The seven habits of highly attractive people
March 26, 2012 6:43 PM   Subscribe

You are a well-dressed person. You put effort into your appearance and you always look good. What are some of the things you do regularly to achieve this?

I work in an office environment. I make an effort on my appearance, and I generally look pretty well put-together. But I'm not one of those people who always looks SHARP. This morning, for example, I noticed that my shoes were scuffed. I hardly ever polish my shoes; it occured to me that there are probably people who do this regularly! These kinds of small details are probably what sets them apart from me. If you are one of these people, what other things do you do (daily/weekly/generally) to make sure you look great?

I've seen these questions but they're not quite what I'm looking for. The first one is focused on aesthetics only (hair, nails, makeup) and the second is too broad.
Please also note I'm not talking about diet and exercise - I've got that down. I'm looking mainly for dressing tips.

I'm female but advice from all well-groomed mefites is welcome! Thanks!
posted by yawper to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 262 users marked this as a favorite
Fit of clothing is really important, so make sure nothing you wear is too tight or loose.

I know you said hair tips weren't what you were looking for, but I do think well-maintained hair cuts and a nice hairstyle go a long way to making men and women look sharp.
posted by JenMarie at 6:53 PM on March 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

Details like the shoe polishing. No loose threads, buttons, hems or linings. When a cuff frays or a sweater snags, no matter how much you love it, don't wear it to work or you no longer look impeccable.

Sew chain weights into the hems of your looser skirts (not necessary with pencil skirts).
posted by crush-onastick at 6:54 PM on March 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

It sounds silly, but I think you should only have clothing that you love. Think about it: don't you take better care of your favorite or most expensive shirt than one that doesn't fit well anymore or is in a color you don't like, was super cheap etc. When your wardrobe consists primarily of clothing that you really like and enjoy wearing, you'll take better care of them and by extension, you will look better yourself!
posted by lovelygirl at 6:55 PM on March 26, 2012 [10 favorites]

Also, make sure to de-pill your sweaters. I haven't found an easy way to do this, but it makes a big difference in how nice your sweaters look.
posted by JenMarie at 6:56 PM on March 26, 2012

Clean your shoes regularly, make sure your clothes are the right size and suit your body shape, if you so desire, light foundation will help minimize any facial redness and can be much better than full makeup, fix any loose threads, know when to stop wearing something, and, yes, wear what you like, not what you think you should wear.
posted by mleigh at 6:59 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

(ms. Veg)
Lint roller yourself before you walk out the door. Get your back if you can. You'd be surprised how much gets on you.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:59 PM on March 26, 2012

From the perspective of a gay man, the women that wow me with their looks:

1) Accessorize. Bangles, handbags, necklaces/pendants, watches, hairpins, etc
2) Have amazing hair. This is expensive but makes a huge difference. But you could easily spend $60/month or more just on seeing a stylist every other week.
3) Fabulous shoes. Not just taking care of the ones you have, but having several different pairs of different styles of footwear.
4) Aren't afraid to have clothing altered to fit better.
5) Texture in some of their outfits. Stuff like this can look really amazing.

I hope these answers aren't too broad for you! It may help other answerers if you describe a typical outfit that you wear?
posted by kavasa at 7:02 PM on March 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: This is fascinating. De-pilling? Lint rolling? Chain weights??? Keep em coming!!
posted by yawper at 7:04 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make sure your hands look nice. You can either get manicures or do them yourselves. Wear nail polish if you want to; don't wear any if you don't want to. The important part is to have nicely groomed cuticles and nicely shaped nails.

If you do choose to wear polish, never have ANY chips - have nail polish remover in your desk so you can remove your nail polish entirely if it starts to chip. (But, if you're in a cube, go outside to remove nail polish, due to the smell).
posted by insectosaurus at 7:09 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

When you lose a button or snag a pair of tights, immediately move that clothing item to a separate place from the clothes in your wardrobe rotation. Decide if you can repair something and then do so, otherwise get rid of it. I used to just throw snagged tights back in my drawer and curse myself each time I noticed that I'd worn that junky pair AGAIN rather than the other identical non-snagged tights I had.

Also, I remember a comment on AskMeFi ages ago that I cannot find for the life of me- the gist was to realize that choosing an outfit vs physically getting dressed were two different things. Choose your items the night before or have a few specific fallback looks for those days when nothing feels right- avoid that thing where you're tossing clothes all around and feeling frantic two minutes before you need to leave.
posted by shes_ajar at 7:28 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

These are all great suggestions (and I'm taking notes), but I wanted to chime in and say I love my sweater shaver. De-pill those ratty sweaters with ease and give them new life! They're cheap, too.
posted by Specklet at 7:31 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a miniature city survival kit in my bag. It is very small and all the items are carefully selected, and lighweight. It's often helpful in emergencies like dry skin, broken nail or messy hair. It contains:
- mini sewing kit, compact towel, paper soap, mini glue, duct tape, piece of thin paracord, pins, razor, handcream and vazeline in mini ziplock bags, mini comb, hair band, perfume sample, mini mirror, mints, floss, tampon, band-aid, painkiller, important telephone numbers and a little money.
posted by leigh1 at 7:37 PM on March 26, 2012 [25 favorites]

Nothing has made more of a difference than buying clothes that fit and limiting myself to the clothes that fit correctly.

Having a watch that looks "professional" helps, too (ie, not a digital watch or calculator watch or anything that looks like a toy).

Work-appropriate outerwear, meaning not wearing sportswear like a rainjacket I'd wear while jogging or fleece jumper.
posted by deanc at 8:00 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

You can also find plenty of dressing tips in these 3 books.
posted by leigh1 at 8:15 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wear good shoes and take care of them. Shining shoes is quite satisfying and not difficult; you can polish a leather bag, too. I've had a couple of good quality leather bags that lasted a long time, and looked great when polished. A good manicure, and a good haircut. Iron anything that benefits from ironing, i.e., pants, shirts, not socks or sweaters.

Get rid of clothing that doesn't fit, is worn out, or never looked great. Mend, tailor, wash, iron, dryclean, etc., as needed. Take pictures of yourself before you leave the house so you can look at what works and what doesn't. Part of looking good is knowing what styles suit you and avoiding clothes/colors/shapes that don't look good on you, no matter how trendy. Look at people you think look sharp, and try to replicate the look.

Wear good underwear. A poorly-fitting bra can ruin a terrific sweater; nice underwear inspires poise. Practice good posture. Most of all, once you like the outfit you chose for the day, decide that you look exactly right, and behave with confidence. I know someone who has a reputation for dressing well; I think a great deal of it is due to her belief that looks fabulous.
posted by theora55 at 8:17 PM on March 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am continuously floored when my co-workers tell me funny things like I have a "look," or that I'm "fashionable," because I am very well aware that I'm cobbling together a closet full of too-stuffy or too-casual clothes which are almost to the letter either too big or too small or getting worn out. I am totally, totally faking them out.

Don't look too matchy-matchy in texture. If you're wearing a fuzzy sweater-dress, wear smooth tights. Wear the chunky/funky/loud jewelry with a sleek outfit. If your dress is classic or even flat-out boring, wear a delicate scarf tied around your neck and people will think you're some kind of goddamn genius, I swear. Ditto for boring suit with faaabulous, borderline-NSFW shoes.

No-one notices that the elbows in my favorite gray turtleneck sweater are going threadbare and saggy, because it otherwise fits me very flatteringly and I wear it with an interesting-looking black skirt. Too-small cardigans are worn open over smartly-fitting dresses. Too-big dresses get belted, with the awkward gathering of material hidden by the much-more-interesting outer layer -- those long, sleeveless handkerchief-hem-vest-things are great for this, as are sweater-jackets.
posted by desuetude at 8:35 PM on March 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

Get a pearl necklace and matching stud earrings. I don't wear real pearls and have found the best quality faux pearls are Carolee 8mm-- a simple 16in single-strand necklace and matching earrings are what you need. Pearls are classic and make any outfit look *expensive*.

And avoiding synthetic fibers like the plague is a great idea.
posted by devymetal at 8:40 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

And yes, accessories in general will make or break your outfit. Spend your money on that well-tied Pucci scarf or glossy patent shoes.
posted by devymetal at 8:41 PM on March 26, 2012

Re:de-pilling, I am excited to report that barber clippers work great. It helps to lay the sweater over a cushion.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:45 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

give yourself a minute or two to really look over your outfit in a full length mirror a few minutes after you have put it on and walked around the house a bit - are any of the items shifting, or getting bunched up against each other - is your skirt sticking to your tights, does the outfit make an overall flattering silhouette? what about from the side? is your necklace framed by your neckline? is your hair getting matted by your tweedy jacket? Your clothes will all interact with each other as you move, and you won't look nice if you spend all day with your panties in a bunch.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:48 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Twice a year (usually fall and spring) I go through all my leather goods and treat them -- clean, condition, take them to Fred-my-shoe-guy-who-also-does-zippers. Some stuff needs cleaning or conditioning every time, other stuff not so much.

It makes a big difference, a lot of people let their leather get ratty because they don't know they can take care of it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:56 PM on March 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Simple watches go a long, long ways.

Shining shoes couldn't be easier and it looks great.

Your overall body shape is in your hands and if you're going to look like you give a damn then actually give a damn and improve your aesthetics. It'll go way further than $100 baubles and it'll make $25 baubles look like $200 baubles.

Baubles baubles baubles.
posted by unixrat at 9:01 PM on March 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

My husband is truly dapper, seemingly without trying, and even in slightly well-loved comfy clothes.

His secrets are...

- Always wearing clothes that fit and are flattering, as noted above

- The man shops. Often he just looks up stuff when web surfing, it's kinda his main habit (clothes being only second to electronics) and he now regularly finds AWESOME deals on really stylish and well-made clothes for our 11 month old son, too.

- He gets regular and timely hair cuts, and therefore, he always looks well groomed, no matter what. (If you color your hair, like I do, this is harder to achieve.)

- ALWAYS WEAR FRAGRANCE. This is courtesy of both of us! That said, my fragrance collection has quadrupled since marrying my guy. Prior, I wore Chanel 19 and... Chanel 19. Now I wear tons of different smelling stuff, and my husband regularly orders samples from some fragrance website (sorry, no link!) and he tries to really enjoys keeping up with this habit. It's inspired me a lot, in terms of using fragrance to enhance my mood, like when to wear something more "spicey" (date night!) or something more floral (going to the park, etc.) I can regularly go without make-up and still feel great, but if I forget to put on fragrance in the morning, I feel uncomfortable all day. Neither of us bathe in the stuff! Just a dab or a quick single spray is appropriate. It is more about the ritual. And not putting on too much.

- Find a style/silhouette that really suits you, and stick to it. STAY CLASSIC. Show good taste with your clothes.

I'll refrain for pointing to a particular designer or style here, but I hope you know what I mean. A riff on trendy in a classic silhouette is good. A totally trendy outfit will make you look cheap. Don't ever look cheap.


I can think of nothing else significant that he does. Well, no. There is one more thing!


He is from Egypt, now living in LA. He's also been steeped in European culture since childhood.

- He tends to choose clothing with a European edge or flavor, and I think this is partially why he stands out in a subtle but substantial way.


Hope that helped.
posted by jbenben at 9:11 PM on March 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

J Crew sells a sweater comb that is fabulous and easy to de-pill your sweaters.

I feel more fabulous with fantastic sunglasses on. I always wear sunglasses (not inside; I'm not Anna Wintour) and they always make me look more pulled together and glamourous when I'm out and about. Bonus: you don't squint in sunglasses, so they stave off wrinkles, and shielding your eyes from the sun will actually help your eyesight be stronger longer. Beauty AND health!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:02 AM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

* Coordinate your colors. If you wear six different colors at once you are going to look pretty bad. (Barring a certain kind of transcendence created by obvious intentional chaos.)

* Similarly, don't overdo it on patterns, I usually find that ONE patterned thing is enough and everything else should ideally be solids that complement the pattern.

* If you OVERcoordinate your colors, however, you start to look like a supervillain. Or a superheroine. I discovered this when dressing all in black with some green accents added by a few bits of wide ribbon around my waist and my hat, so I definitely looked like someone a superhero would be chasing down. Sometimes you want this, but probably not for the day job!

* Find a place whose sense of style suits you to buy your clothes from. They don't have to be new; pretty much all of my clothes come from a thrift/vintage shop near where I live. (There are several in my area and I've pretty much quit going to any of the others because they almost never have anything that works on me.)

* If you want to really go over the top, a LITTLE makeup helps a lot. A little eyeliner, a little lipstick. Don't overdo it - but consider doing it.

* You can do a lot by layering. I really, really like something lacy or translucent over a solid color; a black macrame dress over a blue slip, for instance, makes the blue seem MORE brilliant.

* Don't be afraid to hack stuff up. Take something in to make it fit a little better. Put a couple of ribbons and a big gaudy fake flower on your hat; I've done this and I constantly get compliments on it. (Also, in the winter, hats are awesome. They keep you warm AND make you look snappy. Find one that looks good on you.)

I don't worry about keeping my shoes polished or anything; I usually run around in sandals. Or boots in winter. Or sandals with socks because I am a goddamned nerdy Seattleite. (Invest in a nice pair of boots that are durable and you can walk in - not high heeled, mine came from REI.)

* Above all, CONFIDENCE. Confidence is SEXY. Confidence is COMPELLING. Confidence gives you POWER. Stand up straight, push your chest out a little. Strut a tiny bit, even. Do that and nobody will notice the little things.

Honestly, I think that's the biggest one. Be convinced you look good and you WILL. When I'm dressed decently, I can pretty much turn people's interest in me on and off SOLELY by switching between standing tall with a bit of a strut or hunching forwards with a bit of a shuffle. (Making yourself believe it enough to really sell it may require regular exercise.) I don't sweat the small stuff but I get a lot of compliments when I bother putting even a little effort into my clothes and turn on the confidence.

Caveats: I work from home, and my hobby is burlesque dance. I may be able to get away with more dramatic style than you can, I probably dress sexier than you'd actually want to.
posted by egypturnash at 12:52 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since no one's mentioned it yet: groom your eyebrows, either by getting regular waxes/threads at a salon, or by buying a good pair of tweezers and learning how to tweeze your brows properly. You may also want to get a pencil to fill in any areas that are sparse.

This is one area where paying more yields better results. If you get a brow wax at a cheap salon or nail place, it's likely to be kerrap (most likely, overplucked, and possibly also mismatched). Find someone who really knows what they are doing, perhaps even specializing in brows.

Some women are lucky and have a good natural shape, good medium thickness, and few stray hairs, but for most women, well-groomed brows make a HUGE difference in how polished they look. If I could only have one professional salon service for the rest of my life, this would be it.
posted by parrot_person at 1:28 AM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think another important factor is how you carry yourself.

You should always keep your back straight, speak confidently, speak strongly, and always look at people in the eye when you talk to them. Even if you aren't wearing the perfect clothes, these things will make you appear more sharp and more professional by at least three-fold. They will compel your listeners to focus on the content of your words, and not the quality of your clothes. Think about it, have you ever had a boss that was both loud and confident, and you were paying attention to the worn out soles on his shoes? Probably not.

I once had a boss that wore suits and ties on every day except Fridays. On Fridays he would wear shorts and flip-flops despite it being a very professional setting. This guy was like a big, loud, friendly bear. So, even though wearing shorts detracted from his professional image a tiny bit, his high level of confidence made up for it, and most co-workers just shrugged off his Friday apparels.
posted by nikkorizz at 5:25 AM on March 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

When I see people who look professional and well put together, it always comes down to a couple things. (Gender non-specific advice follows, mostly workplace specific.)

1- Clothing isn't just clean and in good repair, it looks new. And looks professionally laundered/pressed. If you wear shirts that need to be ironed, use a little spray starch. If you wear pants, iron them from the inside out first, and make sure the little flap of fabric that makes the seam is always ironed so that it falls in the right direction. This also means buying things that aren't 100% cotton. That stuff fades, pills and wrinkles quickly. Get something with a little synthetic or wool content and it will wear longer and look better.

2- Minimalism. Don't let your clothing (or accessories or hair) outshine you. The first thing someone's eye is drawn to when they see you should be your face, not the giant scarf piled on your shoulders or your 15 items of flair or the garish necktie or your jaunty hat that you insist upon wearing indoors. But it works in the other direction too- don't have a "uniform" for yourself such that people only see the uniform. "But I'm wearing the vest with the choo-choo trains on it today! I haven't worn that one for weeks!"

3- Check yourself in the mirror before you leave. Correct any issues. Don't walk around with stained/torn clothing. Have safety pins available for impromptu repairs, but remove or cover up anything you can. This is easier said than done in some cases, but have spare stuff at work.

4- This veers into your unneeded advice, but posture is important.

5- Don't have a hairstyle that you can't afford to maintain. For most impeccable people I know, you'd never really notice that they have had a haircut.

6- The less stuff you are carrying, the sharper you look.

7- Also, this. (I'm really stretching to get to seven things.) While ridiculous, he has a point. Paying attention to the context of the situation and changing your look a little bit makes a difference. If it's hot out, don't choose a heavy outfit. You look more "put together" wearing something slightly incorrect, but appropriate for the weather, than sweatting through the right/wrong thing. (Think: dudes at summer weddings in winter suits. Awful.) This probably means having a huge wardrobe. Similarly (and this one drives me nuts for some reason), don't mix contexts. Your well dressed, impeccable people will have appropriate clothing for all circumstances, but when caught unprepared, they worry slightly more about looking good than they do about protecting the clothing or maintaining optimal comfort. Don't wear gym shoes or moon-boots with your nice officey outfit so you don't ruin your good shoes. Let them get ruined (because clothes are supposed to protect you from the elements, not the other way around), or better yet, wear galoshes or boots that match the clothing you are wearing.

I once heard Mr. Blackwell make an important distinction between stylish and fashionable. If you create a wardrobe that is stylish, and avoid purchasing fashionable pieces, you will save money in the long run. Following the fashion trends is a losing game because it is a cutting edge with a huge dropoff kind of deal. Nobody will notice if a piece of clothing is old if it is classic and stylish, and perhaps accessorized with something in current fashion. But they will instantly notice if something is out of fashion. (Again with the 30 Rock- in the last few episodes, we see Kenneth wearing his office attire. All are things that were at one time fashionable, but now aren't. Yet if you look at what Jack wears, it could well be older than Kenneth's stuff. Jack will be able to wear those suits until the day he dies and not look out of place, as long as he chooses contemporary ties. Buy stuff like that.)
posted by gjc at 5:36 AM on March 27, 2012 [10 favorites]

Hair simple, nails clean, eyebrows under control, perfect foundation garments. No more than one anything (pair of earrings counts as one).

Strong eyes or strong lips, but not both. Select the one you think is your better feature and perfect it.

Use fabric finish instead of spray starch. It will change your life.

Six outfits for summer, six for winter, six for transition. Accessorize to reflect the season. Add one or two pieces to each collection each year, and donate one or two when you do. Know what colors you look good in and stick to variations of those colors. Store your clothing away from household smells, dust and moisture.

Stick to natural fibers. Synthetics do not wear well, do not launder/dry clean well (shiny, pills, uneven fading, underarm stains, smells), and are not practical for everday wear. Save them for special occasions, where they will be worn three times at the most and then donated.

Spend the money on good quality shoes and shoe maintenance. More expensive does not mean better construction or better quality. Find a shoe company you love and stick with it. Save fashion footwear and trainers for the weekend.

Have one suit of armor for each season for when you have to go in to that meeting and absolutely dominate.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:22 AM on March 27, 2012 [18 favorites]

As far as "only own clothes you love", that's a dangerous suggestion.

I used to have a shirt I *loved*, and wore, and wore, and wore, and wore *much* longer than I should have. It looked terrible, but I continued to wear it, as it was my favorite.

If you tend to like jewelry, accessorizing, and/or heavy makeup... before you walk out the door in the morning, quickly look in the mirror. If any one thing grabs your eye, stop and remove or fix it.
posted by talldean at 7:57 AM on March 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you -- so many fantastic answers! I won't be singling out any as best because they are all so good. I can't wait to start putting some of these into practice!
posted by yawper at 8:47 AM on March 27, 2012

I am good at laundry and I think that's important.

- Iron carefully and on the wrong side; I assume anything with synthetic content, especially nylon, will get shiny when ironed. That said, I only iron a few things that need it; careful washing and line drying or blocking while damp protects the shape and feel of fabrics and is lazier than ironing.

- Sort clothes carefully before they go in the wash and only wash as aggressively as you need to. Line dry whenever possible; the dryer is premature death to almost all fabric. That means most things that are brightly/dark colored can and should be washed on cold and gentle unless they're pretty dirty or sweaty. Sheets and towels are the only things I wash on hot. Modern energy efficient front load washers are so much nicer to your clothes than the old agitating kind.

- I know what gets out what stains, sorta, and I treat them ASAP. There are not many things that don't respond to either vinegar and baking soda, oxi bleach, Shout, or a special stain remover I got just for bike chain grease that I'm always getting on my pants. If in doubt I Google what to treat with, and I never let stains sit, and I never resort to traditional bleach unless desperate because it damages many fabrics

- I handwash pretty much everything nice, even things that say "dry clean" unless it's a suit. This includes a winter wool coat that I wash once a year, cashmere sweaters, all my silk, linen pants, etc. I especially baby my nice jeans, which I never even put in the washer. Cheap dry cleaning would be worse for these clothes than careful hand washing.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:06 AM on March 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

(ms. Veg)
Retire clothes earlier than you think you need to, because somebody else has already noticed by the time you do. (my college roommates made me throw out ratty tshirts far past their prime.)
posted by a robot made out of meat at 9:17 AM on March 27, 2012


Please, please, please, please, please don't take this advice.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 11:22 AM on March 27, 2012 [31 favorites]

check out the for ideas. The comments for each picture are worth reading. They usually include an in-depth discussion of why each outfit is amazing.
posted by TorontoSandy at 12:29 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Use a garment steamer (e.g. a Jiffy Steamer) to keep clothes pressed and crisp. Safer on fabrics than irons, and reduces the number of times you need to dry clean clothes.
posted by apennington at 12:34 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am a snappy office dresser. Pretty much every day there is one element of something I'm wearing - a necklace, a blouse - that people come over to tell me they like. Today I was thinking of a lesson I learned growing up that has stayed with me in my personal style.

I was maybe about eight or nine, and that fall, denim jackets were in. I mean, they are always in, but this year they were SO IN, if you didn't have a jean jacket you were no one, and the teacher might take pity on you and let you take the class pet rat home for the weekend as consolation. Well, I exaggerate, but as a little girl, it certainly felt that way. Mr "Guess" Marciano made a lot of money out of us elementary school gals that year.

So Mom took me to Macy's to shop the sale racks after Christmas and of course I ran around trying on as many blue jean jackets as I could. I was finally, at long last, going to get to look like everyone else at school. Wheeeeeeee! Dream come true!

But then, to my horror, my mom came over excitedly with a single little denim jacket on a hanger. It was cut just like the blue ones, identical front flap pockets, silver buttons, etc. But instead of a faded bad-ass indigo, this jacket was a bright cherry red. "Try it on, there's only one left, and it's on sale," she said. And I did, and it fit. And she loved it on me and hugged me, and picked up all the items we were going to get and started heading to the cash register to pay.

At that point, I'm embarassed to say, I broke down in a full tearful sniffling mess. A RED JEAN JACKET? WTF, LADY? WHO THE HELL WEARS A RED JEAN JACKET? EVERYONE HAS BLUE! PARENTS JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND!

My mom was very gentle with me in the middle of the hectic department store. "I would personally love to be able to fit into this jacket, it's so sweet," she said, "Everyone has a blue jean jacket - everyone! But this one is special. It's not too different that it's weird, but just different enough to be special. Like you!"

I fell for that line like a sucker, and I wore the shit out of that red jacket, and I got a ton of compliments on it, because she was right! It was just different enough to be special, while still being part of the "norm."

So my advice is to consider very carefully your constraints - in this case, office wear. But within these constraints, search for special. A basic black skirt that has an impeccable and interesting zipper detail. A clean cut blouse that is of a color that makes you glow. A wedge that has an unusually sleek heel profile. Seek the one thing that makes the piece just different enough to elevate it from basic to special, but not so different from "classic" that it's weird.
posted by sestaaak at 1:10 PM on March 27, 2012 [39 favorites]

The thing that I have learned is that no matter how amazing I look when I walk out the door in the morning, halfway through the day (or earlier if it's hot, or rainy, or hectic) I start to wilt. So I work hardest at making sure I can touch myself up throughout the day to keep looking fresh and polished.

Nthing the lint roller/brush times infinity. And if your personal style includes a lot of dark colors, get a travel one to keep in your purse, car, or desk drawer, because it always comes back. In a pinch, tape can function as a lint-remover, but the lint-roller is easier to use (and looks less silly if a colleague walks in on you de-linting yourself).

If your hair tends toward the frizzy, keep some sort of smoothing cream or spray with you for quick touch-ups. I'm fond of Bumble & Bumble's Grooming Creme, and Aveda's got a couple smoothing/styling prep things that are great, too. In a pinch, rub a little lotion on your hands (but don't rub it in) and use that.

And of course you'll have lotion with you, because keeping your skin moisturized is part of that polished, put-together look. If you get chronic hangnails and dry cuticles, keep a cuticle treatment like Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Creme (Lush sells a very similar product, and Sephora has a ton of cuticle treatments, as well) handy and use it a couple times a day. This plus regular use of hand lotion will keep your hands looking good between manicures.

Your lips will also benefit from moisturization--and if you're prone to dry, flaky lips, occasional exfoliation with a lip scrub can help a lot, too. Whether or not you wear lipstick, try to remember to keep your lips moisturized throughout the day--including when you're home, and before you go to bed. If you do wear lipstick, take the time to find something that either stays on well or fades gracefully (as opposed to coming off in blotches and leaving caked lipstick around the edges of your lips).

If you get sweaty easily, or your face gets oily easily, facial blotting papers are a godsend. You can find half a dozen different kinds at Sephora.

Regular shoe-shining is important, but just as important is owning more than a couple pairs of nice shoes. Rotating regularly between a few pairs helps extend the life of all of them--wearing the same pair or two day in and day out makes them stretch out and get smelly quicker. (This is also true for bras.)
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:18 PM on March 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I made a post on choosing outfits, which took me from, well... bag-lady style, to something a bit better.
But, I'm far too disorganized to pull off the really-sorted look - for more than a few minutes at least.

I have a friend who I visit weekly and we often:
* File and paint our nails (Cut to match the shortest length).
* Sit and fix clothing with needle & thread / sewing machine.
* Sometimes I even shine my shoes there. (I also have a black instant shoe polish in my work desk)

Other people use lint rollers. This is not something I'll get round to, but hey.

Getting my eyebrows threaded - indeed, cheap & worth it.

Hair being smart - for me, I started wearing some black hair bands. Looks more professional than it sounds.

Concealer & mascara. Everything else is superfluous, but having 'even', natural looking skin tone, and a little more pop to my eyes with mascara, really, really makes a difference. If you're doing it subtle enough that you can't tell you're wearing makeup from a foot away, that's good.

Accessories: Black belt, necklace, and earrings, over work shirt/skivvy etc.

Note: Many of these things are regular weekly maintenance tasks, and the only time I've managed them regularly is when I've had them in a routine, ie when I visit a friend, or while I watch a weekly TV show. Maintenance!
posted by Elysum at 8:53 PM on March 27, 2012

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