People-watching at the mall (when on a break from shopping, of course) can be one of my favorite pastimes. I love watching how people put together cute outfits, or analyzing what could have been going thru their minds when they picked that top, what could have been added or removed to improve the overall look, and trying to guess personality quirks based on their style. Sometimes, you also can’t help but spot people who look a little bit ‘dated’…like wearing matching everything from bag to shoes to eyeshadow to nail polish, or teased bangs, or needle-thin heels from the early 2000s. What gets me the most bothered though, is seeing people I actually know and finding them under-utilizing their potential. Take for example my former high school classmate who I saw last weekend—she was as slim as ever, and her face had not changed much at all. She could have passed for a student. But there was something about her outfit that practically screamed she had given up on trying to look good. Wrinkled blouse that was way too big and mommy-looking for her, leggings that had lost their fit, and those dreadful platform thongs that I hate so much. I was itching to give her a makeover!
Anyway, as an avid follower of fashion sites and a voracious reader of style books, I felt compelled to write down a list of timeless fashion tips for women to live by. You could be single, you could have 4 kids, you could have a closetful of clothes or a limited budget but there is absolutely no excuse to look ‘losyang’ or outdated, ever! Here are some notes I got from Elsa Klench’s book on Style, as well as InStyle.com’s article on classic fashion tips:
- Invest in good underwear. This has got to be the most basic rule of all. I’ve seen way too many outfits ruined by VPL (visible panty lines), granny panties, wrong size bras that dig into the body and create back bulges or spillover boobs, printed underwear that can be seen through the shirt, visible bra straps, muffin tops on fitting dresses, T-back undies that peek over the jeans, and other such monstrosities. Que horror! For the love of God, get seamless undies, find out your correct size, wear only beige undies when you’re wearing anything white, never wear white underwear with a black top, know and appreciate the uses of a strapless bra and Spanx, and do not ever, ever expose any underwear, especially thongs, unless you want people to assume you get paid by the hour. *Shudder*
- Build a wardrobe on neutrals. Sure, it’s fun to buy whatever is on style this season—but your wardrobe should first and foremost contain the basic essentials before you splurge on passing fancy. Make sure you have go-to items in beige, black, brown, gray, navy blue, white and red. You can have, for example, a classic black fitted blazer, a shift dress in beige and gray, a white polo, some accents (like a belt or scarf) in red, navy slacks and a timeless little black dress and you’ll be good for most of the daily grind. Once you have those, you can then get complementary pieces in other colors and more whimsical/current styles. But the basics need to stay, so make sure they are the best quality you can afford—and that you replace them accordingly as needed.
- Learn to accessorize. Yes, classic is great and less is more, but that doesn’t mean we all have to walk around looking like Plain Janes. You can create an extremely chic look just by adding an interesting accent piece like a belt in leopard print, or a colorful scarf, red lipstick, movie star sunglasses, or eye-catching jewelry (dangling earrings, a great neck piece, cuff or cocktail ring). But don’t wear too much all at once—keep the accents to two to three pieces. Preferably with a back story so they can serve as a conversation piece as well.
- Mind the quality. Here’s where we are often derailed. A lot of us have a penchant for buying cheap clothes in large quantities, without realizing you’re actually wasting money on things that cannot last long. So the next time you plan on buying something, think twice and ask if it is really something you need. And if you do need it, then it is worth better quality, like the stitching, the fabric, and the lining. You may have fewer clothes, but you’ll always look first class. Elegance is always the way to go.
- Get a good fit. Never buy anything without trying it on first and finding out how it looks from all angles (yes, we often forget to check what something looks like from the back). Don’t fool yourself by trying to squeeze into a size too small, because you’ll look lumpy and even fatter than actual. Make sure that blouses and jackets fit you in terms of shoulder width, length of the sleeve, and (if it’s a button down) that it doesn’t gape in between the buttons. If it’s pants, make sure the crotch area isn’t constricted, the side stitching appears straight, you don’t need to jump up and down or lie down to close the button and you don’t walk around looking like you have a perpetual wedgie. A relaxed fit is always better—not too tight but not too loose either, like you aren’t trying too hard.
- Know the use of light and dark. In a nutshell, use light colors to reveal and dark colors to conceal. Know your body well and which assets to highlight and which to minimize. For example, if you have a pear shape and you want to downplay your hips, steer clear of light colored jeans or skirts and go for dark instead. If you want to create a waist, wear a dark colored belt. If you want to look slimmer all over, go for a monochromatic outfit in a dark color like navy, chocolate brown or slate gray. It’s all about balancing proportions. Use your full length mirror and think of it as your new best friend.
- Don’t buy impulsively on sales. Approach sales with great caution. Chances are you end up grabbing things you don’t even need or like all that much just because it’s such a ‘steal’. But the truth is, those surplus items are just like weeds in your closet. Without them, you’d have half as much clothes, a lot more money, and a carefully edited and well thought-out wardrobe. If you don’t need to add anything to your already bulging closet, don’t even enter the store.
- Read cleaning instructions. Again, too many clothing tragedies have occurred just because we didn’t take the time to read the label. Dry clean what needs to be dry cleaned—yes it costs a little more money, but that’s better than ruining the item altogether. Handwash delicate items, and be extra careful with machine washing!
- Take care of the details. That extra half an inch makes a lot of difference. If something needs to be altered, get it done—be it folding your jeans to make sure it is the exact length to match the heel height of your shoes, or loosening up a dress a little bit so it won’t be quite so snug. Make sure all buttons are intact and any small rips in the seams are fixed asap. Yes, just like grooming, little things sometimes make the biggest impact.
- Don’t rely on just clothes. Clothing is indeed important, but it’s not everything. You can be wearing a fabulous outfit, but if your hair is a mess and you’re not wearing any makeup, or you feel uncomfortable and keep tugging things here and there, you’re just wasting your look. See dressing up as a total package—everything should be aligned, from your hairstyle to your makeup, the accessories, the posture and the attitude. Groom well, feel good, check yourself out objectively before stepping out, and smile! Now that you look the part, half the battle is won—and you can achieve anything.