Posts Categorized: style

Reader Request: When Matchy-matchy Makes Sense

matchy matchy

Reader Patricia had this request:

I know you mentioned a little while ago that soon you’d write a post about the benefits of matchy-matchy — yes please! I’d also love to see that expand into something about the different attitudes and situations when matchy-matchy works, as opposed to more contrast (if that makes sense?).

I must’ve been born too late, friends, because 50’s style matchy-matchy STILL makes more sense to me than looks that “go.” Pretty much across the board. I feel that matched accessories create unity and visual harmony, and that striking the right balance of complimentary but different accessory colors is often more trouble than it’s worth. Two matched accessories total is a good cap – when your belt, shoes, bag, and earrings are all the same color, it can get a little overwhelming – but those two matched accessories are like outfit bookends. Neat, harmonious, unifying.

Since that is not the current preference, though, I’m happy to suggest a few times when matching will trump going:

If your outfit is retro-influenced

Since this is a practice born in a bygone era, vintage and throwback outfits are the perfect time to employ it. Anything that hearkens back to the 40s through 60s will make visual sense with matched accessories. Not a requirement, obviously, but a choice that will seem natural.

For formal occasions

This is a personal preference for me, and I’m not sure how others will feel. If I’m getting truly dressed up – like just-shy-of-ballgown dressed up – matching accessories feel sophisticated and appropriate. I’m unlikely to do complementary but different shoes and clutch if I’m fancied up.

When you’ve got three solid colors at play

If your outfit already includes three (or more) colors, introducing accessories in multiple colors or tones will make things look a bit chaotic. Use matched accessories to create cohesion.

Whenever you need visual unity

Even if you’re not wearing three solids at once, you may feel like your outfit isn’t hanging together quite right. This often happens with print/pattern mixing and outfits that contain juxtaposed genres (moto jacket and tulle skirt), but it may surface unexpectedly in any outfit. A little bit of matchy can fix you right up.

Aside: If matching your shoes and belt or belt and bag doesn’t appeal, try matching your shoes and earrings/necklace. Naturally, this works best when you’re doing colorful shoes, but it’s a great, subtle way to bracket your look with harmonious accessories. And feels more modern and less matchy to many women.

NOW. In terms of matchy clothing? Matched sets are extremely trendy right now, but I think this is a trend that’s still evolving. I honestly don’t know what to say yet because the matching that is happening is rather suit-like: Top and skirt in the exact same print. I think if you were to do a scarf and pants or skirt in the same print, it wouldn’t fit within this particular trend, but might still look appealingly retro. I’m curious to know what you all think.

About matchy in general, too! Do you prefer to match a couple of your accessories? Absolutely never match? What are your personal guidelines and tips?

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Reader Request: Mastering Slouchy and Relaxed Clothing Silhouettes

how to wear slouchy pants

Reader Mollie popped this one into the suggestion box:

I love the relaxed look but as someone with hips and thighs I’m not sure how to pull it off. I’d love some advice on this specific trend, and perhaps more generally how to wear relaxed, unstructured garments when one is not model thin.

I carry a lot of my weight in my hips and thighs, and ADORE the slouchy look. Here are my tips for making it work:

Show a little ankle (or wrist)

Your wrists, knees, and ankles all curve in a little and if you obscure those curves – with big cuff bracelets, midi skirts, or columnar boots – the observing eye believes there is body volume where there is none. This is especially relevant when you’re dealing with voluminous, drapey, unstructured garments. Slouchy pants often look less overwhelming when they show a little ankle. Just that little peek can help demonstrate how you’re actually shaped under there. Occasionally, showing a little wrist from inside an oversized sweater or blouse can have the same effect. But not as often, because you’ll mainly want to …

Balance volume with slimness

Ahhh, that old chestnut. Still a great guideline to keep in mind! If you’re doing something unstructured up top, try to pair it with a slimmer-fitting bottom. If you’re going for a slouchy track pant, consider a structured jacket or fitted top. If you wear loose, voluminous clothing in both halves, it will be hard to tell where the clothes end and you begin. I’ve professed my undying love for Halle Berry’s style, but she does occasionally go a little slouchy-volume overboard. This is great advice for big or curvy girls trying unstructured items, and also great advice for small or curve-less girls, too.

Pair fluid with structured

Some folks look absolutely stunning in drapey tops and slouchy bottoms. I am not one of them. The pairing just looks sloppy on me. That doesn’t mean they’ll look sloppy on absolutely every curvy girl alive … but if you’re trying to master this look and can’t figure out why you look like you’re melting, consider partnering one fluid, drapey item with one structured item. Boyfriend jeans with a fitted button-down, drop-crotch pants with a denim jacket, a billowing peasant blouse with skinny jeans.

Pay attention to pleats

This mostly applies to pants, of course. Many slouchy styles include hip pleats and they can really make or break a style. Length, depth, and how much of the pleat is tacked down all affect how it will interact with your curves. I have found that pleats on fluid fabrics like jersey don’t fight my hips and thighs, but any pleated woven fabric will stand out from my bottom half like a tutu. Longer pleats that have been tacked down tend to work better for me, too, since they sit flat against my legs. You’ll need to do some experimentation to find out which types of pleats will work best for your proportions and figure.

Got any other tips for making this look work on a curvy figure? Or on any figure shape at all? How do you wear relaxed, unstructured clothes?

Images courtesy Nordstrom

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Reader Request: How to Avoid Looking Dated

avoid looking dated

In a comment on this post about clothing details that read as young or old, reader Jane asked for some tips on how to avoid looking dated. Datedness is a social construct, of course, reinforced by a fashion industry that sells us new clothing based on our desire to look “current.” This means it is, in essence, bunk. But the same could be said of any dressing mores: They allow us to be expressive and visually communicative, but they’re all rooted in capitalism. It shouldn’t matter one whit if you’re wearing a blazer that was made 20 years ago, so long as it fits and is in good condition … but because of the value we place on youth and staying up-to-date on everything, it does matter. In some cases, it matters several whits.

So I’m definitely not saying that concern over looking dated is inconsequential. I think about it, as do most of my clients. Keeping your looks contemporary is a great way to feel stylish even if actual trends mean nothing to you. I just couldn’t resist pointing out that datedness is of manufactured importance.

And, sadly, avoiding dated looks will take some work. Here are some steps you can take.

Consume fashion media

Since you are a reader of this blog, you are likely doing this already. But consider focusing some of your consumption on studying shapes and design details on new iterations of wardrobe staples like dress pants, jeans, and blouses. Also pay attention to how they are worn and styled. Fashion magazines will be of limited use since most editorials focus on designer items styled in unwearable ways. The exception would be People StyleWatch, which showcases casual celebrity style alongside advice on re-creating those looks on a budget. Otherwise it’s helpful to follow a few style blogs run by women whose aesthetics are close to your own, and note shapes, design details, and styling choices. It can also be helpful receive catalogs from brands you buy and wear, since retail styling is generally more accessible than editorial. On a related note …

Window shop

Most of us window shop to gather information about items we might want to purchase and wear, but this activity can serve as contemporary styling reconnaissance. Just as you do with online and printed media, cruise through the mall and note shapes and design details. How do the dresses differ from the ones in your closet, if at all? Are you seeing different types or sizes of prints than you’re used to wearing? Do the blouse collars look large or small to your eye? Don’t forget to scope out the mannequins for styling choices: Merchandisers generally keep abreast of trends, and get additional input from corporate offices about how to group new items. What do the layers look like? How is jewelry used? Where are belts placed? Are tops tucked or untucked? How are colors combined within outfits, and more specifically how are neutrals utilized and distributed? You don’t need to spend a dime to get a lesson in modern style from retail stores.

Know which items date quickly

Both this post and the post on clothing that reads as young or old feature photos of blazers. Suiting and blazers are common culprits when it comes to datedness, mainly because they are fairly durable pieces that don’t need frequent replacement. Black blazers are also on a bajillion “must-have” lists, and many of us think, “Totally have a black blazer. I’m set,” even if said black blazer was made in the late 80s. Here are a few dated items I’ve noticed lurking in client closets:

  • Pumps and boots: Toebox shape and heel shape are the main details to watch. If your nude-to-your-skintone pumps have a square toe and block heel, they won’t look modern.
  • Blazers and suiting: Note stance, number of buttons, length, lapel shape, shoulder shape, and overall fitted-ness in blazers and suit jackets. Note leg shape, leg width, pocket placement, and hem length in suit pants. Note shape and hem length in suit skirts.
  • Leather jackets: The classic moto will always be around, but leather blazers and styles with quilting and/or gobs of hardware will look dated within the next five years. Pay attention to collar shape, zipper placement, and shoulder design.
  • Actually, all jackets: Both outerwear and items like utility and denim jackets that can be worn in place of blazers.
  • Jeans: Not as crucial as it once was in terms of design and construction, since various rises and shapes are always available now. (BLESS.) Do note hem length, leg style, and wash, especially on fashionable women whose style/aesthetic is similar to your own. Also pay attention to styling – cuffs, tucking, shoe pairings. etc.

Follow trends in dressing, skip trendy items

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Trendy items will date you, but trends in dressing can help you look your best. So, for instance, maybe don’t buy a pair of culottes or a fringed suede jacket, but consider incorporating trendy colors like yellow and marsala. Create your own interpretation of sporty minimalism or incorporate more black and white prints into your outfits.

I have to say that I find the typical “stick to the classics” advice to be relatively useless. Most classic items undergo design transformations if enough years go by, so although a classic item will date more slowly, it will eventually date. Naturally, items that are labeled as trendy right out of the gate will date faster, but you can’t build a date-proof wardrobe by keeping to button-fronts, bootcut jeans, and v-necked sweaters. Subtle shifts in shapes, design details, and styling will seep in over time, and those pieces will need to be updated, too.

I say “need” somewhat tongue-in-cheek, since wearing an outdated shirt or sweater will absolutely never cause you to break out in an itchy rash.

What are your feelings about dated clothing and looks? Do you worry about looking dated yourself? What tests or points of comparison do you use? Other tips for making sure your wardrobe and outfits look contemporary and modern?

Images courtesy Macy’s left | right

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