If Jewelry Is Out, How Do You Make Your Outfits Interesting and Feminine?

Happy Rainbow Love Hand With Costume Jewelry free creative commonsReader E wonders about jewelry — or lack thereof…

I enjoy reading your blog and I’m wondering what you and your readers suggest for a woman who doesn’t wear jewelry. It’s just not my thing, but I find that my outfits sometimes look a little boring, a little young, and/or a little masculine without it. I think great shoes and a belt can help out, but was wondering if there are perhaps some great ideas I’m missing. Are there great makeup tips, silhouettes, necklines, or even hair styles that you think might compensate?

Wow — I’ve got to say, my gut impulse here is to try to talk you out of this — jewelry can add so much to an outfit. I once wore a different black dress every day to the office (just for, um, kicks) and felt like it was the accessories that made it fun and interesting. Could you *try* just picking up a few great brooches and adding them to a blazer or two? They can just “live” on the blazer, and you won’t have to do anything. Or how about just investing in a few boring, but classic pieces — a great diamond stud or a simple high-quality huggie earring, a good strand of pearls (I like 18″, but 16″ is also popular), or a few simple rings? And a watch, do you wear a watch?  Or glasses — do you wear glasses?  You can have multiple pairs, you know, and they make  a lot of really fun glasses that have personality in them… (Pictured: Happy Rainbow Love Hand With Costume Jewelry, originally uploaded to Flickr by D Sharon Pruitt.)

OK. Forgive me — like I said, gut impulse. I’m going to take a deep breath here, and try to actually answer the question.  So:  if jewelry is out, how do you make your outfits unique and feminine?

First, you want to avoid looking like a female operative in one of those TV shows.  For example, avoid a harsh look in your hair — don’t slick all of your hair back into a low ponytail or bun, for example.  Instead, you may want to try to leave it down as often as possible, or work with your hair stylist to come up with some easy but attractive ways to put it back.  Similarly with makeup, you don’t want to overdo your makeup, but you don’t want to look like you’ve just scrubbed your face, either.

Pattern and color are going to be your biggest friends, here.  At all costs, I would avoid wearing solids with solids, unless you’re mixing the colors in an interesting way.  For example, black suit + white blouse = waiter (or aforementioned female operative).  Black pants + light yellow high quality t-shirt + dark purple cardigan = something approaching an outfit.  If you often wear suits, I would stick with printed blouses — and some slightly form-fitting ones, too, if you can swing it.  If you’re feeling really wild, you can try mixing print with print.  (Some advice: start slow — try a pinstriped pant with a floral top, for example.)  You may want to try adding a beautiful scarf or two to your repertoire — particularly if you’re tall, they can be almost better than a necklace.  Belts can also be great, and if you’re open to wearing those we’d go fairly bold — think Michelle Obama.

Finally, remember — just because you’re not accessorizing with jewelry doesn’t mean you can’t accessorize with clothes (a great blazer or structured cardigan), shoes, or bags.

Those are some of our tips — readers, what are yours?  Would you notice someone who isn’t wearing jewelry?


  1. Great thread. I am interested to read the responses since I can’t wear jewelry (metal allergy). I do like to have fun with my glasses, but my eyes are so terrible that multiple pairs just for the fun of it just isn’t in the budget. I am always envious of people who can get 3 pairs of glasses for $200 when I can’t even get lenses for one pair at that price!

    • I’ve ordered glasses online and I’ve had no problem with them. Just to illustrate how inexpensive they can be, I got a pair of rimless with bronze colored metal arms that are super thin, with UV and anti-glare coating that are transitions for about $190 (I distinctly remember it being less than $200).

      Just google different places – I got mine at 39dollarglasses.com (charming name, I know). I’m not associated with them in any way.

      • I’ve gotten glasses at 39dollarglasses.com and they were pretty awesome. I’ve also gotten various pairs at goggles4u.com :)

        • L from Oz :

          You can get great deals on line, but once you get into the realm of really complex prescriptions (and I need those lenses that go dark outside and lighten inside for medical reasons), the prices simply go way up.

          • That’s what transitions lenses are – they turn dark in the sunlight and revert back to clear while indoors. I got frames, thin transition lenses with various coatings less than the prices of either frames or lenses in a brick and mortar store.

        • I’ve used goggles4u.com as well! I like the quality of 39dollarglasses.com better though.

          • I think my hubs got glasses through one of those also — I keep meaning to do a “Tool of the Trade” post about cheap eyeglass sites so at least you can keep an extra pair at the office if you have contacts or whatnot.

          • How about places that carry cheap (but cute) reading glasses for those of us with early onset long-arm syndrome? I need something in the under +1 category and do not want to spend prescription glasses-type money on getting reading glasses that (inevitably) will get lost or sat upon.

          • @Ms B.- I don’t know if you have Stein Mart, but I’ve found good reading glasses there before. I haven’t bought any for a few years since I’ve now moved onto bifocal contacts, but hopefully they still stock them.

          • AnneCatherine :

            Ms. B, try Costco.

          • I would absolutely love a “Tool of the Trade” post about cheap eyeglass sites!

        • Makeup Junkie :

          I’m all over http://www.zennioptical.com/home.php I got 4 pairs for $80! Purple, zebra print, red, and some naughty librarian glasses

      • I would recommend Warby Parker. They seem to be a bit higher quality than some of the other sites. I’ve also heard good things about Zenni Optical but they seemed lower quality (and lower priced) to me so I didn’t try them out.

        • Thanks Eponine! I found that site a few months ago and then forgot about it and couldn’t find it again. Do you feel like they have held up well? Which style did you get?

      • I have progressives and astigmatism, so it’s pretty challenging to get them online. They have to measure properly for the progressives to make sure you see properly and the cheaper type doesn’t work as well/can make you sick.

        • All that information is captured in the prescription. The less expensive glasses are often made overseas, where people also have bad, complex eyesight and need properly made glasses. The exact same equipment is used in Hong Kong as San Francisco.

          I would encourage anyone who is skeptical to order ONE pair from an on-line retailer. If you are used to paying $400 to $1000 for glasses, what do you have to lose with ordering a pair for $100? If they suck, chalk it up to a failed experiment. But I doubt that will happen.

          I’ve used optical4less.com and 39dollarglasses.com. I’ve worn glasses since I was 8 years old, and am hooked on fun, funky, inexpensive glasses from overseas.

          When I visit my mother at her retirement home, I help her friends order glasses online. These ladies are a tough crowd, let me tell you. They can’t see their feet in the shower and have been wearing glasses since dirt was invented. They are THRILLED to finally be able to order the three pairs of specs they love instead of only one pair they have to scrimp and save for.

          • AnneCatherine :

            Stupid/clueless question: how do you actually get your hands ON the prescription? I see a retinologist, who only tells me things about my retina. He doesn’t ever have anything to do with my vision correction, and just tells me I have 20-20 corrected, my retina looks good, come back in a year, etc.

            My glasses/contacts, I get from an optician/optometrist, or from a number of opticians (some I have gotten in different cities), not an ophlamologist (sp? sorry). Those folks never hand me the Rx either, and one time, when I asked for mine, years ago, they acted like it was a state secret and kinda-sorta refused to give it to me, then said they would, then didn’t.

            How do you know your prescription, in order to use these overseas sites?

          • The issue with progressives is that they have to know where your eyes fall within the lenses. Unfortunately I don’t have 100% symmetrical eyes, so the lenses have to be built a little differently in order to have each part of the progression fall in the right place. I’ve had improperly placed lenses before and they gave me nausea/migraines.

            @AnneCatherine- my optometrist always gives me my prescription at the end of the appointment in an envelope.

          • ETA- by “asymmetrical eyes” I mean that my face is a little crooked so the glasses end up looking crazy if my eyeballs are exactly in the same place in both eyes.

          • Your optometrist should give you your prescription. In most states it’s the law. If they don’t give it to you, tell them you’re going to complain to the attorney general and consumer bureaus of your state. It’s your information, they don’t own it. Oh, don’t forget to get your “PD” (pupil distance). You can measure it yourself, but their number is far more accurate.

          • AnneCatherine, LawDJ already answered this but make sure to ASK. Make sure all of the fields are filled out correctly and you also have to ask for your pupilary distance (they will not measure this unless you’re getting your glasses at the optometrist). Be firm and polite, some people really just like to hassle you.

            Occasionally, I’ve forgotten to ask/lost my prescription and I just went back to the optometrist and asked them to rewrite it for me, no big deal.

    • I’ve ordered from Goggles4U and 39dollarglasses with success. I have a simple prescription though. A GREAT resource is glassyeyes.blogspot.com. He’s got info about your prescription, reliability of the sites, and coupons. Even with a complicated prescription, I’d give it a shot especially with a site that has a guarantee.

      I believe now your eye doctor is required to give you your prescription if you ask. I tell a little white lie- “I travel a lot, and I’m worried that my glasses will break or be lost when I’m out of town. Could I get a full prescription in writing so that I could pick up a pair at a Binyons or something in another town without having any hassle?” Be sure you get your pupilary distance.

      I cannot recommend trying it enough. I never could afford more than one pair and hated my glasses and always had an “old” prescription. Now I see better, and look better.

    • For anyone in the UK: glassesdirect.co.uk

      I don’t work for them either but just got 4 pairs of glasses for under £100. The first pair arrived this week and they are absolutely gorgeous (charmer/green in case anyone is interested). In the 2 for 1 deal, they were £25. I am pretty short sighted.

      They also have a glasses finder where you can enter in the measurements of your current glasses (the numbers on the glasses arm) and they find the similar pairs on their site. You can even call an opticians helpline to discuss your prescription and if they would be able to fulfil it. I had a friend with a more complex prescription do this and they told her to go back to her opticians and ask for some specific details. She did and now she can order from them over the phone so the details can be added to her prescription.

      The glasses are great quality.

      I also order my contact lenses from contactlenses.co.uk! Cheap and convenient.

    • Another plug for Zenni Optical here. I ordered 3 pairs for under $50 including my first pair of prescription sunglasses. LOVE 2/3 (the sunglasses and a normal wire framed pair that I wear every day), the third I don’t love how the frames look on (it was more an experiment – I’d never tried on a pair like it) but the prescription’s just fine.

    • Ditto on the Costco suggestion. We have a membership, and we make back the fee just on a pair of glasses. My eyes are truly awful, but I was able to get the thinner lenses in a stylish pair of frames for under $150, as opposed to $500 range at LensCrafters and their ilk. It takes a week or two turnaround time, but it’s a nice balance of value and convenience.

  2. I don’t wear earrings (bc my ears aren’t pierced and clip-ons are super uncomfortable) and don’t wear watches or bracelets (sensory issue, I can’t stand having them on), or belts (same, makes things feel too tight to me) but I do wear a necklace to work every day and also my wedding rings. In my area, I would notice someone more for being over-accessorized rather than under-.

    Definitely make your outfits interesting with color, pattern, and detail (eg ruffles might look like too much with jewelry, but just enough without, etc.).

  3. valentine :

    I wear scarves instead of jewelry!

    • tips?

      • There have been a couple of good threads here about scarves. Try typing “scarf” into the search box and see what comes up. The collective wisdom of Corporetters is amazing!

  4. Silk scarves, pretty shades of lipstick, a softer (i.e. not severe) hairstyle, and skirts or dresses will all make one’s look more feminine. If minimal jewelry is manageable, simple pearl studs add a feminine touch without being particularly noticeable.

  5. Threadjack:

    My office is very casual, and I’m looking for some nice chinos, washable, for fairly regular use. Anyone have any great suggestions?

    • I’m a lifelong Gap fan for basic chinos… I’ve had pairs that lasted years. If you have a Gap outlet near you check them out – I’ve found them as cheap as $15/pair on occasion

    • I’m a big fan of JCrew. Variety of colors and fits (and lengths!)

    • LandsEnd has great chinos in a huge variety of colors. I just got their navy ones and they look super sharp and are very comfy.

      • +1 for Lands End. I find them more forgiving than other brands, and some of them they will hem to your specifications, which makes them incredibly reasonable, cost-wise.

      • I’ll second (or third) the Lands End recommendation. As a bonus, they offer free hemming.

      • Don’t know if it’s the same as regular Lands End, but I ordered Lands End Canvas chinos and they were beyond boxy (think Talbots) and short (I’m 5’6″). Had to return ’em.

        • don’t know if they’re the same, I’ve only seen the regular landsend chinos

    • I just bought a pair of Eddie Bauer chinos in whatever style they call their curvy fit, and I’m pretty happy with them. They usually offer everything in a straighter, leaner style as well. FWIW, I’m very curvy, and had also tried the Banana Republic curvy-fit chinos, and found the Eddie Bauer was probably a better fit over all – although I will say the BR pants were nicer/dressier.

    • Recommendations for big rear-end, small-waist chinos? I find that most pants that advertise as “curvy” will accommodate one but not the other. :-(

      • Ha, I’ve had the same problem for many years. In recent times I seem to have solved it by having my waist expand a bit! ;)

  6. Jewely can certainly add an element of interest and creativity for any outfit, not to mention a focal point. For example, a black pencil skirt and white blouse may be boring on its own, but pair it with a turquoise face-framing necklace and it brings the attention up to the face for improved communication. A scarf can do the same sort of thing, as an alternative.

    The suggestion to incorporate more patterns into the wardrobe as an alternative to jewelry is a good one. Here are three components for an excellent pattern to consider before hitting the stores.

  7. Second the suggestions for scarves —

    Also, embellished sweaters/cardigans can be interesting (but be careful – too much beading is too dressy, and can also look old). I try to pick up shirts with interesting cuts/necklines/etc. so they’re more interesting to begin with. Of course, more interesting = more memorable so there is a trade-off as far as how often I can wear them…

    If you can pull off an pretty hair clip(s) that can soften your look — but as always, don’t confuse “pretty” with (my new favorite word, thanks Corporettes!) “Twee” … I like this one: http://amzn.to/9Bd3c2 … just stay away from anything be-dazzled!

    • Backtowork :

      How to avoid the flight attendant look with scarves? I have a great collection of expensive scarves and wear them many different ways, but a scarf with a conservative outfit frequently brings out snarky “flight attendant” comments. I don’t want to give up my scarves, but I’m a lawyer and would prefer to look like one.

  8. The only jewelry I wear with any sort of regularity is a silver ring, a silver chain necklace with a small silver charm, and earrings that are usually plain silver. Personally I don’t like the look of statement jewelry, it can so easily make an outfit look costumey to my eyes.
    Like Kat recommended, I accessorize with clothes. The belt I’m wearing today is woven twine-esque with chunky metal shapes and stones at the ‘buckle’, and my shoes almost always have funky hardware or small details.

    I’ve always daydreamed of owning multiple pairs of up-to-date glasses to wear, but I have terrible vision plus an astigmatism so it would be pricey. I’ll definitely look at the sites above, though!

  9. I love jewelry to little bits and pieces, but I also like to sleep longer in the morning, so it usually falls by the wayside anyway.

    This doesn’t work for everyone, but I swear by the interesting headband. I currently have shoulder length curly hair, and I work in a casual office, so I often make it a little more fun with hair accessories. Today I’m wearing a peacock and pheasant feather headband (it’s much more subtle than it sounds) from LovMely on Etsy. She makes beautiful hair accessories – clips and pins as well as bands – and I can’t really leave the house without doing my hair, so it immediately adds interest.

  10. Besides scarves, I would also suggested more interesting necklines: cowlnecks, boatnecks, asymetrical whatever. . . even maybe something more dramatic like . . . .

    Also, not sure if you count watches as jewelry — but if not, a good watch can do wonders. I would go slightly large to add interest.

    You could also go for hair accesories — nice (classic) headbands (though be careful that they don’t make you look younger if that’s an issue); pretty hairclips, etc.

    Finally — as far as silhouettes — go for higher necklines if you’re not doing necklaces, etc. . . . otherwise the bare skin has a tendency to be too striking. A nice high scoopneck might look plain but it will be perfectly appropriate, necklace or no necklace, but a lower neckline sans necklace is just going to run the risk of being a whole lotta skin :)

    • In terms of interesting necklines, I was thinking along these lines —



      You could also use texture to add interest . . . Or, if you’re feeling daring maybe even wear a tie :)

      • AIMS, why do you do this to me? I’m supposed to be on a shopping diet but I love that blouse! Very work appropriate, slightly retro yet up to date. Hm…I’m going to have to sleep on that one. If I remember it tomorrow, I’m going for it.

        • @E: Saw the blouse in person, love it. Love love love. It is creamier in person, and yes, looks very 60s retro.

        • So sorry!!! Did it to myself (though am always nervous w/Talbots clothes so going to go in store to try on & make sure all fits as should) & had to share :)
          I am a big fan of the “sleep on it” rule myself. Saves you a lot of impulse purchasing!

      • Talbots. Never shopped there, but I’m liking the look of both the tops and the sale prices. How do the sizes run? And any experience on whether their “wrinkle resistant” means I can skip ironing?

        • Talbots tends to be sized for the generous-of-boob and ample-of-tummy. If you’re lanky or smaller-breasted, size down. I have ‘wrinkle resistant’ pants from Talbots and they have never needed to be ironed.

          • While I am a small or medium in AT and BR, I need to size down to XS Petites in Talbots!

      • I L-O-V-E that tweed dress.

      • AIMS – have mercy. I love both those pieces but I SHOULD NOT be shopping (spent several hundred $$$ on boots at 6 pm last week). Sadly, I don’t think I can resist that dress.

  11. If the objection to jewelry is the “fanciness” of wearing embellishment, try more feminine silhouettes instead of embellished shirts – I find that A-line skirts, or skirts with a little swing to them, feel more feminine than the severe pencil skirt. Similarly, shirts with a bit of swing (think a cropped swing sweater or flowy blouse) look softer than a straight turtleneck or scoopneck solid-color shirt.

  12. The only jewelry I wear is my wedding band, engagement ring and another jeweled ring on my right hand and I never take these off. Otherwise jewelry is a rare, and I suppose, special event. It just doesn’t feel or look like “me” when I wear it.

  13. Hosiery. Hue has a great selection of textured tights and pantyhose that add some subtle interest to an outfit while still being work appropriate. (And I actually do think that their nude fishnets are tightly woven enough to work.) When I can be a little more casual at work, socks with fun/interesting designs (paisley, argyle, stripes, floral) add a little personality with minimal effort.

    • I like the hosiery idea. I stocked up on pantyhose at the Nordstrom anniversary sale (including tightly woven nude fishnets, but I got the Donna Karan ones) and I cannot wait to break them out. If your office allows, you can also try colors such as dark purple, dark gray and navy. You can’t do sheer gray though, you will look like a corpse.

      • I totally agree on the sheer gray not being flattering – I bought a pair of gray tights that weren’t very opaque, and a friend said “oh, they’ll look great with grey shoes!”

        The sheerness made me look sickly, and the grey legs with slightly darker grey shoes, and a black skirt, made me look like a black-and-white photograph from the waist down.

    • I love textured tights. They were huge when I was living in Japan (loved the Uniqlo ones) but don’t seem to be nearly as popular here.

  14. thread hijack — I’ve been working crazy hours (and loving it, it’s great experience) at my summer associateship. Recently I had to do an OCI-type packet for my school for about 6 employers for a winter internship. I just realized last night that my resume went out with TWO really stupid typos in it (misspellings). I don’t know how it happened but I guess I just missed them since I submitted the resumes during a big brief filing time here at my current position and was really tired/frenzied. . . I have already gotten one interview request (not my first choice employer), but am kicking myself that I probably won’t get another. Any words of comfort??

    • When I was a 1L, I sent out an entire batch of resumes that referred to my work “exerience.” I remember sitting across a table from an interviewer, staring at my resume he had in front of him, and only being able to see the typo. He never even noticed it, and I got the job.

    • I sent a thank you note to an appeals court, and spelled “appellate” wrong . . . . I also have sent notes to the wrong address before.
      I didnt get the app. job but it was probably for the best b/c I wouldn’t be where I am now if I took that path (and I didn’t even know I wanted to be where I am now when I was interviewing there).
      You’ll be ok! But I would contact your school’s career service and/or IT office to see if there is anything they can do (e.g., if it’s in an electronic format, re-format it or something along those lines).

    • If it’s already gone out all you can do is hope for the best. If not, give career services a call and see if they can switch out your resume with an updated version.

      When I was a 3L, I sent out a cover letter that said I was very interested in a position with Company B. Unfortunately, I sent it to Company A. Even worse, I sent a resume to Company C accompanied by a detailed personal statement of my religious background that I used as part of an application for Faith-Affiliated Organization. There was no context for the personal statement so they must have thought I was insane. Company C is an organization I work with occasionally in my current job and even though that was years and years ago I still feel like I could never apply to lateral there because they might have that old resume and personal statement on file. C’est la vie.

  15. LexCaritas :

    Wide Michelle Obama belts – I am really curvey in the big hips/little waist way. MO looks pretty curve – how does she get those wide belts to sit flat? I cannot seem to accomplish this and I really like the look.

    Any tips?

    • I think she does it much higher on the waist.

    • Maybe they are curved belts?

    • She is curvy, but she’s also 100 feet tall (that’s not an insult to the tall, just the jealousy of my 5’0 talking) , so she really can wear a 3 inch wide belt because the narrowness of her waist really is 3 inches long. On me, a 3 inch belt spans the distance from my bra to the top of my hips, both of which are considerably bigger than my waist.

  16. Oh and I fully acknowledge this wasn’t what the primary poster was asking, but I recently got a beautiful 16 in strand of pearls (thanks Mom!) and I throw them on with any plan outfit and feel like I look a thousand times better. I wear scrubs to operate, and I’ve operated in them, and I think they even make my scrubs look better (HAH)

  17. I like this post and stream because I too avoid accessorizing with jewelry. I find that costume jewelry that is changed with each outfit tends to look cheap unless done very, very well. Instead, I wear a few classic pieces all the time: wedding band, diamond ring, classic watch, sapphire or diamond stud earrings, and a gold necklace. So, I’m wearing plenty of jewelry, but it’s not something I adjust each day to change the look of my outfit.

    I echo the benefit of accessorizing with scarves, tights, and color in your clothing. I find belts are comfortable for social events when I am standing, but not for sitting at work all day.

    Don’t forget about shoes. They are a great accessory that can change the look of an outfit: heels, flats, color, texture. Finally, what about wraps? I keep one black, wool wrap at my office for times when I get chilled, but there is no reason you couldn’t have a few that you switch around to accessorize your clothing.

    Too bad hats are 50 years out of style. What an accessory that would be!

    • I wear my wedding set (not very big diamond, plain platinum band) and my magen david (else peretti) every day. I need a chain to put my rings on when I operate, and I like small jewelry that centers me to life outside of work. All I need is the diamond earrings I’ve been dropping hints to my husband about…

    • As to the comfort of belts, I adore this one: http://www.thelimited.com/detail/sculptural-buckle-skinny-belt/1005376

      This belt links in the front and adjusts by sliding in the back, so you can unlink it when you’re sitting down for several hours, then pop it back on to walk down the hall. This is more of a staple than an accessory, although I also bought this belt in blue/purple/black snakeskin, which does make a statement!

  18. Fashionably Challenged :

    I have been lurking on this site for almost a year, trying in vain to come up with a way to break more interesting work fashion into my closet. I am pale with dark hair, and I was told growing up that I was rather unfortunate looking because of this and shouldn’t wear yellow, pink, white, warm colors, cool colors, you get the idea. It has scared me away from color, even though I know logically that the solid dark colors and neutrals I stick too religiously are not doing me any favors. Also, aside from my wedding rings and occassional watch, can’t seem to figure out how to accessorize – the mere idea of using that word as a verb mystifies me. So, I stick with classic (read: BORING) shapes in coma-inducing colors and shy away from anything that might give me some personality. Ah! I hate what I see in the mirror, but I don’t know how to start changing it without looking like someone else! I stalk AnnTaylor.com and look at all the neat ways they put things together (though recently they haven’t had anything I love), and I can’t figure out a way to put together outfits like that without just totally plagiarizing them. Is that just as bad as having no style at all? Or is that a step in the right direction??

    • Somebody mentioned this book a few threads ago, and I ordered it as a result: http://www.amazon.com/What-Wear-Change-Your-Life/dp/1594481482

      Give it a whirl. There IS a great look for everyone–the trick is just figuring out what works for you.

    • A-n0n-lawyer :

      I copy things that I see in magazines, on tv, and on websites all. the. time. If you do it enough, you’ll eventually start seeing what looks good together and be able to start pulling certain elements together from all the different sources.

    • I subscribed to a few fashion magazines, and read them religiously for a year. I looked at each picture and tried to figure out why it works, notice the accessories, the shapes of the clothes etc.

      Also, I don’t see anything wrong with plagiarizing Ann Taylor :) If you get everything in an outfit they show, you’ll probably find you can wear each of those pieces with a bunch of other things you already own, as well as with each other. It’s a great way to get several things at once that all work together.

    • I find a personal shopper (my preference is Nordstroms) is great for this kind of thing. I have a lot of “rules” in my head about what I can and can’t wear, and what looks good on me, etc, but sometimes a personal shopper can break you out of your ruts. I’m always surprised about what a shopper will pull, and soemtimes I’m right, that I look terrible, and sometimes I’m wrong and I look fabulous.

    • I’m so sorry to hear that you hate what you see in the mirror. Our pasts can really do a number on us. Just know that you don’t have to be defined by those “well-meaning” comments. I kind of know what that’s like.

      Like others mentioned, I look through fashion magazines, websites, and catalogs too. I always ask myself what I like (or dislike) about an item or outfit and how it would work in my real life. I have a notebook of things that I like. After reading InStyle religiously for years, I have really been able to figure out what looks good on my figure. (I always tear out articles with any mention of what looks good on women with a full bust because that’s my trouble spot.)

      Don’t worry about “plagiarizing” right away. I think that is a great place to start. You know you like the look and if you like the way it looks on you, go for it. Once you are more comfortable with the new look, and have done some fashion soul searching, then you can move on to the next level and making things your own. Don’t try to run before you learn to walk. I also think a personal shopper could really help you. Nordstrom offers this service for free.

      I also “reviewed” a bunch of what-to-wear style guides last week (last Wednesday) and I think Tim Gunn’s book sounds like a good read for you. IMHO ;-)

      Good luck!

      • Great point about the notebook – I rip pages that inspire me out of catalogs and fashion magazine. For my favorite looks I think about how I can create that look using what I already own, or what I’d have to purchase.

    • My best friend in high school had your coloring: pale skin, dark hair. I always thought she was beautiful, classic and exotic. Gorgeous comes in many guises.

      I second the idea of trying a personal shopper, like at Nordstrom. They will bring you clothing and accessories to try on that you would NEVER try yourself. They also want you to be happy with your look so you buy more, and will steer you toward your best colors and shapes.

      Nothing wrong with borrowing styles from mannequins and magazines. That’s what they are there for. Those looks are put together by professional stylists. Let them guide you. If you like the look, go for it! And if the looks that call you are found at Ann Taylor, you are choosing styles that are very work-appropriate. Good for you!

    • Copying is good. Also try the “colors” books that have been discussed here. I’m very fair most of the year with almost jet black hair and I’m a winter, meaning deep bold colors look best on me and I wear them often: red, blue, emerald green, black, pure white … I would think you might be the same if your hair is very dark. It rather sounds like someone (or someones) did a number on your self esteem which is not grounded in reality at all. Try some bold color choices and pay attention to how other people react, perhaps that will help you see how perhaps you have been seeing yourself through the lens of those mean people instead of what’s really in front of you.

    • Pale with dark hair = made for jewel tones, also grey, black, white. Think Liz Taylor/Winona Ryder! You are most likely a Winter, and should not wear “coma inducing” colours.

    • Makeup Junkie :

      with your coloring, you can really ROCK the red lipstick. Slap on some mascara, and let that be your red luscious lips be your main accessory!

    • I am like you, in fact, I’ve been thinking about asking Kat to address this. I cannot visualize an “outfit” in my head with disparate items pulled together. I find it very challenging to coordinate top/pants/shoes/necklace/earrings/watch/hairstyle to come up with a complete looking outfit. I think my clothes look fine, neat, and fitted, but that polished, finished vision is sometimes (usually) missing. I say it’s fine to plagiarize, why not–they have experts pulling together those outfits–but I wish I could *learn* how to do it myself.

  19. Anonymous :

    I bought a bunch of jewelry sets from Kohls. Now, a lot of their stuff is a little over the top, but, there are some nice coordinating peices that are not too costumy. It makes me feel so much more grown up to have on nice looking peices. I know they dont look cheap because I get genuine compliments all the time. To be fair, Im in the Southwest, where colorful jewelry may be more acceptable.

  20. I, too, don’t wear jewelry OR makeup (hope no one gasped!) yet I feel feminine every day! I am a HUGE fan of belts (it’s borderline crazy, but I pretty much wear a belt w/ my outfit every day). I like doing cardigans, things with ruffles (but not TOO much ruffle), layers, etc.. which usually is where belts enter in. I also do skirts with the shirt tucked in and belt at waist and a cardigan over. There are also super cute cardigans that have some beading on the neckline which I bet would work fabulously for you! I do wear broaches, but mainly with suits but they can be rocked with many other things! I say stick with layers, cute cardigans, something w/ some texture or life to it whether it’s a print, pattern, multiple layers, ruffles, fun colors, etc… also, SHOES!! nice shoes take an outfit to another level! Those are my suggestions off the top of my head! :-)

  21. Rats . . . original post got eaten. I don’t wear jewelry either (other than my plain silver wedding band and a man’s watch) or makeup. I do love scarves, and often wear them when I want or need to look more polished. One of my favorite styles is to wear a black suit (with a four-button jacket) with a magenta and orange print silk scarf at the neckline like a surplice v-neck blouse. It perfectly takes the place of a necklace. I also have a couple of oblong scarves that I just drape on either side of the lapel of a suit jacket.

    A post with decent descriptions and pictures of several different ways to wear a scarf:

    I also like these suggestions (though all these looks like cotton fringed scarves, which are definitely more casual):

  22. Wear your hair down, preferably in a wavy layered look. Wearing pink or pastels is usually a good option.

  23. I love jewellery so this was a good change for me, to read all the posts above. My non-jewellery options:

    1. Colour (a sheath dress in say, royal blue)
    2. Print (classic DvF blouses, or similar – need no jewellery)
    3. Scarves: I wore a colourful scarf in an Ascot the other day and today have tied the same one over my sheath dress in a cowl neck style.
    4. Lipstick (red/berry)

  24. Makeup Junkie :

    If you don’t like jewelry you can really go to town on your makeup. Choose one area you want to emphasize for the day (cheeks, eyes, or lips) and play it up!

  25. Jane Bingham :

    @ Makeup Junkie–
    zennioptical.com is great!! Quality. Durable. Stylish. I (Not affiliated, just a fan!) I ordered two pairs plus shipping for $20. Everyone in my family has ordered from the site with similar results. I think I got my glasses in the mail in fewer than 10 days.

  26. Life without jewelry…my mother did this….she just did not approve of jewelry. Her job involved lecturing to large audiences almost every day. She made up for the lack of jewelry by wearing clothes with a more beautiful cut and wonderful fabrics. It meant paying more, but I guess she thought it was worth it, and she did look good. Just a wedding ring and a tank watch.

  27. Slight hijack. I received pearls as a gift but they’re longer than I’d like. Any tips on somehow pinning them back? They’re not long enought to loop.

    • Take them to a jeweler to have them restrung. Save the extras in case you want to go longer.

  28. My assistant never wears jewelry and I often find myself thinking that something — nothing big, a nice string of beads or even a pin — would really put the final touch on her outfits. She dresses well but always in solid colors with very little ornamentation. Is jewelry out with the 20-something set or what?

    • Jewelry isn’t out with all of us, but I know it’s not big for me.

      I think of jewelry more as a “Dress up” sort of thing. I don’t wear rings or anything on my wrists (not even a watch) – if I do, as soon as I get to work, I need to take them off and put them by the keyboard. It’s too distracting / uncomfortable for me to wear them!

      Necklaces are worn if I remember to put one on in the morning – and even then, if I start getting hot, my chest and face start to turn red, so a necklace gets immediately removed (it gets very irritating on my skin, and feels like I have pin pricks where anything touches my skin as I get too hot). Of my multiple necklaces, I really only have 5 favourites. The others I don’t care to wear, since they don’t stand out for me anymore.

      Plenty of people on the streetcars I take every morning DO wear jewelry daily though, so I am inclined to think it’s less common to not wear it than it is to wear it.

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