OK, so you’ve got the foundations of style covered. You have a versatile wardrobe that balances basic, wearable styles with options that express your personality and make you feel great. You have a keen sense of what you like and what looks good on you. You’ve stopped shopping as sport and selectively add things to your closet to increase the functionality and joy you get from your wardrobe. You understand the image you want to project and you feel totally pulled together – well, most of the time.
That pulled together part is the tough one, right? You’re not alone. Feeling cool, stylish and totally pulled together is that extra layer that’s often elusive. You get dressed, look in the mirror and it seems like something is missing. You’re wearing a cute top, pants that feel (and look) good, your favorite shoes and you even found those really fun earrings. But it’s that little extra you-don’t-know-what that can elevate your style from just ok to sort of amazing. So, what is it that takes your style to the next level?
I’ve got the secret. Actually, 5 of them. There are 5 secrets that I share with clients that can elevate even simple looks into something so much more than ordinary, create outfits that you didn’t know you had and add that little extra touch that makes people say, “I want to dress like her!”
PUSH UP YOUR SLEEVES
It sounds pretty simple right? Just push up your sleeves. And it is almost that simple. But what does pushing up your sleeves accomplish?
It adds a touch of casual flair to your look.
It keeps even the most serious blazer from looking too stuffy.
It solves the ‘my sleeves are a little too long’ problem.
And it adds a horizontal line near your midsection, which is a subtle way to highlight your waist and balance your shape (click here for other ways to show off your waist and get your figure into proportion).
Some tops and jackets will work with an easy push of your sleeve up toward your elbow, while others need a little help. With shirts and jackets that have a cuff, you can just fold up the cuff 2-3 times and it should stay put. But with jackets or tops where a cuff won’t work (and especially sweaters), you can use a hair elastic to secure it. And while you’re at it, flip up the collar of your jacket for a some extra casual cool.
I don’t think you can be wearing clothes in 2020 without having heard of a front tuck – but if you haven’t, a front tuck (also known as a french tuck) is when you tuck in just the front of your top. It’s mainly used when you don’t want to (or it doesn’t make sense to) tuck in your entire top, but you still want the benefits of a tuck. So, what’s so good about a front tuck?
It’s a subtle style detail which can look more finished off than an untucked top.
It shows where your waist is, which can balance your figure overall.
It reigns in the volume of an otherwise loose top and visually shortens the length of a long top (while still covering your butt) – both of which are good for your figure.
It’s great for most body types, but especially good if you’re petite and your tops run long in general (read this for other style tips for petites).
You can Google a ton of videos on how to front tuck – but the simplest way to try it is to grab a couple of inches at the bottom hem of your top and tuck them into your pants. Then blouse out your top as much as you like.
GRAB A BELT
While we’re on the topic of a front tuck, we might as well talk about belts. Belts are an item that many of my clients forget about – but they are key in finishing off a look. And my rule of thumb is that when your belt loops are exposed, it’s time to wear a belt.
The great news is that a belt is another way to highlight your waist and balance your figure – but it’s also another accessory that subtly adds style to your outfit. My favorite belt is a metallic one (check out why here), but almost any belt is better than no belt at all.
When you’re wearing a dress or tunic style top that comes with a self-belt (a belt in the matching fabric), you’ll add major style points if you ditch the self-belt. Replace it with a leather or suede belt and your outfit will not only look more pulled together, it will also look more expensive. And take it one step further by snipping off those pesky thread belt loops that are attached to your dress – that way, you’re not constrained as to where you place your belt, you can wear it where it works for your figure.
TRY A THIRD PIECE
If you’ve heard one piece of style advice from me before, it was probably about a third piece. A third piece (aka a jacket, blazer or cardigan) is the one item that totally finishes off your look. Yes, you can be completely dressed without one – but to add that special something that easily elevates your outfit, it’s a game changer.
The third piece you choose is up to you and the occasion – but a few of my fall/winter favorites are a plaid blazer (check out 3 outfits here), a sweater coat (3 more outfits here) and a denim jacket as a season-less staple (a bunch of outfits I created for clients are here). And then don’t forget to push up or cuff your sleeves!
A lot of people shy away from layers because they think they’ll be too hot or it’s too complicated. But layering creates dimensional looks with a lot of interest. Tips on layering can take up an entire blog post (I haven’t written that one yet), but here are my two main thoughts:
Wear a sleeveless top as your base layer – you might be thinking, “why would I wear my sleeveless tops in cold weather?” But for layering, they’re ideal because they provide dimension and details without an additional sleeve. Believe me – it’s so much easier to put on a cardigan over a sleeveless top or tank than it is over a long sleeve silk blouse.
Keep thin layers close to your body – this one is more about practicality, but layering is easier when you start getting dressed with thin layers and then get thicker as you go out. For example, start your outfit with a cotton button down shirt. Then add a thin merino wool v-neck sweater, and pull your collar and cuffs out to show off your shirt. Then add a quilted vest. And if it’s really cold, this is when you add your heavy wool coat. That way, you get the visual interest of layers, but you can strip down inside and your outfit is still stylish (as opposed to wearing one super chunky wool sweater and then sweltering inside).
And one of my favorite layering tricks in cold weather is wearing a sweater over a dress. Because when you layer a sweater over a dress, it makes the dress look like a skirt – and you’ve just multiplied your outfit possibilities! The best way to make this work is with a sleeveless dress (or sleeves that fit close to your arms), dresses with no added fabric on the top half (like big ruffles) and a neckline that is completely covered by the sweater.
Are you sufficiently inspired to take your looks to the next level with my 5 secrets to next level style? If you’re looking for more style inspiration on a regular basis, follow me on Instagram and Facebook for tips, advice and a little behind the scenes of what I do! (And if you’re not already on my newsletter list, sign up here for style delivered directly to your inbox and a fun free guide to streamline your virtual presence.)
Photos by: Push up sleeves – Ijeomakola, Fashion Jackson; Front tuck – Style Thief Fashion, Alterations Needed; Belt – Red Dress Boutique, Home School in Heels; Third Piece – Awed by Moni, WhoWhatWearUK; Layers – outfits I created during an event at Equinox