How can I look sexier?
November 13, 2011 9:31 PM   Subscribe

I can't really believe I'm asking this, but: what are some things I can do to look "sexier," in a heteronormative-woman kind of way?

I'm pretty happy with my look in general, but sometimes I'd like to make my, uh, intentions a little more obvious.

I'm newly-ish single, and newly-ish in better shape than I've been in years, and want to take advantage of it a little. The difficulties:

I've got short hair. And it is horribly thin and fine, and is at it's healthy best in a short cut, so long hair isn't an option. I've got a great hair stylist, so it's fashionably cut and professionally colored.

I usually wear glasses, but have recently gotten contacts to change things up. I do wear make-up, so I feel like this opens me up to some more dramatic eye make-up options (?).

Also, I'm pretty flat-chested and enjoy it. I'm thrilled to have lost weight and look thin! And I wear cheap, minimal bras, only sometimes! I don't have any bras right now that, uh, accentuate that area. On the plus side, I guess I could also wear something seriously plunging without looking obscene...

I'm generally pretty stylish, though not terribly trendy... as in, I get a lot of compliments from fashion nerds. I don't wear men's clothes, but I trend towards the androgynous and pretty covered up (think Style Odyssey, in fashion-blogger terms). I would rather buy second-hand designer than new Forever 21.

My usual look is a little... cold? And I realize that can be off-putting, at first. Also, I think I'm ok but I'm not really conventionally attractive, so the quirky thing works for me. I'm really not interested in “competing” or being the “hottest” woman in the room or something, that way lies wrecked self-esteem. But, you know, I have dates, too, occasionally. And would like to get more!

Even my own mother, wh­o rarely wears more make-up than mascara, suggested maybe I should dress sluttier (!).

So give me some ideas: Who are some people I can look to for inspiration? What's a good going-to-a-bar outfit that's not, like, a teeny little dress and super high heels? What are some things that suggest “sexy” without being uncomfortable or cheap? Guys, what are some things that turn your head? Give me beauty tips, pictures/people to look at, links to clothes that might work, whatever. I need to get out of my own particular tastes and expand my look a little bit.

I am totally focused on outside appearance here, not so much on the other important things like confidence and happiness.

Anonymous because I'm a little embarrassed to be asking this.

And if it's really just a push-up bra and a too-short skirt, I guess let me know that, too. Sigh.

Oh, and if it's unclear, I'm a straight, cis-gendered woman. 30-ish.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (52 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
No, no, not sluttier! I think accessories are your friend. I know popular media says "men are silly cavemen and don't notice bracelets or purses so don't bother and pop out the cleavage!" but this isn't true. Try some dangly earrings, a bracelet that really pops ( but not too many pieces at once.) What you want is to stand out and get noticed, which can be achieved with funky sneakers and not miniskirts. I think some of those monochromatic outfits on Style Odyssey could be pepped up with a spiky wrist cuff, or dangly earrings, or even bright yellow Converse. The quirky thing can TOTALLY work for you. Your style and attitude sound awesome.
posted by sweetkid at 9:39 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, you sound like just my type, and looking at the Style Odyssey blog that works for me as well. I guess I'd say that if you want your attentions obvious, make your attentions obvious. Talk, touch, flirt. I'll ignore all sorts of women I'm attracted to just not be the creepy guy giving them unwanted attention.
posted by bswinburn at 9:42 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think sexy is more in how you move than what you wear. Does your workout routine include dance classes? They really do help you be more at home in your body.

Watch Dangerous Beauty. It has some good tips.

I dunno about dress sluttier, but look for clothing that molds to your figure comfortably (not tightly) and is touchable. Look for luxury fabrics with silk or cashmere. Look for colors that flatter you.

I wear shoes that men frequently stop me to admire. They aren't stilletos. I like the more vintage-y styles (these, for instance). I wear nude fishnets a lot, and thigh highs in general. Stockings are awesome for feeling sexy, and stay up with roll on body adhesive. Try
posted by griselda at 9:47 PM on November 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


By the way - You sound like someone I would find incredibly attractive. Short hair and flattish chests are totally hot, just so you know! To me, the taut, cropped elegance is far sexier than the heavy pendulous oozing type of sexual power. I'm spoken for, and simply happy to read about a person that has good taste, I'd prefer the world with you in it as you are! So here's encouragement!
posted by krilli at 9:49 PM on November 13, 2011 [9 favorites]

Guy here: Push-up bras come across as something approaching false advertising. I notice colors, not necessarily bright ones, more those that work well together and with the person's features, skin tone, etc.; and fun, stylish details like a pin, bracelet, cool hat, scarf, glasses, a combination of those sorts of things.

I know you said you're totally focused on outside appearance, but what also stands out a lot is the woman's confidence, whether she's wearing a short skirt and a push-up bra or something else.
posted by ambient2 at 9:49 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Guys, what are some things that turn your head?

As far as clothing, one of the things that most gets my attention is daringly bright colors, like yellow or orange. I also often notice scarves. I like short hair and glasses, and there's no need to dress more revealingly than you're comfortable with. According to science, you should wear red.
posted by John Cohen at 9:54 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, just keeping on the exterior/style tip, blow your hair out with a round brush, and a straightening iron if it's at all wavy. The sleek look will go with the style you're going for, and I've always gotten a lot more attention when I blow out my hair and make it look really sleek and shiny.
posted by sweetkid at 9:58 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't think you have to necessarily wear the super short skirt and heels. But what about chunky heels (that make you feel comfortable, yet totally sassy) with a pair of bold tights?

I think since you are flat chested, you shouldn't feel like you ave to have total cleavage or anything. I'm pretty small, so I like wearing low cut tops with minimalist bras. It shows off my natural form, without being over the top with it.

So I would second some of the upthread suggestions:

One or two bright colors
Chunky heels
Classy v necks without the smooshed boobs

Now go use what your mama (and good workouts) gave you!
posted by too bad you're not me at 10:00 PM on November 13, 2011

Choose things that make you feel sexy and beautiful. If you sex yourself up in a way that makes you feel awkward, exposed, etc, that will be apparent in how you carry yourself and negate the effect. I know it's cliche, but it's true.

Also, wear accessories that stand out and aren't the standard boring "shiny and sparkly" bling. The cool thing about accessories is that they give people an excuse to compliment you and make conversation, without necessarily focusing on your physical attributes in a way that's potentially creepy. The more unique the accessory, the better, especially if it has a story behind it.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:05 PM on November 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

Hi, I'm a cis-woman a little younger than you who mostly dates guys.

Yes to scarves. Wear something soft that makes you want to touch it (chunky knits? or something fuzzy? silk?). Also, drapey things with some movement. Dangly jewelry can fulfill the movement niche, too.

I enjoyed taking advantage of very low necklines when I had less chest, but I don't think I got much male attention from it.
posted by momus_window at 10:06 PM on November 13, 2011

Rock the hip to waist ratio: tighter shirts with full skirts (shortness and tightness as befits your comfort). Personally, for femmes d'un age certain, I tend to inspect the upper arms and lower legs more closely for sveltness, so if you've got dem gams and guns... flaunt 'em. Cap sleeve shirts and mid thigh skirts would showcase these assets.
Keep in mind though, that advertising is a multi-sensory artform. Perfumes and attitude send a lot more signals than dress.
Good Luck.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:15 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have a nice neck/collarbones, accentuate that. I'm relatively small chested but I play up this area, and guys like it.

Lipstick in a bright color is a good idea, but every dating website (proceed with caution) that I've ever read claims that guys hate lipstick (the idea of kissing it, getting it everywhere, &c.). A bright lipstain with a sheer gloss might help in that respect, I don't know.

I think sleek hair really helps. Clothes that make your waist look small. Earrings, especially in combination with a nice neck (and since you have short hair, they're really crucial-- the difference between a frumpy earring and a sexy earring is huge). Black stockings. Heels, anything from 2-4 inches. Liquid eyeliner in black or brown, whichever suits you. Try the cat-eye look.

I think your present style sounds interesting, so if you can find ways to subtly soften it up, that would probably work in your favor. Good luck!
posted by stoneandstar at 10:30 PM on November 13, 2011

Rock the hip to waist ratio

This certainly works for me. Also, if you're slender and wearing trousers it's good if they're tailored to demonstrate you have a bum, rather than make it look flat from the waist to the knee, which looks terrible.

Personally I tend to think flat-chested looks best in think, light cotton tees and similar. It's a great way to get minds thinking along the lines of "small, perfectly formed".
posted by rodgerd at 10:33 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can't really go wrong with a great pair of jeans, cute shoes (heels are best, if you're not into heels, ballet flats or sandals are also in style), a touch of lipstick, a smile, and a healthy dose of self-confidence.
posted by emd3737 at 10:36 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Straight male here. This is not good advice for the winter, but a sundress that is not too tight but suggests the figure turns my head basically always. (I have been told that this is an easier look to pull off with a smaller bust size, but I couldn't say for sure.) So does a skirt over knee-high boots, with or without tights or leggings. Cold Lurkey is right about the hips to waist ratio: basically anything that narrows along your hips and then drapes down your legs would work for me.

Tops that are also a little strappy are a lot of fun. I had an ex-girlfriend with this one top that looked from the front like your average halter top, but the reverse was just a few ties that showed off her back and shoulders. I liked that one. Plunging necklines don't go as far as showing off shoulders, collar, basically anything rounded that suggests curves.

I won't harp on self-confidence since you asked us not to, but I wil say that an outfit that the woman is comfortable in and enjoys wearing beats the regulation miniskirt and heels every time, at least for me. Good luck.
posted by Errant at 10:40 PM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Guys, what are some things that turn your head?

Nthing colors. Bright colors get me, personally. Nothing that seems overly fashionable, but that might just be my taste. A girl in a nice pair of jeans, kicks, and a well-fitting solid color tee is really attractive. Girls in polos, especially if you have a nice collarbone. Collarbones are sexy. Cute knee-length skirts.

Also girls who are dressed kinda quirky. That's a hard thing to define, but, you know, not the typical little black dress thing. Like, a girl with weird socks, a mismatched pattern. Things that aren't like really attention grabbing but are just a little bit off. That could just be me, though.

I'm honestly pretty turned off by girls that look like they've tried really hard, or look like they spent a lot of time or money getting ready, or who are blatantly showing of their, erm, assets. Heels are a big turn-off for me, but that's because I'm just like, that cannot be comfortable. And no one looks comfortable in heels, and looking comfortable is sexy.

My ex-girlfriend also informed me that every time I told her she was really pretty (which I swear was more often than this) she had put on eye-liner. I guess I'm a sucker for that. As others have said, often it's the little things - an accessory, the right (but conservative) make-up.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:03 PM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not your target audience but I think there's a lot of subtle things you can do to attract a little bit of attention and to show your sensuality without getting full-on ice-sucking Dita Von Pamela Kardashian about it. Lots of men thought dirty things about Audrey Hepburn. Do things that make you feel aware of your body in the good way. If you have elegant wrists or hands or collarbones, let them out to say hello, and look for simple accessories that will pull the eye to them. Since you're happiest with short hair, cut the back short enough you feel the air on your nape. If you usually use a lip color, go deeper or darker or brighter or shinier - change it up enough that *you* are aware of your mouth, and you will find others look at it too.

If you are in one of those cities where everyone wears navy blue and black, ditch the bruise palette. Even if you're not up for bright colors, you can venture into ivory and amber and tobacco or deep, rich colors, and you'll stand out against the monotonous dark.

Never wear anything you have to adjust more often than once every thirty minutes. Tugging at yourself is the opposite of sexy. (Chokers look nice on me but make me itchy; stockings make me outright irritable. Snappishness is only sexy if you're Katharine Hepburn and you're on the African Queen.)
posted by gingerest at 11:07 PM on November 13, 2011

Short dark nails, perfectly applied eyeliner, heels - best just on boots or booties in this weather, skinny fitted black jeans, exposed collarbone, longish necklace to create a division in the chest (and no bra is delicious on small boobs, provided they're firm), 3/4 sleeves with cuffs instead of bracelets I find bracelets too dangly, would make you self-conscious if you're unused to jewellery. I like to wear simple matching cuffs on each wrist, plus an additional funkier cuff on the right wrist, and my watch on the left. Skinny, shrunken jackets. Also, your waist needs to be accentuated if you lack it. Have all your old clothes that you still love taken in.
posted by Dragonness at 11:07 PM on November 13, 2011

I wore a thin, high quality gold chain around my waist for years - not something that immediately is noticeable of course, but it's sexy, especially with jeans and a singlet. You only see it every now and again, but it was such an un-trashy, unusual accessory. If you have a slim, smooth waist it can look really cute but it's mainly the way it used to make me feel as it moved around gently as I walked.

I'm also with the camps above who say that collar bones/shoulder cradle showing with toned arms are very sexy. I get a lot of attention when I wear halter neck tops, and I'm small on top. It accentuates the hour glass figure of a fuller busted gal without using a push up bra or whatever, tape. I don't know how you feel about catsuits but I have a great halter neck one that works really well for small bust/slim figures.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:10 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you seen You Look Fab? She sounds your demographic, and I always think she looks smart, polished and fun. 'Unbutton one button, wear a knee-high instead of a boot and you're mostly there.
posted by cior at 12:43 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry, it's not her fashion advice I want to highlight, but her outfits specifically.
posted by cior at 12:45 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't do anything you're not comfortable with, but sure, break the mould, it sounds like you want to. I don't think the right term is slutty, I think your Mum just means more feminine. No one has to betray their own sense of style, especially if you like it and want to keep it. You can just polish it off with some details that give the right vibe.

In no particular order, keep any or all of these in your rotation: shiny sparkly type jewlery like earrings, necklace, bracelets, rings, high heels (it's an easy way to make the whole thing feminine), perfume, make up on the pink/coral/smokey/dramatic end of the spectrum, manicures, more feminine scarves/handbags, don't just wear black, and soft textures like angora or something.

Good luck.
posted by joannqy at 1:28 AM on November 14, 2011

A good way to catch the eye is to wear clothes that suggest that you are showing something you shouldn't - for example, a strappy tank top with a sheer shirt over it can be sexier than just wearing the tank top. A skirt with a slit in it up to the thigh, so that you just show flashes of leg when you walk or sit - way better than a super-short skirt. For a dressy occasion, try a lace dress that has a skin-coloured lining; watching the double-takes you'll get is great fun. Wearing things that allow guys to get a peek at you under the clothes, even if you're not actually showing off any parts of you that wouldn't normally be seen in public, gets them thinking about what's under your clothes.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:15 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I didn't read all the responses to your question but it appeared that a lot of the women, in particular, were giving you conventional, bad advice. Don't try to look sluttier! I, for one guy, can usually tell when an innately un-slutty woman is trying out a slutty look, and the effect is creepy, I'm sorry to report to you. But that's not a failure, as it's only a misstep on a path that shouldn't have been taken.

I guess you're in the same situation as me: far from the common denominator, but impatient as far as the extra time that requires.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 3:00 AM on November 14, 2011

Men don't give a shit about:
1. your jewelry
2. Your accessories
3. Your shoes.
4. Your eyebrows
5. Makeup

Seriously...guys do not give a shit about this. The only time I, with other guys, have talked about any of this stuff related to this kind of talk:

Hal_c doesn't speak for all men, despite what he thinks. As a counter anecdote, I'm a straight, married guy and I would absolutely notice those things, especially if they're cheap or done poorly.
posted by brozek at 3:18 AM on November 14, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think that, the way things are constructed these days, female attractiveness has less to do with classical beauty and more about the appearance of time and energy and money and effort spent. A trendy hairstyle demands daily attention, monthly-or-so financial outlay and a long-term investment in trend-following. Ditto for fashionable clothes. For most people, being thin and lightly-muscled (as seems to be the style of the times) requires commitment to both diet and exercise. Maintaining a tan, wearing makeup daily, having a regimen of hair removal, etc.--all of that stuff shows that appearance is important to you and that you have the resources and commitment to pursue it.

(Just in case you can't tell from my tone, I am not especially into this kind of look myself. But if you want to aim right down the middle, this might be a good way to do it.)
posted by box at 4:53 AM on November 14, 2011

Lipstick in a bright color is a good idea, but every dating website (proceed with caution) that I've ever read claims that guys hate lipstick (the idea of kissing it, getting it everywhere, &c.).

I will delight in quashing that terrible misunderstanding. Lipstick is excellent. Maybe some teenage boys don't know what to do with themselves around lipstick, but any reasonably mature guy will appreciate it.
posted by krilli at 5:17 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

As a counter anecdote, I'm a straight, married guy and I would absolutely notice those things, especially if they're cheap or done poorly.

Me, too.

Or rather, I'm not sure I'd notice the shoes and makeup themselves, but I very much notice the overall effect. I find that when the parts don't go together, and/or the woman is visibly uncomfortable (because her friends talked her into dressing sexier than she is comfortable with, which happens all the time), it is instantly noticeable. And in contrast, when the parts fit together and the person seems comfortable in their own skin, my eye is drawn in a very positive way.

It's definitely not about showing more skin -- often less is more. And dissonance and tension are good -- think of vintage shoes with a modernist dress, say, or Carhartt pants with an ultra feminine top. But definitely think in terms of the whole effect, and make sure it is something you can wear with confidence.
posted by Forktine at 5:52 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

5_13_23_42_69_666 speaks for me. It's not about actually displaying too much skin or letting underwear show, because that's a little gross and a lot slutty, but about giving the impression of unshyness and little hints of skin and hints of the layers beneath.

Remember Cheers? Remember Dr. Lilith Sternen-Crane? She was quite buttoned up, but there was something about how she did it that was very sexy/attractive.

Part of it is, I think, the tailored look. As a counter example, baggy, faded hospital scrubs are almost always the least sexy thing out there. Ah, but put a neatly pressed, well-fitting labcoat over them and you have a winner.

"I want you to look at me" isn't sexy, it's slutty. "I don't want you to look at me" isn't sexy. You sound like you want to go for something like "I've got more going on than you might think at first glance."

I also think that dressing just slightly more upscale is very attractive. Not jumping a whole notch up the scale, but just a little something more. I notice this a lot when I am running errands and getting coffee and whatnot. There is almost always one person behind the counter that has made a small change to differentiate themselves from the rest that catches my eye. Like adding a belt to the Dickies, or earrings that match the uniform, something like that. There is one girl at the Starbucks who always looks great, for one simple reason- her green apron thing is clean, unwrinkled and she ties it just a little tighter than usual. Not "hey, look at my chest", just not floppy and loose.

Looking at the page you linked to, what strikes me is that those clothes look really cheap. Thin cotton and slightly faded. Maybe it is just the photography. Also, in a couple of the photos, the leggings have bunched up. Not sexy. If I was going to improve those looks, I'd lose the leggings and go with some softish looking black denim that isn't baggy, but not quite tight either. (Especially the photo with the white tee shirt.) Or, add some kind of belt-like thing.


1- Lots of anything, especially makeup and jewelry, looks childish and vain to me.

2- As does looking over-groomed. What looks best to me is the impression that someone hasn't been in the bathroom obsessing about stray hairs and getting the 15 layers of makeup just right. Especially off-putting (to me) is when someone's face clearly isn't the same color as the rest of them.

3- Eyebrows are a big one (again, for me). Nothing is sexier than eyebrows that don't look groomed. (Even though they probably are.) A little bushiness or a bit of mustache is way preferable to 5 o'clock shadow...

4- Same thing with hair. Sculpting never looks good to me. Church lady or mall rat. Sorry. What looks good to me is silky/shiny. Tiger stripes ("highlights") look awful, unless they are really done well.

5- The lipstick thing. It can look really good, but I think where guys get messed up with it is when it looks like it might get smeared.

What it comes down for me is a sort of intimidation thing: too much "stuff" seems breakable, like the person doesn't want to be approachable.

(And of course, nothing is sexier in a dude than bullet points of what they think... )
posted by gjc at 6:17 AM on November 14, 2011

hal_c_on: "Men don't give a shit about:
1. your jewelry
2. Your accessories
3. Your shoes.
4. Your eyebrows
5. Makeup

Yeah, I notice all these things. Like Forktine, I notice the overall effect, even before I was aware of it. But I'm also the kind of nerd that takes apart things to see how they work, and I have tried to break down attractiveness in women, so I tend to notice all these things individually now.

Plus, especially with the first 3, they make conversation starters. It's a decent ice breaker to ask a woman about her cool bracelet or fuzzy scarf.
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:44 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

So you want to get more dates based solely on how you look? What you need to do will depend on who you're trying to attract. If you aren't picky and want to attract anyone and everyone, these are the things that unfailingly get me unwanted attention every single time I wear them:

halter tops
red dresses/red tops
skirt/dress with a helm above the knees (ratchet the hem up to mid-thigh and you can worry about walking home alone late at night)
snug fitting tops/dresses
heeled pumps and boots
black nylons: by nylons I don't mean tights but sheer black pantyhose

Note that while these solicit lots of male attention, they do not necessarily lead to dates. The quality of your dates will also be on the low side (well, in my consideration they would be as the men I am interested in dating would not approach a woman they didn't know in an attempt to date her simply because she looked good in a short skirt. These are the men I do not want to date).

If you want to be more targeted in the male attention you receive, I would suggest amplifying the things you have about you that are reflective of your personality. This means accessories. And while a guy might never be bragging to his buddies about your awesome glasses or shoes or pendant (because it wouldn't get him masculinity cred and that's why they brag to each other, not because they are sincerely expressing what they admire most about women) if he notices your quirky glasses or shoes or pendant and digs them then he will be more likely to approach you; you will seem more his "type" than just another interchangeable slut he would like to bag.

If you tend to carry reading material with you, hold the book in your hand instead of in a bag so it's on display. Again, something like this is more likely to attract someone you have something in common with and possibly provoke an interaction as there's obvious common ground.
posted by Polychrome at 7:16 AM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wow - those outfits on the blog you linked to all scream out "Do not get near me!" What strikes me, too, is how they obscure the waist-to-hip ratio. A lot of them make the wearer look like a baggy black shape, and honestly, a lot of the outfits look rather sloppy because of the fit, fabric bunching up, etc. It is clear the person has a firm aesthetic for themselves, but it doesn't hew to conventional notions of attractiveness. I think what your mother meant with dressing "sluttier" was to approach these conventional notions somewhat in your style.

Given your age and current personal style, I would nix the short skirts, sky-high heels, and push-up bras. On the other hand, high heels with a well-fitting pair of black trousers can look great if you can walk normally in them. Combine the trousers with flowing, filmy tops, or something with a cowl neck that skims your figure, and you already don't look as "forbidding." You can wear black from head to toe, as long as you add some pop of color, like a bright scarf, or chunky jewelry. Since you are pretty small on top, I would focus on adding interest to your neck area, hence scarves, necklaces, cowl neck tops, etc. For your purse or bag, pick something colorful that pops. You want your accessories to show a playful side of you, playfulness indicating that you're not completely closed off to the outside world.

I would also recommend against dramatic or colorful eye makeup, other than applying some eyeliner. Groomed eyebrows (neither overplucked nor bushy), clear skin (use foundation if needed), a bit of blush, and red lipstick will look great with your short hair and sleek style.
posted by needled at 7:16 AM on November 14, 2011

Seriously...guys do not give a shit about this.

I would absolutely notice those things, especially if they're cheap or done poorly.

Style and grooming are a lot like writing, drawing, or any other craft: if you're good at it, the effect is almost imperceptible. It looks like you woke up and got it right on the first try. It's when you do it wrong, or overdo it, or don't do it at all, that people notice. If you have well-tended but natural-looking eyebrows, guys will tell you they don't care what your eyebrows look like. If you have Andy Rooney or Divine brows, they care.

Anyway, you're most of the way there. You have a look that you like and that works for you, and that's way more attractive than you think.

Nthing accessories; it sounds like bright silk scarves and chunky bracelets might be up your alley. Also, if you're frequently covered up, try wearing something that reveals just a little, in a not-obviously-sexy area, like a 3/4-sleeve shirt or a scoopneck that comes below your collarbone but still keeps you well-covered. A quick flash of wrist or neck can be more attractive than full-on cleavage and short skirts. Make sure your going-out outfits are sleek and don't obscure your figure - I really like Style Odyssey, but a lot of those outfits are billowy and shapeless, and that wrapped-up look can come across as either asexual or self-conscious.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:28 AM on November 14, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm a straight woman, so this is not a personal opinion, but this question prompted me to make a mental list of all the women I've known who were widely regarded as really extra sexy. Those women who make guys walk into lamp-posts, who walk across an office
floor and cause all the male heads to swivel around, who constantly have a little gaggle of besotted men around them, who could have a choice of boyfriends at any given moment, who make every trip to Starbucks with them a pain in the ass because you have to wait around while they fend off the new admirers they made waiting in line, etc. I realized - surprisingly - that there are several common denominators in terms of their clothes and overall look.

-They show very little skin, but lots of shape - i.e., their clothes are pretty tight. Not nasty-tight, but definitely form fitting.

-They don't wear anything too interesting, fashion-forward, or attention-getting in itself. (Although I do agree with everyone above who said a cool accessory can be a conversation-starter.) Their clothes are pretty conventional, not overly sweet or girly but definitely...womanly, I guess. But more "tight black pants with a tight v-neck sweater
in a nice neutral color" than "lovely polka-dot dress with ruffles." More "boot-cut jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt" than "cargo pants with a cute blouse."

-They wear high heels, but not crazy ones. Just regular, 2.5" or 3" heel shoes or boots, not too chunky, not too OTT sexy either.

-They'd be more likely to wear a short, tailored leather jacket or a long, conservative (but slim fitting) winter coat than a puffy jacket or parka or anything funky. Gloves would probably be leather, scarves the traditional folded-over-double kind. Oddly I don't think I ever saw any of them in a winter hat, even in bad New York or New England winters.

-They wear jewelry, but like the clothes it's traditional, feminine but not cute. A chain necklace with a simple pendant, small hoop or stud earrings, one or two rings with stones, a plain gold or silver beacelet.

-Hair - can be long or short, but it's always done - I mean not just pulled back into a bun or headband for convenience but done, in a way that men who do not work in a hair salon would never suspect it had been done. Blown out or curled or whatever, so long as it looks natural, full as possible, and it moves.

-Makeup - it's there, but like the clothes, there's no crazy colors, and nothing flashy. Definitely lipstick, eyeshadow and liner, and powder. Foundation and blush if you need them. In colors that enhance their eyes and lips. Eyebrows done.

Taken all together, and I haven't really thought of this before, but I think they all had a look that's both powerful and non-threatening. They definitely look like they've dressed on purpose, and they're (non-aggressively) putting out there that they're sexy, adult women. (They all had more of a "career woman" vibe, as opposed to casual or fun, even when dressed for something casual and fun. Not that they didn't wear jeans and other casual clothes, just that there was always something more Nordstrom's than Urban Outfitters about them.) I think there was nothing about how they looked that any man could fail to understand. No really huge interesting jewelry, or enormous bags, or complicated dresses, or glittery dramatic eyeshadow, or shoes that have a function other than "lengthen leg; look nice; protect feet from ground." There was nothing in any of their looks to make a guy think "she's too artsy/cool/sophisticted/any other defining quality" for me." (Sorry guys, that sounds really condescending, and I know - at least I hope! - some of you can appreciate interesting jewelry and enormous bags:-)

For examples, I think women on TV shows set in conservative work environments are often dressed like this. The lawyers on The Good Wife, and the CTU agents on 24 come to mind.

Of course this is just my own observation, and there are all sorts of men who like all different things in women, just as there are girls who like different looks on guys. But I was, like I said, sort of surprised to realize that all the women who almost every man I saw interact with them seemed to find uber-sexy, had so many things in common looks-wise. And that what they had in common were these rather conservative things.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 8:18 AM on November 14, 2011 [39 favorites]

If you don't have to wear a bra, go BACKLESS! Backless tops and dresses are totally sexy and don't show off the "conventional" hot areas of your body. You can also wear backless things are that loose and unstructured, like the stuff on that blog you like, and still be showing off your figure.
Collarbones are nice, but a bare back is way more noticeable and eye-catching.
posted by rmless at 8:22 AM on November 14, 2011 [5 favorites]

1. Buy the sexiest, prettiest, most comfortable underwear and bras that you can. Seriously. Stop #1 - go to a GOOD lingerie store, get fitted, and get help finding a few things that look and feel amazing. It can make you feel sexy putting them on, will make you look your best, and will make you feel like you have something hot that others can't see. Somehow amazing undergarments can really change and elevate your mood. Treat them well, get some for everyday and some for nighttime events, and love yourself in them!

2. Exfoliate and cream - something about knowing you have smooth skin makes me feel good. In the summer it'll show because you've got more skin showing. In the winter, it'll look and feel better not to have chunks of sloughing dry skin!

3. Get pedicures and manicures. Something about these little details makes me feel put together and "clean" - and I don't even wear nail polish.

4. Eyebrows trimmed, other body hair groomed. Brush your teeth with a nice brush and toothpaste. Go to the dentist. If your teeth are yellowed at all, think about using a whitening toothpaste, if you care. Again, these little things can make a big difference in terms of how you feel!

5. Nice shoes - clean, sort of stylish, definitely comfortable. For me, that's lace-up Campers or motorcycle boots. For many other women it's something a bit more femme. Just make sure they're nicely constructed, solid, look good with the proportions and style of your outfit. And - get new socks. Putting on old, pilling, holey socks with no elastic is just...depressing.

6. It helps to develop a sense of your own style and limit your wardrobe appropriately, which it sounds like you're already doing! Maybe your colors are black, grey, hints of red and eggplant. Great. Now when you're shopping, think about which items work well in that scheme. You don't have to be obsessive about it, but if you have a bunch of really nicely tailored clothes that work well together, your options for mixing and matching increase exponentially.

7. Get your clothes tailored. Get your pants fitting well, make sure your blazers aren't misshaped. Include the cost of a tailor in your purchases - jeans are about $20 to get nicely hemmed and sometimes the back gape fixed.

8. Invest in a few great pieces rather than a ton of crap from the Gap. I've got a James Pearce tshirt which was about $60 and looks, and feels, amazing even 18 months later. With the right jeans and boots, it looks like a deliberate outfit choice, not a random sale rack piece of sleepwear. I am totally comfortable spending $200 on jeans. I wear them almost every day, to a wide variety of events, and they have to fit and look good. $32 jeans from Target usually have a different fabric and fit, and they won't last ast long.

9. Listen to your favorite music when you're getting ready. Put it on kinda loud, put on your nice cream on your exfoliated skin, brush your teeth, do your hair, admire your hot new lingerie. Give a spray or two of your absolutely favorite scent, but make sure it's not overwhelming. You want a HINT of deliciousness, not a cough-inducing cloud.

10. Practice sitting in a room and looking around at people, having a sip of a drink. Maybe do a crossword. Don't sit there fiddling with your phone, looking around anxiously, or trying to avoid eye contact.

11. Say yes more than no. So if it's 10am and you haven't done steps 1-10, but a friend invites you to a concert at the Farmer's Market, go! If someone calls on the way home from work, to see if you want to go to a new tapas place for an emergency glass of wine, go for it. Be open to new ideas and new places without the rigidity of rules that make you think you already know how it'll go. Be enthusiastic and proactive about finding new opportunities - not to find a date, just to enjoy life.

None of those things will individually make someone hot or sexy. And I've fallen for plenty of folks who absolutely do none of those things, and who think they're ridiculously normative ideals. But they are little steps, that for me and many others, can do something to elevate your mood and make you feel like you've got a good thing going.
posted by barnone at 10:07 AM on November 14, 2011 [8 favorites]

As to the debate whether men notice/care or not, the idea isn't to get a man to notice your cute shoes or stunning scarf, it's for him to notice YOU, and it's often the case that women that are noticed are noticed because of the total effect of their clothes, accessories, hair and makeup.

In other words, someone like Hal_c_on doesn't necessarily know he's noticing all that stuff.

(We've been over the makeup issue - of the men that say they like a woman with no (or barely any) makeup or even that their wife/girlfriend doesn't wear (hardly any) makeup, I feel very confident that a large proportion of the women in question are wearing makeup the way many of us give the illusion that we're not wearing any/much).
posted by Pax at 10:33 AM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

Heels. I could care less about the shoes themselves, but the things they do to shape a woman's calves and butt are amazing.

Seconding sun dresses in appropriate weather.

Don't go for pushup or padded bras. They're more obvious than you might think. If you're comfortable (physically and emotionally) with it, bra-less is sexy especially for smaller women.
posted by Dano St at 10:50 AM on November 14, 2011

I have just recently learned to love my very small chest. Especially as you get older, it makes getting dressed much simpler.

No bra can be very sexy. I also enjoy being able to wear simple, wireless, non-padded bras, especially lacy ones! Under an partially buttoned collared shirt, lace peeking out is very nice.

Another thing I'd suggest is tight, skinny pants (or jeggings, sigh) in black or dark colors. They're flattering and comfortable, and sexy - not slutty - with a modest top and boots (flat, motorcycle-y boots are my favorite).

Some black eyeliner on your top lid!

I think the accessories thing is important - some men may notice your specific jewelry or scarf, some may not, but will unconsciously be drawn toward a spot of bright color in your outfit. What seems to repel most men is too much STUFF. Too much jewelry, makeup, or a huge bag, is bad. It means you take a long time to get out of the house. It means you're high maintenance (apologies if that's offensive to anyone - it's my own observation, of course). If you can get away with a credit card & ID, concealer, breath mints, whatever, in your coat pocket, do it. Simplicity and comfort are key.

And a big smile and listening skills, but you already knew that. Good luck!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 11:29 AM on November 14, 2011

As to the debate whether men notice/care or not, the idea isn't to get a man to notice your cute shoes or stunning scarf, it's for him to notice YOU, and it's often the case that women that are noticed are noticed because of the total effect of their clothes, accessories, hair and makeup.

In other words, someone like Hal_c_on doesn't necessarily know he's noticing all that stuff.

Yes indeed. Without makeup and grooming I look like a blotchy, exhausted, giant-pored, massive-eyebrowed mess. I wear makeup to bring my look from 'undead' to 'presentable.'

You may not notice when I wear makeup, but you'll sure as hell notice when I don't.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:31 AM on November 14, 2011 [8 favorites]

I agree with the comments that makeup will enhance your features, and even most people who claim to prefer a "natural" look actually prefer a natural-makeup look (see this cartoon).

I like to wear a tight, short skirt with a flowy top, or a low cut or backless top with jeans. It's all about balance.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:37 AM on November 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Late to thread - but you need to decide exactly what kind of person you want to attract. They'll be of a type, and they'll tend to themselves to be attracted to a certain kind of female archetype.

You need to embody that archetype - whatever it is, to whomever it is you want to attract. Don't bury the lede - broadcast who you are and what you're looking for - clearly.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:26 PM on November 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have never had problems with looks, but I have definitely found that your appearance and your own perception of beauty greatly influences how people react to you.
Gwen Stefani mentions in this interview about doing her hair and makeup EVERY morning despite whether she plans on making an appearance or not.

Some suggestions I can give through personal experience:
1. Seek out a burlesque class in your area, beginners. Or even a burlesque show.
When I took a class in burlesque my cheeks did every shade of red. I thought I was sexual in nature but when the instructor said "Sometimes the hardest thing for beginners to do is touch themselves". It brought to light a lot of insecurity. I started taking yoga afterwards to strengthen my core and back as I was slouching and burlesque teaches you to exaggerate your curves (every one, including the back). Being in an environment where this was taught, encouraged, and instructed was a great experience. I feel you have to be comfortable with yourself sexually before you can be to others.
2. Sexiness is about other people. If you want an audience you have to go up and talk to people, give them attention, draw their eyes to you. I notice the less concerned I am over my own looks (the pettiness of it) and the more I focus on meeting people you get a reaction. Wallflowers with cute hair and perfect makeup just aren't as sexy as the girl going around meeting people. Learn some small talk, use your body language, the reactions will definitely come.

That's my two cents. Good luck girl!
posted by hillabeans at 12:44 PM on November 14, 2011

This might be too obvious and forgive me if you're like duh I already have that covered, but when you sound a lot style-wise and figure-wise like I was when I was younger, and looking back I know now I for some reason subconsciously never wore clothing that fit that great, it was always too big or drooped in places or hide my figure altogether. I never thought twice about it at the time because I was pretty tomboyish. Actually it took gaining weight later on, including boobs, and finding wearing clothes a bit tighter despite being heavier all-around made me look much better, that made me have the epiphany that's part of what people were alluding to before when they'd criticize my look as dowdy and asexual. It doesn't have to be plunging necklines and skintight miniskirts or anything, even just simple black pants tailored trimly to your waist/ass that hang nicely down your legs look better, more femme. Oxford button-down shirts that aren't baggy, that hug your chest and then gracefully drape with a bit of bend for your hip (one of my favorite "skinny-chested girl" weapons; when I was barely an A-cup I rocked them daily for work and used to get lots of compliments, yes some from cute guys).

I don't know if it applies to you because of the small bust thing, but I would say a GOOD fitting bra is miles more effective at showing off your figure than a cheesy push-up or padded or impractical-lingerie-style bra. There have been a zillion posts on AskMe about good bra fitting. There's a chance you're wearing way too big a band size (I was, even when I was skinny; I thought for nearly 10 years I was a 36A and now I know my band was probably more like 30!); if you bring the band in appropriately usually it makes you look curvier, with more of a natural waist.

And I just want to nth those above saying you sound sexy as is; lots of guys looooove short hair and glasses on ladies (my husband's one of them, big time). As long as you've got confident, open body language, a comfortable smile, and your hair and accessories/little details are polished decently (shoes, bag, hands/nails, no chapped lips, no tired eyes or flaky skin etc.) you're probably just fine. I actually disagree with the lipstick and stuff mentioned above IF you're not that kind of person already (I'm not and doubt I ever will be) if it just makes you feel not-you or funny or whatever. You can be sexy on your own comfortable terms; it doesn't require high heels and fishnets.
posted by ifjuly at 1:23 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of sexy is in the attitude. It almost doesn't matter what you wear - with a demeanor that closes you off a woman can be very beautiful and perfectly dressed without being sexy at all, and with an appealing inquiring sparkling attitude, the most plainly dressed woman can draw positive attention.

Wearing clothes that help you face outwards rather than inwards is the first step. Dressing in a way that it looks like you're trying to please is an expression of facing outwards, and I think that's why it's sexy. What that means can depend so much on the community culture! It almost isn't about the look itself so much as its cultural coding. But none of that will help at all if you don't have the demeanor to go with it.

So the first thing is cultivating the demeanor, and looking for clothes that help you feel comfortable facing outwards.

In terms of details, I think of going for one area to show off and doing that well. Miss Manners writes tongue in cheek about women in the past wearing long long gloves to cover up every inch of arm skin so as not to distract attention from the cleavage. Go low cut on top, OR tight around the middle, OR low cut on bottom. Go for intense eye makeup OR intense lipstick.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:24 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you dipping a toe into the "slutty" pool make sure you're not diving in headfirst.

Let me explain. Choose one thing to reveal. Legs, back, arms, deep front plunge. If you have a mini skirt and a deep plunging back or front, you're going to look really naked. Focusing on one thing at a time helps to not appear too slutty while you're still finding your bearings in a new look.

Somehow a mini skirt with a long sleeved top is a lot more attractive than a mini skirt and a tube top.
posted by raccoon409 at 3:31 PM on November 14, 2011

I'm a charter member of the IBTC, too. What are your hips like? I have pretty awesome hips for being an otherwise skinny girl, so when I'm in the mood to vamp it up I wear a snug (not grossly tight, just very well-fitted) pencil skirt. Even though it hits just above my knees, this always results in lots of compliments. Also, I tend to tuck my tops into my skirts, because it creates more of an hourglass illusion at my waist, whereas an untucked top chops me off in a way that looks more frumpy than va-va-voom curvy.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:40 PM on November 14, 2011

Wear sexy underwear. Buy really nice panties, and when you wear a bra, it should be really nice. Knowing that you have on sexy underwear changes the way you move, and the way you think of yourself. Make sure your clothes fit well enough so men can figure out you have a nice body. Wear a little perfume. And buy a lower cut top, or one sexy skirt, and try wearing 1 thing that's a little more revealing than usual. Feeling sexy helps you look sexy.
posted by theora55 at 7:24 PM on November 14, 2011

Elegant is the best kind of sexy.
posted by 4ster at 8:29 PM on November 14, 2011

Dress or skirt plus knee high boots. Also heels. But seriously dresses and skirts. They don't need to be particularly revealing as long as they aren't dowdy.

Also men may not "care" about your shoes, but they tend to like the overall effect and they also tend to really underestimate the transformative effect of clothes, hair and makeup. Very few women are so flawlessly beautiful that it makes no difference what they wear or if they put on makeup. They exist, but they are very, very rare and usually date famous football players.
posted by whoaali at 8:32 PM on November 14, 2011

Oh and don't be afraid to slut it up a little. There is a lot of distance from a little risqué to Paris Hilton. You are likely hyper sensitive to dressing a little sexier and are unlikely to be leaving the house in a belly baring tube top and booty shorts anytime soon. And seriously who cares if your skirt is a little too short now and then?
posted by whoaali at 8:37 PM on November 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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