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After doing a little research, I realized that it’s actually difficult to find a helpful set of fashion rules. So, I’m here today to offer you my best style advice. These are foundational style guidelines. If you can get this stuff right, you’ll probably be better dressed than 95% of the people you run into.
1. Before buying an item (or before deciding if you’re going to keep it), make sure you can sit, walk, bend over, lift your arms, and reach up while wearing it. Also, check to make sure that the hemline is even (meaning that the skirt is the same length in the front as it is in the back). I see lots of people wearing dresses and skirts that are substantially shorter in the back than they are in the front. Which brings me to…
2. Use a full-length mirror to find out what you look like from behind. Make sure your shirt or sweater isn’t riding up in the back (check the mirror after you’ve been dressed for a bit, but before you leave the house to check this). Make sure you’re aware of how high back slits in skirts go. I see a lot of fashion tragedies for which the only plausible explanation is ignorance.
3. Dress for your body type. I just wrote my own guide on this topic! It includes descriptions of each body type, style and fit recommendations, plus on-trend clothing examples for each frame. Grab it by entering your email address here:
4. Know how to mix neutrals:
- Black goes with everything except navy and brown.
- Navy goes with everything except black and brown.
- Brown goes with everything except navy, black, gray, and silver.
- Tan goes with everything.
- White goes with everything except cream/ivory.
- Cream/ivory goes with everything except white.
- Gray goes with everything except brown (if the brown has a lot of red in it, it may work).
- Silver goes with everything except brown.
- Gold goes with everything.
Exceptions: blue jeans (even super dark ones) go with everything. Men traditionally wear navy suits with black shoes. I think women can wear black shoes with navy as well, but women have more color options, and most likely another color would look better.
This is a traditional approach. You will find style authorities who claim that all neutrals go with all neutrals. If seeing black and brown next to each other doesn’t convince you that that approach is dead wrong, I’m not sure what to say. I think the sight is appalling, but I hope we can still be friends.
5. Balance the look of your outfit through color and volume. For example, if you are wearing royal blue shoes, add another royal blue accent or similarly bright color somewhere else in the outfit (unless you want the shoes to be a statement and the focus of the outfit). If you are wearing an oversized or flowy top, wear something more fitted on the bottom. If, on the other hand, you’re wearing a fitted top, a looser bottom may be the way to go. It’s usually a mistake to go big all over or tiny all over.
6. Know about fabric and their levels of formality. Cotton and linen and synthetics masquerading as them are casual fabrics. If a dress is cotton or linen, it is a day dress and is not appropriate for an evening event that is at all formal. Wool, particularly for women, is typically used in casual and work attire. Silk can be casual or dressy. Look at the style and color of the garment to determine when the item should be worn. Satin (silk or synthetic) is formal. This rule extends to shoes; satin covered shoes are evening shoes.
7. Don’t neglect your footwear. I see lots of people in very nice outfits and then they’ve opted for shoes that are obviously being worn entirely for comfort. If you have foot problems and must wear orthotics and therefore have very limited options, you are excused. If that is not the case for you, I urge you to pay attention to your shoes. Ugly shoes will ruin an outfit. Lots of comfort brands have been making very good looking shoes in recent years. If you browse the comfort shoes on Nordstrom’s site, I think you’ll be amazed at the number of non-ugly and affordable options. I’ve put some of my favorite options in the carousel below. If you do not need comfort shoes, you have no excuse!
8. Look presentable on the weekends and when running errands. It’s very common for people to claim that they do not need to get dressed up to go to the grocery store. While it is true that you don’t need to get “dressed up,” putting on jeans that fit properly, a shirt you wouldn’t sleep in, and a decent looking pair of shoes doesn’t require any more effort than putting on sweats.
9. Do not wear tights or leggings as pants. This is something you see people rant about all over the internet and somehow there are still poor souls wandering around without pants on. Tights go under skirts and dresses. Leggings go under dresses or tunic-length tops. This is non-negotiable.
Bonus rule: Makeup and spending a little time on your hair will take you a long way. Even if you just slap on tinted moisturizer and mascara and defrizz your hair, you will look so much more put together. However, the more groomed you look, the more attractive people will think you are.
Did I miss anything? Do you have any other fashion rules? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!