One of the more interesting things I noticed when I moved from California to Seattle was the general lack of “dress” people employed. Now I am all for wearing things that are comfortable and feeling at ease in your clothing, but I also think that looking nice, and presenting yourself well can help you in all aspects of your life. Before 9/11, if you dressed up for a flight and asked politely to be upgraded–the flight attendants would give you a once over and if you looked like your belong they would often accommodate your request (smiling and having good manners also helped too). First impressions and they way you look affect how people treat you. If we lived in a utopia the only thing that would matter is who you are, but in the world we live in often times who you are to someone is defined by how you present your self.
Being stylish and well groomed is something we all respect and admire in others. Think about the last time you were walking down the seat, sitting in a restaurant, or having a drink at the bar. Who were your eyes drawn too? For most people this would be the good looking, well dressed person in the room. It is a natural human tendency (Blink is a great book about this biases written by Malcolm Gladwell, and one I really enjoyed) to have higher opinions of better looking individuals. So in that case why wouldn’t you want to dress nice?
Now not all of us can be a model from a magazine (goodness knows most people don’t win the genetic lottery), but style and class can actually take a person most of the way there. So how do you get style? How do you cultivate your look? Well there are lots of simple things you can do. First, make sure your clothes fit. No one looks good in something too tight or too loose. If you buy a shirt and it doesn’t fit you right have it tailored. One of my favorite tricks I learn was to get the buttons sewn shut on a blouse. For button downs, it seemed like they always gapped in the wrong places, giving people a mini peek-a-boo show–sewing them all shut meant I could walk around comfortably. Pants should fit the length of your legs. It isn’t becoming to watch someone walk on their pants, so get your pants tailored with the shoes that you plan to wear with them. I buy almost all my shoes in two heights, flats and tall high heels (approximately 3-3.5 inches is my sweet spot) and have certain pants (and jeans) that go with each. This goes for guys too–if you have short arms, have the sleeves taken up. A good tailor can work wonders.
Second, know what colors work well on you. Most people don’t look good in fancy patterns. If you are wide don’t wear horizontal stripes (remember those optical illusions where one circle looked bigger than the other because it had stripes across it). Vertical stripes are almost always flattering and slimming (everyone should own a pair of pinstripe pants in my opinion). There are all sorts of color combinations that work well on some and not on others. One thing that always stands out is when people wear a top that is the same shade as their eyes–this is almost always flattering.
And finally, know what styles flatter your body type. Capris don’t look good on everyone, and in fact make short legs look, well, short. If you have some extra weight around your middle, don’t wear a tight fitting top showing it off–wear something with a little bit of forgiveness. If you don’t like to iron (or can’t afford to pay someone to do it for you), don’t buy linen. You wear it once it wrinkles and you have to be iron them before you can wear them again (or you will look sloppy and messy). Just because something is “in style” doesn’t mean you should wear it (believe me, I wish I could wear skinny jeans). You should only spend your money on pieces you love and will wear all the time. Never buy something just because it is on sale and looks okay–you will never look great with those type of pieces. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got on putting outfits together was to page through magazines (and if you don’t want to buy them go to a bookstore and read them there). The stylists that get paid to put outfits together are usually quite good at it, and you can learn a lot by looking at examples.
There are lots of other tips and tricks for dressing well, but this is a great starting point and should give you some things to think about. After all, when you look good it boosts your self confidence and makes you feel good–so therefore it is money and time well spent 🙂