As we enter a new year (and I look back on the last one), I think about what clients ask me most, and what I talk about frequently when I’m with clients. It’s a lot of personal style advice, a bunch of ‘how to dress my body’ info, a dash of clothing care, a hint of organizational ideas, tons of shopping tips, and a great deal of how to enjoy your wardrobe more. So with the start of the new year, I wanted to share my top ten style tips, also known as ‘what my clients hear me say the most’.
#1: FIT IS FOREMOST
Above all else, how something fits is THE most important. No matter how much you love the color, how well the style suits you, or how amazing the sale is – if it doesn’t fit, don’t buy it. Inexpensive, well-fitting clothes look so much better (and flatter you so much more) than ill-fitting, but costly, styles. Not sure if something fits? Check out a few quick tips for her, and a handy guide for him.
If you have styles in your closet that you love but don’t fit, the magic word is ALTERATIONS. Off-the-rack clothes are created for a hypothetical ‘average’ person, which means that they won’t fit most people perfectly. A stylish friend, educated salesperson, trustworthy tailor, or personal stylist can help you figure out if it’s a simple alteration or something more complicated/complex. Which alterations do I help my clients with most?
- Hemming pants – the absolute number one most needed alteration.
- Taking in waists – an alteration that helps so many women, but one that many don’t consider. Just find pants that fit at the hips, and then take them in at the waist - it's that simple.
- Shortening sleeves to an appropriate length – updating them to sit right at the wrist or at a better spot on the upper arm, or purposely shortening a women’s long sleeve jacket to ¾ sleeve: for style or variety, to show some skin, or as a great idea for tall ladies when full-length sleeves are just a bit too short (see my other style tips for tall women).
- Deciding whether an alteration is worth it or not – hemming, slimming the torso, narrowing a sleeve: always worth it. Resetting a shoulder, completely changing a neckline, etc.: sometimes more costly than it’s worth.
- Small redesigns – I’ve helped clients remove the frayed sleeves from a dress to make it sleeveless, convert a dress into a skirt, and other things that can save a great garment from the donation pile.
#2: EMBRACE COLOR
Whether you’re playing with color for the first time, or trying unexpected pairings - everyone should wear color. And by color, I mean moving away from black/grey/brown/khaki/white, and into daring reds and delicious burgundies and outrageous oranges and bursting yellows and gorgeous greens and tempting teals and bold blues and luscious purples.
What’s the easiest way to get started? Stick with a silhouette you love, and buy it in a new color. For example – many of my ladies are good with color in tops, but are reticent about it on their bottom half. So we start with something they’re used to (like a pair of jeans or slim skirt) but look for it in a new color (a great pair of burgundy cords or a forest green pencil skirt). And if you’re already comfortable with color – go for two pop colors in your outfit instead of one (check out how I styled a friend in a pink skirt and blue heels).
#3: PLAY WITH PATTERN
Yes, I LOVE color – but you can also add amazing interest and depth to your outfit with pattern and texture. Pairing prints is a close second to adding color as a way to amp up your style. How do you pair prints? The easiest way is to pick two based in the same colors, but different scales so they don’t compete. See more guys' examples and other men's style upgrades here.
#4: CHANGE YOUR BELT
Ladies – what’s the easiest way to make that dress or coat look more expensive? Change out the matching belt (aka strip of fabric) that came with it to a coordinating leather belt. It adds a ton of perceived value to your garment (while showing off your waist at the same time). And while you’re at it, snip off those pesky belt loop strings that might be there – they look cheap (yes, I said it) and they force you to belt at the non-existent ‘average’ waist, as opposed to where your waist actually sits. A little more detail on this (and other tips) here.
#5: SHOE STORAGE
A quick and easy tip for storing your shoes: if your shoes sit on shelves (out of the box), store them front to back. That way, you see the toes and heels (this goes for guys and girls) AND it makes a little more room on the shelf.
If you store your shoes in boxes – invest a little time to take a photo of each pair, slap it on the outside of the box, and then you’ll never wonder ‘what’s in that box?’ again.
#6: DENIM CARE
Most of my clients love wearing jeans – and I always recommend a uniform dark wash in your favorite cut as one of the most versatile things in your wardrobe. But how do you keep dark denim dark? The short answer is that you wash them inside out and never ever put them in the dryer – and you can always find the long answer, with more detailed tips and advocates of never washing your jeans.
My other biggest denim tip? If you find an amazing-fitting pair that you love, buy two (as budget permits) and double the length that both will look new(ish). Brands change fits and specs periodically, so even if it has the same name, that favorite fit might not be the same a few years later.
#7: KNOW WHICH BUTTONS
Menswear is fraught with much history and standards, but the most perplexing one to many guys is which buttons to fasten on a blazer or suit jacket. The answer? Sometimes, always, never.
#8: WHAT COLOR SOCKS/TIGHTS?
In cold weather, one of the questions I’m asked most often (by women) is ‘what color tights should I wear with this skirt/dress?’ I actually don’t get too many guys asking about what color socks to wear, but it’s the same principle.
- Match your tights to your skirt or dress.
- When your skirt/dress is a hard-to-find color or non-neutral, match your boots/booties.
- When your skirt or dress is printed, match the dominant dark neutral (navy/brown/grey/black) in the print.
- If you’re a solid socks guy, match your pants, not your shoes (if you match your shoes, it looks like you’re wearing some kind of shoe-boot at first glance).
- Wear fun colored socks whenever you can! Guys have limited clothing options, and this is a great way to add color and show personality.
#9: SPRAY YOUR SHOES
I can’t say this enough – care for your shoes, and they’ll take care of you. Shoes are one of the wisest places to invest your clothing dollars, and when they’re well cared for, they’ll last that much longer. The most elementary way to care for your shoes? SPRAY THEM! You can find suede/leather protective shoe sprays everywhere from Target to Home Depot, and most protect against stains and weather. I still advise not to wear suede, light-colored leather, or other delicate fabric shoes in rain/snow, but sprays will offer protection, extend the life of your shoes, and lessen damage in case you’re caught in something unexpected.
My second biggest shoe tip? Shoe trees. Cedar shoe trees absorb the moisture from your feet, and also help maintain the original shape of your shoes.
#10: HOW TO SHOP
Navigating stores to your advantage is a big point of education with my clients. There are many things to consider – sticking to your budget, being objective about what works and what doesn’t, remaining focused, how to anticipate sales, how the staff can (and can’t) help you, etc. And there are many things that clients don’t even think about – which stores alter on site? if the price goes down tomorrow, can I get the deal? how can I know when new styles arrive? I have a lot to say on the topic of shopping with intent (read more previously on the blog) And I absolutely love this article on the 3-7-14 shopping rule: if you don’t wear it in 3 days, you don’t love it; if you don’t wear it in a week, you never will; if you don’t return it in 14 days, you probably won’t.
Overall, what’s my biggest style advice?
- Dress on purpose, and not by default.
- Make a conscious decision as to how you want to be perceived, as opposed to an accidental one.
- And above all else, enjoy your wardrobe! It is just clothes, after all…..