Anyone with a credit card can stroll into Barneys and emerge looking like Fashion with a capital F—but that’s not necessarily what truly stylish people do. Very few people—credit cards or not—can be considered humans of genuine style.
Yes, draping yourself in the coolest labels and piling on “It” items might give you a boost of instant sartorial gratification, but in six months those pieces will be obsolete, you’ll be out a month’s rent, and you’ll feel compelled to keep up with the cycle of buying the next round of coveted pieces. It’s exhausting. Still, so many women seem to be falling victim to that exact cycle.
Blame it on today’s street style-obsessed world, but all we have to do today is take a quick peek at Pinterest, give Instagram a quick scroll, or visit any one of the gazillion personal style blogs that exist, and we’ll be inundated with up-to-the-minute images of Céline, Proenza Schouler, Givenchy, Chanel, and other top-level labels, which can often create a bit of FOMO. And that, in turn, can result in scores of young women looking, well, exactly like everyone else and going broke in the process.
Then, however, there are those images you’ll see on blogs or street style sites of women who look so amazingly chic, cool, or interesting who aren’t covered in head-to-toe labels, but rather know how to take nondescript pieces and style them in such a way that their whole look is completely enviable and covetable.
These, friends, are the truly stylish women from whom we should aim to take our fashion inspiration. To that end, we’ve compiled the 7 habits of highly stylish people to get you started.
1. They don’t surf street style blogs and copy exactly what they see, label for label
In this day and age, street style photos are a bona fide source of fashion inspiration. In fact, we spend a pretty hefty portion of our day stalking Pinterest and culling various galleries to offer our readers (and ourselves) great ideas when it comes to seasonal outfits.
However, just because you saw Taylor Tomasi Hill, Miroslava Duma, or Anya Zirhouva draped in Kenzo, Chanel, or Céline—or because you’ll be in New York during Fashion Week and want to get snapped by Phil Oh—isn’t a great reason to go out and splurge on the same stuff.
Don’t forget: Several big street-fashion players, editors, and bloggers get sent designer stuff for free to entice folks like us to go out and buy it. Others are, well, richer than us and it’s their day job to flit around the world in the latest designer clothes, which is fun to admire but not necessarily healthy to emulate.
That’s why truly stylish girls will see a look they’re drawn to and seek out lesser-priced pieces that have the same vibe. Plenty of affordable stores and sites offer items that feature similar aspects to designer pieces.
2. They aren’t afraid of any store—and can find something almost anywhere
Legitimately stylish women will troll any—and we mean any—store with zero snob factor, yet they manage to stay true to their aesthetic.
For example, she won’t be afraid to pop into a cheesy-seeming teen store at the mall, but that doesn’t mean she’ll leave with the same things her 12-year-old cousin would. Same goes for fast-fashion haunts like Forever 21, dusty old thrift stores, and off-price havens like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Century 21, which are consistently packed with great stuff at non-sucker prices.
3. They know how to style themselves according to their own taste
Isn’t it always the case that the most stylish girls will say “This blouse? It’s from Goodwill, like, 100 years ago” and actually mean it?
Yeah, the blouse itself is probably pretty cool, but it’s really the way she styled it—maybe she tucked into great-fitting jeans, unbuttoned one extra button, rolled up the sleeves, and added a killer pair of statement earrings—that made everyone comment on it.
4. They always look a little less “done” than everyone else
Highly stylish people are often in the habit of always appearing a teeny tiny bit too cool for every scenario they’re in.
This might mean wearing a pair of slip-on sneakers when every other girl is teetering on sky-high heels, wearing a chic skinny pantsuit when every other woman is rocking glittery party dresses, or chopping her hair into a messy bob when everyone else has long beachy waves. Small things that always make them look a little less “done.”
5. They understand labels don’t make them cooler
It sounds cliché, but the most stylish women—and men, for that matter—in the world are ones who have confidence, and who know they don’t need the $700 sweatshirt or $2,000 handbag to make themselves appear cool.
These folks can step out in a faded gray tee and jeans and still look like the coolest person in the room all because they have confidence (okay fine, and probably a killer haircut, too).
6. They aren’t slaves to fashion
Some of the most stylish people are able to have fun with fashion and follow trends without looking like a slave. If you don’t like a trend—even if every blogger under the sun is wearing it—don’t buy into it. It’s that simple.
7. They don’t dress to be considered stylish
Before blogs, before street style, and before Fashion Week became a three-ring circus that only matters for those who have the most attention-grabbing clothing, young women dressed for themselves, their lifestyle, and what looked good on them.
Believe us: It doesn’t matter if those heels are Alexander Wang—if you can’t walk in them, you won’t be considered stylish. Throw on a pair of comfortable ankle boots with that mini dress, you’ll look much cooler.
Originally published January 2014. Updated March 2017.