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My (Not Quite) Definitive Top Ten Dressing Tips

I like a top ten list, me. Whether it be the best places to visit in a foreign city, must-see films or the most fabulous mascaras, I’m not fussy. You may also have noticed that I’m quite fond of compiling them too. Well, far easier to write the tips than follow them. Getting dressed successfully and having the perfect wardrobe is hard and it is a work in progress. Especially if like me, you live in a city where the weather can change seasons in 24 hours, the pace of life is frenetic and updating your wardrobe is not (or shouldn’t be) your primary concern.

However, there are some things that – like the Eiffel Tower and The Empire State – are a given; universal fashion truths that you simply can’t ignore. You could visit Paris and ignore the Eiffel Tower but that would be daft and frankly a waste of your Eurostar ticket. Also, you’ll end up having to revisit which may be a great excuse but is ultimately costly.

Here’s yet another ‘definitive’ top ten list (it may be worth bearing in mind, fyi, that I visited Milan several times before actually going to see ‘The Last Supper’ and I’ve never seen the film Lawrence of Arabia):

  1. No-one looks good in every single trend, it’s impossible. Your chances are certainly improved if you’re tall, skinny and flat of chest but there are styles even Kate Moss’s body doesn’t lend itself to; lingerie style hardly there slip dress – tick. Boned, va va voom corset dress – not so much.

  2. The way you dress gives clues as to who you are. If you so desire, your appearance can speak volumes before you’ve even opened your mouth – obviously in some situations, such as your wedding day or a job interview, this is ideal. That’s why copying someone else’s style verbatim or simply dressing head to toe in a catwalk look (oh yes, because that’s affordable) rarely works. Be inspired and then put your own spin on it. My godmother’s brother auditioned an unknown actress by the name of Michelle Pfeiffer for the lead role in Grease 2. She arrived in green boots. It seems to be the one thing he remembers about the audition, make of that what you will.
  3. There will always be colours that provoke a reaction – those that make your eyes pop and your skin glow and even make you look thinner. This is rarely black or white. Everyone can wear a red, it just depends what shade of red and if it’s the wrong one it’ll make you feel horribly self-conscious. I suspect this is why people say “I can’t wear red”. You can! Find out if a cool red or a warm red is best for you and give it a go.

Orangey red dress £85 at Banana Republic

Bluey red dress £69.50 at Banana Republic

4. The Jumpsuit, like skinny jeans and statement jewellery, is becoming a modern classic. I bought my first one from Oasis over four years ago and now have four more. I love them and they are the most comfortable items in my wardrobe. I draw the line at wearing them in the winter because of the obvious and unavoidable drawback of having to remove the whole thing when nature calls. However they are the perfect alternative to the summer dress if you haven’t got tanned and/or shaved legs and actually can be incredibly flattering and elegant. Check them out – go for a narrower leg if you’re shorter and a strapless style if you’re a smaller on top. Exercise caution with high street versions in patterned fabrics to avoid bumping into your jumpsuit twin and looking like backing dancers.

Jumpsuit from Next £28

5. Flat shoes make you look shorter, no-one would argue that. Then by the same token please believe me when I say they make legs look thicker, without exception. Ankle straps create a similar illusion. The only jean that can be worn with a flat shoe is a skinny style. That may sound annoying but it’s just the way it is.

& Other Stories dress £55 - perfect for a less curvy lady

6. Leggings worn as actual trousers or without a long top covering your bottom was never allowed no matter how amazing your physique. No. Just No.

7. Flesh coloured underwear is ugly, old-fashioned and a turn-off. It is also a vital part of your wardrobe. There are very few summer outfits that won’t be enhanced by it. Don’t even think about wearing a sheer or pale coloured fabric with white underwear because it will show. It’s not up for debate.

& Other Stories dress £45 - ideal for hourglass shapes

8. Money doesn’t always buy quality. I have a D&G dress which almost immediately came apart at the seams and a pair of Loewe stilettos with one heel that became wobbly after two wears. At the same time I have an H&M stretch dress that I have had for twenty years and has seen not only me but my sister and friend Clare through our pregnancies. It cost under a tenner. Now that is quality.

9. Black shoes and boots are not always the answer. Black knee-length boots with bare legs in summer – why would you? And I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen a perfectly lovely outfit worn to a wedding accessorised with black shoes. It looks like you’ve forgotten to change out of your regulation school shoes. Don’t do it.

10. We all make mistakes but hopefully we learn from them. I still hanker after trends that really should have an age restriction on them. Just as a Quentin Tarantino film is probably not going to be suitable for young children, Crocs are not something that adults should wear anywhere other than a beach (and I’m only mentioning the beach because I know some quite sane fully grown people who own a pair and I’m wanting to give them an out). That said, I have been hankering after a cropped top and matching skirt combo since they first appeared last year. I have so far resisted because I know it is wrong – I am sadly too old – but if I thought nobody would judge me and I could definitely sit down without getting visible rolls, then I bet I would. I’ve relented and let myself have a pair of camouflage trousers, but even those I bought (a size too big), in Pisa while there was no-one looking and my son was asleep in his pram. When I wore them to pick him up from nursery, his friend Archie helpfully pointed out that “insects can’t see you now you know”. Bonus.

Cropped top £19.99 at H&M

Feel free to disagree but I’m not budging on these, mostly because I’ve learnt the hard way, through hideous trial and error and I’d like to think those Pucci-esque leggings I wore when hovering around the (wrong side) of the ten stone mark were not in vain.

I could perhaps overlook no.10 and replace it with a rant about shiny tights and nude patent shoes if someone can give me a really airtight excuse for buying a cropped top?

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