Reader Question: What Is the Foundational Five Style Guide?

Recently,  one reader commented about her success following my Foundational Five Style Guide for developing your own personal style, and another asked WHAT IS THAT?   My whole story is told in the free PDF called 8 Steps to Reinvented Style, which you can receive when you sign up in the email.  But, in order to answer the question, please allow me to briefly hit the highlights.

When I turned 50, I had a wake up moment where I realized I had let myself go for a long time and I would describe my style at that time as being sad and frumpy, frumpy, frumpy!  I went through a series of steps to turn my life around, and when it came to dress, I wasn’t sure where to begin.  But, at that time WHAT NOT TO WEAR was popular on television and Stacy London and Clinton Kelley kept asking, WHAT DOES YOUR CHOICE OF CLOTHING SAY TO OTHERS ABOUT YOU?  I had never thought of clothing as sending messages about me, but, of course, it does.  I began to ask myself what I wanted others to know about me from the way I dressed, especially at work, and with my family (the legacy I leave).

It made sense to me to select adjectives I wanted my look to communicate and I thought by selecting five that would not be too many or too little.  What I discovered was this:

  1. If I asked myself each time I dressed if the look communicated those adjectives, then I began to develop a personal style.
  2. If I asked myself about those same adjectives in the dressing room, I made fewer mistakes when shopping….bought less, returned less.
  3. As I controlled the messages, my confidence grew.
  4. Friends and family get it…they now know my style. They know what to purchase for me for gifts.

So, when I get dressed (before I leave the house or dressing room) I ask, does this outfit say about me that I am smart, strong, current, approachable, and creative.  I want to always be chic…with a twist!

There are hundreds of adjectives!  Pick the five which you want to communicate the most.  Then make a commitment to them and always ask if they are communicated with what you choose to wear.  This works…you will begin to get more confident and comfortable with your wardrobe.  Also, remove from your closet ANYTHING that does not communicate your adjectives…just say goodbye.

I Love this quote from Stacy London, because I know it to be true…..

“It’s not an overstatement to say that style teaches me over and over again how to live in my skin. It helps me find courage, and confidence and control when I feel I have none.  While I was drawn to the world of fashion as a little girl, because of it’s sparkle, I love the world of style now because I understand it’s transformative power.”

A word about today’s outfit….the jacket and the necklace were recent purchases during the Chico’s Sale…the necklace was under $15 and the jacket under $45.  I was so happy about the pieces I found in the sale…and this jacket is reversible!  These are how I show my creativity!

If you had to pick five adjectives right now that you would like your style to communicate, what would they be.  These five adjectives are how you describe you and set you apart from others…what do you want to say about you??

Like other readers, if you have questions, let me know and I will do my best to get them answered!  Now, make sure you…………………



  1. What a stunning jacket/kimono Pam! The color is gorgeous and I love the sleeves!! The fact that it is reversible is a bonus!

    I have ascribed to the Foundational Five ever since I started reading your blog. It transformed the way I shop and it also transformed my closet. My adjectives have changed from time to time as my life has evolved, but not drastically. I review them at least seasonally to make sure they are still in line with the message I want to communicate. I keep them on a laminated card with my best color swatches when I shop and believe me, this has saved me a lot of money and has kept impulse purchases to almost nil. Reading that card in the dressing room while looking in the mirror makes shopping much less stressful and I know I’m going home with something that is really “me.” Recently I decided I want to begin to take a more minimalist approach to clothing and am very excited to start purging when it’s time to switch over to fall/winter in the closet. Regardless of the number of garments, however, I still want my message to communicate that I’m confident, classic, classy, modern and graceful. Not sure how the purge will go with shoes….I might have to leave that little indulgence!

  2. My sister recently complimented me on my accessorizing ability. I didn’t realize until she said that how very much I enjoy accessories — mostly scarves. I love how accessories really complete an outfit.

    I know I’ve learned this skill from your blog, Pam! Thank you for helping me develop my personal style.

  3. You are welcome, Beth…but, I suspect, it is more your own creativity that is shining through!

  4. Thank you for sharing, Karen…I have friends who say this has helped them as well. Now, purge purposefully. There are some things I have given away that I regret and wish I still owned. So, really ask yourself seriously if you will wear them and if they belong in your five adjectives. Have fun.

  5. I am the reader who asked about The Foundation Five. First off, thank you Pam for answering. This makes sense to me. I was employed 40 years in the banking world. So my wardrobe was professional attire, lots of suits. I felt I was well dressed and polished. Retirement came 10 years ago and honestly I have lost my way. I feel nothing but frustration when I shop. So many clothes have been bought as this will do and never worn because something was off. So today I will be working on my adjectives! And as a previous comment they will go with me written on a card when I shop. Then the next step will be the closet purge. Wish me luck and thank you again Pam!

  6. I do remember you talking about this before and I added my adjectives. What I didn’t do is keep them handy when shopping this summer. I can see if I don’t I am easily led to the “shiny, pretty things” that may not necessarily be me. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. I have mine in my phone, Janet…but a laminated card in your wallet works well too!

  8. I ordered the Chico’s kimono immediately! It looks so great on you, I can’t wait to try it on me

  9. Ann, I retired from the “suit and pumps” world of 35 years, just a year ago, and it does take some work figuring out this new world of choices, pieces and parts in our wardrobes. It doesn’t take much effort to put on that polished suit with a nice blouse and somewhat conservative accessories–I went for the scarf often to finish the look. I love having the freedom to spend my money of a variety of clothes but I found it takes a little practice to get out of my comfort zone. I still dress pretty conservative in casual clothes, but started to really play with colors. Pam’s posts are a great help.

  10. Thank you Nina. Very true that it was easy to accessorize and change up the look while working. Never too old to learn something new!

  11. I do have a personal style which involves classic, well made clothes in neutrals and a restricted color scheme, mostly in solids. The reason I wear these types of pieces is to flaunt accessories that include very elaborate jewelry that I make, good size scarves, and many cool shoes. I had this style before coming to this blog, but made up my list of five adjectives and it did mostly (thankfully) match my wardrobe. I think it’s a great system and logical way to wade out into that spicy jumble of fashion retailing. If I could criticize most women, it’s in our lack of adventure … we are so sure something will look terrible on us that we don’t even try it on!

  12. You look absolutely fabulous in this picture! I love everything from top to bottom – and you look like you love it, too! I would wear every single item – from necklace to shoes and everything in between. And your hair! Love the way you are “transitioning” – it’s very becoming! Thank you for your wonderful blog – you are such an “Encourager” – so helpful, enthusiastic – it’s so obvious you really want to help others find their own style. Your humor and kindness shine through! I (briefly) followed another blog ( I have several I like) for women who were going gray, with makeup & style tips – I thought it would be similar to your blog. The lady states she was a “Master” in her field. Immediately I got the impression of a “tone”…a little “I’m THE expert and do not ask dumb questions!” She seriously replied to one lady “I feel like I’m talking to kindergarteners!” Well, that was it for me! Give me kindness, humor and encouragement any day! That’s what we find here! Happy 65th!! You are awesome!

  13. Awww…thanks for encouraging ME, Shirley! I am no expert, but I try to share what I have learned from others and from my own challenges! Sorry to hear someone was being rude to readers…makes me sad! Life is too short for anything but kindness and joy!

  14. Wow, excellent jacket —reversible even on sale in a fantastic print—Whoooo-Whooo!!!
    And double wow on the necklace.

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