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Dear Frank: How Do You Ditch Trends and Build a Signature Style?

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Love, Frank has returned as a weekly style advice column. Addressing a different reader's fashion glitch each and every week, it will tackle all the hard-hitting issues—like whether or not you can wear white to a wedding and where to find cute shoelaces. Today's question:

Dear Frank,

After years of trying one trend after another, I'm ready to start cultivating some sort of signature style. What's the best way to begin this process?

Overstuffed Closet in Miami

Before: Where your trends went to die

Dear Overstuffed,

First of all, I find it hard to believe that there's no inkling of personal style lurking around in that over-stuffed, trend-chasing closet of yours.

Let's start with an exercise: Get down into that closet and pull out all the tribal prints, and shots of neon, and black, semi-amorphous Alexander Wang-esque items you picked up on sale or on Gilt or at Forever 21 over the last year or two. You may have wanted—perhaps even needed—these super trendy bits and bobs at the moment. But, really, they amount to something that trickled down from Scoop to the mall and you wanted in.

Now, with all those impulse buys out of the way, what do you see? I suspect you'll see the foundation of whatever it is your personal style is—or, at least, should be. It may become clear here and now how exactly to build on that budding fashion persona (and, hey, it's also a great way to start in on the five piles of effective closet cleaning).

That said, maybe you're still drawing a blank. In which case, I suggest you take stock of you're very favorite go-to items. The clothes you feel most comfortable and most "like you" in. The items you always try to pack whenever you go on a trip—even if they're wholly inappropriate (this coming from a person who was certain he needed a camelhair Jil Sander sweater to go to an all-ages show at a strip mall venue near Albany).

Certainly those pieces have common attributes—colors that flatter your skin tone and eye color; fits and lengths that work with your body type; patterns and fabrications that charm you, or at least make you feel at ease and look sharp.

Also, get it together. If you're an adult person who doesn't know they can't wear orange or should avoid high-wasted trousers, then you're maybe a little bit hopeless. At 30, it's past time to figure out how to tame frizz or quiet acne. You've been playing with this deck for three decades. It's not gonna change. Troubleshoot until something works; then adopt that something.

But, I digress: Those favorite items and those colors and fits that work best on you are your starting point. And from there, you should have a pretty good idea of where you should or shouldn't shop. If you don't care for gray or tailored items then skip the Theory department. If classic silhouettes in quirky colors turn your stomach then don't even go into J.Crew or Kate Spade. If you aren't a wanton slut, don't shop at Bebe.

After: Obviously this is what happens when you stop buying trendy sweatshop clothes, via Bridgitte Raes Style Expert

Finally, lay off the Zaras and the H&Ms and the Forever 21s. You don't need a piece of every trend and every idea you see in some magazine. You'll end up having less to store, fewer questionable items in your arsenal, and you'll save a ton of money. Very few people need animal-motif intarsia knit sweaters or camo-print boyfriend trousers.

Best of all, a portion of that saved cash can go to buying a handfull really fabulous, quality pieces a year. Items that really speak to you and for you; pieces you'll treasure; pieces that will tell the story you hope to tell; pieces that go a long way in building a personal aesthetic.

Quality, people! Not quantity!

Got a style question for Frank? Leave it in the comments or email one in here. Then buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, because it's going to be ? Something.
· Frank's Guide To Spring Cleaning Your Closet [Racked]
· All Love, Frank posts [Racked]