Utility has replaced Flash. So, for now anyway, it's time to pack away anything tight and excessively girly and to embrace an easy going and 'effortless' mix: dressed with casual, masculine with feminine. It's a look that says " This old thing? I just threw it on with these safari pants and six-inch platforms and I was out the door." Of course, 'effortless' is a fashion myth. It takes some effort to look good whatever your personal style.
During a recent radio interview I was asked to describe what 'effortless style' means. Yipes. Whole articles have been written on the subject, illustrated with the usual photos of Kate Moss and Charlotte Gainsbourgh. My answer: " 'Effortless' describes the woman whose ability to put herself together in the right looks appears to be as reflexive as breathing. She knows herself and dresses for her body." Okay, so it was a start but it doesn't entirely define ES. Lately, I've watched a lot of women in airports, lobbies, stores, restaurants and the street and I've come up with six things that are constants in a seemingly 'effortless' look.
Have a few uniforms
Know your body. If you look best in the structure of a jacket or a lightweight 'signature' coat or in a particular dress shape then go with it. Designer Carolina Herrera wears a white shirt most days. The bottoms vary but the crisp white shirt is a constant. Singer Patti Smith, now in her sixth decade, is never without one of Ann Demeulemeester's mannish, tailored black jackets to add definition to her slight frame. Or legendary Vogue editor Diana Vreeland (above) whose uniforms included black cashmere cardigan's worn backwards and matching cuffs on each wrist. It is less labor intensive to shop for updated versions of the proven winners in your wardrobe. It's not limiting. It's liberating.
Above L-R Carolina Herrera takes a bow after her F/W 2010 show. A blazer from Ann Demeulemeester's F/W 2010 show. Both images from style.com.
Embrace evolution. Keep your look evolving. For those of you who've read my book Style Evolution you know I am a big believer in steady, incremental change. Small seasonal tweaks here and there keep a woman looking plugged in to now. The french describe someone who is plugged in as trés branché. This doesn't necessarily mean faddish or trendy to the extreme but rather observant, adaptable and youthful.
Opposites Do Attract - Masculine with feminine is a timeless combination. Menswear inspired tailoring will always look great paired with a soft blouse and statement jewelry. Wear dressed-up pieces with shine with utilitarian classics like the trench coat, pea coat, anorak or leather jacket. Jeans, khakis, white shirts and tee shirts worn with dressier pieces strike an easy-going balance between day and evening clothes.
Below L and R Two images from Tory Burch S/S 2010 whose collections mix high/low and an uptown meets downtown vibe. Both images form style.com.
Wear bold accessories. Few things make a visual case for personal style like costume jewelry. A statement necklace, big cuffs, an oversized ring or two- all transform a simple look. Current looking shoes (which doesn't have to mean sky-scraping or mondo platforms) that suggest a trend will add an essential dose of now to an outfit. I guess where words fail, accessories visually articulate a woman's sense of style.
ABOVE Left: Fenton Fallon for J. Crew necklace from a selection on jcrew.com. Dries van Noten accessories from F/W 2010. Lower left: Michael Michael Kors shoe michaelkors.com. Lower right: Ann taylor sandal anntaylor.com.
One OTT piece per outfit -Whether embellished, beaded, feathered, vintage or just plain over-the-top borderline bad taste - let it rip- but keep everything else in your outfit a study in simplicity.
Clothes should fit well. Too tight. Too oversized. Bad fit and looking 'effortless' are incompatible. Having a few nips and tucks at the tailor makes dressing well effortless.
Oh and a seventh tip: Hair should evolve too. Get the best haircut (and color) you can afford. Overstyled or dated hair is a daily look killer no matter how great your outfit.