13 Easy Ways to Instantly Elevate Your Style
When I started this blog back in 2006 as a way to keep in touch with friends and family, I never imagined I would end making a full-time job out of it… much less, writing about fashion!
I’ve always enjoyed clothes and shopping, but putting it all together didn’t always come easily to me.
After writing this blog for almost 15 years and focusing primarily on fashion for the past five, I’ve learned a lot from reading fashion articles, following influencers whose style I admire and studying their techniques, and a lot of personal trial and error.
I still don’t consider myself an expert, but I’ve picked up some tips and tricks over the years that make me feel more polished and confident in my outfits, and I’m sharing them today.
13 Easy Ways to Elevate Your Style
#1. Dress for your body type.
You will look far more polished and chic if you’re wearing clothes that work together to flatter your individual body, and learning to dress my body type was a life-changing moment for me… or maybe I should say a style-elevating moment!
I credit Kelly Snyder’s Adore Your Wardrobe course for putting it all together for me, and I highly recommend it if you struggle with this.
When you know what works for you and what doesn’t, it cuts way down on the frustration of shopping, to say nothing of the amount of returns you have to make. This isn’t to say I never have to experiment or try things on, but I can eliminate a good portion of the options right off the bat, which saves time and aggravation.
And to go along with this, I would add, dress for the size you are right now. Wearing clothes that are too big or too small because you hope to lose another few pounds will only make you look bigger and frumpier.
Dress for your current body, and if your weight changes, you can always sell your gently used items to fund new purchases.
#2. Wear a properly fitting bra.
Wearing a properly fitting bra is such an important first step to creating flattering outfits. It can easily take off 10 pounds of visual weight, without even having to deny yourself dessert!
It’s also important to replace your bras regularly because they stretch out, and when that happens, they can no longer provide optimal shape and support.
If you need tips, I wrote a post about how to find a properly fitting bra, or better yet, schedule a bra fitting with a professional at Nordstrom. It doesn’t cost a thing, and it’s well worth the time.
#3. Practice proper posture.
Good posture is another way to lose 5-10 pounds of visual weight without having to change your diet, plus your clothes fit better and look better on when you stand up straight. Proper posture also makes you look poised and confident.
I’ve been trying to improve my slouchy posture my entire life, and it feels like a losing battle, but I’m still trying. The situation has only worsened with age and sitting at the computer for hours and hours every week.
Has anyone ever tried one of those posture correctors? I’ve been considering it. Is it a gimmick, or does it really work?
#4. Whiten your teeth.
Yellow or discolored teeth are one of the fastest ways to cheapen your look and make you look grungy. I like my coffee as much as the next girl, but I finally had to take some action because my teeth were getting so yellow.
I went to the dentist and got a Zoom whitening system, but honestly, I had just as good results a few years ago with Crest Whitestrips.
There are plenty of other options available as well, but this is definitely a situation that is easier to remedy before it gets too bad.
And then, don’t forget to smile! To quote the incomparable Dolly Parton, “SMILE! It improves your face value!”
#5. Mix high and low.
When putting an outfit together, try to incorporate a variety of brands and price points. It’s more interesting (and much easier on the budget!) than dressing head to toe in haute couture, and it achieves the balance between looking stylish but not try-hard.
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One tip I’ve read is to add one luxury item to your outfit. This elevates the whole look, and keeps your audience guessing… If you choose wisely, no one will know which pieces are high end and which are less expensive.
As an example, I wear jeans almost every day, so invest in premium denim. Then I often pair my pricey designer jeans with less expensive tops from stores like Loft and Old Navy, and mid-range fashion jewelry from brands like Lucky Brand and Kendra Scott.
#6. Wear all black.
When in doubt, a monochromatic outfit is a great way to look effortlessly chic. And really, it doesn’t have to be black. Any monochromatic ensemble will achieve this elevated look.
In fact, as we age, black can be too harsh for older skin, so feel free to try this with navy, grey, beige, white, even red!
The key is to mix textures and patterns to keep it interesting.
#7. Show some skin… but not too much.
As we age, our tendency is to cover up more, but allowing some skin to show — specifically at the neck and/or ankle — is generally more flattering than covering up and looks more fresh and youthful.
In the above picture, the ankle-length jeans paired with pumps expose some skin in the ankle area, and the scoop-neck tank elongates the neck and opens up the chest area. Both of these techniques help you look longer and leaner.
I should recreate this look with a crewneck top and full-length jeans with a higher vamp shoe, to show you the difference. Maybe I’ll do that for Saturday’s Try-On Haul!
Of course, this is one we don’t want to take too far. Exposing too much skin isn’t going to convey a polished, sophisticated appearance either, but finding that happy medium can really elevate your look.
#8. Incorporate animal print.
A pop of animal print has a way of elevating a simple outfit, and it adds a nice element of interest. It can be a top, a scarf, a belt, a pair of shoes… anything!
Animal prints are trending right now, so we are seeing them everywhere, but even when it’s not a hot trend, animal print is always a classic style element that you can incorporate into your outfit to level up the look.
My favorite way to incorporate animal print is with snake print or leopard shoes, as shown above.
#9. Be sure to accessorize, but beware of over-accessorizing.
Wearing a simple accessory or two conveys that you care and makes even the most casual outfit look more intentional. Even when I’m wearing joggers and a sweatshirt, I almost always put on a pair of earrings — usually a small stud.
On the flip side, over-doing it with your accessories can look cheap and try-hard.
Coco Chanel is said to have offered the following sage advice: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”
I suppose you have to know yourself and your natural tendencies before heeding this advice. I’m definitely of the “less is more” mentality when it comes to accessorizing, and sometimes I have to force myself to add one thing before leaving the house.
But the idea here is, don’t over-do it. One statement piece is all an outfit really needs; the other accessories just support the focal point.
In the look above, I wore a mixed metal statement necklace in the neckline of my top, and I kept the rest of my accessories more subtle — a black leather belt with silver buckle, hoop earrings, and a great pair of sunglasses… which brings us to #10!
#10. Get yourself a great pair of sunglasses.
Sunglasses aren’t just useful for eye protection; they’re also an easy way to elevate your look. They don’t have to be super expensive, but they should be on trend and flattering.
This is an area where I’m more likely to “go big or go home.” I think a pair of oversized sunnies is so chic. I have a few pairs of sunglasses I alternate, and I love them all for different reasons.
11. Carry a quality handbag.
I’m a firm believer that a quality bag instantly makes an outfit look more polished and classy.
Your handbag is something you carry with you every day, and it’s always visible, so this is an area where I recommend buying the highest quality piece you can reasonably afford, but that doesn’t mean you have to carry a designer label. There are lots of good choices at a variety of price points.
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When selecting your go-to handbag, opt for a classic style without a lot of embellishments or trendy accents. Choose a good quality leather (unless you are morally opposed) in a modern neutral tone or a bold color that compliments most of your wardrobe.
And avoid fakes and dupes of designer labels. Besides the ethical issues with designer dupes, carrying a fake really cheapens our look.
Also, pay attention to wear and tear. When your bag starts to look worn, faded, and beat up, or if the threads are coming loose, etc., it’s time for a replacement. This goes for all wardrobe items, really.
12. Incorporate trends sparingly.
Trends are fun and a great way to keep your look current, but as with accessories, beware of overdoing it.
When we’re younger, we can get away with wearing all the trends, but as we get older, we should incorporate them into our wardrobe a little more thoughtfully.
Decide which trends make sense for your lifestyle and personal style aesthetic, and combine them with other classic pieces, lest you look try-hard.
In the look above, my sneakers are definitely trendy, but I wore them with a luxe cashmere turtleneck and a quality leather jacket, and I kept my accessories fairly minimal.
wearing: J.Crew Cocoon Coat (40% off)
13. Wear a coat to suit the occasion.
This is an area that is easy to overlook, but I’ve been caught on several occasions without an appropriate coat, and I vowed never to let that happen again. I mean, nothing ruins a dressy look faster than throwing your old parka on top of it, am I right?
This is largely dependent upon your lifestyle and area of the country, but most of us need a few different styles of coats for the various occasions that crop up.
For spring and fall, I like to have a lightweight quilted jacket and/or a casual rain jacket for my casual looks, as well as a classic trench for dressier occasions. For winter, I have a couple of wool coats for dressier looks, a quilted jacket with a hood for everyday wear, and a long puffer coat for the coldest days.
In addition to those, you may want a leather jacket, utility jacket, denim jacket, sherpa or shearling jacket, etc.
It all depends on your lifestyle, personal preferences, and of course your weather, but be sure to keep an appropriate coat handy for dressier events, even if they are rare.
P.S. J.Crew is running a 40% off sale on their coats and jackets right now!
Like all matters of fashion, these are simply my opinions and tips and tricks I’ve found that make me feel more polished and put-together. I’m sure we won’t all agree on all of them, but I hope it’s helpful!
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