Despite numerous requests for this post, I’ve been hesitant. I don’t like to frame my advice in the negative; I’d much rather compose a piece on the 15 items every woman needs in her closet, or the 5 nonmaterial ways to improve your style. I think you always get with more with the carrot than the stick. Also? Where to even begin! Per a recent Facebook poll, my friends contributed a long list of legitimate faux-pas, so while there are many ways in which well-intentioned women are set astray, I think my list (while certainly neither exhaustive nor definitive) covers the most common (and maybe not-so-obvious) ground.
No accessories– A pair of blue skinny jeans + a black v-neck cashmere sweater + gold ballet flats = clothes. Add a red lip + a killer ring from Goldyn + a tie-dye Chan Luu scarf– now you have an outfit. Accessories can be anything from jewelry to makeup and nail color, to a hat, scarf, or pin, and you need one or two to transform your clothing into an outfit.
Bad shoes– Ladies, nothing kills an otherwise great outfit like bad shoes, and the damage they do is so profound it’s hard to adequately quantify. Picture bad seafood. Picture inappropriate public displays of affection. Bad shoes have a stop you in your tracks effect. So what qualifies shoes to be this bad? Cheap + chunk. Shoes featuring cheap leather and hardware and those with big, black, rubbery chunky soles will kill any style mojo you otherwise have.
Outerwear– You bought the perfect cocktail dress for an upcoming party and, this time, you even splurged on a beautiful pair of heels to go with it. You have great jewelry laid out, hair is done, you’re even trying a bold lip color! As you dash out the door, you grab your puffy Patagonia coat- it’s not like you’ll be wearing it inside the party so who cares right? WRONG. If you’re going to commit to style and make the effort to put together a great outfit, you simply must follow through with the whole outfit, and that includes a proper coat.
Defensive dressing– There is a fine line between making smart and practical fashion choices meant to flatter your complexion and shape with being a prisoner to those choices. As I’ve said many times before, do certain colors look best on certain complexions? YES. Should you then exclusively wear only those shades to the exclusion of everything else? NO. If you can’t relax a little into your style, I’m sorry to tell you, it will never be very good.
Mannequin shopping– Do you ever notice that boutique mannequins are all roughly the same size and shape? 6′, a size 4 with 34-25-35 measurements*. Are you? I’m certainly not. Stores do a fabulous job of making their merchandise look good on the ‘ideal’ body for fashion, and while it’s great to be inspired by the looks they create, it should be just that: inspiration. Great style takes pieces from everywhere: a top from Chelsea, jeans from Willow, shoes from Common Threads, your mother’s necklace, a hat you bought while visiting San Francisco… No mannequin can or should compare.
*The standard measurements.