Posts Categorized: reader requests

Reader Request: How Does Your Hairstyle Interact With Your Outfit?

how hairstyle impacts outfit

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Reader Andrea had this request:

I would be interested in a post on how different hairstyles interact with outfits. How much does wearing hair down vs. in a bun affect the formality of an outfit? How much can the hairstyle you wear with an outfit change the overall look? I always seem to wear my hair the same way with the same pieces, and I’m not sure why I only ever visualize those things with those hairstyles. (I’m also contemplating a major hair change right now, so hair is on my mind a lot recently.)

When my hair was longer, I had the same experience: Certain outfits definitely called out for an updo, while others looked better with hair worn down. And even now with supershort locks, I occasionally wear something that looks slightly off with messy waves and much better blown dry.

I asked Wendy Nguyen of Wendy’s Lookbook to let me use some of her photos to illustrate how hairstyle impacts outfits. As you’ll see balance, formality, structure, and genre all play in. Let’s take a peek:

hairstyle volume outfit

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Here are two outfits in which hairstyle is a factor in enhancing or balancing volume within the outfit. On the left, the volume within Wendy’s outfit is all toward the top, mostly from the waist up. Her hair, worn down, adds yet more volume but also works organically with the loose layers. On the left, the orange sweater is the only voluminous piece. With her hair in a high bun, she avoids adding more volume to her top half.

hairstyle formal casual

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Here are two decidedly formal looks. Some updos and buns can read as casual, but paired with outfits that already give off a dressy vibe, they generally add yet more formality. Definitely the case with the bun Wendy did with her black dress, although the addition of the headband keeps her hairstyle from being formal to the point of stuffiness. The green dress outfit has a much more relaxed vibe. Although the dress itself and structured clutch are quite fancy, the open-toed shoes and loose wavy hairstyle overtake them to create a dressy but not formal look. Switch the hairstyles and the black dress outfit would be more “night on the town” and the green dress outfit would be more “black-tie affair.”

hairstyle structure

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Structure within the outfit is at play in nearly all of these examples. You can see how updos often align with structured looks, and hair worn down aligns with unstructured ones. But here are two more great outfits that show how you can juxtapose structure and looseness using your hairstyle. Wendy’s cropped trench and pencil skirt are decidedly structured, but wearing her hair down adds some soft, flowy lines. Her white trapeeze top is loose and breezy, but her headband and bun balance it out.

hairstyle genre

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Finally certain hairstyles lend themselves to certain genres. At left, Wendy has on a preppy/classic look that could’ve come direct from the J.Crew catalog, and has chosen a bun/headband combo to match. The middle outfit has both Boho and preppy elements to it, and the loose ponytail complements them both. For the beachy outfit on the right, Wendy wore her hair down and loose to match.

Hope this was helpful! And thanks again to Wendy for use of her gorgeous photos.

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Reader Request: Wardrobe Diversity

wardrobe outfits same

Reader Monica asked this question:

I would like to hear your perspective on style or wardrobe diversity. Often I feel like I have a few types of tried and true outfits, but feel ‘boring.’ And then I think, well, Sal always looks great and many of her outfits have a similar flavor, maybe it’s not that important? It seems you may have an interesting perspective on this.

Monica’s got me pegged: Even back when I had a lot more stuff, I had my go-to formulas and I wore them into the ground. Above you see three outfits from earlier this year, all of which feature a jacket, top, slim pants, and ankle boots. I could live in variations on that outfit just about every day from October to April.

It’s been great to see the press focusing on stylish women – many of them working in the fashion and design industries – who opt to wear personal uniforms. And I think there’s absolutely no harm in wearing slightly tweaked versions of the same outfit every day of your life. UNLESS doing so makes you feel bored, boring, or stagnant. It comes down to the difference between a signature style and a style rut: A rut feels bad, frustrating, and difficult to get out of. You’re in a rut if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and cannot think of anything else you’d rather wear. A signature feels natural, aligned with your inner vision of yourself, freeing, serene. You’ve developed a signature if you’re wearing the same things over and over again and feel pulled-together and perfectly like yourself.

So the answer to Monica’s is a question: Is wardrobe and outfit diversity important to you? If it’s important to you but you aren’t managing to support that importance with putting time and energy toward your personal style, is there a way to compromise? Maybe create three main outfit formulas to work off instead of sticking to just one? Are you bored with wearing the same things each day? If so, what’s keeping you from branching out? Could mixing up your shoes and accessories be helpful?

And if anyone ever complains to you that you wear the same outfits over and over, I highly recommend mooning them. Or suggesting some other hobbies aside from tallying and cataloging your outfits!

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Reader Request: Adding a Third Color

color triad

Reader Jill had this question:

I would love some advice on how to add a third color to an outfit. I just bought a turquoise and brown suit, and I love the colors together. But the jacket needs a cami or top under it, and I don’t know what color to add … and I’m thinking I would carry that color to shoes?

Great question, and one with MANY answers! Let’s start with the scientific one.

Consult a color wheel

I’ll be straight with you: The chances of me, myself, doing this approach zero. Color wheels make me itchy, just like music theory makes me itchy: I’d rather make choices with my gut than be constrained by rules about how to make artistic decisions the “right” way. HOWEVER! Not everyone is wired that way and I know that clear systems with comprehensible rules are absolutely invaluable to many. So, if you’re looking to add a third color to your outfit, you can definitely work with the color wheel. The graphic above is from this post about color schemes that does a spectacular job of explaining why some work and others don’t. This one will help if you’re dealing with neutrals, since brown and gray are shades and tones.

Add a tone, tint, or shade of one of your colors

Instead of bringing an entirely new color into the mix, consider utilizing a tone, tint, or shade of the two you’ve already selected. Tints result from adding white, tones result from adding gray, and hues result from adding black. So if we think about Jill’s example, she could add a lighter tint of turquoise, a deeper hue of brown, or a more muted tone of turquoise and the colors would be harmonious. This can get tricky because all turquoises aren’t the same and you need to watch your undertones, but it’s fun to tinker with.

Look to existing patterns or prints for guidance

The best color cheat in the world, if you ask me. Find a print, pattern, or graphic that includes your first two colors, and pick a third from within the design. A person who gets paid to group colors has just made your decision for you. If you’re doing an outfit of solids, adding the printed or patterned item can serve as a bridge, but it’s not strictly necessary.

Poke around online color resources

This is a great way to get color-grouping inspiration overall, but can also help out if you’re in a pinch looking for a third color to complete an outfit. Color blogs like Design Seeds and Colour Lovers are great resources, but I also love poking around Pinterest. I’ve got a color board, and Imogen has an amazing one, too. For general help you can search for “color schemes” or the two colors you’ve already selected – here are results for turquoise and brown. Another great Imogen-created resource? Her Polyvore sets. Even the ones that aren’t directly related to color theory or color groupings are inspirational.

The one tactic I’d suggest avoiding? Making white or cream your fallback third color. Yes, they’re neutral, but they don’t always look harmonious in color triads. White can be jarring, and cream doesn’t often add anything to color groupings. If possible, do a tone, tint, or shade instead.

Got any other suggestions for adding a third color to your outfits? Link to resources if you’ve got them!

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