Elements of Style

or Words to Dress By

— by a Fashion-notsa

When my daughter was around four, she announced to me, “Mom, I like fashion.” Her announcement was as much a commentary on what she thought of her mom’s fashion sense as it was a declaration of her personal interests. Clearly, I did not measure up to her standards.

For my now-grown daughter, who once spent her afternoons after school filling up sketch books with drawings of outfits complete with earrings and purses and shoes, fashion is and always will be about following trends as if they were art. Last year was Abstract Expressionism Pumps; this year is Art Nouveau Flats. She curates her closet.

If you are like my daughter, you already enjoy the process of discovering the latest fashion ammo and hitting the en-vogue target right in the bullseye.

Or you may be more like me, and just want to look nice and not miss the target completely. Count me somewhere between a Fashionista and a Fashion-notsa. If I can get to ‘well put together’ that’s good enough for me.

To get to ‘well put together,’ I curated my own elements of style.

5 Not-So-Hard Rules to Looking Well Put Together

Element #1:  My Rule of 3

Want to look well put together? Think in terms of three. Pants, blouse and blazer. Dress, scarf and purse. Pants, top and killer shoes. Skirt, sweater and statement necklace. Is this a hard, fast rule? No, not really, but adding that third element creates a pleasing pattern and says, this is an outfit not clothes.

Element #2: Fashion comes and goes. Elegance endures.

Dress like Grace Kelly. Clean simple lines, solid colors. Timeless. If giant lapels are in, sure, go for a couple of jackets or blouse or with The Big Lapels. One day you will put that favorite big-lapeled jacket on and you won’t be able to take it off fast enough. Something about those lapels will look all wrong. Therefore, spend less, much less, on trendy items. Meanwhile, the first person I saw today as I was walking into work said to me, “Wow! You look fantastic. I love that blazer!” “Thanks!” I smiled back as I looked down at my nineteen-year-old Grace Kelly-esque blazer.

Element #3:  One wonderful thing

A soft black cashmere turtleneck sweater. Black slacks. Black shoes and black belt. Center stage? A gorgeous silver belt buckle to take over the world. Everything about my friend’s outfit said style and elegance. She pulled it off with One Wonderful Thing framed by the simplicity of a single color and different textures. It’s like a decorator once explained to me, every thing in a room doesn’t have to be wonderful, but every room should have at least one wonderful thing in it. The same with an outfit.

Element #4:  Do justice to your body

Choose styles that flatter your best qualities. High waist jeans the latest thing? Go for it! Unless that is, the higher waist makes you look out of proportion. In that case, be one of the last to adopt that style and one of the first to drop it when it as the trend cools.

Element #5:  Wear the right colors for you

It’s not a black and white world. Color sets mood and is the frame for your face. You probably do your best to enhance the main actors of your face, your eyebrows, eyes and lips that move and attract attention. Make sure you are also considering the backdrop. The colors around your face are the setting, the stage. I look for the colors that make my natural coloring look vibrant. For me that means browns, tans and off whites, golds and yes, orange. You may be tempted to wear the colors you like the best or to guess which colors truly enhance your natural coloring. If you really want to get it right, consider investing in a session with a professional color stylist. Be brave enough to wear the colors that work for you.

And  throwing in a Bonus Rule:

Bonus Element:  No TTH

I regret to tell you, friends my age, sometimes the younger you try to dress, the older you look. If you are 55-ish or so, you may not want to go for the midriff tops the adorable twenty-somethings are wearing today with their platform sneakers. The contrast between the young look and your not-so-young face and skin might be too stark and cause cognitive dissonance in those around you. Seriously, the thing you want to avoid is seeming to be what I call TTH, Trying Too Hard. If you look in the mirror and ask yourself, am I too old to wear these booties with this frilly mini-dress or ‘fill in the blank’ pants? Assume yes. Better to say goodbye to clothes too young, than hello to TTH.

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