I’ve become obsessed with fashion lately, and I would love to be one of those people who have a signature style and look amazing every day. But how do I figure out what my own personal style is? And how do you keep up with that every single day without spending too much money or feeling too uncomfortable? What do people with really strong personal styles do on days when they wake up and are just too tired or lazy to put that much effort into an outfit?

As someone who takes her personal style VERY seriously (just kidding, I don’t really) I have learned that after a while you don’t have to worry about keeping up with it every day. This is because your style ends up naturally flowing into whatever you do, even if you are wearing leggings and a T-shirt! But let’s start at the beginning. Determining your personal style is as easy as just figuring out what you like, because that is really all it is! Is there a movie character you’re drawn to, or a is there a musician who wears jackets in a way that you love? Is there a girl in your class who always has totally bitchin’ earrings on? Voilà: there are your style influences. If you can’t think of anyone like that, start looking through style blogs; they are endless sources of ideas to get your brain going. I find these ladies endlessly inspiring:


Clockwise from top left: Erin from Zero Style, Kalley of Mermaidens, Rebecca of The Clothes Horse, and Mary Van Note of Mary Van Notes.

The key to figuring out what you want to look like is to avoid copying anyone else exactly, but instead to think about what it is about how they wear those stockings or that hat that appeals to you, and interpret that your own way.

I have always been influenced by characters in my favorite movies, which are mostly from the ’60s and ’70s, so I tend to wear a lot of vintage. But I also love wearing head-to-toe black with lots of gold jewelry, probably inspired by Morticia Addams and Salt-N-Pepa. INSPIRATION IS EVERYWHERE, GIRLFRIEND. Of course, there are days when I don’t want to get dolled up in a dress, tights, and big shoes; that’s why I have a casual look: black leggings, a T-shirt, and a long cardigan. Throw some gold jewelz on there and my personal style is still pretty prominent.

Don’t think you have to come out blazing with a SIGNATURE LOOK tomorrow. Figuring how your style is a matter of trial and error—you won’t know that you hate jodhpurs (or that you will NEVER WEAR ANYTHING ELSE) until you’ve walked a mile (or at least to the bus) in a pair of jodhpurs. But this stage that you’re in—looking around, paying attention, mining the world for inspiration, and experimenting—is the fun part. —Marie

I absolutely adore backless dresses and tops with cutouts in the back, but I’m a 36D and I find going braless very uncomfortable. What do I do? —Elijah

As someone who is in the D+ cup range on a small frame, I feel your pain. Don’t get me wrong, I love my tatas, but sometimes I wish I didn’t have to strategize about the right bra whenever I find a dress or a top I like. It’s also annoying that we have to pay more for bras that support us and look chic. Whenever it’s time to bra shop, I always think to myself, The rent for these boobs is too damn high.

When we heard about your question, Julianne and I had a chat about our own experiences trying to find a supportive backless bra for big breasts, and we came up with some options for you. Julianne suggests that you check out American Apparel’s $15 bandeau bras “in a size too small” to help you get the right amount of support without being “too boob-squishy.” This bra will obviously show if you wear something backless, but it comes in so many colors that you can find one that will look cute with whatever you’ve got on. She also recommends that you look at underwire bras like these from Figleaves.com; maybe one of those will work for you. Julianne has tried backless bras too, but cautions that a lot of them are not so supportive of the underboob area. She’s managed to make them work by supplementing them with duct tape, but does not recommend this method to others: “It hurts to take off (tiny hairs being ripped out not really worth it), and it only makes about an eighth an inch of difference.”

Unfortunately, I’ve had similar issues with backless and strapless bras. I’m constantly having to adjust them, and feeling self-conscious about doing so. I agree with Julianne that duct tape is too painful; and fashion tape isn’t strong enough for my mighty underboob. Honestly, I avoid backless looks for this reason, or I find outfits with built-in bras.

Since I felt bad about not having a great solution for you, I called Bra*Tenders, a shop in Hell’s Kitchen that specializes in bra fitting. A friendly and supportive (oof) staffer named Danielle informed me that great backless and strapless options do exist, and that the best thing to do is to go to a lingerie shop like theirs to get a proper fitting. (You didn’t say where you live, so try Googling your city’s name + “bra fitting.”) I was surprised to learn that the majority of women out there are wearing the wrong bra size, which can contribute to some of those underboob hassles we mentioned earlier. Danielle told me that a bra that works with one dress or top might not work for another, so take the outfit you’re trying to fit with you on your search. Good luck! —Jamia

I’m about to do a three-month French-language intensive at a school that requires all students to wear a uniform. It’s not a full uniform that I could do cute things with, though. It’s just a vertically striped polo shirt in the school’s colors (navy and white), and is, in my humble opinion, the ugliest thing in the world. Please tell me: is there anything, anything at all, that I can do to make it bearable? Love, Striped Polo Shirts Make Me Cry

When I think of polo shirts and the preppy look in general, two style icons come to mind: Amy Winehouse for Fred Perry and Margot in The Royal Tenenbaums.


Those two are total proof that polos don’t have to be horrifying! Think of the shirt as just the basis for your outfit to come, the blank canvas to your MASTERPIECE. The fact that it’s not a full uniform actually works in your favor, because you can wear any kind of bottoms: cigarette pants, pencil skirts, or even a pleated tennis skirt to be totally in-yo’-face with that preppy feel. Accessories also make a huge difference. Put on some fun tights, or wear crazy-printed knee socks with saddle shoes. Wear suspenders over the polo with skinny pants that are high enough to show off your funky socks and creepers, like Queen Michelle here from Kingdom of Style:


Since your shirt is blue and white, you can take it in a nautical direction by adding something red, like a skirt or a bow. Or find a bunch of animal-themed brooches on Etsy and wear a different one on your collar (or one on each collar tip) every day. —Marie

Is it really important that I wash my makeup off every night, even if all I wear is BB cream, concealer, and powder? I try to, I just get lazy.

The thing is, if you don’t take off your face makeup before going to sleep, your pores won’t be able to BREATHE overnight. This can lead to clogged-up skin, which is basically an open invitation for zits to come party on your face. While it’s probably fine if you forget to take your stuff off once in a while, it’s not good for your skin if you make a nightly habit.

I can relate to your struggle; many are the nights when my foundation and mascara join me in my slumber. The very last thing I want to do at night is stick my face in some water or mess around with cleansers. I’m just too tiiiiiiired, you know? Luckily, I’ve found the perfect solution to this very real and important problem: makeup wipes! These little towelettes are presoaked in cleansers gentle enough that you don’t have to rinse after using them, and they remove my face and eye makeup in under a minute with pretty much zero effort. I keep mine on the table next to my bed so that I can just fling an arm over while I’m lying down for the night, grab one, and smear it all over my zone. Presto: my skin is bare and fresh, and I didn’t even have to sit up! Doesn’t that sound awesome?

The ones I’m using right now are L’Oreal Ideal Clean towelettes, but I’ve had just as much luck with other drugstore brands—there’s really no need to get a fancy kind, I don’t think. Just make sure the brand that you get is alcohol free so they don’t dry out your skin, and also get used to waking up with them stuck to your butt in the morning because it’s too much effort to get up and throw them away properly at night. —Amy Rose ♦

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