There are certain people in this world that are born with that special something, that je ne sais quois that can’t quit be defined in one word but the closest you can get to it is STYLE. We all know at least one or two of these people. We admire them, hell maybe we even envy them a little. Never fear! Even if you weren’t born innately stylish, it’s never too late to begin to develop your personal sense of style.
My style motto is simple: If you love it, wear it!!
Now comes the disclaimer – not everything you love should be worn. I know, I know, it’s contradictory. The key is finding items that you love that fit you well, looks good, are quality, and can be worn for years no matter what the current trend is. Trust me, you can find classic pieces that you love.
The first step is to forget about trends. Trendy does not equal stylish!! Now, I’m not saying trends are never stylish. Occasionally, society as a whole embraces a trend that is actually good. Think about a trend in this way, though – could you see a woman 30 years ago pulling that off? What about 30 years from now? What about YOU, NEXT YEAR? Tribal print leggings? Can you imagine Marilyn Monroe coquettishly curled on her sofa, perusing a novel in neon print leggings? Yeah, me neither.
Good style is about classic, lasting, basic pieces. You want to build your wardrobe around these pieces. You can throw on some trendy accessories or add a trend top here or there every season. I like to add a scarf in a fun print or trendy top with a classic skirt and boots. It gets easier when you get a clear picture of what you want YOUR style to look like. You can imagine any item added to your wardrobe and easily discard what doesn’t fit. And think about those stylish people that you know. They probably have the same philosophy. I bet they’ve got a few standard classic cuts and shapes that they wear all of the time.
Another important element of good style is fit. You might absolutely love A-line dresses, but if you’re a curvy girl like me, it just doesn’t work. I have found that my shape looks wonderful in 50’s vintage or inspired dresses. Anything from the 70’s, however, just doesn’t cut it. The 70’s were for tall, skinny, leggy women. I’m short, curvy, and ….well I’ve got legs but they aren’t long. It’s better that I stick to styles that showcase my good attributes – my hourglass figure and the shape of my legs rather than the length (err, or lack of) of them. Sticking to clothing shapes from the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s works well with my figure. Figure out what does and doesn’t work for you and STOCK UP. If you find a wonderful cut that looks great and flatters you, buy it in several patterns and colors. Buy classic patterns and neutral colors that can be mix and matched and worn during different seasons.
I also love patterns. It’s hard for me, as I get older, to restrain my pattern love. In the past, if it was bright, gaudy, and had a design on it – I was wearing it. I didn’t care if it fit properly or looked good. I have discovered that pattern is a-okay, even when trying to dress stylishly. The easiest way to incorporate pattern is with accessories. A bright polka dot scarf can liven up any outfit. I love plaid, polka dots, and floral more than anything. You can mix and match these patterns as well, as long as you stick to neutral or complementary colors.
Speaking of color – I LOVE bright colors. Always have, always will. Go ahead and wear that bright pink top or orange pants. But make sure you have a “base” color that is prevalent in your wardrobe. I picked this tip up years ago from a former boss that was a knockout older woman and always looked like she spent hundreds of dollars on every outfit. She told me that the key was to pick a color scheme and stick to it. You can easily thrift and pick up bargain items in these colors to supplement your wardrobe. It also makes shopping for wardrobe basics much easier. All of your classic, expensive, well taylored pieces should be in this neutral colors. That doesn’t mean you have to stick to black or white. My colors are navy, tan, and grey. I have dozens of simple pieces in these colors that can be mix and matched and paired with bright fun patterns. Trust me, it makes shopping much easier. Decide what color works with your hair and complexion and start to build your wardrobe around it.
One of the best books I’ve ever found on the subject of dressing stylishly is “The Little Black Book of Style” by Nina Garcia. Buy it here. I don’t know who Nina Garcia is. I don’t follow fashion that closely (like I said, trends are useless to me). However, she has a great list in this book of wardrobe staples that can be a starting point for someone that wishes to develop their personal style. The only issue I take with most “high fashion” books or advice is that they always recommend products that are absurdly expensive. I don’t think the average woman is about to drop $500 on a pair of shoes. If you’re like me, your clothing budget is about $500 for the year….or for a few years. It’s important not to look at these tips and stylist tricks as set in stone. Take what you can use from them and make it work for you. The book recommends having a little back dress on hand and I absolutely agree that you should. Do you need the name brand sunglasses listed, though? Nope. Is the style of sunglasses a good idea to emulate? Yup.
Being stylish, more than anything, is about expressing yourself and being confident. Just because a model wore it, or because it’s popular, that doesn’t mean you should or could wear it. The more you love what you are wearing, the more able you will be to carry yourself with grace and dignity. More than anything else, LOVE YOURSELF and have fun.
Next week, we’ll look at dressing for the changing seasons.