Five style mistakes, and how to avoid them

10 years ago
This article was written by a member of the SheKnows Community. It has not been edited, vetted or reviewed by our editorial staff, and any opinions expressed herein are the writer’s own.

I love fashion magazines (I spent an hour today reading the new Vogue and drooling over the couture clothes) but I get most of my inspiration from real women, who have real bodies and make real choices about what to wear every day. Recently, I've been seeing the same five style mistakes over and over. They are all easy to make, but even easier to fix.

1. Too-short pants. Don't settle for hemlines that aren't right. Trousers and jeans that you wear with flats should be long enough to break slightly across the instep; pants you wear with heels should fall to within a quarter inch of the floor. Pants that are hemmed for flats can ONLY be worn with flats, while pants hemmed for heels can ONLY be worn with heels. Choose the heel height that you are most likely to wear and hem your pants to that length.

2. Treating the handbag as an afterthought. We think of bags in terms of their use value -- what will fit in, how it is constructed -- and often we wind up choosing bags that are functional but boring. But a bag is an important component of your overall look. When you choose a bag, choose one that is both versatile and distinctive. Choose a bag that is the right size for your frame and your lifestyle, one that goes with the outfits you wear every day. But don't default to black or brown; think about white or red or orange. Consider your bag an important component of your look, rather than just a storage unit for lip gloss and tissues.

3. Confusing trendy with stylish. Having a style means creating a look that is distinctively you. Once you find your style, it is easy to incorporate current trends, but it is important to resist the urge to dress in head-to-toe trendy. One trend -- a safari jacket, say, or a floaty romantic blouse -- can bring your everyday look up to date. Over trending means both that your look and your closet will go out of style every year or so, and there's nothing stylish about that. Defaulting to trendy also means that you are lost in the mix, because your look is about what's popular, not what's personal.

4. Underestimating the basic white tee. A perfect fitting white tee is a wardrobe staple. Layer it under jackets and sweaters; pair with jeans and skirts and chinos. But don't toss your tee on and then give up; add a great scarf or necklace or fabulous chandelier earrings. If a tee is your everyday wardrobe, dress it up a little. Pair with pieces that would normally be dressy, for a spiffed up casual look. Consider it as a kind of canvas, and experiment with ways to turn the tee into a work of art.

5. Skipping jewelry. I often see women in beautiful suits or dresses without a single piece of jewelry on; their look is generic and flat. Finding a personal style can be as simple as personalizing your basic look, and jewelry is a simple way to do this. Stick with one or two signature pieces (big bracelet, dramatic necklace) or a specific style (vintage, modern, tribal). The most basic outfit (jeans and a tee, for example, or the suit) becomes distinct and personal with a funky necklace or chunky bracelet.

How do you find your personal style? DailyFashion.com has a handy fashion quiz. My answer included this: "You are the girl that all your friends come to for fashion advice and you are also the one that everyone wants to go shopping with! You tell it how it is whether it looks good or it looks bad!" Of course.

Amsale at the Simply Chic Blog identifies the hallmarks of personal style. She boils it down to a short list of three things, which is entirely manageable.

Raquel Laneri at Electric Warrior muses on how to maintain your personal style in the face of fashion's overexposure. She teases out the distinction between the clothes themselves and the fashion week productions that surround them, which is useful when you are trying to decide what look works for you.

Susan Wagner writes about fashion at Friday Style and The Working Closet and Fashion Find. Send her your style questions at fridaystyle.susan@gmail.com.

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