How to Be Stylish… on any budget

How to Be Stylish - Black classic dress with waspie belt

Dress: A|Wear

How to be stylish.

It’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? We may all define “style” in different ways, but most of us would (secretly or not-so-secretly) love to be stylish. It’s probably the reason you’re reading this article.

Here’s the bad news:

You can’t learn how to be stylish simply by buying the “right” clothes.

Style isn’t about what you buy, or what it costs. You can’t buy style in a store, or copy it from the catwalk, and it doesn’t matter how many dresses you own, or which designer name is stamped on your shoes. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s not, however, to say that style is impossible to come by: quite the opposite, in fact. Anyone can learn how to be stylish: here are some easy ways to do it – on any budget.

Don’t follow fashion

Yves Saint Laurent once said that fashions fade, but style is eternal. He was right: which is probably why this sentiment has been echoed so often, in so many different ways, by everyone from fashion designers and celebrities to …well, the rest of us. We’d like to echo it too, by saying that while fashion can be a whole lot of fun, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t experiment with it as much as you want to, ultimately it’s more important to develop your own style by working out what suits you, and what you like to wear. Think about it: the most stylish people in the world don’t tend to be slaves to the latest trends. They know that not all fashions suit all people, so rather than changing their look every season and always trying to keep up with the latest trends, they figure out what works for them, and then they pretty much stick to it, using fashion trends as a way to tweak or update their look, rather than dictate it. Develop your own style, don’t just copy someone else’s: that’s how to be stylish.

Man custom fitting dress on woman How to be stylish: don’t follow fashion

Know your figure

Are you an apple or a pear? A rectangle or a square? Sure, it sounds like one of those silly magazine quizzes, but a large part of knowing how to be stylish is knowing what your body looks like, and then figuring out how to dress it. As noted above, not all styles look good on all figures, so if you want to know how to be stylish, you’ll first of all have to know what you REALLY look like: not what you’d LIKE to look like. We don’t have the time or space in this article to list all of the different body types and how to dress them, but you’ll find plenty of advice online that will help you dress for your body shape.

Buy clothes that fit: or have them altered

This tip sounds so obvious is barely worth stating, but how often have you seen people crammed into clothes that are clearly too small, or drowning in the excess fabric of a dress that’s just too big? Ill-fitting clothing is one of the fastest ways to look sloppy and unstylish, and even the most expensive clothes in the world will look bad if the fit is off. Finding the perfect fit is the holy grail of how to be stylish, and as we’re sure you already know, it can be easier said than done. if you’re struggling, however:

      • heartTry on different sizes
      • Don’t just assume you know your size: clothing sizes differ from brand to brand, and even from item to item, so take a range of sizes into the fitting room, and try them all on.
      • heartDon’t be ashamed to size up if necessary
      • Dress size is simply a number – and given the inconsistencies in sizing these days, not to mention the vanity-sizing that’s rife throughout the fashion industry, it’s a pretty meaningless number at that. Don’t be ashamed to size up: the only person who’ll know – or care – is you.
      • heartStill struggling to find the right fit? Learn to sew, or pay someone else to do it for you
      • Sometimes it really doesn’t matter how many items you try on: none of them will fit. When that happens, you need to consider one of two options: either alter the item yourself, or pay someone to do it for you. Now, given that this article promises to show you how to be stylish on any budget, we’re reluctant to suggest that having items custom-made is the only solution for those of us who can’t find the right fit off the peg, but actually, you might be surprised how cost-effective it can be to have a garment altered or even made from scratch. (And even if the cost is the same as buying it ready-made, at least you end up with something that fits like it was made for you: because it WAS…) If all else fails, simple alterations such as taking up a hem or changing the length of sleeves aren’t difficult to master, and will be well worth learning in the long run.

Two stylish woman walking down catwalk spraying perfume

Keep your clothes clean, ironed and well-mended

We hate to sound like your mother here, but all this “Oh, I don’t own an iron!” business? Enough with that, already. If you want to know how to be stylish, you’re going to have to get over your aversion to ironing, and you might also want to learn how to replace the odd button, too (see above). It also goes without saying that clean clothes are a style essential: you could be wearing Dior Couture, hand-made to fit you perfectly, but if that dress is dirty, creased and in need of repair, it may as well be from Primark. Keep your clothes in a good state of repair, and when they get BEYOND repair, get rid of them: you don’t need a closet full of brand new clothes to look stylish, but if your outfits look like they could walk to the bin by themselves, it might be better to just let them.

Be well-groomed

No one is suggesting that you need a ton of makeup and a professional blow-out every day in order to look stylish, but keeping your hair clean and trimmed (if not necessarily styled to perfection), your nails neat (you don’t need a professional manicure, just get rid of hangnails and rough edges, and keep them clean) and your makeup carefully applied (if you wear it) will go a long way. If you do wear makeup, a “less is more” approach is a good starting point when it comes to looking stylish. If you have the skill to create more elaborate looks – and you know they suit you – then by all means, go for it, but too much heavy makeup, especially if it’s badly applied is another easy way to ruin your look.

Keep it simple

You may be rolling your eyes here and muttering the word “boooooring!” under your breath, but simple doesn’t have to be boring, and there are good reasons why some of the most stylish looks are also the simplest: think of Audrey Hepburn in a pair of black capri pants and a sweater, or Marilyn’s famous white dress. These kind of back-to-basics outfits may not set your heart racing (and don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you wear them ALL the time: you still get to have some fun), but they’re easy to wear, and hard to get wrong: accessories are a great way to update an outfit or add interest to something plain, but generally speaking, the more elaborate your look, the easier it’ll be for it to start to look messy and incoherent – the opposite of “stylish”, in other words.

Woman dressing classically in a blue dress

How to be stylish: keep it simple

Know your comfort level

Fashion magazines and those who live by them are always telling us to stray outside our comfort zone: to take risks, be edgy and experiment fearlessly with fashion. That’s all well and good, and worth trying from time to time (you want to be stylish, after all, not stuck in  a style rut), but this article is about how to be stylish, not how to be an edgy fashionista, and one easy way to be stylish is to know what you’re comfortable wearing: and, more importantly, what you’re NOT comfortable wearing. Apologetic dressing NEVER looks stylish, i.e. if YOU don’t like what you’re wearing, it’s unlikely anyone else will, either. When you’re thinking about how to be stylish, one of the most important things you can be is comfortable. By that we don’t mean you should be wearing Uggs and sweatpants (Perish the thought), but simply that you should feel fantastic, regardless of what you’re wearing. Everyone’s comfort level is different: if you feel at your best in avant-garde fashion, then great: wear it with pride. If you don’t, however, don’t try to force yourself to wear something you’re not totally sure about: it’s impossible to look stylish if you’re constantly tugging down your hem, pulling up your top, or worrying about whether your dress is too tight.

Dress appropriately

It would be wonderful if we could all just wear whatever we wanted to, wherever we wanted to, but all clothing has a context, and it’s important to make sure YOUR clothing matches the context you’re wearing it in. That doesn’t have to mean rigidly adhering to some imagined dress code or set of rules: it means not wearing sweatpants to someone’s wedding, high heels for a walk in the countryside, a ball-gown to your nephew’s first birthday party, or a flimsy sundress in the snow. All of these outfits would be inappropriate for the occasion, and that means that regardless of how “nice” they look in themselves, they will not seem stylish. You want to know how to be stylish under any circumstances? Make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the occasion, and neither trying too hard, or not hard enough. It’s as simple (or as difficult) as that.

 Finally, if you really want to know how to be stylish…

… don’t listen to The Fashion Police.

We know: it’s rich coming from us, huh? We’re serious, though: while we all enjoy discussing fashion trends, and poking gentle fun at the  more outlandish items out there, there really is no right or wrong when it comes to style. As cheesy as it sounds (and boy, does it sound cheesy!) the easiest way to look effortlessly stylish is to be yourself, and have confidence in what you’re wearing.

[Images: PRPhotos.com / AWear.com]

3 Comments

  • Reply January 23, 2013

    b.

    Getting out of lurkdom to say how much I appreciate it when you write articles like this. :)

    • Reply January 23, 2013

      The Fashion Police

      Oh, thanks for saying that! It’s a little bit different from the usual content, but these are the posts I enjoy writing most, so I’m glad you like them!

  • Reply January 24, 2013

    Moni

    Thanks for this great article. I love it! :)
    And it’s always surprising how many things need to be said, from which one thought they’d be universally well-known…
    Very well done!

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