Have you ever looked at images in fashion magazines, or street style photos and felt disconnected from the world of style? It’s as if there is the world of high style and then the rest of us. When I was a personal stylist, 99% of my clients had no interest in fashion or designers; most didn’t even read fashion magazines. They simply wanted to feel good about what they were wearing, and look updated and modern. One of the reasons I started The Well Dressed Life was to create a resource that filtered all the noise that comes at women, specifically from a style perspective, and provide readers with guidance around how to dress well.
These days, if you lean toward classic, timeless style, it’s surprisingly hard to find pieces to build a wardrobe. Just spend a few minutes looking through the racks at better department stores, and you’ll be hard-pressed to see enough options to create an outfit. It’s frustrating and overwhelming for most women to shop, even if sizing and price points weren’t an issue (they are huge issues). The fact that styles are so limited is almost a joke. I can’t tell you how many times I would look through collections and wonder who they were designed for because it wouldn’t work for my ladies.
Fashion week started in New York last Thursday, and my Instagram feed is filled with updates from the shows and the streets. From an artistic point of view, I love it. It’s fun to see the creativity, the absurdity and the art behind all of the looks. But I did find myself laughing at a few pictures thinking it looked like people from the Capitol were headed to the Hunger Games. Some of the outfits were outrageous and frankly, don’t make much sense. Very few could be used as inspiration in real life.
Flip through the pages of a magazine or blog, and you are inundated with rules to follow, or rules to break or advice that will make you look certifiably nuts. So we decided to come up with our take on all the tips you can go ahead and ignore when you are trying to get dressed, at least if you want to keep things classic, timeless and sophisticated.
1. More is More
God bless Rachel Zoe. I’m a huge fan. If I were a celebrity in LA, I would have her dress me every single day. But her look is as unique as her glamorous, over the top lifestyle. She’ll tell you, casually, more is more, wear all the bracelets, rings and everything at once.
In all likelihood, you do not have a drawer full of Cartier. If we dressed like Rachel Zoe in our real life, we would look crazy. Like the crazy lady in the park feeding pigeons who just put her whole jewelry box on before she left the house.
Instead, keep your pieces strategic to create balance. If you love accessories, keep it to about seven pieces. Earrings count as two, a bracelet, a few rings, maybe a scarf or necklace, a belt buckle would count as would any kind of detail on your shoes, or a bag with lots of tassels and zippers. Pay attention to all the “stuff” going on in your look and keep it cohesive by making sure your hardware is all the same tone.
2. Mix Your Patterns.
I know this is a popular topic. If you’re good at it, go for it, but if not, don’t worry about mixing patterns. It takes a lot of effort to do it the right way and most of the time you still look like you got dressed in the dark. To pull it off you need to understand theory, tone, flow, and depth of color. You don’t have to learn this, and you don’t have to try to pull this off to be stylish.
If you want to fake it, add an animal print pump or flat to your look, or pair a simple striped top with a floral skirt or pinstriped bottom. Both patterns act as a neutral but add interest to any outfit.
3. Skip the Tailor
For the life of me, I do not understand the trend of oversized clothes. I spend my life begging people to go to a tailor. Now we’re seeing 10″ of pant hem dragging on the ground, drop crotches and tops so oversized women look like they are drowning in their clothes.
What. Is. Happening?
Honestly, it makes me insane. If you want to look taller, leaner and pulled together – get your clothes altered.
4. Show Your Bra.
Perhaps 12 years of Catholic schooling left be a bit prudish, but this trend is bonkers and doesn’t seem to be going away. If you’re 21 and want to have a little lace bralette peak out of your tank at the beach – go live your life baby lamb.
Other than that, nope.
Aside from being silly, and unnecessary, you likely won’t execute it in a sexy way and will end up looking sloppy.
Instead – get a proper bra fitting. Your life will change, or at least your clothes will fit better when your bra is doing its job. I like to have two or three neutral-to-me bras in rotation, I just pick up this pretty one by Calvin Klein, and one convertible bra for warmer weather so, wait for it, my bra straps don’t show.
Nordstrom’s is my favorite department store for a proper fitting, or, better yet, support local business by finding a lingerie boutique in your town.
5. Daytime Sequins
Unless you’re in Vegas for the weekend, where the time of day has no bearing, I would skip this trend. I like the idea of it, but it never translates. Maybe I’m just getting old and don’t know how to have fun anymore, but I can’t think of a single daytime event I would rock sequins. I would save it for the night, and then, go big or go home.
6. Everything Needs to Be Designer
I read so many blogs where the author has a closet full of Louboutins, or a dozen Chanel bags. All I can think is, “Do you have any savings?” You could buy three investment properties with the contents of some of these bloggers closets.
Social media creates such a morphed reality and influencers are often presenting a false version of their lives. There’s nothing wrong with Ann Taylor or Nine West. There is nothing wrong with shopping sales or buying resale. I consider myself fortunate to be able to splurge on a few “investment” pieces but balance it with more affordable items, and keep my wardrobe small but functional. You don’t need a closet full of designer clothes to be stylish. You don’t need to, nor should you, carry crippling debt to dress well. It might take a little longer to find what you need, but if you make smart purchases, know your style, and buy the best quality you can afford, you’ll have a wardrobe you love.
I started receiving Stitch Fix again, and have been happy with the affordable, casual options I’ve received. (Post coming soon.) I also really like Rent the Runway Unlimited, when I need a better piece for an event or meeting but don’t want to make a big purchase.
Keeping an eye on trends is one thing. Doing so helps you evolve your wardrobe, and your look will always be fresh and current. You don’t have to be a slave to fashion unless you want to be. A classic look will never go out of style, it might just be a little more challenging to find pieces that work for you.
If you have specific style questions, be sure to add them to the comments. We use everything you tell us to create topics for our weekly style posts.
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