The Missing Piece: The Unexpected Element You Need To Develop Authentic Style

The missing piece in so many women's style journey - read the post to discover what it is

One of driving motivations here at 16 Style Types has been and continues to be helping women find their true and authentic style pathway. Our goal is to hold the light as a woman discovers for herself what style is for her, the place it has in her life, and how she can connect with it in a way that is unique and real for her.

This may sound simple, but in this world of fast, celebrity-driven fashion, where fashion pundits take a “one size fits all” approach, from bloggers to stylists, it’s incredibly challenging. So many women are confused and frustrated by the fashion messages they receive, the biggest of which seems to be ‘YOU ARE WRONG’.

As clothing is such an essential part of expressing who we are, to be in a constant state of believing your approach to style and clothing is wrong is deeply unsettling. This is no superficial issue that can be brushed off, although we all know women who have tried to do that. Any intelligent woman with an awareness of the world and her place in it has probably tried to shrug off at least some of the pervasive, invasive and in many ways toxic messages about how we should look and dress.

16 Style Types was created as an antidote to the many and ultimately harmful and unhealthy messages that exist in the world of celebrity fast fashion about what it means to be a woman of style.


We believe every woman can become her most stylish self, and we have mapped out 16 pathways – linked to the respected model of personality, the Jung/Myers model of psychological type – to help women find and travel her own unique pathway.

This is where the concepts of style essence and style expression come into play. But first a story.

In ‘Braving the Wilderness’, Brene Brown shares this story (pp 23-24)

… I was speaking at one of the largest leadership events in the world. The event organizers had strongly recommended that I wear “business attire” to the event, and I was staring down at my black slacks and pumps and feeling like an imposter. Or like I was going to a funeral.

I was sitting with another speaker… and she asked how I was doing. I confessed that I was coming out of my skin and that I couldn’t shake the feeling of playing dress-up. She told me I looked “really nice,” but the expression on her face said, I know. It’s hard. But what can we do?

I abruptly stood up, grabbed my suitcase from a wall lined with suitcases belonging to the other speakers, and went to the restroom. Minutes later, I came out in a navy shirt, dark jeans, and clogs. The woman looked at me, smiled, and said, “Awesome. You’re brave.”

I wasn’t sure if she meant it or not, but I laughed. “Not really. It’s a necessity. I can’t go on that stage and talk about authenticity and courage when I don’t’ feel authentic or brave. I physically can’t do it. I’m not here so my business self can talk to their business selves. I’m here to talk from my heart to their hearts. This is who I am.”

Another important step in learning to belong to myself.

Style Essence

We all have a style essence, it’s a dimension of our true essence, our core self. Our Style Essence is what we were born with. We believe that an approach to style is as innate and inborn as our approach to communication, our approach to information, our approach to decision making, and our approach to life in general.

Discovering your Style Essence is what brings you “home”, to recognize and honor your unique approach to style, and what works and is true for you. This is where 16 Style Types can be the most powerful, giving a respectful language and legitimacy to unique style approaches that may not have been acknowledged, let alone respected as genuine, before.

While each Style Type is a bit different, it involves, among other things, knowing your clothes are “you,” adapting a required work wardrobe to better suit your personality, feeling at home with your spending choices, seeing your closet or wardrobe as your friend rather than full of issues, knowing that your value for appropriateness or spontaneity or flexibility or whatever it is for you can be met through your style choices, and so on.

Losing the connection

And whilst we all have this core self, this style essence deep within us, sometimes we lose our connection to it. This is amazingly common, and it’s rarer to find a woman who has not lost it than those who have (at least for a time).

How do we lose our connection to our core self, our style essence? There are many reasons, and the following is not exhaustive, but here are some typical ones we hear:

  • This is how I was told to dress, how I was told I should look – a person in some form of authority (anywhere from a mother when I was a child, through to an HR person when I started my first job) basically told me what to wear and how to wear it.
  • I found a style recipe at an early stage on my style journey, and I’ve followed it unwaveringly ever since. It’s “safe” and it “works” (well it doesn’t not work) so why mess around with it?
  • I’m afraid to experiment, I don’t want to make a mistake.
  • I don’t want to be laughed at – for trying to look too young, too chic (when I’m not), too contemporary (when I’m too old), or like I’m trying too hard.
  • I’m afraid I’ll be overlooked, not seen, be invisible. I’m frightened that if people don’t see me, I won’t exist, I’ll disappear. So I dress in a way that always draws attention to myself, even if it doesn’t always feel like “me”.
  • I experiment so much I’ve lost touch with what grounds me, with who I really am – I’ve become something of a crazy experimentalist, and there’s no continuity to my style. My style is almost like a costume for a series of characters – it drifts and shifts in so many directions, I don’t know who really am anymore.
  • My drive to be unique, to be seen as an individual, has driven all my style choices but I can’t make it all work – it won’t gel.
  • I find the fashion merry-go-round exhausting/insincere/immoral/confusing so I’m rebelling against it, turning my back on it, and in the process, I’m turning off anything remotely to do with style.
  • I dress to be like the people around me, the people in the community I live in. It doesn’t feel like me, but it’s how everyone else dresses and I don’t want to stand out, but I don’t feel stylish.

Reconnecting to your style essence

No matter how you have lost your connection to your style essence, it’s possible to reconnect with it. No matter how many years you’ve been following a style recipe, or playing it safe, or trying to be seen, or in whatever way wearing someone else’s clothes and traveling someone else’s style path, you can reconnect to your core style self, to who you really are.

How do we get it back? Well, it’s different for each woman, of course, and it’s important to recognize this. There isn’t one single way in which a reconnection to your style essence can occur. But here are some catalyzing events that can occur to bring us back home.

We have an illumination

A light goes on, literally or figuratively. We suddenly see something that was not visible to us before. It may literally be that we see ourselves reflected in a mirror. Or we see ourselves reflected in someone else’s eyes, or in their life. Whatever it is, a light goes on – and we never ever want to be in the dark again… so we follow that light…

We are validated in some way

A comment by a passing stranger may be enough to validate us in some important way — a friendly person telling us how wonderful we look, or what lovely energy we have, or simply smiling at us. It may be validation from a deeper source, from someone we know well or a sphere of our life that is significant to us.

Wherever it comes from, there is a validation and the message we receive is powerful: I exist. I am beautiful in some way. I am myself. I am worthy. I am enough.

We recognize a truth

This can be very powerful when something we know to be absolutely true becomes unavoidable and unignorable. In Brene’s story, she recognized that she was about to talk to a room of leaders about authenticity, and she didn’t feel authentic. Her second skin wasn’t right – it wasn’t “her”. Her words were “I’m coming out of my skin” – what an intriguing turn of phrase. Her second skin – her clothing – was coming off.

Some part of her knew, with absolute certainty, that the way she was dressed was all wrong in that important moment. And as simple as that change was – from pants to jeans, from pumps to clogs – those changes represented the difference between inauthentic and authentic, between feeling she was playing dress-ups to being her true self.

We get more information

This may come in many forms – going shopping with a friend and seeing how great you look in something you would ordinarily never choose, participating in a quality style program or doing some research and reading that introduces us to the idea that there is a huge variety of choices available to us when it comes to how we present ourselves to the world, watching a TV show or movie where a particular character is dressed a certain way and having this ‘spark’ something in us.  The sources of our new information can be many and varied but what’s important is this knowledge can form “permission” to explore, play, experiment, and make use of all that’s available to us.

Or we may engage an excellent image consultant or a stylish and supportive friend, who helps us shape our style and choose clothing and accessories that makes us feel the best version of ourselves. This provokes further exploration into who we are, and how what we wear can so affect how we feel about ourselves.

16 Style Essence Reports

And this is where 16 Style Types come in. Our Report describes the style essence of a woman of that Style Type. It validates her. It gives her the opportunity to recognize who she really is, beyond the reach of celebrity fast-fashion messages. And we hope it provides illumination to her as she makes style choices and travels her unique, authentic style pathway.

This world-class world-first program brings women home to their most stylish self in a way no other program that exists today has ever done before. It validates her, it recognizes her and it illuminates her style pathway.

Your Style Type holds the light for you to explore, for yourself, what your style is, what it means, and how it can be expressed.

How does your style essence differ from your style expression?

Style Expression

Style expression is the second part of the style equation, although, in almost all fashion advice, it is the first – and only – consideration.  Here at 16 Style Types we realize that style expression is very distinct from style essence.

And we know when the expression of our essence is right for us, is representing our true, authentic self… or not. There’s a part of us that knows when we’re playing dress ups, or when we’re expressing who we really are. Some of us may have lived with that feeling of being an imposter (as Brene described it) for most of our lives, or certainly our professional work and career lives.

And as Brene’s story illustrated (a story so powerful, it made it into her book) jeans and clogs were her second skin at that moment, they were an expression of her essence. The black slacks and heels were not. As simple as that exchange was (clogs from heels, jeans from pants) – they represented something SO significant, it changed who she was in that moment. This is not to say that Brene would never feel authentic in a suit and heels; perhaps at times she does. This is the beauty of style expression. It can be fluid, it can move with us.

Expressing our style: What is style expression?

  • It is the outward appearance of how we look, the clothing we’re wearing, how we are ‘styled’.
  • It is where concepts and applications such as personal coloring and body shape and silhouette come into the picture. You can find a treasure trove of brilliant information on every aspect of how to express your style in these terms at Inside Out Style.
  • It is significant. Clothing matters. Clothing is our second skin.
  • It can be anything you want it to be. Some people require a sustainable continuity to their style expression, for consistency in their clothing and style. Others seek a more dynamic style expression with variation, so they can change it up anytime they want. Some want to be seen, to be noticed, appreciated, applauded for their style expression (or for themselves, with their style expression merely pointing the way). Others wish their style expression to support them in staying behind-the-scenes, via a quieter, subtle style expression.

Style Expression comes second

Style expression comes second in an authentic style journey. It follows from recognizing, claiming and embracing your style essence. It’s important to recognize the order in which an authentic style journey flows. So many women have encountered so many obstacles to identifying and then traveling their unique style path because of this very confusion.

When you put first things first – style essence followed by style expression – suddenly style becomes so much easier, it makes so much more sense, and it becomes real for you in a way it never could before.

Style Expression is distinct

Style expression is distinct from your style essence. Your style essence and your style are related – they are part of the same authentic style equation – but they are not the same thing. This is very important to understand.

In our three-year research phase for 16 Style Types, we reviewed several other style-personality systems and the mistake they all had made was enmeshing style essence with style expression. They confused physicality with psychology, believing them to be the same thing – if you look a certain way, then your personality is thus determined and from there, how you dress is prescribed.

This is another reason why so many women’s style journeys have been thwarted – they’ve simply been mixing up two concepts and combining them in a way they should never be mixed or combined. Your physicality does not determine your personality. Your style essence doesn’t stipulate your style expression.

This is also why finding images of famous women who embody a particular Style Type as illustrations and examples is so very difficult and fraught. Even if they are a wonderful and confirmed example of that Style Type, how she chooses to express her style essence (her Style Type) may be vastly different to how you, if you’re a woman of that same Style Type, may choose to express it, for many reasons.

Style expression is an important part of the authentic style equation. Clothing is a second skin, it is deeply personal and tells the world (whether we are consciously creating and shaping this communication or not) something significant about who we are.

Come home

And circling back to Brene at that moment before she stepped on stage to speak to a room full of leaders about authenticity, that simple change in style expression (pants to jeans, pumps to clogs) which stemmed from her reconnection to her style essence (“This is who I am”), moved Brene from feeling like an imposter, a counterfeit, a fake… to feeling like herself, to being herself, and to bringing her home.

Ready to discover your authentic, true style?

When you discover your authentic true style by reconnecting with your style essence, you’ll feel like your clothes really are an expression of you rather than a costume you put on. You’ll stop feeling like you’re playing dress-ups or are an imposter. You’ll start mapping and traveling your authentic, true, and unique style journey – a journey unlike any other woman’s, one where you are your own style muse and your most trusted style confidante. Discover your Style Type now.

©2024 16 Style Types


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