Got a hot date right after work? An important meeting you totally forgot was happening? Or maybe you just slept late, tumbled out of bed at the last possible second, and now need a quick and easy way to look like you put some effort into your outfit - even when you totally didn't.
Here are five easy ways to instantly dress up an outfit, without actually getting "all dressed up"...
1. Add a slick of red lipstick
Red lipstick is a powerful thing. Not only is basically glamour in a tube, it also has the ability to make you look fully "made up" - even if you're not wearing any other makeup at all, and applied it on the train, using your phone screen as a mirror.* Red lips will instantly make you look pulled-together and create the impression that you "made an effort": it will also draw attention away from a less-than-stellar outfit, meaning that you still look "dressed up", even when you're not.
We're pretty sure there's a perfect red for everyone out there (If you're having trouble finding it, hit the beauty hall of your nearest department store and enlist some expert help), but if it's really not for you, any bold shade will have a similar kind of effect: hot pink, dark plum, bright coral - whatever works for you.
* We don't advise this, by the way. For red lipstick - or any bold lipstick - to work, it has to be applied perfectly: and to the lips, not to the teeth or the skin around the mouth.
2. Learn an easy up-do
Loose, flowing locks can definitely look dressy, but that kind of look can be fiddly and time-consuming to achieve, and if you get it wrong, you can end up looking more "messy" than "dressy". Loose hair also tends to look a little more "casual" than an updo will, so if the aim is to look dressed-up, our advise is to learn, and perfect, at least one easy up-do which will transform you from casual to chic in the blink of an eye. OK, maybe not quite in the blink of an eye. In the space of just a few short minutes, anyway, and if you keep it simple, that should definitely be achievable. Your chosen style doesn't have to be anything fancy: Cheryl Cole's 'do in the image above, for instance, is basically a version of the sock bun, which is a style that can be thrown together in minutes, with a bit of practice. So pick a style, keep it simple, and practice until you can do it in your sleep. Voila: instant glamour!
(If you have short hair, of course, you're off the hook with this one. If you want to do something to dress up your hair, though, think about investing in a simple slide or other accessory: again, it'll create the impression that you made an effort, even if it was £5 from Claire's and you clipped it in on the way out the door.)
3. Ditch the flats
Flats are great. They really are. They comfortable, casual, and... there's the rub. Flats are, for the most part, casual. Sure, there are plenty of pairs out there which have been liberally doused in glitter and bows and all kinds of things to make them look dressy, but the fact is that even the plainest pair of heels will generally look more "dressed up" than the prettiest pair of flats. There are some qualifications to this, of course: if you have problems with your feet or posture which make it dangerous for you to wear heels, don't, for the love of God, do it. If you really can't walk in heels, then don't (or learn how to do it before you attempt it in public), because there's absolutely nothing "polished" about a woman stumbling around on heels she can't stand up in.
If you're willing to wear heels, though, they, like red lipstick, will dress up any outfit: even a scruffy pair of boyfriend jeans and that sweater you picked up off the floor. You can always keep the flats for the walk home...
4. Carry a clutch
Remember in Sex and the City, how Carrie would always carry a clutch bag, even if she was wearing jeans and a sweater? Remember how it always made her look "dressed up"? (And was always in heels, too: see 'Heels: wear them") A clutch bag will do that for you. Big, slouchy bags are ideal for carting a ton of stuff from place to place, but they can also look a little bit untidy, and can also encourage the person carrying them to slouch, which is never a great look.
Clutch bags obviously aren't ideal for every occasion, and there are lots of times when you really DO need all that stuff. There are also times when you don't, though, and we're willing to bet that, at least some of the time, you carry a huge bag full of things you don't actually need, when you could easily get away with something small and more polished. You don't need to go for a tiny, beaded number either: today's over-sized, envelope clutches can hold a surprising amount of stuff, and while it's tempting to think of the clutch as an "evening" accessory, there's no reason you can't carry one during the day, too: just pick a day when you're leaving the laptop at home...
It's almost too obvious to be stated, but accessories can make or break an outfit, and can make an otherwise plain look seem far more pulled-together. As for which accessories, and how to use them, well, that's an article in itself, but a statement necklace, a chic silk scarf or a beautiful belt can all add interest to a dull outfit, as can things like earrings, hair accessories or brooches: go wild. (But not too wild...)
Of course, these are far from the only ways to dress up a plain outfit, and we're definitely not saying you can't look glamorous in flats, or with loose hair, or anything like that: you most definitely can. These are simply some quick and easy tricks we'd use if we wanted to look instantly dressier. How would you do it?