Imani Smith


I am Imani Smith and I’ve been a freelance wardrobe stylist in the Greater Cincinnati area since 2011. Self-expression is the cornerstone of my life, and my favorite way to express myself is through my personal style. My personal style consists of so much more than just clothing, it’s everything from the art in my home, to the gift wrap that I choose, down to the color of my nails. Style is serious business. It’s not always the easiest concept to grasp, especially if you’re not a stylist by trade. Of the numerous dictionary definitions of the word style, I prefer to focus on “a distinctive manner or custom of behaving or conducting oneself.”

Respected celebrity stylist and designer Rachel Zoe’s observation of style is often quoted at cliché levels:  “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”. Clichés only become clichés if they are true, and this quote fits the bill. As we all know, fashion is a billion dollar industry. You can very easily spend your entire Saturday afternoon (and paycheck) at your local mall and become an instant consumer of fashion. Unlike fashion, style is not something that can be purchased. In order to develop and maintain a strong sense of style, it takes a little work. If you’re interested in putting together more cohesive and impactful looks for yourself, follow my high-level guide to the elements of style.

In the following segment, I’m going to discuss the internal elements of style. If you want a plant to grow, you must nourish its roots. Your style is no different. Everything you have going on internally reflects in your outward appearance. In my personal and professional opinion, the strengthening of one’s personal style is a process that begins inside.


This first element of style is one of the most fundamental: a sense of self. Who are you? Who do you want to let people know that you are? How do you feel? Your sense of self can be determined in a number of ways. In my opinion, maintaining a sense of self is about simply checking in with yourself on a regular basis, and knowing who you are. It’s easy to assume that you prefer a certain color or style of dress, and think that those preferences are the end all, be all. If you haven’t checked in with yourself recently, or asked yourself what your current thoughts and feelings are, your opinions may have changed. With the passage of time, we all have new experiences which often result in a change of perspective. With all of your new growth and perspective, you may find yourself feeling differently about things you may have scoffed at in the past. Stay in touch with yourself because you might learn something new!


The second element of style transcends clothing. Confidence impacts every single facet of our lives. When you hear people throw around the term ‘pulling it off’ it’s a direct reference to confidence. With uncertainty, fear and shame comes an overall lack of confidence. True confidence is built on a foundation of high self-esteem and unconditional love for oneself. This means loving your body, your quirks and even the things that you wish you could change about yourself. You don’t have to like everything about yourself, but you do have to love everything about yourself- it’s what makes you, you. Confidence doesn’t just appear overnight, nor can it be purchased, contrary to popular belief.  If you’re currently low on general confidence, building confidence in your wardrobe is an easy place to start.

Building confidence can begin with making a series of small choices (do you like the red sweater or the green sweater better?) and being comfortable with those choices. When observing your choices, they become preferences. Being aware of your preferences contributes to your sense of self. A strong sense of self enables you to be more decisive. Decisiveness when styling yourself is the most direct route to ‘pulling it off’.  When each component of your look is a piece that you chose because you loved it, you can be confident that your style is all your own.

What’s most important to take from these first two elements is that there is no style without individuality. YOU are the focal point of each look. Another crucial factor in finding, cultivating or revamping your personal style is a bit of vulnerability. You must open yourself up to new cuts, colors and materials. There’s a big world of fashion out there just waiting to be styled!

If you ask everyone in your circle what style means to them, you’ll probably get a variety of responses. If you ask what style means to me, my answer will be: everything. I genuinely believe that having an understanding of these particular elements of style will help to guide you in the right direction when it comes to embarking on your journey of strengthening your own personal style. Believe it or not, your journey is already in progress! If you’re not pleased with your current location, check in with yourself. If you’re lacking inspiration or want to explore new avenues of self-expression, consult with a personal stylist for direction to your desired destination. Stylish people are never afraid to ask for help when they need it!

On a personal level, I understand that some of these concepts may come across as foreign or even irrelevant. Sometimes, it may seem inconceivable to make the time to focus on style. The thought of gutting your wardrobe, changing your mindset and starting over completely may even overwhelm you. As a stylist, I’m here to assure you that under the guidance of an experienced professional and with an openness to change, all of your style goals can be easily met or exceeded. Don’t have any style goals? Maybe it’s time to create some! If your wardrobe is no longer meeting your needs or if you’re in the market for personal style services, all it takes to get the ball rolling is a consultation. As we all know, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Imani Smith



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