Many people enjoy getting glammed up for special occasions and love feeling put-together and elegant. Of course, other people feel more confident in sporty and seriously funky styles. But if you’re someone who likes that confidence boost you get from an elegant outfit, you can also bring more of that glam-night feeling into your daily life.
Dressing elegantly everyday doesn’t necessarily mean sequins and a full-face of contoured Instagram makeup. Nor does it take long try-on sessions and an hour of curling your hair in front of the mirror (unless you feel like it, then knock yourself out!). Dressing glamorously in daily life requires a willingness to question current societal norms, a quick study in classic style from the likes of Old Hollywood stars and modern-day princesses, and some deep closet work. In short: just like building up one’s wardrobe staples, it is a long-term but very achievable goal.
Wear clothes that look fabulous on you
Find your flattering silhouette(s)
Start by analyzing the clothes you already have and like to wear. Look for patterns in the clothes you like the most and that look best on you. Do the best silhouettes for you cinch in at the waist? Accentuate the shoulders? As you curate your wardrobe, focus on wearing more of the silhouettes that look good on you and phasing out (or altering) clothes with silhouettes that don’t work as well for you. You may need to wear a silhouette that is not in style at the moment, which is normal. Every decade has a popular silhouette, but it may not work for everyone.
Marilyn Monroe is a good example of someone who knew what looked good on her and made things work for her figure even as trends changed from the forties to the fifties to the sixties. Yes, she updated the patterns, colors, and details, but her clothes always worked well with her hourglass silhouette.
(Marilyn Monroe wears the big shoulders typical of the 1940s and also cinches in her waist with a wide belt that emphasizes her figure.)
(Monroe in her bombshell look with a very feminine dress that emphasizes her hourglass silhouette, complete with fur, red lipstick, and cat-eye makeup.)
(Monroe with hair in the same length but an updated style for the 1960s. Here, she wears a simple, slightly looser fit dress with a loud print typical of the sixties—but she still cinches her waist.)
Monroe shows that you can often find ways to look current through details and accessories without completely buying into a trendy silhouette if you feel it doesn’t work for you.
Phase out clothes that don’t suit you
You’ve heard this before: slowly phase out clothes that don’t fit you well, or get them tailored if it’s possible to do so. Don’t completely write off a piece if it’s too small; a good tailor can sometimes take fabric from a deep hem to add panels to a dress that’s a tad too tight. If you really love it, check with a tailor or try a DIY project with it before donating.
It’s important to donate clothes that fit you but don’t suit you, as well. If you wore a lot of a certain color a while ago and don’t like it anymore or don’t like how it looks on you, donate it or dye it! Additionally, if you have a lot of clothes you avoid wearing because they’re uncomfortable, it’s definitely time to figure out why that is and remedy the situation.
(Grace Kelly demonstrates that it’s possible to be both glam and comfortable.)
Choose higher-quality clothes at thrift/vintage stores
You can find a lot of beautiful, good-quality clothes at thrift shops, vintage stores, and discount stores like Ross and TJ Maxx. Look for a replacement in 100 percent cotton, linen, silk, or wool when something in your closet falls apart and can’t be repaired. If a quality item does start to show some wear, learn how to mend it, or have it fixed so you can keep wearing it.
(Thrift shop treasures.)
Stand up straight
(Grace Kelly managing to retain her posture even in this awkward position.)
Reassess your clothing choices for various occasions and activities
(Beyoncé in shorts and a tee with a red lip and blazer for the Fourth of July.)
Avoid wearing all very casual items
The trick to looking elegant in daily life isn’t about getting rid of casual clothes, but just not wearing all of them all at once. Graphic tees, hoodies, and sneakers worn all together look very casual, but they can be easily dressed up with some help from more elegant or workwear-appropriate clothes such as flats, heels, button-downs, and blazers. If you find yourself reaching for a graphic tee, try throwing a blazer on top of it. When you wear jeans, pair them with a fitted button-down or comfortable smoking slippers.
(Relaxed jeans and sweatshirt paired with loafers and a structured bag.)
Choose structured items over unstructured items when possible, or mix them together
Because of their sleek lines, clean edges, and pointed corners, structured items look polished and precise, and they can do a lot to elevate the rest of the ensemble. Often, structured items also fit better than unstructured pieces. For instance, wide-leg pants with a zipper-and-button waistband will fit better than wide-leg palazzo pants with an elastic waist. Similarly, a dress with darts, princess seams, lining, a collar, or shoulder pads will fit better and look more elegant than an unstructured dress with no seams to form the way it hangs on your body. (A structured dress is often, but not always, better quality as well.)
(Wendy dresses up her striped sweatshirt with a sharp blazer.)
Additionally, you can wear a structured jacket over an unstructured layer that you’re wearing for warmth: for instance, if you need to wear a hoodie or a puffer jacket, add a thrifted blazer, denim jacket, or leather jacket on top to dress it up.
Handbags with square corners or stiff edges also look more polished than very soft, thin bags that hang like plastic shopping bags. Even reusable tote bags can be found in a square shape with a piece of plastic in the bottom to keep them from rounding out when full.
(This structured bag helps dress up jeans and a blouse.)
If you are not in the gym, ask yourself if you really need to wear gym clothes
Gym clothes are necessarily the most casual type of clothing. They suggest that you have immediate plans to run several miles, dance your heart out, or pick up huge pieces of metal. However, there are a lot of things that we do during the week that involve activity but that are not necessarily serious workouts.
(Parisian woman biking through the city in a leather jacket and flats.)
In the United States, we are particularly attached to our gym clothes. You rarely see people (besides kids) on a bike in anything other than gym clothes. However, in Europe, scads of people ride bikes to and from the office in workwear every day. A short bike ride or hike is not always a strenuous workout. What is the difference in effort between a leisurely one-mile hike through a park and an afternoon spent exploring downtown? Sneakers, a straw hat, and shorts or a sundress would probably suffice for both.
(Kate Middleton in hiking boots and a button-up.)
Gym clothes may be easy to throw on when you need to dash out the door, but regular clothing can be easy, too, if you create a few uniforms for yourself. Jeans and a button-up shirt look great together, as do neutral trousers and a solid-color blouse. Once you have easy day-uniforms planned for yourself, it’s just as quick to button up jeans as it is to pull on sweatpants.
(Grace Kelly, the epitome of elegance, in a collared shirt, trousers, and slides.)
Glamour doesn’t have to be saved for special occasions; it can be your default look if it’s something that gives you confidence and joy.