5 Smart Books that help you find your own style

The biggest influence on my style didn’t come from a consultant, blogger, or magazine article. It came from life– a favorite character in a movie; a quote from a classic novel; a person on the street who wore a simple jeans and tee just right with a novel in her back pocket.

Pinterest and social media can be a help when it comes to finding clothes that work. But often those tools leave me more confused than satisfied. Style is super personal. It takes experimentation. That’s the fun of it.

But lately I’ve been feeling like it’s hard to hear my own voice amidst the many voices, even positive ones, of social media and image overload. I think of myself as not susceptible to the hype, but everyone is.

Even in the world of slow fashion, every day there appears the new linen shirt, the better velvet dress, the perfect pair of jeans. Where does it end?  Or even slow down?

That’s why I’m so excited to share today’s post. I’ve put together 5 of my favorite books that help you look inward to find your style and make peace with clothes. Two of these books aren’t even about clothes. They’re about something much bigger: choosing your own path. Letting clothes support you instead of rule you.

I’m no where near perfectly styled. But I’ve gotten more comfortable in my own skin. These books have served as guideposts along the way.

Making Focussed Choices:  ESSENTIALISM

This book debunks the myth that you can be and do everything.  It gives you tools to define your goals and focus your activities on those goals. It helps you let go of the small stuff. If you’re an overwhelmed perfectionist  (oh, hi friend!), it might be the most important one on the list.

What does this have to do with clothes?

This book goes over how to make good choices and cut out the unnecessary. That’s exactly how I want my closet (and my life) to operate. McKeown applies his strategy to everything from cleaning out your closet to finding focus at work. 

Short, Funny Essays About Style: WOMEN IN CLOTHES

This perfect bedside book contains essays interviews about the human relationship to clothes that go way beyond where most fashion mags will go. Its tone ranges sweet and to poetic. My favorite section is the photo essay in which Zosia Mamet re-creates fashion mag poses (see my Instagram post way back in the feed in which I fail miserably at Vogue 1937). It’s reminder that fashion in real life, away from the media highlight reel, is funny and awkward and a part of everyone’s experience.

After reading this, I can’t wait to read more of editor Leann Shapton’s fiction writing.

We All Start Somewhere:  JUST KIDS

One of my favorite books period. Poet and and legendary musician Patti Smith writes beautifully about two artists finding their way on zero dollars in 1970’s New York. Patti describes how she managed to find her style as a penniless book store clerk and how one snip of the hair-cutting scissors symbolically started her life as a public figure. She thrifts clothes and mimics her favorite film characters until she finds her signature style and her voice as a poet and rock star. Robert makes hand-made necklaces and spends hours in his room in the Chelsea hotel choosing how to style them for a night out.

This is a story about two people who became famous and are the heroes of many artists and aspiring artists. Between the lines is an unrelentless call to be true to yourself in life, art, and style.

Trusting Your Own Voice:  THE CURATED CLOSET

Writer Anushka Reiss is a quiet and powerful voice in the slow fashion community. I love her book because 1) It contains practical, actionable steps to create a healthy relationship with clothes.  2) This book is about trusting your own self more than trends and influencing images.

If an entire book on the topic is not what you’re looking for, the Anuschka Rees website is your friend. It contains loads of free worksheets and tutorials that are easy to digest and contain zero bs.

My favorites: Her Closet Confidence Worksheet is a month of fun exercises that help you play with style at your own pace. I do her Year In Review Worksheet every new year and find endless insight from it.

Practical Tips:  HOW TO GET DRESSED

I’m ending with this book for a very important reason: Style does not work without function. Find your style, and you still have to figure out what kind of socks and underwear to wear and how to get wine stains out of your New Years Eve shirt. I haven’t read all of this yet– but it’s on my list.


That’s it! Five books that speak beautifully about what to wear, how to wear it, and being true to your voice. I hope you love ’em as much as I do.



Now for your story

Do you struggle with your relationship to clothes or feel pretty much at peace? What helps you stay true to yourself amidst the media whirl? And do you have any books to add to this list? I’d love to hear your story.


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About Kelli

2 thoughts on “5 Smart Books that help you find your own style

  1. Leanne Shapton is a hero – I recommend starting with Important Artifacts then Swimming Studies. I love this book list – may be calling you in the wee hours with anxiety over my workbook. xo

    1. OK then it’s settled — I will def be reading her this year. Call me with wardrobe worksheet anxiety! I would love that because I’m a huge nerd.

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