Sep 04

How To Dress Your Outfit Up or Down

Women complain about a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear and many of us are faced with the same problem, too many choices, Or you may be a beginning cross-dresser with no clue how to make use of the few clothes that you have. The secret here is to have an outfit that you love and learn how to dress your outfit up or down. from casual to dressy. Can you give me suggestions on how to dress up and dress down items (appropriate for a 60 yr old — my Google searches are finding things for the 20-somethings)? I’m betting it has something to do with accessories, but really need some guidance.”

Thanks to my friend, Jane Liddelow at Style Makeover Hdqts, we have some very helpful hints below. Jane is helping one of her clients, Julie, who says, “”One of my style words is Versatile — being able to wear the clothing for different types of occasions — but I’m getting stuck. I’m so used to having a casual wardrobe, a business wardrobe (which has dwindled), and a fancy wardrobe, that I can’t come up with ways to dress up my casual stuff and dress down my business and fancy stuff.

Can you give me suggestions on how to dress up and dress down items (appropriate for a 60 yr old — my Google searches are finding things for the 20-somethings)? I’m betting it has something to do with accessories, but I really need some guidance.” (Hint: accessories is only part of it)

Let’s start with an essential piece of any woman’s basic wardrobe and one that is likely to be part of our overly casual American scene, a pair of black trousers. In the case we are using a nicely fitted pair of seasonless wool trousers (left) which are available at any of the better ladies boutiques. These are a smart and comfortable wool, nylon, spandex mix that Julie has in navy and black and has been wearing for business with a matching jacket and a shell underneath. I suspect something similar to this combination on the right.

black trousers outfit

Understanding levels of dress

Julie’s right to think that accessories have a lot to do with making an outfit more formal or more casual. However, that’s not quite the complete picture. It’s about understanding what makes both accessories and clothing more dressy or more casual.

Clothing and accessories are typically seen as more formal and dressier when they:

  • Are more structured, fitted, and tailored
  • Are great quality, for example, quality fabrics, quality construction, well made, refined
  • Cover more skin. For example, shoes that cover toes, panty hose with skirts, upper arms covered, not too much cleavage on show (except perhaps for evening wear)
  • Have more classic design lines
  • Have no exaggerated, trendy styling details

Items are seen as more casual when:

  • Clothing has less structure
  • Clothing has more stretch, such as sportswear
  • Shoes are chunkier
  • Fabric is coarser
  • More skin is exposed

Here are some examples for dressing down the navy suit pants shown above:

business or smart casual collage

Casual style

These pants are tailored so they will always create smarter casual outfits (as opposed to relaxed casual). However, do you see that by pairing them with more and more relaxed, more casual clothes and accessories that they create outfits suitable for various lower levels of dressing?

And here’s an example of dressing the pants up for a semi-formal or cocktail-style event.

Semi formal style of dressing up pants

Here I’ve added a quality lace top, nice jewellery, dressy sandals and a sparkly evening bag.

The Tiny Style Details You Think People Don’t Notice (But They Do)

If you’re trying to make a good impression, whether you have an interview, a big presentation, or lunch with the girls, you want to look your absolute best. And besides throwing on a pants and heels, that means paying attention to the little things—the things that someone will notice no matter how “unnoticeable” you think they are

Here are some seemingly small style details that can make all the difference in making an amazing first impression.

The Length of Your Pants

Yes, I know—it would be much more convenient if you could wear the same pair of dress pants with heels one day and ballet flats the next. Unfortunately, unless you’re the proud owner of some Style Snaps, you can’t have the best of both worlds. So, decide which type of shoes you’ll wear with each pair of pants, and have them tailored accordingly.

When wearing heels, the hem of your dress pants should fall about ½ inch from the ground in the back—short enough that the hem doesn’t drag on the ground, but long enough that the pants graze the very top of your shoe in the front.

Length of pants when wearing heels

For flats, your pants should cover most of the shoe in the back, without actually touching the ground.

length of pants when wearing flatsThe Length of Your Sleeves

Your sleeve length can—well, should—also prompt a trip to the tailor. An inch or two of extra fabric doesn’t seem like a big deal, but sleeves that are too long (or too short) can make you look frumpy and unpolished. Ideally, the cuff of your sleeve should hit just below your wrist when holding your arms at your sides.

proper length of sleevesGaping Button-up Shirts

Button-up blouses have a pesky tendency to gape at the chest, even when they otherwise fit perfectly. Your best option, of course, is to buy a shirt that fits perfectly in the chest, and then have it tailored to fit everywhere else. But if tailoring isn’t your thing, you can get away with a little well-placed fashion tape to smooth the gaping. Or, try The Shirt, a line of blouses with buttons on the inside that prevent the dreaded gap.

Gapping shirtWell-Maintained Shoes

While you’d think shoes are the last things anyone would notice, they’re more obvious than you think, especially if you tend to cross your legs in meetings (or work with a shoe-loving bunch of ladies). So, if your go-to pair is scuffed beyond recognition, or the heel is worn down to the nail (resulting in an embarrassing clack-clack-clack every time you walk across the room), invest in a new pair (or at least some replacement heel caps).

scruffy heelsNot Wearing a Belt

If you’re wearing a pair of pants with belt loops and a tucked-in shirt, you should definitely wear a belt—empty belt loops look forgetful and, well, empty.

And take the reverse into consideration, as well: If you want to wear a belt with skirts or slacks that don’t have belt loops, make sure to secure it somehow—otherwise, when you sit down or stand up, you risk some awkward belt shifting. So, grab some safety pins and try this trick—it’s super easy and unnoticeable.

You’ll also want to read Nadine Spirit’s post on the Benefits of Belts

Wearing beltAppropriate Accessories

Sure, accessories can make an outfit—but if you want your audience’s complete attention in a formal situation (e.g., an interview or big presentation), you also don’t want your statement necklace to steal the show. So, if your main goal isn’t to display your sense of style, stick with simple accessories. This goes for everything: earrings (one pair only), rings (one on each hand, at most), and necklaces (read All About Necklaces).

womens accessories_

Manicured Nails

You use your hands a lot—to shake hands, to gesture in conversation, and to shift through files. So make sure your nails make a good impression. They don’t have to be manicured, but they should be free of torn cuticles and chipped polish.

If you’re a nail biter, you only have a few options: Commit to growing them out, get some (short and natural-looking) falsies, or get regular manis, which can help you resist the urge to bite. Polish-wise, if your workplace is a casual startup, by all means, break out the neon. However, if you work in a more traditional, corporate environment, you’ll want to stick to neutrals.

manicured nails

Left-This R-Not This

The Rest

Before you head out the door, don’t forget to check the final details – use a full length mirror: Make sure you aren’t storing hair ties on your wrists, your perfume isn’t overwhelming, and your teeth are lunch- and lipstick-free. With impeccable style and matching confidence, you’ll knock ’em dead.

woman looking in mirror

Finally here’s a short video on how to take an outfit from casual to dressy in a quick and easy manner


Sources:   Style Makeover Hdqts and The Muse