Reader Request: Perfectly Polished

Reader A. e-mailed me this conundrum:

You know how some women seem to always look fresh and pretty and manicured and wrinkle free….. well, that would not be me. Even when I try really hard, I can’t seem to pull off the “polished” look and it is so discouraging. Last weekend, I went to Nordstrom and decided to not wear the usual Alaskan attire of athletic pants and puffy coat—I put on simple black tights, a cute black corduroy Boden skirt, and a white tee. Simple. I felt pretty good when I left the house. An hour later, trying on some clothes in the dressing room, I was appalled at how shabby I looked!! Hair was frizzy and flat, the black tights and skirt felt too thick and overpowering for the bright sunny day that we were having, and the corduroy skirt looked old even though I only wore it 3-4 times!

This happens all the time. I don’t have a talent for shopping and don’t replace my clothes often. Maybe I am buying the wrong fabrics that date really fast, but the thing is, I don’t buy cheap trendy stuff—cashmere pills, tees lose shape after a few washes, corduroy—don’t even get me started.

I am in sore need of advice. I know that some of it is simply me being hypercritical of myself and it would probably be easier to look polished if I wore fine wool suits rather that simpler stuff. What are your thoughts?

For the record, when I look polished in my photos it’s because I’ve had time to primp, lint-roll, and tidy myself up beforehand. If you were to stop me in the street and take my photo, it’s more than likely that my face would be an oil slick, my skirt would be rumpled, and my hair would look a fright. Many, many women – myself included – don’t look polished and perfect every minute of every day.

Since I rarely look polished myself, I can only guess at how other women do it … but here are my guesses:

  • They’ve spent AGES honing their grooming routines: Polished women either have easy haircuts, easy hair, or the ability to style their hair in ways that stay put. They have also researched, tried, and bought cosmetics that work well with their skin and last for hours and hours without looking goopy or worn. They look after their nails, their brows, and their roots. They are personal grooming experts.
  • They touch themselves up frequently: Even a polished gal has to reapply sometimes. Every bathroom break is a chance to check for lint and clothing creases, apply some powder and lippy, and make sure everything is in place.
  • They wear clothing that fits them well: The quickest way to look unkempt and sloppy? Wear clothing that is too big or small, slides around on your body, or fits poorly in multiple ways. A close-but-comfortable fit means you can go about your day without constantly readjusting your garments.
  • They keep it simple: Every polished woman I’ve ever seen has been in a sleek, minimalistic ensemble. A key piece of jewelry or a statement-y accessory adds interest but, overall, she is purposely plain. Clean lines, lots of chic neutral colors, and classic styling.
  • They buy quality: I tried on a brand new Burberry trench coat a couple of months back, just for kicks. And you know what? It should’ve just looked like every other affordable London Fog trench in the world, but it DIDN’T. It looked gorgeous and classy and expensive and amazing. Quality can be thrifted, of course, as a used garment made well will generally weather better than a new garment made shoddily. But it also stands to reason that a new garment made well will weather even better than a used one, especially if it is in the care of someone for whom “polished” is a priority.  Some cheap stuff can look expensive, but nearly all expensive stuff looks expensive.

My impression is that it takes time, money, and loads of effort to look polished. It seems effortless, but it isn’t. It’s effort-FULL. I’m certain there are a few women out there who can grab anything hanging in the closet, slap on some lip balm, and look ready for a board meeting, and a few more who can do “polished” on a shoestring budget. But the vast majority of women who look perpetually polished do so by pouring lots of personal and financial resources into their efforts.

Now, few of us are likely to start doing all five of these things ourselves. Especially not all at once. But if polished is a priority, start with touch-ups, properly fitting clothing, simple ensembles. It should move you in the right direction. Grooming routines and quality garments can be cultivated and procured on a much longer timeline, and doing so will help you define your own specific brand of polish.

Do you consider yourself to be perfectly polished? Care to share your secrets? Even if you’re less-than-polished at all times, how do you think the impeccably groomed and dressed of us keep it up so beautifully?

Image courtesy J.Crew.

  • http://seamstress-stories.blogspot.com poet

    I have the impression it helps if one has really clear skin, which can be influenced to some extent by what one eats and which products one applies, but which is also partly down to luck and genetics…

    • Anonymous

      no efense but i dont like it

    • anonymous

      as a dermatologist I just want to clear up some common misconceptions. Clear skin is genetic. Most adolescents will get a few pimples here and there but those who truly have acne absolutely cannot control their skin by simple dietary/cosmetic use. Many times the use of antibiotics and harsher drug treatments such as accutane can be used. Accutane’s side effects range from extremely dry skin (that is almost guaranteed to occur with most patients) to muscle aches, chronic red eyes, and even severe depression can occur. I know you probably did not mean offense to those that had acne but I wanted to clear it up since many of my (teenage and twenty year olds) that have acne have to live with the diet/hygiene misconceptions. I’m not so much talking about your comment as the article insisting this be one of their steps. A few points in this article are nonsensical.

      • Leo

        WhA? who cares if your a dermatologist. whats nonsensical is you commenting that this article is lol
        It helped me quite a bit..and I feel more confident following this advice.. I also recommended this to others and they too changed the way they do and handle themselves. Change in hygiene, taking care of their skin seemed number one on their list, and everything followed after that.

      • Maria Alvarez

        Absolutely agree with the dermatologist . I have great skin, even into my mid age. I have always had great skin and I did not always take care of it, especially the way I do now. On the other hand, I have a daughter who just turned 20, group up with very healthful eating habits where soda was not allowed ,minimum “junk food” if any… Home baked cookies here and there , chips when friends came over, no big macs, etc… Lots of fruits and veggies, soups, fish, chicken and rarely any beef, since I haven’t had any in 30 years, she has good hygiene habits, etc. and has had to deal with cystic acne…she has become a vegan, a vegetarian etc… Nothing seemed to help…no sugar and no dairy,,,nothing helped, I refused to have her take accutane and finally a dermatologist in NYC , has helped her clear up her infection with acne with supervised dosage of an antibiotic….so it is unfair to judge people again by your limited experience and perception of people….

  • http://ejegmama.blogspot.com/ Stephanie

    I doubt anyone would accuse me of being polished but I do have easy hair. It doesn’t have much curl to it and if I dry it and add just a touch of product it always looks pretty good. Its mostly just a genetic gift though.

  • http://www.relatablestyle.blogspot.com Lili @ Relatable Style

    Great advice, and I would like to add one more point: COLORS. YOUR COLORS.

    I know that a lot of people see this as optional to looking good, and to some degree it is (and I’m saying this as a fan!). BUT: Almost everyone has colors that make them look blah, grey, boring or even frumpy and muddy. For me, the frump-and-mud-look comes from wearing mid-to-dark brown. Eww. Not my color in so many ways. There are a lot of other colors that do not myke me shine. I’m a light person, and dark colors seem to suck all of my ability to look great from me. So that is another point. My best colors are like magic. There are a lot of ok colors that are ok. And then there are colors that are horrid. And that is how it is with more or less everybody.

    Before I get into writing a post of novel length, I’ll just stop here and say one more thing: Color analysis has been around for some time. The old systems of 4 types are exactly that: Old. Much better and more precise results can be achieved by taking a theoretical approach that groups people just as colors themselves are scientifically grouped: By chroma (how much a color is pure… or greyed), value (darkness or lightness of a color, i.e. amonuts of black or white in it) and color temperature (warm, neutral, cool). It is basically matching colors to fit your own coloring harmoniously – and the colors that suit you best determine where you land.

    If you’ve got any questions about that, you can contact me via the email address on my blog, as I don’t feel comfortable posting it in clear text here for ad bots to grab ;-)

    • http://positdesign.com chrisbean

      and colors DON’T need to be neutral to be polished.

      for example: I’m very very pale. In black, I look like a vampire, and white makes me look like a zombie. So I banned those colors from my wardrobe—or at least I don’t wear them near my face. (I haven’t found a substitute for black skinny jeans.)

      My neutrals are navy, grey, and caramelly-tobacco brown. I also have two colors (chartreuse and powder blue) and two brights (yellow and “hermes” orange).

      Every one of these colors looks really really good in combination with every other color. So my PALETTE is minimal overall, but I get to wear fun colors that are very deliberately selected to never clash or make me look bad.

      Plus, shopping is super-easy! No matter how cute something is, if it’s purple or red I will never buy it (or even glance at it on the rack).

  • http://www.fillupyourmug.blogspot.com Sarah R

    I normally don’t have time to post while working, but I stopped what I was doing to mention real quick:
    Don’t judge yourself based on what you look like in a store. The lighting is harsh (I wish I knew why, it doesn’t make me want to buy clothes.) and not at all flattering. A lot of times, I will buy something in a store and try it on at home instead. If I have to bring it back, oh well. I never feel happy when I see myself in a store mirror. I’m SURE you looked amazing!
    P.S. Black and white by itself can be harsh. Especially white near the face. Make sure you wear accessories near your face which make you sparkle! Even though red is my favorite color, I have blue eyes, and I’ve been wearing a lot more blue near my face. Makes my eyes POP.

    • jcb

      “Don’t judge yourself based on what you look like in a store. The lighting is harsh (I wish I knew why, it doesn’t make me want to buy clothes.) and not at all flattering. ”

      Agree with this 100%. There have been times when I left the house to go shopping thinking that I looked reasonably put-together, only to find a considerably more splotchy-faced, frizzy-haired version of myself upon stepping into the dressing room. I do think most real-world settings do not use that kind of lighting, and find solace in the fact that even the most polished woman I know probably wouldn’t think she looked great in those dressing rooms.

      • http://sololisa.com lisa

        Agreed, the lighting in dressing rooms is terrible and can make anyone second guess their own appearance.

  • Katie

    I have days when I’m amazed how polished I look – these days are pretty rare for clothes. Yesterday, my “polished” black pencil skirt twisted itself the entire 360 degrees of my waist while I walked home. Not so sophisticated.

    My best successes come with “easy” dresses – a couple of faux wraps, a jersey with a structured bodice, a basic sheath. These aren’t always the look I want, but when I’ve just GOT to look put together, they’re what I go for. I’ve gotten more polished more often by investing in solid foundational garments – good bras, long – leg panties (hot summers = sticky thighs = not polished or comfy), a great slip, and expensive tights. Worth it? for me, yes. Regular tights/hosiery don’t fit me – they’re not long enough and they ride down. The problem can be fixed if I find a pair I love by wearing undies outside tights, but that’s not always great for lump-prevention.

    Finally, for my face – a primer. I would not have believed it until I tried one in sephora. My skin looks smoother, and more even. My makeup stays on longer (even drugstore makeup looks better over a primer, as I recently discovered due to a household budget crunch). I like Hourglass Mineral Veil. It is oil-free and zinc based, so it has some natural sunscreen too.

    • theKatieKitten

      Have to agree with the primer suggestion.

  • http://weightbgone-court.blogspot.com Courteney @ Not a “diet” blog

    I feel the same way most of time. I also think the lighting in dressing rooms has much to do with it, its a way to show off every flaw, lump and bump on a woman’s body and every static hair. I think that by trying to be polished and not worrying about it but loving yourself is all that matters. When I do want to look polished I add a scarf. Scarves seem to say, “hey, I thought about the jeans and t-shirt I’m wearing enough to add a coordinating scarf.” I think it makes any outfit look polished without much work.

  • http://malepatternboldness.blogspot.com Peter

    OK, so I was in Bloomingdale’s yesterday in NYC and grabbed a frozen yogurt at their “Forty Carrots” restaurant midday. The to-go seating area is set up like a women’s powder room: the seats all face big round mirrors directly in front of you. Given that this was about 2 pm on a weekday, the place was packed, and there were a lot of affluent-looking women “of a certain age” there spooning frozen yogurt into their mouths, and they were constantly looking at themselves in the mirror and not looking to happy. But there was one woman there, who had to be at least 70, who didn’t stare at herself, she looked at others, and she looked fantastic. She was wearing BIG statement eyeglass frames and a BIG statement hat, she was tan-as-tan-can-be and wore frosted pink lipstick — not subtle. Around her neck she wore a long chiffon scarf. But you know, she looked like a movie star — not young — but confident and fun and POLISHED. I think the secret is keeping anything that’s going to need a lot of fussing — hair, eye make up — covered, and wearing one or two dramatic statement pieces that pull the eye. She smiled a lot and looked confident and happy, and it helped that everything she wore flattered her. But most of it was that she had dressed strategically — and it worked!

    • Anna

      Also she was more interested in the people around her than herself. RIght?

  • Georgina

    I’ve found good advice on clothing care online (e.g. how to wash/dry cashmere so that it lasts, rinsing silk in cold water with hair conditioner to restore the natural shine and softness) and that has helped my clothes stay ‘polished’. I thrift/eBay expensive clothes for around 5 – 10% of their original price (I decided that silk dresses were worth handwashing) and I make simple alterations to ensure a good fit (or ask my Mum for help!). I seem to pass for polished even though it’s far from the truth! Even though I don’t wear simple or plain clothes people often say how well ‘pulled together’ I look (a strange expression!) If you can find dresses that you like I think that is the easiest way to give the impression that you’ve made an effort – everything is pre-matched for you :-)

    I found an excellent beeswax balm that nourishes leather (it is colourless) so I keep my shoes/boots/bags in good condition that way (it even minimises scuffs). I’m definitely working on a shoestring budget and with minimal energy so I look for simple products that will work on everything.

    I find that if my face looks ok then I feel much more confident, whatever I’m wearing. I’ve been sorting through all my not-quite-right foundations and samples and finding what works for my skin. I’m building three kits – good skin/minimal make up, everyday polished (mineral powder – fast and easy) and extra coverage or evening out. It has taken a while as I’ve been testing the foundation over a whole day and in day light/artificial light but it is worth the effort as I now have simple solutions for my differing needs. I had three small make up bags so each combination has an easy to grab, permanent home. I’m now working on a similar system for eye make up. I feel so much better having small, easy, reliable routines in place and the time spent working them out really pays off. I like to be able to apply make-up and then pretty much forget about it.

    Best of luck with looking polished. I hope that you find a way to feel more confident too :-) I know what it is like to be very self-critical – no fun at all but it should mean that when you find a solution that pleases you you can relax a little.

    • http://corpgoth.blogspot.com/ Trystan (the CorpGoth)

      Caring for your garments is another part of it — just like taking good care with personal grooming, the better care you take of your clothes, shoes, & accessories, the more polished you will look.

      Keep shoes clean, shined, & scuff-free. Freshly iron clothes (knits can get wrinkled too! steam or iron them; a crinkly T-shirt doesn’t look as good as a smooth one). Don’t wear things that need mending or have stains or are starting to show signs of wear (fix it up or toss it out). These are all little things, but easy fixes that anyone on any budget can do to add polish.

      I may never get my hair to be less frizzy (40+ years & not much luck yet!), but I can always iron my clothes ;-)

  • Jean

    I laughed when I read this. I enjoy – thoroughly! passionately! – comments of that nature – “you always just throw something on and look great all the time” and that sort of thing. You nailed it when you said hours and hours of time and loads of money and thought. Bottom line is you will never look good if you are endlessly fussing with stray hair, or pushing wayward clothes and accessories around, or struggling to breathe in clothes that are too tight or bunching up clothes that are too loose. So you have to fix all those things, one by one, day by day, and your first attempt or your tenth may not be the answer. I’d add one more thing – don’t neglect that ‘good’ ultimately comes from the inside out. Everyone won’t be a buff looking fitness type but a regular, moderate exercise routine and sensible diet will do wonders for your posture, your skin and your attitude.

  • http://hal.cyondays.com Loren

    I am not an ‘always polished’ type of woman but I am working on looking nicer more often.
    I think the best secret is ‘finding clothes that suit and fit you’. The first time I bought a pair of dark wash jeans that fit my curves it was like a whole new person. I feel the same when I put on a fitted pencil skirt and heels.
    Secondly the hair. These days I have a super simple ‘pixie cut’, it does make me feel chic and polished but there are still days I look like I just rolled out of bed. If you don’t want to chop all your hair off, try a french twist. When my hair was longer I would put on a little de-frizz spray and put it in a french twist. Once you get the technique right it’s just as easy as a ponytail but looks more chic.

  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    Me? Polished? God no. I don’t even know where to start!

  • Georgina

    Oh! I forgot to say that a coat and/or jacket that you love will pay you back over and over again. I have a beautiful embroidered coat and I could wear it with jeans and trainers and all anyone sees is the coat!

  • http://www.befabulousdaily.us Cynthia

    I am definitely not perfectly polished in the particular way you’re talking about. I have no reason to wear perfectly pressed, perfectly neutral, dry clean only ensembles every day.

    I do try to buy well made clothes that fit. I try to stay clean, neat, and free of cat hair, and have all my head hairs pointing in a relatively intentional direction. But, some days I don’t even wear makeup because I can’t — any fragment of dust that gets in my eyes will make me miserable. And I don’t like to iron, either my clothes or my hair. So, I’m not willing to make the type of time investment that it would take to look like a J. Crew model daily, I guess.

  • lisa

    Sally’s advice is excellent. I would add the following to it. 1. Photograph your current outfits so that you can study them repeatedly. 2. Look for aspects that are sloppier than you would like. (For instance, I found that I can’t tuck in button front blouses or wear long scarves.) 3. Look for those aspects that succeed in looking polished. 4. Concentrate on creating 1 or 2 polished looks from head to toe (maybe one casual and one work outfit.) If you are starting from scratch even two outfits can be a challenge, so don’t try to revamp your entire wardrobe at once. 5. Find a good tailor. Fit is imperative to a polished look. (Finding the tailor is the hard part. Actually getting fitted is relatively quick and painless.)

  • http://modernmrsdarcy.com Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy

    It’s official: my dream of looking simultaneously perfectly and effortlessly polished is dead. Darn.

    For me, I think if my hair looks kempt, I’m 80% of the way to looking polished-enough. And I don’t enjoy shopping, so when I am buying clothes I buy quality–so I don’t have to go shopping again to replace them anytime soon.

    I’d add–a confident attitude can be the difference between drab and fab. But I’m sure the Already Pretty readers know this already!

  • http://livelovework.wordpress.com/ Chrysta

    I feel like I never pull off polished and I’ve learned to embrace my wildness. My curly hair is rarely perfectly coiffed and I love it’s quirkiness and unpredictability. My curvy body means that clothes almost never fit exactly right and so I spend the day adjusting and I love my curves! I started feeling a lot happier when I stopped trying to be the perfectly primped lady and embraced the slightly off-kilter, unique and fun individual I am. Most importantly, I dress in a way allows me to feel comfortable and confident in my own way instead of trying to mimic someone else’s style.

    That said, I do try to look presentable. I blot my face every time I use the ladies room to minimize shine. If I’m going shopping, I wear clothing that will come on/off easily, with wide open necklines to minimize clothing contact with my hair and face that can make my hair frizzy and my makeup smeared. And I wear minimal makeup when shopping- just a little mascara, blush and lip gloss will usually do the trick. And I try to remember that no one really looks glamorous under florescent fitting room lights.

  • http://healthymamarama.blogspot.com Kristen

    I’m not sure if I’d consider myself polished, but I feel pretty good most days. My style is pretty classic and I only buy things that fit well and work with what I already have. My hair is often pulled back — sleek and in a ponytail or bun. I think the reason why I feel polished is because I stopped wearing anything fussy — tucked in shirts or things that need to be constantly adjusted. I work in the legal profession, so business casual doesn’t fly, yet I feel stylish and comfortable all day. Even when running around.

    My opinion is that polished = not fussy.

  • Miss T

    A skirt is gonna wrinkle when you get in and out of the car. Black is gonna attract lint. It won’t just happen to you, it happens to everybody. You have to have confidence in your choices for the day, and remember that when you left the house you thought you looked fine, so what you chose will be “fine” all day.

  • http://thedreamersandme.blogspot.com/ La Rêveuse

    A few things that help me:

    A great haircut. Go to a good salon, ask for their best stylist. Or find someone with hair like yours with a great cut and ask who did it. A great stylist will make your hair work for you. I can get out of the shower and pretty much go–and many people stop me to ask my stylist’s name. She’s given me many cuts, from long to a pixie, and they all work for me. And if yours is long, keep an elastic on your keychain to do a quick pony when needed.

    I agree with the color thing–find what works for you, and stick with variations. I look best in blues/jewel tones, black, white and gray. When I stick to these, it works. Plus, my wardrobe works together. When I wear a white top, I always add jewelry and/or a scarf.

    Accessories: a pair of silver hoops dresses up anything and works for my coloring. A few interesting bracelets or necklaces dress things up, too. I have a ton of scarves, but tend to wear just a few. They do dress up anything. And dressier shoes make jeans, a t, a scarf and earrings look great. Add a cute sweater or jacket and it’s an outfit.

    As for t shirts–thicker fabric, a blend (cotton wears out and stretches out), and “nicer” finishing makes it look good for longer. I always look for girlie fitted t’s, too. Also helps to know what necklines work best for your own body type, too. Learned by trial and error, of course. :)

    Corduroy is hard to keep looking polished–I have a couple of either wool or poly dress pants that always look great, but the cords I have rarely stay crisp looking.

    If you’re a grease-spot magnet like me, Dawn dish liquid is the only thing that gets them out for me, even after being set in the dryer. :) You can’t see them when wet! That’s my excuse anyway.

    Also: for nails, keep them short, and if you have a minute, quick dry polish is a lifesaver. Sally Hansen’s is my fave–the brush makes for one or two stroke application (seriously) and it’s cheap. Pale, pearly colors look good on just about everyone and don’t show chips or wear as much. I often do a coat either right before bed (it dries in a minute) or just before I leave (so it cures a bit more in the car). I have 2 kids (4 and 1) so I don’t have time for the 5 coat 8 hour dry routine. If you keep a cute color on your toes, it lasts a long time (like a month!)

    I do a quick pumice of my feet daily in the shower, and lotion on them before I sleep, and my feet stay fairly decent looking. As long as you don’t get too close, anyway. :) Good enough for me.

    As for brows, I learned years ago to wax my own with those rip strips. A box is about 8 bucks and lasts me a year, so it’s a huge savings, and I can do it when I need to, just before bed. Takes 5 minutes, but worth it to keep Chewbacca away.

    And keep your lipstick handy. :) I have a standard color that works with everything and keep them stashed everywhere.

    • http://www.zahnzone.blogspot.com Lisa Z

      This is some very good advice and all things I can follow. Many I already do, but maybe too sporadically. I agree about the wax strips from the drug store, Target, wherever: Sally Hansen wax strips are cheap and work great for eyebrows, etc.

      I have never heard of the Dawn thing but will definitely be buying some!

      • Kimberley

        if you get grease on your clothes cornstarch or baby powder put on the spot and set overnight then brush off then wash like normal and it is gone. The powder soaks up the grease!

      • Carrie

        my son is a car mechanic and just mentioned this one when I told him about Dawn liquid: Coke! cuts right through the grease before you throw it in the wash. Read him the riot act the first time he threw his coveralls in my washer without pretreating, and the entire washer/dryer drums were covered in grease and oil! grrrrr. Buying 2 bottles of spray treatment every week was costing a mint, so he asked the guys for help, and this was their cheapest tip – they all get in trouble if their work coveralls are gross!

  • http://www.stylinstacy.com Stacy

    I think it is very hard for people to look polished all the time, but there are things that help. I know I always look more polished when my hair is up. I can do updo’s like nobody’s business! Like the other commenter’s have noted, having well fitted clothes is another thing that can make you look polished. I feel that generally I look polished at work, but at home that is a whole different story. Oh, and dresses seem to work so well in looking polished. I have a super comfy dress with a great cut. I just throw that on with a nice pair of heels and an updo and I look thoroughly polished without trying too hard at it.

  • Chrissy

    Yeah, I’m not the most polished person either. I was in the suburbs the other day and shocked by how perfect some of the moms looked in track pants and t-shirts. Thats not me. Sometimes I try to look polished. But most of the time, I just accept who I am and hope that my unpolished look fits in with my style of interested peices found on the target clearance rack.

  • http://spidersilkstockings.blogspot.com/ Cel

    I am so not polished. My hair pretty much cancels me out there, because it’s either long and loose and all over the place, or tucked up in the messiest bun ever. Not to mention I like bright colours and loud prints, and I tend to think neutral solids when I think polished.

  • http://lladybird.wordpress.com Lauren

    fit is SO IMPORTANT when it comes to looking polished & put-together. i can’t stress that enough. you can wear ugly/tacky clothing, and as long as it fits you, it looks good. kind of weird to think about, but i guess most people don’t associate cheap clothing with a good fit, so it automatically looks nicer.

  • http://notdeadyetstyle.blogspot.com/ Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    For me it’s usually The Hair. Mine is very fine, curly and sometimes fuzzy. I do like it but it’s the opposite of “polished”. I notice on the very few occasions I’ve straightened it, I look more pulled-together (but not like “me”). I totally agree on fit of clothing too – my sin is to go with the slightly bigger size for comfort, then look a little sloppy : >

  • Lisa

    On wearing clothes that fit: find a good seamstress! Clothing rarely fits perfectly right off the rack, especially if it’s something thrifted.

    My favorite way to update my wardrobe is to get, for example, is to get a $10 dress at a thrift store in a fabric and pattern that I love (maybe with an outdated silhouette) and then spend another $10 having it fitted at the tailor down the block.

    $20 later, I have a new dress that I adore, that fits me perfectly, and that is probably different from what everyone else is wearing that season. And I’ve still spent less than if I’d bought it new =)

  • ParisGrrl

    Looking through some old photos, I was horrified to see how many times my clothes just didn’t fit as well as they should. That doesn’t fly anymore–to stay in my closet, each item must be a flattering fit, a flattering color, a flattering style, and (with only a few exceptions) be something I can wash and maintain at home. And it’s an interesting phenomenon, the more I love each item of clothing I own, the more I find they can work together and send me out the door looking and feeling good.

  • Carrie

    I am certainly not about to win the MPP award, but I think I’ve grown in this area over the past few years by experimenting and learning a few key things. I targeted the areas that I felt were looking “unkempt” by mid-day (oily skin and limp, shapeless hair are my afflictions in an extremely humid coastal Texas climate) and found some solutions that work for me:

    1) Primer or oil-free mattifier–I apply a small amount of Caudalie’s Vinopure on my forehead and cheeks in the mornings, and it really cuts down on shine accumulating throughout the day. Vinopure is expensive ($50 for a small tube), but I’m still using the same tube I bought a year ago! I find it makes my skin look so nice that I often skip foundation.

    2) Eyelid primer–I apply a tiny bit of Nars’ eyelid primer under my eye and on my eyelid; this keeps a sheer wash of shadow, a bit of eyeliner, and mascara from migrating.

    3) Experimenting with various cheap volumizing shampoos, investing in a quality hairdryer (Elchim, about $45) that does a better blow-dry job, and setting my hair on Velcro rollers for about 10 minutes while I get ready in the mornings enhances the hairstyle for me to the point that it looks much more polished.

    4) Accept the inevitable and plan for it:

    ~I don’t even try to wear dark eyeshadow anymore unless it’s only for a short evening out. Even on top of the Nars product, my skin is so oily that dark eyeshadow creases visibly.
    ~I keep a stash of things in my purse and office desk that helps with minor touch-ups: concealer; lip gloss; Q-tips for wiping stray eyemakeup; blotting papers; travel toothbrush/paste/floss/mouthwash; a stain-removal pen.

    5) Paying $30 for a pedicure once a month goes a long way towards helping me feel polished, since in Texas sandal season lasts the majority of the year.

    6) Keeping shoes and purses looking updated and unscuffed; avoiding outdated silhouettes in clothing; favoring longer, cleaner, leaner lines with minimal ruffles (granted, this is a personal preference).

    The time and money I have put into evolving this system has really been worth it; I feel less frumpy and more confident when employing the above tricks and tips… which may or may not work for others!

  • Erin

    For me, here’s what works for “polished”: 1) Being at a healthy weight. During overweight times (like now), it’s much easier for me to look schlumpy or have a hard time finding a good fit. 2) Blow dry my hair and have a good cut. 3) Makeup, with occasional touch ups. 4) Done nails and toenails. 5) Sally Hansen leg spray. 5) A great bra and Spanx. 6) Shoes I can walk in very quickly, and could jog in if necessary. 7) Impeccable posture.

  • http://www.futurelint.blogspot.com FutureLint

    I feel like my hair and make-up (or lack thereof) look pretty polished most of the time. My main problem is wrinkles. Um, either I can’t sit down all day, or within 10 minutes I seem to be a wrinkled mess and there is no rectifying it. I figure everyone else has the same problem, so I don’t worry about it too much!

    • Eleanorjane

      It is possible to more or less avoid wrinkles by being careful about what you buy. I always clench my fist for 20 seconds around the fabric of the trousers etc that I’m planning to buy. If it comes out wrinkled after that, then I don’t buy it. It is (here at least, and I’m sure you’ve got a better selection where you are) possible to buy skirts and trousers that don’t wrinkle. Even some shirts (but less of them). I tend to wear knit tops, not shirts ‘cos a) I prefer the look and b) I don’t have to iron and wrinkle during the day.

  • Becky

    I read once that when Katharine Hepburn traveled, she would bring multiples of each clothing item. If her simple, crisp white shirt got stained or wrinkled, she’d go powder her nose and exchange it for a fresh one.

  • Vive

    This post makes me smile. My entire adult life I’ve been told that I’m very polished — it has even shown up on job evaluations. Me? I wish I were more funky and wild! Some people need advice on being polished. I need Sal’s post from yesterday about bringing JOY to my dressing. I need to give myself permission to let loose a little.

    Ha! But I’ll echo the comments about making sure clothes fit. I’ve never been comfortable if something doesn’t look and feel just like I want it, very Princess and the Pea. My mom would say, “You’re not getting married in it!” But I bet that’s contributed to the sense that I look polished. Clothes that fit, simple lines and colors, not too much fussiness.

    That said, you’ve got to figure out how to incorporate polished and still look like yourself — just as I’m learning how to incorporate funk and still look like me. Which of Sal’s suggestions really feel like you? Those are the ones to reach for. Oh, and stay out of dressing rooms! Everyone’s a hot mess in a dressing room.

  • Tracey

    I think the single most important key to looking polished is not about what you wear but about you. If you fidget and fuss with your clothes it will not matter if you are wearing Chanel or K-Mart special. The more you fuss, the more attention you draw to yourself and people won’t care what clothes you wear.

    That said, clothes that fit (again, price is no matter if it doesn’t fit right) are crucial. The amount of fussing/fidgeting is proportional to how your clothes fit (or don’t fit).

    I have a small wardrobe of clothes but I love each piece. If I don’t love it, I don’t buy it. If I can’t see wearing it a year down the road I don’t usually buy it. I don’t want a huge wardrobe of clothes. I want good looking clothes that fit and express my style and personality–not the latest trends and someone else’s vision of what my style should be.

  • rb

    I would say I am probably perceived as polished, or at least on the polished end of the spectrum, but I could completely identify with Reader A’s sentiments about looking in the changing room mirror and being surprised. I think all of us have had that experience!

  • Michelle

    I agree about the fit of clothing being important to look polished. The fit of clothing and the quality of fabric.

    I often get told I look very polished. The days I do look polished – its some effort. I’ve usually curled or straightened my hair in the morning. I’ve put on (smashbox) primer under my makeup and spent a little more time on it. My outfit isn’t too fussy. My nails are done, my clothes well ironed and lint free. Its those days I get the “polished” comments and compliments.

  • http://www.cohabitatingcloset.blogger.com Rad

    I gotta say, I’d rather look casual than polished. Polished suggests a need to “perform” all the time, but I live in a big, busy city and have many things to balance (literally, on my arms and shoulders). I am also fortunate to be in a field where a little weird goes a long way (positively). However, despite my impression that I am all over the place, co-workers have expressed that they like my style, and I seem quite put together. Maybe reader A needs a few hints (mine major ritual is quick washing my face in cold water through out the day for oil control- so not sophisticated), but it is also possible that she sees herself in a far harsher light than others do.

  • spacegeek

    I have always wanted to look polished and sleek. That has been my goal for very long. But I was born with curly fine hair and curves for miles, even when I was 25 lbs thinner.

    For me fit of clothing and making sure my face looked good has been a hallmark. Primers under foundation and eye makeup are amazing! I learned that a long coat/jacket over jeans brings everything up a notch. Good foundations including a bra that fits the girls properly and also Spanx helps too.

    What no one has mentioned but what also helps considerably, is confidence!! As I’ve matured, I have gotten so much more comfortable with myself.
    Yeah, I’m heavier than I’d like, but I’m going to wear clothes that make me feel good, even if it means I have to have a wardrobe that has several different sizes! I want to look good and feel good.

    Finally, and I know this is controversial, I straightened my curly hair. I worked with curls for the first 40 years, and I think I’ll spent the next 40 with straight hair. I love having straight hair (have done it for over a year now) and it finally makes me feel polished. Love it!

  • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

    Friends, I’ve been having problems with my hosting AGAIN, and the site has been pulled down several times today. Sorry for the inconvenience, and desperately hoping that no one’s comments are getting lost!

  • Colleen

    I am not “polished” in the classic sense but one of the most frequent comments I get on my style is that I look “put together.” Here are the essentials:

    1. I do indeed have a grooming routine I’ve perfected over about 15 years. I am deft at applying makeup tastefully (or outrageously if the occasion calls for it – I love me some drag queen lashes). I have oily skin and without primer and waterproof everything my eye makeup melts off. I also take really good care of my skin and wear light coverage makeup to show it off.

    2. I was born with cooperative, incredibly thick hair that I take great advantage of. My hair is never plain – I do everything from 40s victory rolls to 50s pincurl sets to 60s beehive styles every day. Failing that I throw it up in a chic scarf, Rosie the riveter style, or in a snood with a hair flower. I also dye my own hair at home and don’t let my roots get over 3/4″.

    3. I use color and pattern strategically. Today that means a leopard chiffon head scarf and a b&w polka dot dress (small dots, subtle) with a turquoise necklace matching my turquoise shoes. All of it is on the loud side without competing with each other. I find that if there is color coordination it really draws an outfit together that might otherwise look chaotic.

  • http://www.thebigsalad.blogspot.com Leigh

    For me, the best way to look polished is to have good posture! It’s free, and it works wonders. Stand up straight and walk with purpose, and you’ll be amazed at the difference.

    This is one thing my mother drilled into me for years, and she was absolutely right.

    • Eleanorjane

      I’m loving yoga for helping my schlumpy posture. I guess pilates, ballet or other forms of dance and maybe even something like swimming would help too.

      Also, a decent bra if you’re blessed in the chest area. :)

      • http://positdesign.com chrisbean

        and just as importantly: a decent bra if you’re NOT super-blessed in the chest area. There is no excuse to slum at victoria’s secret or the like! Get you to a professional bra fitter stat!

        The first time I did that, in high school, I learned that I was not a 32AA, but a B/C cup. No wonder all my clothes looked and felt awful on me! Twenty years later (and about as many pounds heavier) and wearing 36Bs/34Cs, I revisited a serious lingerie shop, and left with two new bras: one 32D and the other 32DD.

        WHO KNEW? not me!
        Architecture.

  • http://www.therealfoodfamily.com Julie

    Sal’s tips are really good ones. For me, I feel most polished in clothes that fit impeccably, are classic in shape, but also have something special or slightly funky to keep things fun. I’m a big fan of a well placed ruffle, an interesting neckline on an otherwise classic dress, funky shoes and lots of accessories. I echo the sentiment of several others here that simple jeans and a tshirt can be elevated by what you choose to pair them with. If I’m wearing a super simple outfit, I pile on a bunch of funky bracelets, roll the ankles of my jeans and wear my favorite towering platforms,or choose eclectic vintage earrings that make a big statement.

    And don’t forget your most important accessory- your hair! Find something that works with your texture and personal style, and maintain it impeccably. Naturally curly? Go with it, but invest in products that add shine and keep your curls bouncy and fresh. My hair is pin straight, and I wear it in a bob anywhere from just under my chin to just below my shoulders. The key is to keep your color glossy, the ends trimmed and healthy, and the cut fresh, no matter what your texture.

    I’ve also recently took a “love it or leave it” approach to my wardrobe. I have a history of buying (and wearing) clothes that are just fine. Nothing special. But OK. I’ve been slowly purging those things from my wardrobe. I keep a bag on the floor of my closet, and if at the end of the day I didn’t feel great in a component of my outfit, it goes in the bag. I either donate it, or alter it to make it right, but either way… if its not fabulous, its gone. My goal is to have a smaller, perfect wardrobe of pieces that pair well, make me feel great, and looks amazing.

    • Angel

      Thanks Julie for the tips – these work!

  • http://ohjolielaide.blogspot.com Argentee (Oh Jolie Laide)

    Posture is a big key. Head up, chest out, pelvis tucked and shoulders down make a big difference. I have a dance teacher who outweighs me by a good 25 pounds but she always looks amazing, even in workout clothes, because her carriage is gorgeous. (Plus, she smiles and pulls her hair back so you can see her face.)

    I usually tend to think that weight has a lot to do with it. When my body is more sleek I wear clothes better and that adds to the polished feeling. But when I started dancing with this teacher I was really struck by just how much of a person’s presentation is in posture. So these days I’m doing my Bar Method and working that angle.

    • rb

      That is such a good point about weight/posture. Something to keep in mind!

  • Emily

    Can I say something honestly here?

    Everyone here has given great advice, but the truth is that I find people who are too polished intimidating. Very intimidating.
    I LIKE people with frizzy hair, juice boxes popping out of their purses, comfortable shoes, wrinkled skirts – people who look like they live real lives, in real homes, with real issues. Those are the most interesting, most capable, most caring and spontaneous people I know. Is it just me?

    • Carrie

      Erin, I definitely hear what you’re saying (and I’m intimidated of women with an uber-high level of polish, maybe wearing Chanel suits or whatever), but I’m a little uncomfortable with the potential dichotomy you might be unintentionally drawing here–I think it’s possible to look polished AND be “interesting…capable…caring… spontaneous.” I have a Ph,D., am writing a book on gospel music, prioritize relationships with human beings, and am considered a pretty funny chick (i.e.–I think I clock in as reasonably interesting, capable, etc.), but those qualities aren’t mutually exclusive with my desires, efforts, and occasional successes in looking put-together.

    • Annika

      Oh, I agree. There is such a thing as too polished. To me a “perfect” polish would indicate either lack of self confidence, a person suffering from “perfection syndrome” or someone with way too much time on their hands choosing to use too much of that time for grooming. It could of course just be that the person in question has perfect grooming as a hobby. But having a busy life usually means not being “perfectly” polished. I like someone who is “pleasantly polished”, clean, well put together.

    • Carrie

      I’m so sorry–I mean to write “Emily,” not “Erin”!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Hmm. I’m not attempting to imply that every last one of us must make polished a priority. Not at all! I certainly don’t – and even if I did, I just don’t think it’s in my nature or genetic deck to pull it off.

      Just offering some options for those interested in cultivating a more polished presence.

      • Emily

        Oh no, Sal, I didn’t mean to say that you were implying that.
        And Carrie, I do hear what you are saying. I am an academic, too, and there is a thing in academe about women who like clothes “too much.” I’ve been on the receiving end of it myself on occasion. I don’t mean to say that someone who is polished isn’t interesting or exciting or caring – or even that you shouldn’t want to have more polish, more finish.
        I just find I gravitate towards the person whose lipstick is on her teeth, or the person whose tights have runs – maybe because despite my own best efforts, that’s usually me, too. I have always been and will always be the nerd I was in high school, and someone who is really polished and perfectly groomed tends to make me feel like a gormless, tongue-tied 14 year old math nerd again.
        All I am trying to say, I guess, is that it is okay sometimes to be the person in the wrinkled skirt. Some days are just like that.

        • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

          Totally!

  • Annika

    To me polished would be :
    1. Hair that is well cut and clean
    2. Face with skin that is being nourished and basic make up routine in place
    3. Eyebrows well kept
    4. Hands and nails well kept
    5. Clothing that fit you, that is clean and whole.
    6. Outfit where the various pieces are picked out to work together, not randomly picked out
    7. Shoes that look new and clean, no marks.
    8. Good posture
    9. Confidence in attitude and movement
    10. One great accessory or piece of jewelry

  • http://chiralcraft.wordpress.com Laura

    Great comments here from all angles. All this stuff does take time and attention, and everyone’s got their own inborn advantages/disadvantages to deal with, and different levels of patience and interest with figuring out how to deal with hair, skin, colors, fit, etc. I find the “beauty-industrial complex” insidious in how it promotes this fiction that everything is effortless, that some people just look lovely and polished all the time, and the rest of us are somehow inferior because we require effort (or don’t want to put in the effort).

    Two quick thoughts: first, a changing room, ironically, is not the best place to evaluate your style. As others have mentioned, the lighting is often horrible, and you’ve presumably been trying on things, mussing your hair and disarranging your undergarments and are maybe a little sweaty, frustrated or tired. The other is that we are indeed often our own worst critics – my eye tends to go to my problem spots first, as opposed to when I look at other people where I see the big picture. Consider taking your full-length picture with a camera, and look at the resulting photo as if you are looking at someone else, not yourself. Do you notice different things, or focus on something different than you might while looking in the mirror?

  • Anne

    I think looking polished and effortless requires front loading the work. 2-3 times a year I haul out everything for the season and look it over. I check to see if it’s worn, spotted or still fitting. When I go shopping it’s a soup- to -nuts kind of process. It’s grueling, but then I know that every thing goes together. When I get home I wash and iron everything and then take what needs it to the tailors (with the shoes I plan to wear) During this time I trot out my shoes and polish them. I tend to wear a uniform of sorts; for a while it bothered me. I felt like I was in a fashion rut, now I know that these are looks that work for me. It also allows me to get out the door every day looking presentable with a minimum of fuss.

    We have had a miserably wet spring where I live and I found that my uniform really saw me through well: ankle pants, patent leather ballet flats, cotton sweater and scarf. Several years ago I picked up an apple green raincoat on clearance. I have pulled it on almost every day since April and I think it has kept me from slipping into a weather related funk.

    My last two cents: embrace a little lycra. A little bit of stretch helps clothes fit more comfortably. It seems to let things cling where they should and allows for some ease where they shouldn’t.

  • http://sololisa.com lisa

    The comments I’ve been reading are really interesting and most readers have nailed the essence of what I think as “polished,” so there’s not much more to add. I will say this though: Sometimes being polished is more about attitude and confidence than being able to stay wrinkle-free the entire day. Nobody notices the creases in your outfit if you don’t fidget, stand up straight with your shoulders back and a smile on your face, and you look people in the eye when you speak to them.

  • anya

    Hey, when I was in high school i would wander at some girls who looked perfectly prim and polished, when me, despite the white tailored uniform button down and gray pencil looked a bit disheveled. And i found why with time ( like 6 years, now i’m 23):
    1. skin – mine is pretty dry now, so foundation and blush and lip-stain is enough. blush and rosy lips go well under fluorescent harsh lights.
    2. hair – my biggest problem since is thin and light and greases easily ( i wash every other day at the best scenario) – blown dried , or good pony tail.
    3. clothes. i’m curvy, and fit is difficult. what goes over my boobs bunches on my hips, etc. keep that in control
    4. nails – polished
    5. shoes clean, variety is good , in order to adapt to every weather/occasion
    6. accessories – they make you look more polished more feminine the look more intentional. the bag, the rings, earring a scarf necklace, gloves play a huge role in outfit. detail adds interest
    7 fabrics – if your lower ab is flat as a board, ignore this line. else read:
    cotton, ponte and unlined skirts will stretch over tummy when you sit however perfect the fit. in time this will tire the material. replace when they can’t hold a work they. my mom’s a pro seamstress, works in costume industry and agrees with me . her advice : waist a little higher and flowing constructs – the easy way . fitted AND lined or newish garments the other way. In between don’t expect lightweight cotton pencil skirts/cord/linen to look wrinkle free. Just own the casual causality of the look.

  • Marguerite/@chicspace

    Actually it’s pretty easy. Take a look at each woman you see who looks polished, or whatever. Then describe to yourself why she looks polished (or whatever look you’re envious of). Check makeup. Check hair. Check the silhouette. Check the shoes (CHECK THE SHOES). Check color. Pattern. Materials. Note EVERYTHING, write it down on your phone or a small notebook. Keep doing this. Look for similarities among the looks you like. That’s what you want to look like. I love pattern, but the women I envied did not wear patterns. BIG NEWS. Stop wearing a lot of patterns. Until I liked a million different mixed patterns. Anyway, it may not be a constant, but know what you like to see…and do that.

  • Marguerite/@chicspace

    Also, take pictures of yourself frequently. Decide how you need to edit yourself.

  • QuiteLight

    I have an unrequited love for looking polished. I had a mature office mate in her late 60’s – early 70’s who always looked polished & lovely, a proper ’50’s-style lady, but she was charming & unpretentious at the same time. Lipstick always just so, clothes just so, powdered & combed….

    Aaaaaaand I looked like a hot rumpled mess next to her. I’ve always done well with grooming maintenance (trimmed, cleaned, filed & polished (toes only), tweezed), but I’m missing some crucial style elements. My hair is whimsically changeable (fine, straightish hair that floofs or flattens in an instant) without ridiculous amounts of “product”, which I’m just not up for on a daily basis. And that’s with a good cut!

    I have a basic wardrobe of decently fitting pieces, but they’re…. boring. And usually rumpled by noon, even when freshly ironed. They don’t really feel like “me”, and I think that shows.

    But when I occasionally snap & bitch about these things, I usually get funny looks from my friends, who say they’ve never seen my hair frizzy, or me looking sloppy. I think it comes down to the whole package. They’re looking at my calm demeanor, my posture, & not critiquing my flaws. So, while I wait for the Gods of Style to grant me flair, I’ll put my energy into my yoga practice.

  • http://www.emilymcintyre.com Emily

    I tend to equate “polished” with more classic lines, verging for me toward a business/preppy look. I try to nurture my personal style by incorporating some favorite colors while sustaining the silhouette. For example, for a business meeting recently I wore a pencil skirt in khaki with some unique piping on it, along with an easy navy sleeveless top and a navy silk scarf around the neck.

  • Rose

    I think that the days that I feel the most polished are also the days when I feel confident about my work, how I feel emotionally and physically, and how organized my mind is. If I feel scattered, it shows in my face and on my clothes. If I got going on the right foot in the morning (or prepared well the night before) I feel awesome and that shows in how I carry myself. In reading some of the comments (many of which I agree with!) I noticed some people mentioning feeling healthy, and that would contribute as well. If I feel fat and ugly, then it doesn’t matter how nice my outfit is, I feel fat and ugly. The mirror will tell me what I’m expecting it to tell me. So it’s important to make sure you are in the right headspace – affirm your beauty, appreciate your flaws, get your mind organized, and believe you can take on the world.

    Then, I would also suggest that it’s important to balance the basics and the accessories. I think there’s a very fine line between too simple and too accessorized. We hear all the time that it’s all about the accessories, and yet I have days where I get to work and feel kinda off – and I take off my earrings or another accessory, and drop them in my purse, and suddenly I can focus again. But then I have other days where I look in the mirror and just feel plain. So I would say there is a balance. Being clean, neat and modest is critical, but accenting properly can just be the “polishing” touch.

  • Rachel

    My problem is similar I don’t understand how moms with small children manage to look put together. I have 2 kids (5 and 2) and most days I’m lucky to get out of the house with my hair brushed and then I see women who have more kids than me looking perfectly put together. I really don’t understand it.

  • http://www.geekthreads.blogspot.com Audi

    This advice is spot on Sal. However, I’m calling bullshit on your disclaimer, because I’ve SEEN you after a whole day of shopping and running around, and you still look fabulous! I think it’s two things: your hair is resistant to mussing because it’s naturally curly and you cut/style it in a way that lets the curls and waves do what they do best; also, you don’t wear a lot of makeup that can end up looking smudgy by the end of the day. Two keys to looking polished!

  • http://www.meganmaedaily.com/ Megan Mae

    I wouldn’t say I’m polished, but I have definitely seen improvement in the past 2 years.I can look through my blog and see that my ‘good’ days outweigh the rumpled. And once you start making the effort, it does get easier. It becomes routine to put yourself together, so you get more adept at it. Making that first effort is really what it takes. I still have days where my skirt is wrinkled, my hair is wonky and I forget that my lips are paler than the rest of my face.. but I wake up the next day and get on with it.

  • Lorena

    I dream of being polished.
    However it is still a dream- i make efforts, i really do.
    I go to the salon once a month to get a mani and pedi. I dye my hair ALMOST every month. I keep a blog to check how I am doing but I still have a long way to go.

  • http://stylemadebyhand.com/ Susan Tiner

    There are some fabulous ideas here! I agree that the hair cut is key and for some, like me, not easy to achieve in terms of a polished look. I loved Peter’s story of the movie star lady!

  • Cowgirl Lawyer

    I am frequently told I am polished, although I hope not perfectly so! I think the most critical element is how you carry yourself–shoulders back, head up, make eye contact. Also, be capable of walking gracefully in your shoes! This is great news for all of us, because it has nothing to do with how you wear your hair or the color of your lipstick.

  • http://thepocketchronicles.blogspot.com Kristina L

    My favorite “polishing” tricks for hot summer months:
    – Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets, for getting rid of icky grease and shine
    – Fructis anti-frizz serum, for keeping frizzy bangs a little more in check
    – Olay total effects UV moisturizer + touch of foundation, for evening skin tone without looking heavily made-up

    But my favorite way of adding “polish” is just giving a little more effort than is required. Like you, Sal, I prefer to wear skirts. My co-workers have been known to show up in sweat pants, and for a while they asked “Why are you so dressed-up?” whenever I wore a skirt. But once they got used to it, they stopped asking. I feel so much more polished and put-together in a skirt!

  • http://clownfishgirl.deviantart.com Stephanie

    I am definitely not “perfectly polished” and don’t really aspire to be either. I do try and wear clothes that flatter me and express my personality, but the whole eyebrow tweezing and layers of make-up thing is way over my head. Tweezing especially strikes me as too much time wasted in front of the mirror, fretting about tiny little hairs that are perfectly natural and are just going to grow back anyway. I certainly don’t have perfect skin, and while I’m willing to spend money to keep it looking clean, that’s about it. I understand that make-up routines can help other people feel more confident, but the minimalist approach has always worked well for me– in fact, all of the effort to cover up my complexion with primers and foundation and concealers would just emphasize the fact that I thought there was something wrong to begin with, which I don’t, so why bother?

    Not to imply that people who are into these things are vain, but it’s just never been my thing. Then again, I don’t really work in a fussy (or even “regular”) office… Even when I did work in an office last summer, I’ve found that people in the environmental field are pretty relaxed about clothing. Lots of people bike to work… Thrifted clothing is “recycled” and therefore cool… Plus next semester I’ll be in a soil science lab– the idea of caring about my nails at that point just seems laughable. =)

  • Marie

    I feel most polished when my clothing fits well and isn’t fussy, meaning it doesn’t require constant maintenance to keep it in place and wrinkle free.

    In response to this:
    “Some cheap stuff can look expensive, but nearly all expensive stuff looks expensive.”
    High quality isn’t always the same thing as expensive. It really depends on the item. Some expensive clothing is overpriced and does look cheap, or will after a little wear.

  • Nichole

    I love this topic because I can relate so completely. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to look polished and/or put together. At 27, I’m making steps every year (and, realistically, with every promotion and salary increase at my job – Don’t need to spend that much more all the time, but more money makes it easier to experiement!!)

    So far I’ve got down:
    -make up (never learned when I was a teen, so started figuring it out in college, now have a great concealor, foundation, POWDER, eye-liner routine that just makes me feel gorgeous – and makes people think I have great skin)

    -hair (a perm, unfortunately, so I don’t know how sustainable it is, but I LOVE having curls, my hair is pretty much half-curly normally)
    -A nice purse makes SUCH a difference (either a nice one that will last a long time, or lots of cheap ones so they never look worn out)
    -Clothes that FIT and FLATTER. I only have a few non-work outfits (uniforms?) for each season, though, and am working over the years to expand this. Each “uniform” (a capsule, really), though, is something I LOVE and my boyfriend loves on me. A blazer, jacket/trench, or scarf also just makes me feel more put together.

    Still have to come to terms with the fact that I’ll actually have to SHOP for shoes for my fussy feet, I’m still wearing one or two pairs of shoes until they fall apart.

    Have faith, you will get there as your confidence grows and you can experiment more, take the advice from the lovely ladies on this site, they are spot on!!

    • Georgina

      I have awkward feet too. I almost gave up on the idea of finding comfortable shoes that I loved. Recently (aged 36) I found out that a Jones Bootmaker size 37 (Euro) was a perfect fit and it was such a relief! I now have four pairs of their shoes. If you can find just one shop that fits your feet it becomes so much easier :-) (I hadn’t tried on Jones shoes because they seemed expensive but the fit has been worth it, so keep searching, high and low price and hopefully you’ll find your fit).

  • Erin

    I don’t know if I am “perfectly polished” but I get a lot of compliments on how I put outfits together, on my hair, and on my makeup. One of my friends always tells me that I “really know how to get dressed.” Here’s some of my wisdom:

    – I spend a LOT of effort putting together my wardrobe. I have done a color analysis and focus on pieces in colors that work best on me. I get things tailored so they fit great. I buy clothing made out of high-quality fabrics that drape nicely on me. It literally took me 5 years or so to build up a wardrobe of high-quality pieces that flattered me and fit my personality. I love bright colors, flowy styles, and skirts and dresses.

    – I always accessorize with one or two elegant accessories – I particularly like silk scarves and chunky bracelets. One or two great accessories really pulls an outfit together. Also, pearl jewelry (simple stud earrings or a simple strand necklace, for instance) always adds a hint of elegance to any outfit.

    – I wear minimal makeup that will stay put. Waterproof mascara, eyeliner, blush, powder, and lipgloss. I find that lipstick or colored gloss instantly makes a woman look more pulled together.

    – I do my hair every. single. day. A quick and easy ponytail or bun rarely looks polished. (Of course, a more styled ponytail or bun can look very polished on many people, although my curls are too unruly for one.) I keep it cut so there are no frizzy ends and I never let my roots grow out. I am not afraid to use hairspray on humid days.

    – I never wear shoes that hurt my feet. Hobbling with blisters or gallumphing in high heels = not elegant. I’m only 5’3″, but I prefer to wear flats. If I wear sneakers, they are trendy polished ones, not running shoes, unless I am actually running. If I wear flipflops, they are not cheap rubber ones. And so on.

    – When I work out, my outfit is a color-coordinated, form-fitting workout outfit, not baggy shorts and a t-shirt. Usually I like stretchy capris and a cotton tank with a matching sports bra. I wear low-cut socks that don’t stick out of my sneakers too much.

    – I dress my age. I don’t shop at H&M or Forever 21 like a 22 year old does, and I don’t wear flimsy fabrics and clingy minidresses like one either. I’m a 30 y/o professional and I look like one. That doesn’t mean being frumpy, but if my 21 year old cousin wears a particular item, I think twice before I buy it for myself.

    – Incidentally, I am not thin. I wear a size 12 or 14. I also don’t have great skin. I am just a fastidious dresser, and I really enjoy getting dressed.

  • Erin

    Oh, I should also add that I have great posture thanks to 10 years of yoga practice. I highly recommend taking up yoga, pilates, or dance to improve posture! As a bonus you’ll gain confidence and body love, too!

  • http://the-new-professional.blogspot.com Angeline

    Great tips, as always, Sal! I think another thing about polished women is that they carry themselves confidently. Even if their hair is messy, it looks intentional because they’re carrying themselves that way. To me, women who are comfortable with who they are, have honed their specific style, and express that style genuinely come off as polished. It has less to do with what is actually worn than how it’s worn.

    • Georgina

      I agree! I was surprised that so many people think that you have to wear neutrals to be polished. I was beginning to wonder it was an American thing! (The old stereotype being Americans, or New Yorkers, are perfectly presented right down to their pedicure but quite ‘safe’ with their choices, whilst in the UK, especially London, people are more experimental and individual in their approach). In the end I think it is to do with confidence (and comfort?) and looking like your choices are intentional.

  • Glamdoc

    Don´t really have to add my two cents here bec it has all been covered above, but feel very strongly about this. I´ve always been considered ´cute´, and since I´ve been nothing but cute and mostly ruffled for the most of my life (I´m 31) I long to look more polished, and more funky and rock chick. Heck, I still have patients who pat me on the cheek and tell me I look 18 (the old blind ones who can´t see my crow´s feet). And when I´ve pulled a sleepless allnighter (like last night), I certainly look it.

    Polished -> something I look perhaps 3 days a year. I haven´t used an iron since my oral exam days back in the mid 2000s. And those days mostly involve a great coat and a (RARE) good hair day (limp, ashy, fine Scandinavian hair, even pony tails don´t look good on me). No matter what I do in the prepping and priming dept I always look terrible in dressing rooms, with greasy roots, undereye bags, incredible blackheads (dressing rooms are GREAT for popping blackheads but not the most hygienic way to do it, I know, and you end up with red blotches) and lumps and bumps and lint in the weirdest places. But. I find that a scarf always does the (small but significant) trick. These days I wear sensible shoes for my commute, Levi´s curve id jeans (good but not a godsend), a hoodie with three quarter length sleeves (I loove sleeves that length), and a scarf for some color pop/polish/warmth/funk/pulled-togetherness.

    This post was great bec it made me feel I´m not alone!! And great advice, as always Sal, and from all you commenters as well! All of you :-)

    And for the record; I think I might have emailed you back, Sal, expressing my gratitude, but your blog truly rocks, and is a great quick-fix for a pick-me-up on sad days or clothing-and-self-loathing days, but just wanted to say it again: Thank you so much for taking the time to email me about my dressing issues, last time about adding personality when you´re in commute clothes in the morning and afternoon, uniform all workday, and comfy slacker clothes at home. And thank you so much for this blog. I hope you get all the hits and commisions you need, and all the best!

    • http://www.alreadypretty.com Sal

      Oh lady, you are too sweet! Thank YOU for your incredibly kind words and support!

  • http://georginaswan.com Georgina

    It’s so true that looking good takes time, money and effort. Sure, the end result is a casual, relaxed effortlessness, but it is definitely not like that behind the scenes!

    I agree with having an “easy” haircut, and working WITH your hair’s natural texture rather than against it. The same goes for your body shape (dress to flatter it rather than killing yourself at the gym – you can’t change your body’s structure!) and skintone (do you really need to spend hours applying fake tan and bronzer?).

    If you really want to look polished, you have to research hair and beauty products, get into the habit of buying clothes thoughtfully and doing some good old fashioned experimentation.

  • a.

    Everyone’s had so many great tips! But, as someone who frequently gets told how “put-together” I look at work, I thought I’d add a few things I hadn’t seen yet. (And emphasize a couple of things I didn’t see enough times…)

    1. Attitude. If you feel confident and lovely in your body and in your clothes, the rest will follow.

    2. Posture. When I was still working on the attitude (and I mean, I still am), I decided to just fake it ’til I made it. The best way I found of doing that was to be mindful of my posture: standing up straight, keeping my shoulders back, and lifting my chin slightly.

    3. Uniform. This is the big thing for me. I’m not trying to advocate wearing the same thing every day, but once I found a silhouette that I felt comfortable in, and that was practical for the purposes of my job–you better believe I stuck to it. It also takes the guesswork out of getting dressed in the mornings, especially on those days when I feel like crap/am exhausted/the thought of going to work makes me want to crawl back into bed and sleep for three more hours. Because no matter how unattractive I feel, I know I just have to drag myself to my closet, select one pencil skirt, one top, one pair of shoes, a couple of accessories, and I’m good to go. Clearly, there are days when I deviate from the formula (or else I’d lose my ever-loving mind), but once I got my wardrobe to the point where everything fit and everything looked good together, it became as easy to look pulled-together as it was to look frumpy. Professional-life victory!

    4. Hair and makeup. Everyone’s said this, but I’m just going to say it again…I’m super-lazy with my hair, so learning a few simple up-dos has been my savior. A French twist, this bun (http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/2009/11/messy-french-bun.html) or these rosettes (http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/2011/03/three-twisted-buns.html), only take a few seconds longer than a ponytail, once I got them down, but look fifteen times more pulled-together.

    • @marginfades

      Thank you *very* much for sharing the up-do links.

    • http://positdesign.com chrisbean

      amen to the uniform! I have a few for the office:

      1. winter: scoopneck 3/4 sleeve top, cardigan/blazer (or both layered), straight-leg corduroy pants, booties/oxfords/brogues.

      2. summer: sleeveless or cap-sleeve shell (lightweight cardi optional), a-line skirt, loafers or ballet flats.

      3. fall/spring: buttonup top or scoopneck 3/4 sleeve top, cardigan/blazer (or both layered), pencil skirt, leather knee-high boots.

      I also love a dress: nothing is more polished looking and more completely effortless than wearing a dress.

  • http://www.sparrowstudios.etsy.com Jackie

    I have a co-worker like that. Perfect hair, clothes, nails, makeup, accessories at all times. Even when she’s dressed in her “slouchy work-out clothes,” she’s impeccable.

    A lot of it is time and money: Shopping is pretty much her hobby, and she wears tons of Banana Republic and J. Crew. She has her hair cut often, and it is truly helmet hair but stylish. Professional mani-pedi. Expensive undies (it’s an office full of women, so yes we do discuss this).

    But, her one ultimate secret weapon? Starch! She starches everything! Almost all her clothes go to the cleaner’s for press and starch. She spray starches her t-shirts, for crying out loud. She is never rumpled. Ever.

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  • http://maryfreakinghalpin.blogspot.com Mary

    I go to a business school and if you are wearing anything less than this season’s trends, you are scoffed at. When I’m at home or slumming it watching Gossip Girl, you betcha I’m in yoga pants, hoodie, and hair like Bozo. But during class days, I have to be on my game. I’ve found that adding a cardigan or blazer to anything is an instant upgrade. I find heels are a pain to walk in and stick by 4 staple shoes: detailed sandals (I like the ones with the strap in the back, makes it easier to walk in than flip flops), simple black flats (my faves are slippers on the insider, Target $6), brown loafers, and caramel brown riding boots. I’ve found that designer jeans really do fit better than $20 jeans, but when there’s a heavy detail on the pocket, it looks like you stepped out of junior high. As far as makeup goes, I’m blessed with clear alabaster skin, so I stick to waterproof black eyeliner, light mascara, Burts Bees chapstick, and bronzer. It takes me max 3 minutes to do my makeup. Also, I keep a small hairbrush with me and between classes or during bathroom breaks I wipe off any spreading eyeliner and give my hair a quick brush.

    When you’re on the run, go for big (but face-framing) sun glasses and a coffee cup. I don’t know why, but these accessories always seem to look good.

  • Julia

    These are all great tips! I am often told that I always look put together and polished. The only thing I would add is to always check the back of your outfit and the back of your hair! It’s easy to miss something awry when we only focus on the part of our outfit that we can see!

  • kjon

    Super interesting discussion here, I’m a little late! Like Mary, I go to a (private) business school where PJ’s and sweats just won’t cut it. I would consider myself ‘polished’ but hopefully not in a scary way:
    1.) Skincare is essential. One should invest in good skincare over makeup any day! The better condition your skin is in, the less makeup you’ll need. Read reviews and choose products carefully. Make it a ritual to care for your skin morning and night because it’s so worth it in the short and long-term.
    2.) Hair is always going to be a pain. I try to keep an ‘arsenal’ of styles for different hair days. The messy low side braid is my go-to for horrible hair days. Braids can be a gal’s best friend. Keep dry shampoo for oily days and a serum for dry tips. Maintain colors/styles/trims/perms/etc. Try to avoid excessive heat styling in favor of creative styling to hide frizziness and the like.
    3.) Keep a ‘uniform’ for every occasion. As long as you have the basics, adding some fabulous/unique accessories should carry you through the day. Clothes should fit (obvs) and be ‘on deck’ at all times. I keep cashmere shirts, v-neck white tees, skinny jeans, an LBD sheath and a blazer handy.
    4.) Know the weather patterns of where you live every day. Nothing is worse than be unprepared for a too hot/cold/windy/rainy day. Layer and/or stash sweaters/umbrellas/extra tees in your purse or car. You wouldn’t believe the things polished women keep in their purse or in their car.
    5.) Clothing maintenance is so important, especially if you are an ‘investment shopper’ i.e. you prefer expensive clothes. A lot of things that say “dry clean only” are actually better off being hand-washed. Cashmere and silk are examples of this. Also, knowing simple sewing techniques can help with holes, rips and replacing buttons. *Side note: sometimes changing buttons can be wonders for an old blazer or cardigan. Get to know a tailor and start thinking outside of the “size box”. Items that are too large can be sized down so consider that next time you’re cruising a sample sale or thrift store.
    6.) Know that you’re worth all the time and effort! It may seem vain or selfish to spend money and effort building the perfect wardrobe or taking care of your skin but outside appearance can have an effect on your attitude and outlook. Know yourself: if ‘polished’ equals ‘confident’ for you, pursue it!
    7.) Lastly here are some random things that I think* keep me polished: eye drops, skin primer, hair shine mist, a sweater shaver, ballet flats, cashmere sweaters, Dior mascara, lip stain, waist belts, cocktail rings and a nude body smoothing slip (hey, I may be a 2 but you wouldn’t believe the wonders those things can do!).

  • Madison

    I am a college student and there are some days that I consider myself polished and other days that I consider myself a trainwreck. It depends on the day of the week (whether or not I have meetings, sorority events, presentations, a ton of homework, etc.). The key to being polished is always caring for your skin, wearing minimal make-up that makes you appear natural and fresh, wearing clothes that fit you well, and keeping your hair at a length and cut that works for you. In my opinion polished looks also stay away from trendy and focus on classic fits and cuts.

  • nikki

    what, someone else in alaska?!?!?! i just moved to anchorage, never have been “polished” mainly due to my hair being crazy…but i do always feel helpless when it comes to shopping and such.

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  • http://lostinaspotlessmind.com Maria

    I seriously loved this post, and read through all the comments as well. SO many lovely tips! Thank you, everyone, and thank you, Sally <3

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  • http://lostinaspotlessmind.com Maria

    I was so inspired by your post, I simply had to write my own! I linked to you, naturally :)

    http://lostinaspotlessmind.com/2011/07/how-to-be-polished/

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  • Anonymous

    IMO the basis for looking good is having a healthy and fit body and mind. If you take care of your inside then it’s much easier to make your outside look its best.

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  • Melinda

    I believe that being “polished” differs from person to person.

    I’ve been criticized for not only being unconventional in my physical appearance (I am biracial but I look like I could be from nearly any ethnic background), but also in the way I carry myself.

    I often admire women who are stylish and glamorous, but it seems to require a lot of money and maintenance…both of which I have little of.

    I’m definitely not a slob but I am very self-conscious when a person who views herself as being more “polished” than me feels the need to criticize my style/appearance. Sometimes this happens out of the blue.

    I suffer with depression and when you add self-esteem and body image to it, things are a lot worse.

    My opinion of a polished woman is somebody who is unique, with a fierce style of her own. She doesn’t follow trends. She has a brilliant mind and a wild sense of humor. She is creative in every aspect of her life. She adds flair to whatever she does. She rocks bold, bright colors and gorgeous shoes. She doesn’t confine herself to basic neutrals.

    I will never be “polished” in the eyes of most people. My hair never stays put and my sensitive skin is prone to redness. Sometimes my eyes water because of allergies. I was once a tiny size 0 and now I wear a size 10. I sweat a lot. I bite my nails. My smile is slightly crooked. I live in blue jeans and loafers. I was always that girl in school…the one never considered pretty enough because she didn’t look perfect all the time, unlike the ones who would show up looking like models because they spent all the time and money in the world on their hair.

    But I do the best I can with what I have, because on most days that’s all I can do.

    I’ve been battling depression for so long that it is tough to feel beautiful, let alone be perfectly pulled together.

    I shower on a daily basis and comb my hair. I apply a bit of oil or glossing serum to my hair. If I’m leaving home, then I put on some mascara and a dab of lip gloss. I rarely wear perfume anymore. One staple in my beauty routine is lotion…I need to have a rich body creme because of my dry skin. I put clear polish on my short, bitten nails in an attempt to make them look better. I’ve started wearing earrings again recently.

    I’m relieved to see that I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to be polished all the time. I feel like people expect that of me constantly and I’m only human.

  • Alibaba

    I try to look put together all the time and the key to doing so is, I always decide what I am going to wear the night before. This includes everything down to jewelry. I have two kids and cannot afford to spend a lot on clothes so they are not expensive pieces but I try to make a statement with whatever I have. I use layering techniques, pops of colour and new ways of wearing clothes (like dresses with pants). I also look on the internet for ideas too. But most of all, I carry myself with confidence.

  • Kayles

    I definitely don’t have all the answers, but a few things that make a huge difference for me (despite a meager budget):

    1. Microdermabrasion and facials. Absolutely brightens your face, less make-up, and an overall fresh-faced, clean appearance. Can’t go wrong.
    2. Eyebrows. A well-groomed, defined set will instantly clean up your entire face.
    3. Sticking with what works. I used to be a sucker for new products, but over the years I’ve learned to just stick with what works. Example: I’ve tried every drugstore hairspray under the sun and quite a few salon brands as well. I’ve hated almost all of them. Three years after I purchased a brand I didn’t hate, I finally came back to it. It may be slightly pricier than I would like, but it’s worth it because I’ll never throw another half used can of something cheap away to make room for something new again. And now that I know what works, I can buy it cheaper online!
    4.Ironing a crease in dress pants. I have a professional career, but taking all my clothes to the cleaners is not in my budget. Instead, I do all my ironing and make sure to crease all my dress pants down the front. It’s the difference between a pair of dress pants looking crisp and clean instead of like pajama pants.

  • Rebecca

    I’ve gotten a LOT of valuable pointers from photography websites.

  • http://prettypolishedperfect.com Pretty, Polished, Perfect.

    I find that the people who appear the most polished are those with good posture and self-confidence. Your first impression isn’t always about how you look. There was a quote going around facebook the other day that was to the effect of “No one will remember what you said, no one will remember what you wore, but they will remember how you made them feel.” Good luck, and don’t ever give up trying ;)

  • http://www.twitter.com/readysteadylove Christina

    Ok… So I’m somebody who thinks she can pull off that ‘perfectly polished look’ 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time is usually because I’m not trying. As some have already commented, it does take some time, planning and $$$. Spending more doesn’t always equate to a polished look but a polished look does often cost a little more (if that makes sense). Here are a few of my rules that I live by when it comes to assembling my wardrobe.

    A perfectly polished look involves accessories. As a general rule of thumb, my outfits ‘always’ involve something more then just a top/bottom or dress. A cardigan, jacket, colorful scarf, belt, or piece of statement jewelry helps to finish off your look.

    Since I try and stick to a budget, I always look for pieces that will get me the most bang for my buck. Recently, I bought a casual blue dress at J. Crew. It cost more then what I was hoping to spend but it’s already paid off in spades with the number of different looks I’ve been able to pull off. Worn alone over my bathing suit (or not) with flat sandals, bright white flower earrings, sunglasses and floppy hat and I’m off to the beach or a stroll through the park with my super cute pup :). Paired with a braided leather belt, my sunny yellow cardigan, wedge heel sandals, drop/dangle earrings and I’m to have brunch with my girls on Park Ave or enjoying a casual date with my sweetheart. My sandals, wedge heels, earrings, sunglasses, floppy hat, leather braided belt, cardigan are just a few of my staples that I use to dress up or dress down other outfits in my wardrobe (and were intentionally selected without excessive embellishments that would otherwise make them difficult to pair with other pieces in my wardrobe). Simply put – Accessories allow you to create more than one look, stretching your wardrobe and giving you a perfectly ‘put-together’ image.

    Buy classic pieces that are made well, fit well and you can actually ‘see yourself’ wearing. Classic pieces that are well constructed will always go further then trying to keep up with the trend of the moment. That said, it’s not enough to just shop classic. Be super critical of how pieces fit you and if the color or pattern is flattering or not. It can be tempting to want a classic piece just because it’s on sale and ‘so close’ to looking perfect on you but would look better if it were just a few inches shorter/longer, more or less trim in certain areas or in a different color or pattern that would be more flattering to your skin tone. Unless it’s in a flattering color/pattern and you’re 100% committed to going straight to the tailor for a custom fit (and know that the adjustments you need is something that can be easily tailored) – put it back on the shelf. If you don’t, you’ll have spent a lot to save a little on a piece you’re not likely to wear or if you do, will never give you that perfectly polished look. For every piece that I purchase, I’ve generally tried on 20-30 other pieces that I had to pass on. The time commitment for me is worth it to have a wardrobe full of pieces that are nothing BUT flattering on me. Nothing more to say on that.

    Stop buying sweats and tee-shirts. Just don’t do it. You probably have all that you need and all that you need is enough to bum around in the house in. Instead, shop with a ‘casual but put together look’ in mind. Shorts can pull a double duty if you avoid denim and cut off hems. Consider a pair of dark colored or bright white shorts with a neat hem at a flattering length for your gams. You’ll then be able to make them super casual with just a tank top, tee-shirt, flip flops (or) dress it up a teeny bit with casual earrings, a statement belt, floppy hat or cardigan (or) dress it up even more with wedge heels, a silky dressy blouse, belt, cuff bangles, earrings or other piece of statement jewelry. One pair of shorts can go from super casual, to super classy and polished. The key again is to avoid denim and instead opt for a solid color with a ‘clean’ hem (cuff or no cuff).

    Similar rule on purchasing denim jeans (not shorts). If you go for a more solid dark, dark, wash – you’ll be able to go from casual to dressy with the same pair much, much easier.

    This kind of falls in the category of shopping ‘classic’ but I think it’s a good tip worth mentioning. Avoid blouses or dresses that have too much going on (sparkles, sparkly threads, sequence, crazy patterns, lots of ruffles). Very rarely will you get a polished look from wearing them ‘alone’, they can look a bit kiddish. Finding accessories to polish up an already busy piece can also be difficult – you risk looking garish if you do too much. Instead of crazy embellishments, look for interesting/flattering necklines, fabrics that are interesting in their own right (silky, satiny or interesting textures), and colors that just look amazing on you.

    Avoid matchy matchy accessorizing. I have this amazing burnt orange button up blouse that I often pair with long jeans or black shorts and a wide tan braided belt. The perfect earrings? Bright blue turquoise dangle earrings! An interesting pop of color can make a world of difference and is far easier then trying to match shades of the same color.

    Final note. Sometimes you can find ‘amazing’ pieces for cheap. When I head to the mall, I always start at shops that offer more affordable clothing and work my way up to the more expensive shops. My goal is always to find the most affordable look I’m shopping for but if I don’t find the right fit, color, construction, then I put it back on the shelf and move on. I’m okay with spending a little bit more when it’s necessary to get a piece that’s lasting, flattering and will get the most wear from me – in the long run, I save, because I’m not constantly shopping to replace what didn’t work for me in the first place.

    Here are the shops I typically visit:

    H&M: Cheap, cheap stuff but I’ve found a few winners here. A purple button down blouse that I’ve had for years and still wear to the office. A summer dress I bought last year that I’m wearing right now as I write this ;). About 4 or 5 blazers that I’ve had for years and get tons of compliments on at the office! I usually have reasonably good luck with H&M blazers (I have to dress up for work), Bras and Panties (they fit me better then VS).

    Arden B.: Prices range greatly here but they always seem to have a sales rack thing going on that I can find one or two pieces of interest (doesn’t mean I buy ‘em – but I try them on). I’ve found a few nice dresses in here, a nice blouse and pair of shorts that came with what’s now my favorite belt. I avoid their jewelry altogether – low quality.

    Guess: I shop for denim here. I used to be a huge denim snob but honestly, I’m done with $300+ denim – waste o’ money. Guess jeans fit me well, are well constructed, don’t do funny things in the wash and come in the dark shades I prefer when looking for something that can be dressed up or down. Still a bit pricey (I think the last pair I bought was around $100) but I usually buy 1 pair of jeans every two years or so since the denim I do buy last forever.

    J. Crew: This is where I go when I can’t find affordable/classic pieces in my size. I refuse to wear children’s clothes – I’m a grown women darn it! I’m in my 30’s and I don’t want to look like a teeny bopper with my but hanging out of teeny tiny shorts that were meant for someone’s daughter. Cardigans from department stores and shops look frumpy on me because they’re usually too large even in their smallest offered size. J.Crew has great Cardigans that’ll fit petite frames and shorts that’ll fit tiny waists. While I’m not crazy about most of their dresses, I do like that their smaller sized dresses seem suited for A Cup beauties like yours truly (so upsetting to try on an xxs dress only to find that the designer assumed that a rail thin girl is going to have D sized cups…. Nothing against you rail thin girls with D sized cups ;).

    BCBG: Some of their stuff is butt ugly but when they get it right, they get it right! I always go here last because hopefully I’ve found a dressy blouse or dress someplace else for less. I think most of the blouses I’ve purchased from here started around $150, dresses around $300. I don’t own a lot of pieces from here for that reason alone but of the pieces I have collected over the past 5, 6 years I can honestly say that they get regular wear from me as part of my wardrobe rotation, get tons of compliments and still look as good as the day I first purchased them. I don’t bother with their skirts, slacks or pants. I can usually find similar looks that fit me better for far less.

    Ohhhh… and last thing about looking polished. Carry yourself with confidence and wear a smile. It’s not just what you’re wearing that pulls it altogether.

    Cheers!

    Chrissy

  • https://www.facebook.com/ZohariArtJoaillerie Erika

    Hi,
    Interesting topic – and fabulous input from the audience. I usually get the feedback that I have this polished executive presence. In all reality all that means is you are being noticed, you carry this confidence within yourself, you aren’t afraid of being inclusive, you are genuine, gracious, attentive, personable. The clothes? Well, anything I wear has to be free of wrinkles, stains or look old. It has to be elegant, nothing flashy. Simple yet interesting. Jewelry is key — nothing too girly, cheap or corny. Classy but with design, no need to go pricy here. But the key is personality; the way you carry yourself, the hair is definitely important, and it does at times get expensive. Nails long an inch or two above the finger line. Don’t wear bright colors for work if you’re in corporate, unless your work is a creative hub. If you wear glasses, wear more, choose them carefully. It’s a cool statement. Be genuine, and you will be surprised. Best, Erika

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