No matter who you are, personal style is difficult to master. With ever-evolving trends, even those of us who feel we have a complete handle on our style can feel a bit lost. If you feel like you have a closet full of clothes but never anything to wear, TikTok’s latest viral style trend, the three-word method, might be the answer.
Created by New York-based fashion stylist Allison Bornstein, the three-word method took social media by storm over the past few weeks. Borstein explained that the trick is something she uses with her clients as a reference point for choosing outfits. It has people all over the internet saying it changed how they look at their personal style for good.
So what exactly is the three-word method, and how can you incorporate it into your style to reap similar benefits? We’ve broken it all down below.
What is the three-word method?
The three-word method is as simple as it sounds: identifying your personal style with three adjectives. Maybe your style is cool, elevated, and comfortable, or maybe it’s colorful, classic, and bold.
As explained in her Tiktok, Bornstein invented the three-word method to help individuals figure out:
- The style you currently have
- The style you want to have
Before you panic, remember that your words can change at any point in time. Bornstein put it best when she said, “Don’t let the fear of getting it wrong prevent you from accessing this.”
How do you find your three words?
The first step in finding your three words is an assessment. Bornstein explained that a solid rummage through your closet is the first step. As you go, put aside your most-worn pieces. Once your room has been completely taken over by a mass pile of clothes, try to take a step back—in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Ask yourself: What makes my go-tos my go-tos?
Maybe you love that blazer you wore twice this week because of its oversized fit. “Oversized” can now be in the running for one of your words. Do you like the way your pastel floral print dresses make you feel like a fairy prancing through a field of lilies? Nothing is right or wrong, but being honest with yourself here is key.
Your three words will depend on a few things. If you have your personal style mastered, it probably won’t be hard to come up with yours. If you’re looking for your style to evolve, that’s when things change. Then, you’d want your third word to describe what you want your style to be. Maybe you have a classic, neutral style but a closet full of clutter. Your three words can be classic, neutral, and minimal to give yourself a nudge in the direction you want to go.
Moving forward, you now have your own fashion “north star,” as Bornstein puts it. Let your three words help you through your fashion highs and your fashion woes. If you’re trying to change one of your style words, use your third word the next time you walk into Zara, ready to do some damage. If you’re trying to switch from maximal to minimal, gently nudge yourself the next time you look down and see an army of hot pink clothes assembling in your shopping cart. The third word can really steer you in your transition toward your goal style.
How I found my three words
If I’m being totally honest, I thought I had my style nailed down to a T. As someone who has always loved to stop at nothing when it comes to fashion, I thought, “This can’t be that hard.”
My internal monologue went something like this: “Wow, I own a lot of neutrals. But wait, my Instagram feed has so many colorful outfits. Maybe I’m not neutral? You do love anything that glitters, has fluffy feathers, and can be seen a mile away—but that’s not what you instinctively grab.” And so on. You get the point.
After going through my closet, this three-word approach was looking a bit more like a hellish nightmare. Every time I would narrow the list down, a new word would magically make its way into my brain. After reminding myself over and over that the planet would indeed keep on spinning, even if I got my three words wrong, I made a choice. My three words are oversized, neutral, and glamorous.
I landed on oversized by analyzing my love of blazers. I could be wearing the rattiest and most tattered sweatsuit, but the second I toss on a blazer, it’s game over. Because of my love for blazers—and other oversized items like baggy jeans—oversized was slated in the top spot on my list. In my real life (Instagram isn’t always reality!) I rarely reach for color, so neutral made it onto the list. My last word came from putting my pink penny coat under a magnifying glass. When paired with my otherwise neutral outfits, I know it gives me the main character moment I’m often craving, which is exactly why I love it. (Ding ding, glamour it is.)
Still can’t figure out your three words? Take a look at celebrities with iconic styles for inspiration.
Kim Kardashian: fitted, exaggerated, sculptural
According to Bornstein, Kim Kardashian’s three words are exaggerated, fitted, and sculptural. Kim loves to show off her curves, and her entire wardrobe reflects that. You seldom, if ever, see her in something baggy. She also is frequently seen sporting something completely out of the box, like her now-famous Balenciaga looks, which fall under the “exaggerated” category.
Hailey Bieber: oversized, sporty, sexy
Hailey Bieber’s iconic style can be best described as sexy, sporty, and oversized. Many of her outfits are built around oversized blazers and baggy pants. However, she always balances it out with something a little more form-fitting (like the white tank pictured above), hence the use of “sexy.”
Rihanna: sexy, sporty, tough
Remember Rihanna’s iconic pregnancy announcement? Even through pregnancy, her three words are sexy, sporty, and tough. She loves to bare skin but is also known for casual-cool, street-style looks that give an air of sportiness.
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