We’ve all been there; standing in front of a mirror staring at out reflection and wondering what the heck is wrong with this outfit. In frustration you either say ‘stuff it’ and carry-on with your day or go back to an outfit you know works.

When I train image consultant one of the first makeover techniques I teach is to look carefully at the person and the outfit to work out what it is exactly, that appears to be the problem. Is it the fit, the length, the color, style, coordination or something else? Only when you can recognize the problem can you fix it.

In reality all it takes to make most outfits work is a few key styling elements.

Is it the style?

Not everything is going to suit your shape. Unlike men, women can be a million unique shapes and the first rule is ‘know thyself’. It will save you money, time and frustration – knowledge is power.

Solution: Either invest in a personal image consultation or an online program such as My Private Stylist. It is only then will you gain the knowledge needed to shop quickly, effectively and with success.

Another aspect to style is ‘personality’. An outfit can suit all your physical characteristic and look fabulous to everyone else but if it is not in harmony with your personal style then it can look and feel all wrong to you.

Solution: Take the time to Personal Style Expression Quiz. When you can identify the styles are perfect for your personality your mind’s eye will be forever on high alert and you’ll notice more of styles when you are shopping.

Is it the shape?

Do you have a curvy shape? If you do, you’ll look best in garments and outfits that reveal some shape; this is most evident with dresses. Find the smallest area of your torso and highlight it. Shapes dresses can sometimes work if they are soft and flowing but will seldom be as flattering as dresses that are curvy.

Solution: if you are an hourglass, triangle or inverted-triangle body shape, look for ways you can add shape using a belt, cinched sweater or trying a knot in the dress. Alternatively, your local alteration service may be able to create shape by inserting darts or taking in the side seams.

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Is it the fit?

If a garment does not fit you, the results are always bound to disappoint. Too tight and too loose are equally problematic.  

Solution: if the item is too tight and there is sufficient seam allowance to let it out then by all means do so if you absolutely love the garment and it is one that suits your shape. Otherwise donate it to charity.  If it too loose investigate ways to give it shape (see above point) or have it altered.  

Does it reveal lumps and bumps?

The truth is, many women (me included) do not have a firm torso or thighs.  It can happen from a lack of exercise, after childbirth or the ageing process. When this occurs the lack of firmness will reveal itself through the garment, especially if they are too tight/small.  

Solution: Shapewear.  With the exception of the too small garment, shapewear will be your panacea.  Today they can be found varieties for a multitude of garments and in ultra-comfortable fabrics.  From camisoles to leggings and full body suits you can tame the bulges and wobbles in minutes.  Important: ensure you purchase the correct size for the best look and comfort.

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Photo Credit

Is it the vertical proportions?

This is the first of the secrets that stylists and image consultants know that I’m sharing today.  Vertical proportion is one of those element that if you don’t know about it you will not see it.  Outfits are most visually appealing when they are comprised of unequal lengths i.e. long over short or short over long.  Outfits comprised of equal lengths can appear unfinished or boring.  

Solution: If this is the problem study your outfit to work out how you can create uneven proportions.  It may be through the addition of another garment, accessory or changing the way you are wearing the garments i.e., wearing the top untucked instead of tucked in.

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Is it the horizontal proportions?

This can be the issue if you feel fat in the outfit and the culprit is usually color blocking.  The more you cut your body up in horizontal blocks of color the shorter and wider you will appear.

Solution: the fewer blocks of color in your outfit the better – 2 is usually enough. Keep the darker colors to the areas you are largest. 

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Is it the coordination?

Maybe your outfit is lacking visual appeal through a lack of appealing coordination.  This is often the cause when you feel the outfit needs ‘something’ but have no idea what.  In most cases it will be when you are wearing two solid colored items.

Solution: there is a styling rule called the Rule of Three’s where an outfit looks complete when it comprises of 3 visual elements.

This can be

  • Three garments i.e, jean, top and sweater/jacket/waistcoat etc.
  • Two garments (different colors or distinct shades of same color) and one accessory i.e., scarf, pendant necklace or belt. Note: the accessory must be on the outfit (bag, shoes, small necklaces, earrings and hats don’t count).
  • Two garments where one is patterned, has a motif, has sheen/shine or noticeably textured.
  • One garment where it has two different embellishments.

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Is it the color?

The cutest outfit in the world which doesn’t suit your personal coloring won’t do you any favors. Successful style means wearing garments in appropriate colors for your skin tone/hair color. These colors must also contrast appropriately with one another to enhance your coloring and size.

Solution: Get a color consultation to find out your colors (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn; Clear & Cool, Warm & Muted, etc.)! You will also learn about contrast levels and how to make them work for you a well as lots of other fashion style tips.

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Photo credit: Jane Liddelow – Style Makeover HQ

Does it work for your age?

This has to be one of the most frequently asked questions I’ve had from clients over 40. Just because you can fit into the item does not mean you should wear it.

I’m all for looking youthful but there is a threshold. My best advice is your outfit should match your perceived age as gauged by your face, not just your body.  The main danger is revealing too much main via the hemline length and the depth of necklines, followed by bare upper arms and over fitted garments.

As we age, simplicity and elegance is a good direction to follow. This by no way means you need to lose your creativity or individuality.  You may not be able to wear all the latest fashions but you can add trend accessories, colors and influences into your wardrobe.

Solution: if you are concerned the hemline is too short or the neckline too low; you’re probably right. Sometimes it’s easy to add a top underneath but harder to add length.  One way to hide the short hemline is to add opaque hosiery; you’ll be amazed at how much this will help.

Adding a sweater, jacket or wrap is the easiest way to camouflage aged, thin or heavy upper arms. 

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Is it too much or not enough?

Focal points are areas within the outfit that attract your attention.  Placed in the wrong place and they can highlight an area you’d prefer to hide. Too many and your outfit will look too busy, too few and the outfit is bland.

A pleasing outfit has no more than 3 focal points and since they will attract attention they should be located on the parts of your body you think your best.

Solution: ensure you focal points are placed over areas of your body you’re happy for others to see.  When at work, focal points are best kept above your bustline.

To avoid too many or too few count up the focal points within your total appearance. Pull back and remove items when the number is over 5 for work and 8 for non-work outfits.  Add a few when the number is 2 or less.

Here’s the list – add 1 point or more, as directed:

  • Each color in your outfit (shades of one color, count as 1 point),
  • Colored or patterned hosiery (excluding black and neutral),
  • Shoes if a color other than a neutral. Add a point if embellished,
  • Belts if in a non neutral color, large or embellished, 
  • Boots if a color other than neutral.  Add a point for over the knee or embellished,
  • Earrings which are large or bright,    
  • Necklaces, 2 points if they are large, bright or exotic,    
  • Hats, head-wear and hair accessories,
  • Handbag (excluding neutral colors).  Add extra point if it is oversize,
  • Coloured nails if very bright +1, very long +1,
  • Contrasting buttons, trims, buttons, belt buckles. 2 points if the item is large or very bright,
  • Scarves, bows, ruffles, monograms or any other eye catching embellishment not yet mentioned,
  • Red or unusual coloured or styled hair.

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  1. […] Choosing the perfect accessory to go with an outfit comes naturally to some, while it takes others a little longer to work out what’s right for them. This week I want to explore some of the keys to finding the perfect accessory for an outfit and how to fix things when you know something is wrong but are not sure what. […]

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