Three is the magic number.
Jul 25, 2022 4:11am
Whether you’re a fashion fanatic or style novice, finding your own personal style is a challenge.
Celebs might have stylists at their disposable, but the rest of us just have our phones, credit card debt, and an out-of-control Instagram saves folder.
So what’s the solution? Enter: the three word method.
Created by New York-based stylist Allison Bornstein and quickly taking over TikTok, the three-word method is a way of defining your personal style and building your wardrobe.
“The ‘three word method’ was born out of my work with personal styling clients and is designed to help you define and refine the details of your personal style,” Allison tells ELLE Australia.
“I have discovered that identifying a three word recipe can really help clients unlock so many ideas and serve as a great reference point for getting dressed, editing, shopping and evolving their style in general,” she adds.
The words are less about rigid styles and more about vibes. Yours could be sexy, effortless and edgy (Zoë Kravitz), sporty, sexy and oversized (Hailey Bieber), or even minimal, neutral and soft (Rosie Huntington-Whitely).
Or how we’d describe ourselves: a Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen slash The Row sun, Miu Miu maximialist moon and John Galliano for Dior avant garde ascending.
HOW TO FIND YOUR THREE WORDS
The premise of this method is simple: synthesize your closet into three words et voilà.
Allison tells us it’s essentially choosing three adjectives to describe your own style and finding these words is as easy as looking in your own wardrobe.
The first step is to pull out your go-to pieces, the regulars, the pieces that you constantly reach for. Sure they might not be your favourite pieces in your wardrobe, but regardless of whether that be the perfect nap dress or practical pair of blue denim, you’re going to compile those garments and describe the visual of the aesthetic. Is it oversized or tailored? Neutral or loud? Romantic or edgy?
Looking for similarities in patterns, prints, silhouettes, styles and just the general aesthetic can help you refine how you describe what you’re wearing, and will in turn equip you with information about how you dress.
“The combination of the three is really important because it allows for tension between words and helps clients pinpoint their unique aesthetic,” Bornstein adds.
Your first word serves as your ‘outfit base’, while the remaining two add flair and personal style.
How to use your three words to build a wardrobe
Once you’ve discovered what your own unique three words are, Bornstein recommends using this as a checklist when you’re searching for new pieces and getting dressed.
Sure, the fashion girlies on Depop may be all about Adidas Sambas and Gazelles right now, but if your three words include ‘romantic’ instead of ‘sporty’, then a classic pair of loafers might be more your vibe.
“It’s all about creating a look that feels balanced and has just a little bit of each of your three words, that’s what makes it feel unique and genuine,” Bornstein continues.
It’s also about creating a wardrobe full of hitters. We’ve all been sucked into buying piece that objectively we like, but sits in our wardrobe for months (or years). If it doesn’t feel like you, then you’ll be less inclined to wear it.
“My hope is to empower people to view fashion as a tool for self-expression and overall wellness. By encouraging clients to shop their closets, tune into their authentic needs, and embrace the pleasure of ‘repeat dressing’,” Bornstein explains to ELLE Australia.
It’s the same ethos that goes into creating a capsule wardrobe: choose (and invest in) the pieces you love, and stop wasting both your money and the planet’s resources on things you don’t.
But the best part of the three word method is that it’s constantly evolving, just like you’re personal style. It’s not a hard and fast rule to live by, but something to serve as a guide.
Style icons and their three words
For those of us who grew up with teen magazines filled to the brim with fashion challenges (the trite provocations like ‘wear something you’ve not worn in six months’ or ‘wear the outfit you claim you can’t pull off’), the idea of suffering through another may seem arduous or even clichéd.
If rushing home and diving deep into defining your closet is enough to send shivers down your side (type B’s we hear you) then fear not. Below, we’ve rounded up the three words that Bornstein’s attributed to some of the most prolific style icons to help you in deciding your own.
Emma Chamberlian’s 3 Words: Casual, Unexpected & Cartoonish
Chloë Sevigny’s 3 Words: Whimsical, Unexpected & Tailored.
Devon Lee Carlson’s 3 Words: 2000’s, Futuristic & Sexy.
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s 3 Words: Minimal, Neutral & Soft.
Zoë Kravitz’s 3 Word’s: Sexy, Effortless & Edgy.
Hailey Bieber’s 3 Words: Sporty, Sexy & Oversized.