowledge and lessons with you.
These can give you training wheels, letting you learn what makeup tips, tricks, and tools work well, but they also give you the foundations that will help you develop your own look.
Don't forget the most essential accessory: skincare
To look and feel your best, keeping your face happy and moisturized is an absolute must to finding your look. Remember, skin tone plays into so many of the rules that help you select the most flattering looks. It makes sense to ensure your base is as best maintained as you can.
On days you wear makeup, make sure you remove it all at the end of the night (no matter how late it is when you get home!). On makeup-free days, don't forget to use a moisturizer with SPF in it to protect your skin from the sun.
Skin is delicate, so it may take a bit of experimentation to figure out the best skincare routine. Be patient with yourself and your skin. It's likely that you're going through a lot of changes and stress, which can cause breakouts, so a forgiving attitude towards your skin is a must.
How to choose a look that’s flattering for you
Leaving home for the first time can be scary, but also exciting – it's a moment in time when you're getting to express yourself without any parental influence for the first time in your life. Attractiveness can help you get a little further in life, but it's also worth remembering that how you feel in your clothes and skin is more important than following the latest trend.
To summarize my advice, I'd recommend picking essentials that will do a lot of the heavy lifting with a few more exciting options to express yourself better. Prioritize what you love and enjoy - that will shine through. Feeling happy and comfortable is the most flattering look there is.
Clothing, accessories and makeup are great ways to try on different looks to express yourself and your personality. As a wellness coach myself, I know how tempting it is to pick something that is in or that is supposed to flatter your form, but there are real pitfalls to focusing solely on how you look – you can end up overly self-conscious, or prioritizing your appearance over your personality.
The best style test is what you prefer. That's the only way to pick a look that makes you look your best while staying true to yourself.
You're more than a face shape, skin tone, and body type. You're a person. What you put on the outside can help you present your best self to the outside world, but it's far more important to choose styles that you love, that help you feel your best, and that make your personal preferences pop.