The High-Low Mix
If there’s one trick that will take you from simply wearing clothes to looking styled, it’s adopting the secret formula of fashion insiders for choosing outfits that look perfectly put together. Dress high and low, an ingenious method that balances out the most fabulous pieces in your wardrobe with the most mundane. You will always fit in with every occasion and this clever equation allows you to get extra wear from those things you bought for special occasions only.
In essence, high—low dressing boils down to a simple formula: Take one part crazy (a brocade cocktail skirt) and one part plain (a block-colour T-shirt) and team them together to give your outfit an unexpected twist. The surprise element of fancy mixed with your basic wardrobe staples will look considered but never calculated, and you win major points for creative styling. It’s why silky blouses look freshest with beaten-up denim jeans rather than equally silky skirts, and the reason a leather jacket looks eternally cool over a sequinned slip dress and canvas sneakers.
As long as you keep a ratio of 50:5o, sticking to the perfect balance of high and low, your outfits will always work. It’s foolproof. And keep the formula in mind when you’re choosing accessories, too. You can balance out a whole look — say, a T-shirt and jeans (low) with an evening clutch and strappy heels (high).
The Third Piece
Even if you’re not a fan of maths, it’s worth learning off by heart and will serve you far better than trigonometry. Take a top and a bottom, whether it’s a skirt, jeans or trousers, and add one other item to transform the outfit’s mood. It’s soooo easy. You’ll look more polished, edgier or glamorous depending on what outerwear or accessory you choose. Note that shoes and bags don’t count towards your three-piece total, but they can make a vital difference to the overall look.
The Tuck & Untuck
There are two ways to do it. The first works with shirts and involves tucking in the fabric on one half of the placket (where the buttons are stitched) from the middle of your waist to a couple of inches away from your hip, while the other half blows free all the way round to your opposite hip.
One step smarter is this. Once your bottoms are done up and your top is on, place your hands halfway between belly button and hip on each side of your waist. Slide the fabric under your hands — and the material between the hands — under the waistband so you’re tucked in. The shirting from the hips outwards remains free for that perfectly imperfect look, while your waist is defined and you look casually polished.
The Arm Roll
Ah, the artful rolled sleeve, bringing glamour to silk shirts everywhere. But there is a method to the madness of shortening a full-length sleeve. Don’t just roll your sleeve up to elbow height. There is a special fashion insider’s way to perfect the sleeve and it goes like this: Take the hem of your shirt sleeve and fold it up, bringing it all the way up to your bicep. Next, take the bottom folded edge of your sleeve and fold it up once or twice until it hits just above your elbow. Pull out the cuff at the outer edge and you’re done: immaculately rolled sleeves.
How to Layer
The problem with layering is that it has, by its very nature, the potential to add bulk to any body shape. So the solution is to choose many fine, light layers, and to pick your top and bottom layers with care.
Starting from the bottom, Uniqlo’s Heattech range has been a lifesaver! The fabric has a clever way of trapping body heat and storing it close to your skin to keep you warm. A T-shirt and leggings are the ultimate layers to slip into when the weather is really icy. Alternatively, silk is renowned for its insulating properties. Just make sure that whatever layers you start with are fitted close to your body to keep a slim silhouette as you add more clothes. Be aware that if you’re going to mainly be inside, these layers will be too warm, so concentrate on adding extra warmth from your final, easily removed layer instead.
The ultimate layering item has to be the polo neck. In cotton jersey they add a sleek element to even the most practical outfit. However, I like a charcoal grey or navy version too, or a subtle fine stripe, which make the top look like it’s a styled element of my outfit, rather than just a layer to keep me warm.
The next layer will be the statement-maker of your outfit. Whether you pick a bold full skirt, a flannel shirt, a sharp shift dress or a printed jumpsuit, these are the pieces that people will focus on. When you are planning what to wear, this is the layer you should start with. Your layers below and on top should complement this core outfit, so choose colours, print and texture that enhance the design details and style of your look. By putting extra clothes below and above this layer, you can get far more mileage out of a summer sundress or lightweight cotton pieces, and wear things that give you happy summer memories during the darkest months.
Depending on how much cold you need to protect yourself from, you can add a cardigan. A thick, chunky knit will be the item that adds the most bulk to a layered look, so keeping your outfit in proportion is paramount. Conversely, a leaner knit can take a bolder shape on your bottom half, and Oxford bags or pleated skirts will look best.