Friday, April 8, 2011

Tips from a Fashion Disaster: How to Trick People into Thinking You Know How to Get Dressed

Okay, so some of you will not believe this, but here’s my confession: I have a long history of being awful at fashion! No, really. I might hide behind some cute outfits, but inside there is this ridiculously awkward geek who has no idea how to get dressed in the morning. My adventures in fashion have been an exercise in tricking people into thinking I know how to get dressed. Seriously, I think this at least half the time I put on my clothes for the day: Ha, ha! I got you suckers! You think I’m put together! With that said, if you are a fashionista who knows how to get dressed, you do not need this post. If, however, you are like me and leave your house every day wondering if the world will discover your dark, fashionably-challenged secret, do I have the post for you! I was absent from class the day the "Rules for Wearing Cute, Put-Together Outfits" manual was passed out, and I wanted to do a post for all the girls who were playing hooky with me. Here you will find six tips for tricking the world into thinking that you know how to get dressed. The following are tips compiled by a fashion disaster who suffered years of “oh my dog, why am I not cute?” to bring you this list. With that said, welcome to:

How to Trick People into Thinking You Know How to Get Dressed

1.) You have too many neutrals. Yes, you. Get some bright colors. My mother used to tell me that “this {black/white/brown/ivory} {item} will go with everything!” Okay, yes. That’s true. But if you use this rule every time you shop, as I used to, then you have a bunch of {item} and none of “everything.” If you’ve been following this “rule” to the letter like me, you probably have too many neutrals. Your mission now is to find that “everything” – and then wear it! Don’t put that black cardigan with every outfit just because it will go with everything. Pick a blue cardigan instead. To do this, follow my fool-proof method: A.) Put on the cardigan. B.) Try not to have a heart attack because you are wearing something that will not, in fact, “go with everything.” Actually, you may even be wrong about that. Colors can go with tons of things, too. Neutrals aren’t the end-all and be-all, and stepping away from them is a key step into tricking people that you know how to get dressed.

2.) “It doesn’t need to match; it needs to go.” – seriously! Whenever I heard this on What Not to Wear, it would always fly right over my head. I don’t think I really appreciated what they were talking about until I started seeing it in action on blogs. I used to buy, say, a pattered skirt and think that I could only pair that skirt with a solid top that exactly matched the most prominent color in said skirt. That is not true! Complimentary colors can look even more polished and put together than matching things exactly. Two ways I get around this: A.) I intentionally pair crazy things together just for fun in the privacy of my closet to get over my “fear” of not matching. Sometimes what I think will look nutty actually gives me an idea for a great outfit! B.) When I’m actually getting dressed to leave the house, I try to go for contrast over matching. A slightly different shade of orange on top and bottom might look like you couldn’t match your top and skirt, but if you pair orange with, say, purple, it looks deliberate. Sometimes just looking like you’re not trying to match helps you pull off a look. Bam! Instant “I know how to get dressed”!

3.) Tights are your new best friends! … And other not-so-obvious footwear solutions. Years ago, I thought the only time I could wear a skirt or a dress was in the spring and summer. Any other time, I would either freeze my tail off, look like I had no idea what month was on the calendar, or both. Coordinating tights can be a huge part of what pulls an outfit together, and they’re also my “d-oh!” solution to how the heck I was supposed to wear all my cute shoes in the winter. I thought all tights were the horribly uncomfortable, feel-like-nails-on-a-chalkboard-on-my legs spandex that my mother forced me to wear to Sunday school when I was six. WRONG. Tights can be even more comfortable than pajama pants if you look for cotton or other soft materials without control tops. They will not necessarily squish your midsection to the point of internal organ damage! At the same time, one of the things I didn’t realize was that it was perfectly acceptable to wear heels/flats/etc without socks. My assumption made me believe that the only time I could wear these shoes was with pants, which led me to think there were no acceptable footwear options to wear with skirts/dresses, which led to a skirt-and-dress-free lifestyle. And remember that knee socks are great for wearing with boots. They exist!

4.) Define at least one part of your figure in an outfit, and if you don’t know which part, it’s probably your waist. I used to think that any flowy part of an outfit made me look about as wide as the Great Wall of China and as shapeless as a water balloon, but this is not true! As long as you have a defined silhouette, it can also include flowy elements. If you’re like pre-fashion-blog me and that sentence made your eyes glaze over, the English translation is “when in doubt, put on a belt.” I’d recommend looking in the mirror and figuring out if you see an hourglass. If you don’t, put on a belt. Yes, Virginia, the belt can actually go where there are no belt loops, and it can go on the smallest part of your waist!

5.) You don’t have to wear That thing That way just because you’ve been doing so for the past nine thousand years. When I tried to dress myself in the past, I’d get caught up in these weird little “rules” I had for myself. I didn’t think I could tuck in skirts because I thought it made me look stuffy and big as a child. I had no idea how to wear dressy shoes with anything but pants, so I assumed you couldn’t do it. I paired things together just because I did it once and felt like it didn’t look awful. Even things that I liked on other people – such as creative layering – I, for some unknown reason, assumed wouldn’t look right on me. I thought I’d look like I was playing a part, trying too hard. In my head, everyone was wise to my “I know how to get dressed!” act. Get yourself out of this rut by deliberately breaking these “rules” you’ve made for yourself, even if you don’t actually wear the outfit out. Every time I wore a top tucked into a skirt, for example, it looked a little less like an abomination to me. Pretty soon, you’ll stop feeling like an imposter and be confident enough to wear your rule-breaking creation outside!

And finally, for our most important way to trick people into thinking that you know how to get dressed, here’s one tip that you must always remember:

6. You are a fabulous rock star, and you don’t care what they think. What’s the worst thing that can happen if an outfit doesn’t work? You aren’t going to get beheaded by the Fashion Police. Trust me. I ought to have a PhD in wearing outfits that didn’t work. If you don’t love the way something looks one day, remember that it’s just one day, and you lose so much more in not taking that risk, learning from your mistakes, and challenging your perception of what you’re “allowed” to wear. Anything you wear is going to be fabulous because you are wearing it. When all else fails, throw out the rules and wear what makes you happy. A smile is the most versatile accessory, and ultimately your own confidence is the best way to trick people into thinking that you know how to get dressed.


  1. I love your rules. I have had a really hard time with almost all of them until recently.
    1. I have so much black one would think I have Gothic tendencies.
    2.It's incredibly hard for me to go from matchy match to coordinating.
    3.Since I live in MN winters are FREEZING. This year I discovered the little trick of wearing multiple layers of tights and no longer freeze my days away.
    4.Again, only recently discovered belts were my friend and flowy things weren't my enemy.
    5. I get into ruts with clothing ALL the time.
    Thanks for the tricks! It's nice to know I'm not the only one who sometimes struggles.

  2. What a great post...I loved reading them. The rule that really spoke to me the most was the one about color since I am definitely a neutral girl...I always get black! I need to branch out more. You are a very engaging writer, by the way :)

  3. Great post, Katie! Thanks for all of the tips. I have also stuggled (sometimes still do) with all of these. I can still hear my mom saying "that will go with everything"!

  4. This is a phenomenal list! Thank you so much for all of the tips. I've been trying hard to break out of the box of conventional outfits. Last year all I knew to wear were slacks, a black or white t-shirt and a coloured v-neck sweater. Thank goodness for the discovery of fashion blogs to help with a little inspiration!

  5. I kind of want to show this to all the women I know. A lot of them are snappy dressers, but I think most of them could benefit from this list. They all seem so afraid of color; it makes me sad.

  6. Thanks for sharing Katie.
    I believe in your rules because they obviously work with you, you always look so cute.

    I need to work more on number 3, so next year I hope to expand my tights to include a couple more colorful options.