After being bundled up all winter, it's time to break out of your black-and-gray style cocoon. Spring arrived a little early for most of us this year, you don't want to be out of synch with Mother Nature. But putting together a flattering spring wardrobe can be easier said than done with everything else on your plate. Lest you begin envying caterpillars, who don't have to go to department stores or order on-line to become butterflies, follow our five-step plan for making the most of what you already have and sprinkling in a few new things.
Tip No. 1: The Right Fit Is Always the Most Flattering
Colors, hem lines and silhouettes change every season, but the unbending rule of style — especially after age 40 — is to wear what looks best on you. And you don’t always have to comb department store racks to find it. It might be hanging in your closet and just need a little nip or tuck. Almost everyone’s weight fluctuates, so rather than have wardrobes in different sizes, think in terms of investing in quality garments, and having them altered as need be to keep a consistently flawless fit. Find a good tailor or seamstress, or if you or a friend sews, all the better!
Even if you fell off the trend bandwagon years ago, it's fun to look at least somewhat current — especially if you have a work event or social event that requires (or inspires) a little shopping spree. This spring, for instance, pink shorts (yes, shorts) suits are in for the workplace, but a more suitable look would be peplum skirts and dresses (unless you’re pear-shaped — then think slimmer lines).
Tip No. 2: Match Clothes Color to Your Coloring
Even as you're trying to stay in step with the season, remember: Colors and patterns should never take center stage over you. Your best colors are the ones that enhance you, not overpower you. Here’s a baseline if you’re not sure: The greater your color contrast (difference between your skin tone and the dark-lightness of your hair and eyes), the bolder the colors you can wear; the lesser the contrast, the more muted you should go. So if you’re blond or silver-haired with light to medium skin, you will look elegant in this spring’s tans and pastels. Porcelain- and fair-skinned brunettes and auburns will turn heads in more intense colors.
A rule of thumb to help you determine what scale of print to wear is to match it to your own scale. In general, larger people can wear larger prints—but there are prints, and then there are prints. The 2012 runway features vibrant, swirling, futuristic and tribal prints as well as oversize graphic blocks of color, including bright red, chartreuse, orange, tangerine (not good for most women) and neon (not good for anyone).
You can look au courant with just a splash of the season’s hot colors accenting the tans and whites that are in style every spring. If your skin is light and pink-toned, a great look would be a pink-and-red scarf over a beige suit. If your skin is olive or darker, the same suit would look terrific with an orange necklace. With either type of coloring, a bright blue handbag or bangles with white slacks and a navy jacket would work beautifully.
Want a little more of the season’s hits? You’ll probably want to leave the traffic-stopping neon colors to the runway crowd, but you can still have fun with an enlivening burst of spring’s hot palette. Choose bold, bright, happy colors for a high-energy feel, and save sweet pastel or sorbet shades for more low-key days.
Tip No. 3: A Dress Is for Success
Dresses are always feminine — not necessarily girlish — and they’re a wonderful invitation to break out of a trouser-wearing rut. When they fit right, no matter your size, dresses are pretty, slimming, can make as strong a statement as the old school "power suit" — plus they just look great.
Dresses have an innate elegance, and because of their continuity, the eye travels comfortably up and down without pausing on any “problem areas” that might make you feel self-conscious. This is where choosing the right style for your body type comes into play. Don't be overly influenced by the season's cuts. When selecting a dress, make sure it drapes your body in the most flattering way. For instance, a shoulder or bodice drape can camouflage your waist or caboose if desired. And a wrap dress is always a "pear-shaped" body's go-to look, maximizing your upper body while minimizing the lower.
One of the most commons excuses I hear for eschewing dresses is “the hosiery issue.” If you’re a hose-hater, you are probably (forgive me) wearing cheap hose or buying the wrong size. Here’s my secret weapon: www.onehanesplace.com/
, which features terrific sizing and style diversity. Marshalls, TJ Maxx and the Burlington Coat Factory are great destinations for discounted designer hose (I like Calvin Klein at $3 a pop!). Proper-fitting hose should smooth you, not pinch or bind, feel great on and make your dress shimmer-slip over your body.
Tip No. 4: Accessories Are a Girl's Best Friend
Talk about an easy and fun way to sport a trend! Accessories always fit, and they can make a smart style statement without costing a fortune. After you’ve landed on that perfect beige dress or had your favorite blue suit tailored, think about how you can jazz it up. Pick up any hint of color in your outfit and carry it through to your shoes (coral pumps?), that pink and red scarf or find a big new inexpensive handbag in a vibrant, color. That alone will turn up the heat on a neutral outfit.
In the ever-popular shoes-and-bags category, this spring offers two very different themes: saturated pastels (like the palette of a Mad Men set, only colorized) and tribal patterns in sensual earth tones. Slouchy bags and high heels still top the season's accessories charts. But don't be a slave to fashion (not that you would). Think comfort, but do consider something that’s at least trimmed out in colors that match some of your outfits. One show-stopping pair can do more for an outfit than anything — especially if your legs aren’t going to spend the evening tucked under a table.
If your jewelry box has only dainty gold chains and that necklace your kids made for Mother’s Day, it’s time to go shopping. Gold metallics are hot this season, and if that works with your coloring, go wild! Pick up chunky gold or multicolored necklaces in metals. Play with faux pearl necklaces in nontraditional colors from copper to steel blue. Create your own trendy multichain necklace with a creative blend of chains, beads and pearls.
Tip No. 5: Remember the Power of Hair and Makeup
Talk to your stylist about a punchier haircut or adding some (more) highlights. Ask for tips for giving yourself a professional-looking blowout at home. (It all starts with a good hairdryer and one good conditioner.) And while you want to play up either your eyes or your lips, if you tone down the mascara and shadow, you can give yourself a jaunty spring look with a dusting of bronzer or a bronzer blush. That little hint of sunglow, along with a bright, bold new lipstick can add flair to any look. While you don't want to look (or feel) silly, you can still have fun choosing one of the season's hottest oranges or neon pinks.
Ann Lindsay is an AICI-certified image consultant and the proprietor of Style of Success. As a style coach, she teaches men and women how to translate their appearance to improve social confidence in the workplace. www.sosforwomen.com.
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