Rule 1: Take care of your skin!
Yes, you heard right. Before you spend money on your new wardrobe, make sure you invest in your skin first. Your skin is your natural suit and it says a lot about you. No amount of fancy clothing can cover up neglected skin.
Your skin is an amazing organ with three layers (epidermis, dermis and hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue) and it needs your utmost appreciation. Your epidermis is further divided into five layers of which the outer most layer is called the stratum corneum with skin cells called corneocytes that consistently exfoliate. The skin is a fascinating read, check it out here:
Educate yourself about your skin before you enter the world of skin care products and treatments. If your skin needs a tune-up see a skilled cosmetic dermatologist. There are numerous option, including PhotoFacials (developed by Dr. Bitter), Pixel Treatments, etc. Where ever you go, make sure it is a reputable cosmetic facility with medically trained personnel (yes, medically trained personnel, especially for laser treatments). Take a look at some of my upcoming posts to learn more about the various options.
Rule 2: Take care of your hair!
Do invest in a good hair stylist at least every couple of months. Even if you are a pro with the self-coloring kits be honest with yourself — do these highlights still look good? As we get older we need to emphasize healthy hair over stylish hair. Technically, it never looks good to spurt some frizzy locks but if you are 20 who cares? You can get away with so much at that age. Not so when you turn 40.
I personally love long hair but my hair has gotten dryer over the years, now I have to go easy on the high-lights. Long hair is always beautiful (regardless of your age) so long as it is frizz-free and not besieged by split ends. If your hair needs help see a specialist and discuss options — sometimes short cuts can look great (think Meg Ryan). Look at my post on hair.
Rule 3: Find your style!
Fashion changes but style is forever! Ever heard that phrase before? There is something to it. Finding your style is all about who you are and what feels “right” to you. First you need to find your style and then you can begin to push the envelope a little, not the other way around.
How to begin? Take some time out and try on a few outfits that you have accumulated in your closet. Pay attention to what you feel drawn to. Is it casual-sporty? Elegant-sophisticated? Is it on the conservative side? Do you like to dress with an edge? Or do you prefer a more sub-dued style? Do you stick to classy? Or do you like to stand out? Everyone has a style (even if you are not aware of it). By paying attention to what you like and not like you’ll slowly find your style. No rush. Take your time. Go shopping and try on different outfits (not to buy yet, just to see what you gravitate towards). After a few weeks of research you will have some idea of what you like, that will be your core-style.
Rule 4: Make friends with your body!
Fashion is not the exclusive domain of the young and thin. Fashion is for everyone. It is a form of self-expression. Just like you design your home in your most beloved style, you can do the same for yourself. Everyone can enjoy being fashionable. Don’t worry about your weight. Just look for outfits that fall within your style and flatter your shape. Regardless if you are thin or curvy, tall or petite, dark-skinned or light-skinned, there are great outfits for all of us!
Rule 5: Have a system!
When you start out putting together a fashionable (and functional) wardrobe, avoid impulse shopping — at least at the beginning. Build up a wardrobe by having a system. Let’s say you start-out with a clean slate, think about the “core” clothes first. Core clothes are multi-taskers, they can be combined and re-combined. My style is classy-modern, and here are some clothes that I consider my stock:
White tailored shirts — I own a few of them (some simple ones in silk and cotton, some elegant ones in chiffon-sheer, and some with ruffles in cotton-stretch), they make you look fresh and pristine and they combine with practically everything — a black pencil skirt, jeans, a leather skirt, an A-line skirt, slacks, business trousers — you name it. I have never met a person who does not look good in a crisp white tailored shirt.
Dress trousers in black, blue and/or dark grey — love those too, they keep me warm and fashionable in the winter (look great with booties). Buy them in soft and light materials and make sure they don’t add unnecessary bulk — look for shapely fits (zippers on the side work great). Stay away from the ones with big pockets and avoid folds in the front unless you are stick-thin. Dress trousers can be snug but should never be tight!
A pencil skirt or A-line skirt in black, blue, and/or dark grey — whichever style you prefer. Or own one of each.
Cardigan — invest in one or two Italian-made cardigans (or learn to knit your own). They are warm, super-stylich and you can leave one at work if you get cold easily.
Slim-fit sweaters — have a few of those in colors that work for you. I buy mine in cotton-spandex (or mixtures of cotton/viscose/silk) because I cannot stand rough textures on my skin. They look great with pants and skirts and jeans and they accentuate your feminine body shape. If you are not comfortable with slim-fit sweaters go for some that are slightly tailored. Avoid the straight-down sweater unless you are 18, after a certain age they lose their slinky-cool-understated appeal — think outside and away from the box!
Jeans — own at least one pair of really well fitting jeans — If you are over 25 avoid the construction worker look (and the swiss cheese look) and go for something that sits snug on your hips and looks a bit more sophisticated. I personally like Paige Jeans but any brand works so long as you avoid the “sausage look”. Trying too hard does not look good. There are so many fabulous jeans out there — you can find one that fits snug without giving the impression that you stole it from your little sister. Snug is hot, ridiculously tight is not.
Tailored Stretch T-Shirts — own a few in fresh colors, they pair great with jeans and sandals. They come in cotton-spandex-silk mixtures and feel and look great at any time of the year.
Black Cocktail Dress — yes, you should own at least one of these timeless numbers and with it a nice pair of black pumps that fit the style of the dress. Pair it with a classy handbag in a different color, a silky scarf or anything that gives it a lift. If you want to go all out get the shoes that match the bag (and prepare to be noticed)!
Summer Dresses — dresses are beautiful and they can fill up your closet faster than the wind. Take your time selecting the right ones that fit your shape best. Own at least one or two luscious silky summer dresses with matching sandals to enchant yourself and others! And get ready for the drive along the ocean a la Grace Kelly!
Shoes and Bags — don’t skimp on shoes and bags. In fact, if you own more shoes and bags then clothes you will look better than the other way around. Every outfit can go with different shoes and bags, thereby changing the outfit completely. For example, if you go to work in your white shirt, black skirt, and ballerina flats bring a spare set of black heels and you are instantly ready to head out for the cocktail hour. Also, shoes and bags can tremendously enhance your outfit. A simple A-line red dress can look amazing paired up with the right heels and a Dior bag. You don’t need a ton of bags, just invest in two or three nice ones for the day and at least one clutch for the night.
Lingerie — what you wear underneath makes your day (and night) — do it for yourself, do it for your boyfriend or husband, just do it. If you prefer cotton you can get some super nice undies and bras from Victoria Secret (some are paired with lace and are very comfy still). Dressing in nice underwear makes you feel good and it is part of your wardrobe.
Coats and Jackets — own one of each. My personal favorite is a leather jacket (pairs so well with pants and jeans) and a cashmere or wool coat (light and warm). Both pair really well with scarfs!
Silk Scarfs and Pashmina Shawls — you have got to own a few of those — they make every outfit better! They brighten, lighten, style, and truly catch your eye! Nothing more feminine than a silky scarf or Pashmina shawl! Can you tell that I was born in Europe? It is indeed a very European thing to do. Try it and you’ll see why European women love it so much! With respect to the silk scarfs go for the longer, lighter, more transparent ones, they look stunning when wrapped around your neck or hair. When you get tired of wearing them you can wrap them around the handles of your purse where they match your outfit. Silk is both warm and cooling and so thin that it fits in most handbags.
That is pretty much it. Once you have a core set of clothes you can add more. But at least you have a system and don’t need to add random clothes that fill up your closet relentlessly so that you cannot find a thing to dress. When you have a system you can think of clothes in your wardrobe that you may be able to pair with new outfits and it helps you when you have to decide on colors and style. Also, a good system includes the periodic CLEAN-OUT of old items that you no longer wear. Cannot let go of that sweater even though you have not even worn it once in two years? Donate it. Your closet will thank you. Make it a rule to periodically donate what you no longer wear. That way you achieve three wonderful things — you make others happy, you avoid becoming a clutterer, and you can find the right clothes when you need them.
Rule 6: Indulge!
Huh? Yes, indulge, on occasion that is. Indulging is different from impulse shopping. Indulging is therapeutic and you return home with a precious new outfit. Impulse shopping is frantic and you return home with an unneeded outfit. When you indulge you take the time to really look around and buy what you truly want. Always wanted that red cocktail dress with matching heels? Go for it, treat yourself. Or you had an eye on that Luis Vuitton bag for months now? Well, get it before you get too old to enjoy it. Or you wanted that Eres bathing suit for as long as you can remember? Then, buy it. It is just a bathing suit, if it keeps you up at night go in for the kill! What? You cannot imagine anything nicer than to own this pair of pearl earrings? Well, off you go to that store and do not wait for someone else to buy them, ok? This is your life, you work hard, so don’t forget to treat yourself on occasion.
Rule 7: Go easy on the jewels (custom and real)!
Nothing worse than too much clunker hanging off you. So, stick to the 2 piece rule if your jewels are big (earrings and a ring or a necklace and a ring or big bracelets and a ring, or big earrings and one bracelet). The more sparkles you have in one spot the less you want to confuse the spectator’s eye. If your jewels are small you can get away with more such as a pair of diamond earrings, a fine necklace, and a ring. When in doubt get inspired by the rich and famous, remember how Angelina Jolie just wore a stunning pair of Emerald earrings for the Oscars? Looked classy? You bet. Think less is more.
Rule 8: Avoid the “Fakes”!
If you buy fakes you support child labor and violate intellectual property rights! Let’s face it, those who really know Luis Vuitton and Oscar de la Renta and Gucci and Dior and Thierry Mugler and Versace also know that you are carrying a fake. And those you don’t know these designers do not care. So, who are you trying to impress? Just say NO to fakes. If you cannot buy them RENT them or buy an unknown Italian bag instead — Italian bags are beautifully made, nice quality and longer lasting. You can also find very nicely made American-made bags that are stylish. Just stay away from the fakes — they are cheaply made, sold in back allies, and their trade is against the law. Why would you want to participate in something like that? Be a fashionista not a fakenista. And according to MIT research you’ll be unhappy with the fake anyway.
Rule 9: Emphasize the best of you!
Do not dress for others, and especially not for other women! If you dress for yourself and end up liking yourself more you will exude more confidence and others will flock to you. It is less important that others recognize the Luis Vuitton bag you are carrying but more important that you look good overall. Most important is that you accentuate your most beautiful assets, if you have long shapely legs then flaunt them in knee-length dresses and skin-colored platform heels (nothing will extend your legs like skin-colored heels). If you have a lovely upper body accentuate it with silky blouses that flatter it and draw even more attention to it with a classic diamond necklace (that sparkle will draw anyone in). If you have a beautiful face go for those stunning earrings! Accentuate your best parts and deemphasize the rest. It is a winning formula!
Rule 10: Get help if you need it!
Whether it be prescribing to a Fashion Magazine (my favorites are Vogue and Bazar) or to Vogue Stylist on the iPhone (free) or hiring a personal fashion consultant or personal shopper, there is nothing wrong with a little bit of fashion help. You can actually learn a lot from reading Vogue or Bazar, it is quite fashion-educational and many of the articles are interesting and well written.