Posts Tagged: dressing

Reader Request: Successful Style Juxtapositions

leather and lace

Reader and client JW sent me this question:

I have been having some challenges mixing and matching “tougher” and more feminine pieces and textures lately. I wondered if you could offer some other examples/pics in a tutorial on this topic? For example, I was looking for some dark brown boots with a bit of a heel to wear with dresses of more “pretty/formal” fabrics than my usual jersey type this fall. I tried on the Adriana Luna boots (that I’ve admired on your blog!) in dark brown and love them. Can’t decide whether to invest, though, because I am wondering if they are versatile enough to go with fairly dressy dresses, or would always look too western and rugged. I would like to combine elements of both (a la Sundance Catalog but somewhat toned down) but the fabrics/textures always confuse me! I feel I risk looking totally mis-matched rather than intentionally stylish! But I am such a novice at this.

I love mixing opposite styles within single outfits, so I LOVE this question! There’s no single formula for making juxtapositions work, but I have some guidelines I use for myself and for clients. But first, a few things to keep in mind.

Suiting is tricky in mixes

Suiting juxtaposition - doesn't work
Suiting juxtaposition – details for this set

When you think about juxtaposition within outfits, you tend to think of polar opposites: Leather with lace, cashmere with distressed denim, etc. And suiting is a classic, conservative family of clothing that should work in polar opposition to tough, edgy pieces or highly romantic, frilly ones. But more often than not, it doesn’t. Suiting blazers, pants, skirts, and some suiting dresses like J.Crew’s Super 120s series seem out of place in mixes like the one shown above. Other dressy, office-appropriate attire that isn’t technically suiting – like wool pencil skirts, dress pants, and non-suiting blazers – qualify here, too. None of these will look cool and intentional with cowboy boots or leather pants. Some blazers and structured dresses can pair nicely with jeans and tees or leather jackets and boots, but because suiting is a grouping that stands apart from virtually all other clothing, it is tough to juxtapose. Because …

Items should have something in common

Western ladylike juxtaposition
Western Boho juxtaposition – details for this set

Here we have a frilly dress and long pendant, both of which are a little Boho, paired with harness boots, a denim jacket, and a rugged backpack. Why does this work better than the suiting set above? Because Boho and Western are both on the more casual end of the style spectrum. Imagine swapping in a wool sheath dress and strand of pearls. Those items are SO far from the weekend-y, outdoors-y Western vibe that they just don’t connect. Although “something in common” is usually related to level of formality or casualness, it can also mean color: A black leather jacket, black background graphic tee, and black pencil skirt would make visual sense together despite their differences.

To see this type of juxtaposition in action see: Sundance Catalog styling

Or try something costume-y and its polar opposite

Tough and ladylike
Tough and ladylike – details for this set

Interestingly, the polar opposites thing seems to work best when there is one over-the-top item or sartorial genre involved. Usually the super sparkly, princess-y, wear-this-to-the-ball genre that includes tulle skirts, rhinestone bib necklaces, puff-shoulder jackets, or gobs of sequins. In this case, the skirt is the most costume-y piece in the mix and the pumps, clutch, and pearl bracelet align with it in terms of classic formality. The graphic tee and leather moto group together as casual/tough elements. Another piece that makes this type work? Distressed boyfriend jeans. They’re slouchy and beat-up and incredibly casual, which makes them really fun to pair with sky-high heels and sparkly necklaces.

To see this type of juxtaposition in action see: Atlantic-Pacific

Stick to two genres

Three genres - doesn't work
Three genres – details for this set

So we’ve established that Western and Bohemian have a natural chemistry. Here is that same set with the clutch swapped in for the backpack. A little jarring, right? Occasionally throwing a glam piece – like a sparkly necklace – into a mix of two other non-glam genres will work. Generally, though? Pick two genres to mix, and draw pieces from those two only. Take one or two pieces from the first, and all remaining pieces from the other. Genres that work well together include:

  • Frilly and tough (think lace dress with leather jacket)
  • Boho and edgy (think patterned maxi skirt with combat boots and a graphic tee)
  • Boho and Western (our eyelet dress set above illustrates this combo)
  • Preppy and glam (think Breton top and jeans with rhinestone statement necklace)
  • Preppy and distressed (think cashmere sweater and sparkly necklace with ripped jeans)

To see two-genre mixes in action see: J.Crew catalog styling

Finally, there is a little alchemy involved in style juxtapositions. Everything I’ve said here may be tossed out the window if you find a three-genre outfit that works or create an amazing ensemble that includes your suiting slacks. Although these guidelines may help if you’re interested in trying this activity and don’t know where to start, once you get the hang of it you’ll see that certain totally unexpected combinations just WORK. So it always pays to experiment.

Any of you readers fans of the juxtaposed outfit? What are your favorite genres to mix? Any items that work beautifully to bridge different styles? Would love to hear your thoughts!

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Dressing Tips for TV Appearances and Presentations

screenshot_wanchor

I’m a ham. Happy to admit it. I landed my first lead role in a play at the ripe old age of 10 and have been performing on stage ever since. I may have shifted from drama to music and now to television appearances and lectures, but it’s all performance-related and even after all these years I still get a little jittery every time I walk on stage.

So I know from personal experience how important it is to nail my look before the audience begins to applaud or the camera turns my way. I want to be totally focused on my message and avoid fidgeting and fussing with my outfit at all costs. And, of course, I want to look my best. Here are some guidelines I use so I always look my best before an audience.

For a television appearance

Some TV spots will be filmed on location or outside, others in a studio, so it can be difficult to generalize … but allow me to generalize anyway.

Do a touch more makeup than usual, but just a touch: Lights and cameras can be harsh on many complexions, but we are also living in an HD world, friends, so no need to apply with a trowel. I recommend using something to even out your complexion – be it foundation, BB/CC cream, or tinted moisturizer – as well as undereye concealer and powder to lighten and brighten. If you wear these daily, apply as usual and don’t add extra layers or a bunch of bronzer – better to look a little washed-out than overly made-up, in my opinion. Blush will prevent you from looking ill, so do include it. Sweep on a tiny bit more than usual, but make sure it’s well blended and not too streaky or obvious. Shadow, eyeliner, and mascara will make your eyes pop, but sticking to neutrals and smoky colors is wise since bright eye makeup can be distracting. Definitely add lip color but avoid super bright and super dark shades like firey reds and deep purples. Instead try pinks, berries, and dusty corals or anything that is just a bit brighter or darker than your natural lip color.

Clean lines read best: Anything with lots of ruffles, embellishment, or volume will likely look a bit messy. Blazers are better than cardigans, ponte is better than fluid jersey. Structured garments with clean lines will make you appear professional and pulled-together. (Also do your best to be wrinkle-free, but understand that you’ll be moving around and some creases are totally natural.)

Jewel tones are always a good idea: This palette works for virtually all skin tones from pale to dark brown and reads beautifully on camera. Jewel tones are rich without being bright and add color without being overbearing. And you can do multiple jewel tones in a single outfit! Find the shade that works best for your complexion, and wear it next to your face, ideally in a solid. If you want to add a neutral to the mix, go for gray.

Avoid small, regular patterns: Although issues with moiré are more common in still photography, tiny, regularly patterned clothing can be a little dizzying on-screen, especially in black and white. I generally prefer solids for television, but if you opt for a pattern, try for a medium-sized one and ideally one with blurred edges, a watercolor feel, or an abstract design. This creates a more natural overall look.

Black and white sparingly: Neither is particularly flattering for most complexions, and both can cause odd contrast issues with certain equipment. Black can work in a skirt or pant, but try for jewel tones and grays instead if you can.

Minimal accessories: Long, dangly earrings and clattering bangles can be very distracting, as can oversized scarves, wild hosiery, and piles of necklaces. Make one accessory your focal point and keep others to a minimum. Feel free to do a scarf or statement necklace, but pair with studs and a simple watch or bracelet. The fewer shiny objects and moving parts, the better.

For a large group presentation or seminar

Guidelines are mostly the same if you’re presenting to a live audience instead of speaking on-camera, but a few important differences to note:

Pattern in small doses: If you’re pacing back and forth on a large stage in front of dozens of people, an outfit that is mainly solids will be less distracting than one with gobs of prints. Patterned shoes or a scarf will work beautifully, as will a patterned blouse peeking out from a suit jacket. But now is not the time to show off your print-mixing prowess.

Bolder accessories can work: Don’t go overboard, but you can be a bit more adventurous than you would be on-camera, especially if your audience is both large and physically distanced from you. Statement necklaces are great and you can venture into cuff bracelets and larger earrings if you’re so inclined. Careful, though, that you don’t overdo the sparkly: If your accessories glint in the stage lights as you move, that can be irritating.

Be comfortable: You’re gonna be the main attraction for quite a while, so don’t wear a stiff, confining blazer or a dress that makes you self-conscious about your butt. Pick clothes and accessories that feel good. Anything that pulls, pinches, or subdivides won’t be flattering or comfortable, and anything fussy will just distract you.

For a small group presentation

With a smaller audience, more tweaks can be made, including:

Regular makeup: For TV and large groups, kick it up. If it’s just you and 6 colleagues in a conference room, regular makeup is fine.

Wear your favorite colors and patterns: Much looser guidelines with small groups, so feel free to be a bit more creative. However bear in mind that structure and clean lines will always help you look authoritative and that wearing a color that works with your complexion is always wise.

Do your nails: With a smaller audience, your hands will be visible as you gesture. Don’t feel like you need to get a professional manicure, but make sure your nails are neat and tidy. Either freshly polished or polish-free, clean, and trimmed.

Test your outfit noise level: Necklaces, bracelets, and earrings can all jingle. Some shoes squeak. Walk around the room once and make sure you aren’t making any distracting noises with your wearables.

For any professional appearance

Assemble and try on your outfit the night before: Dressing for a media appearance or presentation takes some serious planning and forethought so don’t leave it till the morning of. Pull the pieces together and try them on, down to shoes and accessories. Photograph the outfit if you’re not sure and get a second opinion. That way, once you’re on stage or on screen you can focus 100% on your performance and forget all about what you’re wearing.

Wear comfortable shoes: Doesn’t matter if you think you’ll be standing stock still the entire time. Foot discomfort can be incredibly distracting, so pick a pair you know will keep your toes happy.

My weekly TV spots require me to wear something related to the topic at hand, so I can’t always follow my own guidelines. For instance, in the screenshot above I’m in mint green because we were talking pastels. But you’ll notice I did simple but interesting accessories, clean lines, nothing jingly, and gray as my neutral. My makeup is simple but flattering, I opted for solids instead of patterns, and stuck with structured but comfortable clothing.

Presentations and media appearances are great for your resume and can be incredibly fun and exhilarating, but figuring out what to wear can feel stressful. Hopefully these guidelines will be helpful as you plan for future TV spots and seminars. And, of course, I’d love to hear additional tips from you presentation pros! What would you add? How do you dress for television, large group, and small group appearances?

This post first appeared on Corporette.

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Reader Request: Rut vs. Signature

 

signature style or rut 2

Reader Brenda sent me this fantastic question:

I’ve been considering the difference between a style rut vs. developing a signature look. I’ve read, for example, that Anna Wintor routinely wears a variation on a sheath dress. She’s found what works and sticks with it. Is that a signature or a rut?

I sew a lot of my clothes and have a standard fit & flare dress pattern that I use. I vary the fabric, color, sleeve length and details, and neckline shape, and I get compliments from people. Now there’s a niggling in the back of my head that I’m in a rut, but the competing thought is that this is working for me. I’d love your thoughts on this!

Seriously, isn’t that a good one? As a person who loves being eclectic, I hadn’t given it a ton of thought before Brenda posted the question, but here are my initial thoughts:

How do you feel about it?

This is the main point of differentiation, if you ask me. A rut feels bad, boring, 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.

Does it suit you?

Many of us get stuck in ruts wearing garments or outfits that are more easy than appealing: Jeans and a tee, trousers and a cardigan, the same style of dress. They’re on-hand, they fit, they’re comfortable, they’re washable. We may wear them constantly even though they don’t make us feel good about ourselves. Part of the rut is identifying that your routines aren’t necessarily working for your figure or style, and feeling helpless to change. A signature, on the other hand, is a style or garment that you gravitate toward or even collect specifically because you love how it works for you. You’ve actively chosen it because it suits you and made it central to your personal style.

Do you employ variations on your theme?

Our girl A.W. is definitely a fan of the sheath, but she mixes up her choices. We see cap sleeves, half sleeves, no sleeves. Colors and neutrals. She definitely gravitates toward prints, but there are a few solids in her closet, too. And she varies her accessories: Sometimes there’s a belt or necklace, she switches out her watch occasionally, and gorgeous and varied shoes. If she were in a rut, she would probably stick to a single sleeve style and palette, and style her sheaths the same way every time.

Do you mix in other options?

Naturally, if you wear the exact same thing every day, you’re in uniform territory. And nothing wrong with that, especially if you FEEL great in your uniform. If you wear extremely slight variations on the same combinations every day and never introduce other outfits or styles – and especially if doing this makes you feel trapped, bored, or stuck, as mentioned above – that is more of a rut situation. But if you have a style of pant, shoe, dress, or necklace that is your sartorial touchstone but still occasionally wear and enjoy wearing other styles of pant, shoe, dress, or necklace, you’ve likely developed a signature.

That’s my take, anyway. What are your thoughts? What do YOU see as differentiating a style rut from a style signature?

Images courtesy E Online, Style Bistro, Upscale Hype

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