Signature Style or a Style Rut? Ten Ways to Tell the Difference

Style Rut

Having a signature style has many advantages and few drawbacks.  It can make shopping easier and getting dressed a breeze, not to mention it can just feel fantastic to find a look that strongly resonates with who you are.  I’m all for crafting a strong signature style.  However, there is a very fine line between having a signature style and being in a style rut, and often it is hard to realize that your wardrobe has crossed well into a rut until it’s too late.

Signature Style or a Style Rut?  Ten Ways to Tell the Difference

Curious if you have developed a signature style or if you have fallen into a style rut, take a look at these ten ways to tell.

1. Your outfits are starting to feel like you have been eating the same thing for breakfast for five years

I have a habit of getting into food ruts.  Basically, I will eat the same thing every day until the moment comes when I cannot put it into my mouth again.  If your wardrobe feels like you have been eating the same thing for breakfast for the past five years you have crossed over from signature style to a style rut and it’s time to reevaluate what you have been wearing.

Before you go and do a 180 with your wardrobe, know that drastic change isn’t necessary. In fact, you want to avoid this.  Boredom often leads to impulsive decisions (like that haircut you got when you broke up with a boyfriend) and impulsive wardrobe buys are rarely good ones.  Instead, take a look at some minor changes you can make that are still in the spirit of what has been working.

2. You have started get known as the <blank> lady.

Has your look become so well known that people have started calling you the <blank> lady, like the scarf lady, LBD woman, or blazer gal?  Have the gifts you have received started to reflect this? If even your most self-absorbed friends have started to notice your wardrobe patterns, there is a good chance that you have crossed over from signature style to style rut.  You don’t have to give up your trusted pieces, just consider some alternatives to change things up a bit.

3. Your wardrobe has become variations of the same look

Has your wardrobe become so formulaic that every outfit looks like a variation of the same outfit with subtle variations, like color or accessories?  This is a good sign you are in a style rut.  While seeking out alternatives, look at the essence of what made your go-to pieces so workable and desirable and aim to capture those same feelings in the new things you bring in to your closet.

4. You keep buying the same thing and have multiples in your closet

Despite having tons of scarves, blazers, sheath dresses, ballerina flats, skinny jeans, or whatever your wardrobe vice is, you keep buying more.  As a result, you may have lots in your closet but, unfortunately, the only thing you are able to do is create the same look over and over again.  Having too much of the same thing often diminishes the value found in each piece. I call this splitting your wears, which means the need for an item is spread over more pieces instead of less.  It’s easy to fall into this trap. I did it with cardigans a few years ago and wrote a post about why it can get too easy to fall into the trap of buying the same thing again and again.

5. You have repetitive looks for specific events

Do you have your interview outfit, your night out look, your date top, your dress down Friday ensemble?  There is nothing wrong with this, of course.  I think it can be good to have looks down pat that work for your lifestyle.  However, you have to watch that fine line between a signature style and a style rut.

Years ago, I remember I had fallen into a slim turtleneck sweater and jeans look for my casual nights out with friends.  It was a cute, easy and chic winter look that never failed me.  It was so failsafe, however, that it wasn’t long before it became my only going out outfit.  I wore it over and over…and over again and what was once chic became repetitive and terribly boring.  Yes, have your go-to looks, but keep an eye on whether this look has become a style rut.  It might be time to change it up or at least throw a new outfit into the mix.

6. You have become style risk averse

Have you become so dependent on your go-to outfits that you now seem to have developed this strange fear of taking any fresh chances with your wardrobe?  With the challenges of pulling a good outfit together being something that most women face, it can become too easy to grip to a look for dear life once it has been nailed down.  Instead of being empowering, your signature style has become almost like a security blanket.  A signature look should make you feel good and when it has stopped doing that it’s time to reassess if you have developed a co-dependent relationship with your wardrobe.

7. Your wardrobe isn’t prepared for unexpected changes

You have your wardrobe down to a science.  You can just grab and go, and you’re feeling quite accomplished about this. That is until something unexpected happens and you realize that you have created a formulaic wardrobe that doesn’t cover all bases.

Being a jeans type of girl, most of my looks work with them.  I can dress them up for work with a blazer, down on the weekends, throw a scarf around a basic t-shirt, and wear them out with friends.  Jeans cover a huge amount of territory for me, but recently I found myself off guard when I had to go out for Christmas Eve dinner, didn’t feel like wearing a dress (and the tights that go with it) and realized I basically had no tailored pants in my closet.  Basically I had created a jeans rut in my wardrobe.  Buying tailored pants became priority number one for my closet.  Sure, my signature style covered me in most areas of my life, but not all.  When buying my tailored pants I made sure they were styles that broadened my already established signature style.  You can check out one of the pairs I bought here.

8. You have changed but your look hasn’t

Your style needs to be as fluid as your life.  Lifestyle changes often bring style changes, be it in age, change in career, having children, becoming an empty nester, priority changes, body changes, or income fluctuations.  While I believe that the core of someone’s style rarely changes that much, how one dresses that core personal style does.  Has your signature style become a style rut simply because you haven’t changed your wardrobe with the changes that have happened in your life?

9. Your wardrobe has lost its passion

With all these systems out there for creating a cohesive wardrobe, like the ten-item wardrobe, capsule building, and more, clothing can easily become more of a cerebral exercise instead of one that brings you joy.  Have you lost the passion or simple enjoyment of buying clothing and getting dressed because you have gotten stuck in trying to get it right or building the perfect closet of clothes?  Have you stopped giving yourself permission to enjoy what you wear?

Instead of trying to get it right, go back to the basics of filling your closet with, as Marie Kondo would way, sparks joy.  You can have it both ways, you can shop responsibly and create a more joyous space in your closet.  I wrote a post on creating a style that sparks joy, here.

10. What felt great to wear has started to feel stagnant

I want to be clear, if your set looks feel good to you, regardless of how repetitive they seem or limited your options have become, there is no reason to change anything.  This often comes with age where the desire to experiment lessens or a person has just found what works.  Additionally, some of the most successful people in the world are known for wearing the same thing regularly.  Only you can really know when a signature style has become a style rut.  What you want to watch for is a feeling of stagnation and boredom.  You can read more about the difference between wearing a ‘you’niform and a uniform in a post I wrote here.

As daunting as it may seem, style ruts are easy to break free from once you know that you have gotten yourself into one.  I hope these signs can help you identify if change is afoot for you.  Of course, if you need any help, I’d be happy to lend a hand.

  • Patricia

    Thoughtful post. I’d liken my look to a neutral sofa you can change up with throws, pillows, coffee table and accessories. My base pieces are mostly neutral, like the sofa, but I can change them up with a striped or leopard print top and a jacket with an interesting twist. Right now I don’t think I’m in a rut but I’ll pin this post for later review if I feel differently in the future.
    I do wear a lot of scarves because they can change an outfit from drab to fab. May have to play with necklaces and earrings more in the near future.