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If you have some time to kill, how often do you turn to surfing the internet or watching mindless TV? If you’re anything like most women I know, the answer will probably be “Way too often!” Instead of shopping, snacking, or checking your Facebook 13 trillion times to curb boredom, try to find a little constructive “me-time” instead so you can unwind while doing something good for yourself.
1. Take a utilitarian shower. (A bath is good, too, but if you don’t have the time, a shower can do in a pinch). Give your body a little TLC – Put on a teeth-whitening strip, and take this opportunity to slough off some yucky dead skin using an olive oil and sea salt scrub all over your body (you can use sugar, too, but you’ll have to make sure that you clean your shower properly afterwards or you’ll have an ant uprising! Yes, I speak from experience!) I like to keep a mixture of instant coffee, salt and olive oil in a pretty jar by my tub so I can scrub away whenever I get the chance. The coffee smells AMAZING and I’m sure all the good oils and antioxidants in it can’t hurt, either! Moisturize with your favorite lotion after you’re done. Feel free to stay in your bathrobe for as long as you can.
2. Turn on some of your favorite music, and do your nails. If you can turn up the music without annoying your housemates/neighbors/cats, do it! Paint both hands and feet if you have the time, or just do the toes if you don’t (it’s a lot harder to chip your toes than the fingers). While waiting for your nails to dry, you can place some cucumbers on your eyelids and relax (teabags placed in the refrigerator will do in a pinch. Remember to stick your used teabags in a tupperware container the next time you make a cuppa! Just don’t forget to chuck them every week or so).
3. Go for a walk. Even a brisk ten-minute walk will get your blood pumping, and give you an endorphin boost. Try exploring a route you normally never take (make sure it’s safe, of course), or try out a new independent coffee shop in your neighborhood. Stop and smell the roses, literally, if you see any. Take this opportunity to work on your posture: keep your shoulders back, suck in your tummy, and walk straight (you’ll thank me when you’re eighty, I promise). Take your camera along if you can, and try to see your neighborhood (or wherever your walk takes you) with a tourist’s appreciative eyes.
4. Read a short story. Everyone has time for a short story! I always like to keep a full-length novel by my bedside to read before bed, but I carry a book of short stories in my purse at all times. You never know how long you’ll be waiting for the metro, the dentist, or your friend at the bar. I highly recommend Miranda July, Jhumpa Lahiri, Margaret Atwood and Franz Kafka‘s collections of short stories (linked to my favorites).
5. Make something. Unleash your creative genius. Write a poem, bake a cake, knit, or try one of the many crafts on sites like craftster.com. If you’re not that way inclined, organize that ‘crazy drawer’ (you know you have one, the one with everything in it), sort out your old photos, or coordinate your wardrobe. You’ll feel better for having done it than you would watching reruns of I Love Lucy (I promise you).
1. A well-fitting blazer or jacket. This should preferably be in black, but a tailored tweed in neutral colors will also do. Well-fitting means that the buttons should be able to button up. (This should really go without saying, but I’ve seen so many women wearing ill-fitting jackets that it had to be said). If you’re in between sizes, get the larger one and get it tailored. The signs of a good jacket are tailoring details – think darts; and enduring fabric (this means no “poly-fester”). A blazer will do you many favors: it dresses up an outfit; it makes you look more ‘put together’; it hides flaws (particularly for those of us with a less-than-flat tummy); and it gives you power and authority. You can wear a blazer over a skirt, shorts, jeans, or formal trousers.
2. A leather purse, preferably in black or cognac. If you’re vegan, faux leather or another material is fine, but make sure that it looks expensive. A leather purse, in my experience, will last ten times longer than synthetic materials (exceptions are jacquard and canvas, but they get dirty easily and can look tacky). If you have one expensive (or expensive-looking) purse, that’s really all you need. The purse should be large enough to hold everything you need, but not so large that it overpowers you. A classic shape is good, as you want the bag to last you more than just one season. If you have the extra dough, you can also fork out for a smaller evening bag – which can be more quirky and eccentric (think: prints, sequins and embroidery) than your classic day bag, if you wish.
3. A pair of cute, comfy ballet flats. Preferably ones you can walk ten miles in without blisters. Let’s face it, girls: heels are great but certainly not practical for every occasion. An ideal flat will be in a neutral color, but still have some character (think texture, or an interesting detail such as a buckle or a chain).
4. A dress that makes you look your best. This can vary depending on your personal style, the climate you live in, and your lifestyle, and can run the gamut from a chic LBD (little black dress) to a bohemian maxi dress. Both can be dressed up and down (up: heels and more skin; down: flats or sandals and a denim jacket). Try on a variety of dresses to see what colors and shape suit you (and be sure to look at my post on Dressing For Your Body Type).
5. A pair of jeans that look great on you. A dark wash is the most chic (and figure-flattering) option. This means no whiskering, tears, acid washes or patches. A mid-rise jean (that fits you at the navel) is best for people with a less-than-perfectly-flat stomach. High-rise jeans tend to look dowdy (and create an unflattering ‘pouch’ when you sit town) while low-rise jeans tend to be a little tacky (no one needs to see your underoos when you sit down).
6. A blouse or shirt in a color that suits you. Notice I didn’t say t-shirt. This needs to have tailoring details similar to the blazer. No knits or ‘poly-fester’. This should ideally be in cotton or silk, or a good blend (i.e. cotton+spandex, or silk+lycra). Jewel tones are flattering on most people (think: emerald, fuchsia, saffron, royal blue).
7. A pair of sunglasses that suit you. Sunglasses, however inexpensive, can scream TACKY! or chic! in an instant. My advice: Don’t go shopping alone, and don’t (necessarily) follow the trend. Take a brutally honest friend with you, preferably one with infinite amounts of patience as you try on many, many glasses. Many online guides show what sunnies suit your face shape, but I’ve found they’re not always accurate. Best to try out a few. Surprisingly, aviators tend to suit most face shapes, in my opinion.
8. A pair of trousers. Ideally, these should be in a heavy-weight fabric, like a tweed or a wool-blend. Black (or patterns with a lot of black, like herringbone or tweed) are best. They should look expensive, and fit beautifully. I would suggest something that fits snugly at the waist but tapers straight down. The silhouette is flattering for straight as well as mighty-curvy figures.
9. A pair of high heels, for a bit of “va-va-voom“. These don’t have to be as comfy as your ballet flats, but you should be able to walk in them without cringing. Nothing detracts from your ultra-chic look as much as trying to awkwardly balance in heels you tried on for a moment at the shop. Your goal is to be able to walk at least two blocks in these shoes. Simple rule: the thinner the heel, the more practice you need to walk in them. Try not to get ultra-blocky heels, though, as they add bulk (bulk=weight!) to your lower half, and can make your whole outfit look dowdy. Your heels can be in a neutral color, or add a POP! of color to your whole outfit. Just make sure, as with the ballet flats, that if you choose a neutral color, that there is some interesting detail on the shoe. Also remember: while ankle straps offer support, they cut off the line of the leg, making you look shorter/stockier (read:fat). Shoes in a nude color (one that matches your skin tone, of course) have the opposite effect: the lengthen the leg line, making you look taller (=slimmer). Thanks to Stacy for these awesome tips!
10. Great foundational garments. If you haven’t been for a bra fitting lately, DO IT. Apparently 80% of women are wearing the wrong sized bra, which leads to discomfort, poor posture, and of course, ill-fitting clothes. If you think you need a Spanx, don’t be ashamed. Half the women you see on the red carpet are wearing one. It smooths you out, and helps you feel less self-conscious. Voila, très chic!
1. Take care of yourself. If you bother to take the time to have a shower (this one should go without saying), do your nails and hair, it will show. As an added bonus, you’ll feel good about yourself, and that translates into confidence (see #5).
2. Find a style inspiration. This could range from someone really iconic (think: Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jackie O), someone with a particularly quirky sense of style that appeals to you (Gwen Stafani, Lady Gaga, Rihanna), or maybe you could use one of the many fashion blogs out there for inspiration (or motivation, as the case may be!) Some of my favorite fashionistas on the web are Lida from Fashionistatalk, Chiara from The Blonde Salad and Kelly from The Glamourai. Once you’ve found someone whose sense of style appeals to you, try to figure out what it is you like about it. Then, without replicating the entire outfit (or wardrobe!) try to find pieces in your closet that evoke that style, adding your own personal twist.
3. Invest in a few high-quality basics. (See my post on Basics every Woman needs to have in her wardrobe). This means no poly-fester, ladies! Once you do this, you’ll see why these kinds of garments tend to have the most mileage, since they never go out of style.
4. Find a friend who is brutally honest. Then try on some of the pieces in your closet that you know you shouldn’t be wearing (hint: if it’s made of terrycloth and you’re still wearing it out of the house, it has to go). Ask your friend (in advance) to help you throw out anything that isn’t:
- age appropriate
- appropriate to your lifestyle (P.S. college tees and hoodies are only allowed at the gym)
Give these items to charity (better still, ask your friend to take them for you, in case you change your mind!) If you really must keep something, promise yourself you won’t wear it out of the house. You can always frame an old t-shirt that you really love, (see this frame made specifically for the purpose) or make a cushion cover out of it.
5. Make peace with your body. You’re born with the body/face/hair/etc. that you have, and short of crazy, expensive plastic surgery procedures, you can’t change very much about it. So declare a cease-fire, and start to love your body. You don’t have mile-long legs? No worries. You might have a killer smile, or a great sense of humor, or perfect-straight-out-of-the-shower-hair. Learn to love yourself, and you will exude confidence and self-assurance, which is the foremost step in looking effortlessly chic.
6. Dress for the body you have, not for the body you want. While there’s many a time that you’ll found adorable things in a size that you could fit into “if-you-went-to-the gym-everyday-for-a-month” – resist the temptation. If you dress for the body you have RIGHT NOW, you’ll look a lot more comfortable in your skin, and you won’t waste your money on something that may very well sit at the back of your closet for the next three years, silently mocking you.
7. Find a great hairstylist and never cheat. Find someone who knows what to do with YOUR hair, and stick with them. A good hairstylist may not come cheap, but a good haircut is the foundation for looking good. You need to find someone who can show you what to do with your hair with minimal upkeep. Another, cheaper option is to find a good salon that does student haircuts (and I mean haircuts BY, not necessarily FOR students). Toni and Guy in Paddington, Sydney, do a $25 haircut that is supervised by an Art Director. If you can’t afford the $$$, that might be the way to go. When going to the hairdresser’s, take along clippings of haircuts you like, and ask the stylist if any of them would work for your hair type/budget/lifestyle.
8. Don’t be afraid of fashion, but know what trends to avoid. There’s nothing wrong with being fashion forward, but beware of becoming a fashion victim. If you buy too many “trendy” clothes every season, chances are, you’ll be standing in front of your closet whining, “I have nothing to wear!” and it’ll probably be true. Some items are fashionable but will never go out of fashion: those should be what you gravitate towards.
9. This one’s easy: Play up your strengths, play down your weaknesses. If you have a tiny waist, wear a belt to accentuate it. If you have gorgeous legs, wear skirts rather than pants. If you have beautiful hair, don’t always tie it back in a ponytail. If you don’t know what your strengths and weaknesses are, ask your best friend or significant other.
10. You don’t have to be a millionaire to look like a million bucks. While a few quality classics are key to a chic wardrobe, you don’t have to spend your entire paycheck on it. Ebay is your friend, as are vintage shops and flea markets. Just don’t forget #9, and resist buying something just because it’s cheap.
Stay tuned on how to dress for your body shape!
PS. Please tell me in the comments section what other topics you’d be interested in!