When you are putting together ‘a look’ where do you start? The shoes, the dress, the accessories?
I have two maxims about style:
Nothing is smart unless it suits
Always dress up because others will wish they had!
Styling is fun, creative and can produce amazing results. You have an event to attend, an interview or a special occasion and you want to put together an outfit that makes you feel:
- Absolutely Fabulous
- Original – there will be no one else who looks like you
We are all individuals and each one will have an approach that suits, once you have found it. I would like to share my approach to styling an outfit from start to finish. The special occasion is a family Summer Wedding and I am Stepmother of the Bride.
Personal style can be elusive. There are a lot of books that can help but can never pin down the essence of it because that can only come from you. There are certain things that shape style that are yours. For me, it is meeting these points with honesty.
- Body shape
- Hair and Makeup
- Clothes – dress or separates
- Shoes/ Handbag
You may tackle them in a different order but they are all elements that need to be considered against the context of the event.
Personal style changes as you change – as you get life experience , the stage of life you are at and your age. I have read in a number of books the importance of having a trademark that is easily remembered. For me, it is my hair and make up. What would your trademark be?
The event I am styling is a summer wedding. A day for happiness, enjoying meeting family and new friends. A day with smaller events around the main event. The outfit must take me from day to evening. How much time for each part during the day is also a factor in the way the outfit had got to work for me.
How can you put your personality in to what you are choosing to wear? I am very much a “detail” person. Therefore my outfit will include detail! The right jewellery, colours matching where appropriate, a thread of co-ordination running through the ensemble. A more tailored style suits me rather that frills and fussy trimmings. As I love planning, my outfit will be carefully planned and this will show in the finished look.
It is essential you understand your body shape so you can flatter it and cover any imperfections. The Hollywood costume designer Edith Head suggests putting a bag over your head with eyeholes cut out. This is so you can concentrate on the shape of your body without the distraction of your head. Looking in a mirror with as little on as possible will enable to discern your shape.
I am an hourglass curvy shape so prefer fitted clothes. My shoulders slope and are really milk bottle shoulders. I need structure and a small shoulder pad to make a great line. This then helps the waist to have more definition. I must take care not to look too wide at the hips. My height is a very average 5’4″, but I always think tall! Big hair, high heels and good upright posture can create the illusion of height.
Hair and MakeUp
NEVER let your hair and makeup be an afterthought, tacked onto a lovely dress or suit at the last minute. ALWAYS think carefully about the look you want. Try out different shadows on your eyes and lipstick colours and textures and allow enough time to experiment beforehand . Working out the makeup is as much fun as the rest of the outfit. By trying out different looks your are learning all the time, the best look for you for the day and for future outfits! It will also speed up the getting ready on the day.
I made my lipstick for the evening brighter and made sure it complimented the jewellery colours, scarf and corsage. If it is not possible to find one lipstick colour that is right – blend 2,3 even 4 colours in natural light until you get the exact shade you want.
Always make sure your clothes are appropriate for the event and the time of day. That alone is enough. Once you have decided what is needed for this, the fun can start!
Shoes and Handbag
You have to decide heel height, shoe style and colour then whether to match a handbag or not. Do you need a small handbag or a larger more practical one? Once these points are decided, you can get to work.
Can you wear a scarf or a belt? Accessories can be changed or tweaked through the day to make your outfit move into different stages with ease. This is particularly helpful if the event takes place over a large stretch of time.
For me, this is the best part! It is rather like saving the nicest food on your plate until last to savour it. I just adore putting together the jewellery that can make or break the final “look”.
With those 7 points in mind let me take you through the Summer Wedding Outfit put together on a budget. I would never just go out a buy something new. Why not? That is simple answer. The current fashion may not suit me and I could encounter someone else in the same get up – ugh! Being unique is essential , which is why I love vintage so much.
I like to buy from Oxfam on line so I am finding pieces that are going to work for me and that cannot be copied. My secret weapon here , dear Reader is my dressmaker. If I buy something I like that is too big, too baggy or too long – I take it to my dressmaker and together we work out how to alter it and make it fit. For the Summer Wedding I was Stepmother of the Bride. My husband was in grey trousers, frock coat and grey and cream waistcoat, with a silver cravat and a winged collar. So he was going to look formal and classically elegant. My outfit needed to compliment him without being too showy. Elegance was the order of the day.
I kept searching on Oxfam on line and tried a few pieces. They were not good enough, or too dark coloured, I was losing heart. A navy blue dress from Long Tall Sally arrived in the post with 2 or 3 other garments, would any suit? They were a bit of a mixture and when I tried the dress, my husband said send it back! However I thought I would go to my dressmaker to ask if it could be altered to fit my narrow shoulders. It could! I had the dress. As I usually wear skirts and jackets this dress was different for me. It had tiny cream dots all over which broke up the block of blue.
Always look in your wardrobe first before buying anything as a rule of thumb. I had navy blue heels that were made from a lacy fabric that matched very well.
To look lighter and more summery I wanted to use cream. Cream would enable me to wear pearls and use cream accessories.
I found a lovely cream sinamay hat in a local charity shop for £12. It was loose enough not to crush my hair and would be just right to wear in the church. For the reception, I found a cream headpiece on a comb for £1.99 in a different charity shop. I already had some 1950’s ruched gloves and some cream handbags to try out.
The styling started with trying it all on and choosing the gloves that looked best. I tried short and longer gloves and tried them all on in good light to find the shade of cream that complimented the dress. Next came the handbag, and here I tried various styles all in cream to get the one that would work best with the overall look. The one that worked best was a framed 1950’s cream handbag that toned well with the gloves and balanced the dress without overpowering it.
Finally, choosing the jewellery, the finishing touches. How do you know what is right? Dear Reader it comes down to trying on and instinct. When you try on 2 or more combinations, one will always stand out and that is the right one. The one that works best takes the outfit up to a higher level of satisfaction and delight!
I tried a lot of brooches and necklaces before settling on 3 rows of short graduated pearls and a very lovely Christian Dior brooch. It was not too much, and was a special gift from my husband and would give me great pleasure to wear and him pleasure to see me wearing his gift.
Bracelets really do something for me. I have slim wrists and large hands and feel better and more dressed with a bracelet on my right wrist and another on my left wrist with my watch. This is now another trademark, but dear Reader, I have copied it from Marilyn Monroe in “Gentlemen prefer Blondes”. I chose my 2 favourite named bracelets from my collection to wear in the daytime with simple pearl studs .
There was something missing. The outfit was lovely but it lacked that extra “something” that lifted it and made it just right for me. I decided to carry a Foxes Ladies Deep Frill umbrella/parasol in ivory. I had always wanted one and as I was in budget – £30 for the dress (including alterations and dry cleaning), £12 for the hat and £1.99 for the headpiece. My husband agreed to me pushing the boat out £150! That was it! The joy at owning this amazing umbrella is wonderful. No one else wore a full hat or had an umbrella on the day so I was thrilled.
I chose a large fine silk scarf in very summery colours to tie onto the handbag in a floppy pussy bow. then I clipped a flower corsage into the centre of the bow. This gave me some extra colour in the outfit when I was not using the umbrella.
To tweak the outfit through the day, I left off the hat and umbrella in the morning, wore the hat and umbrella at the Church, the headpiece in the afternoon with a scarf and corsage on my handbag, then changed my jewellery and corsage in the evening. There was not enough time to go and change for the evening so I just looked a little different!
Working out the change of jewellery was fun. With such a simple dress I chose a Demi Parure in pink and aurorerborealis stones. The earings were big and the brooch showy and with a different bracelet on my right wrist was set!
To dress up the same handbag I simply changed the corsage in the middle of the bow to a deeper shade to compliment the jewellery. It made something pretty to carry and added extra pizzazz. I also changed my lipstick colour to match.
I would love to hear about some of your triumphs with styling.
Thank you for visiting Gloriously Vintage today.