Styling Points

The advertisement for a sexy off the shoulder tunic boldly claimed, “The Must-Have Top for Spring.” I might wear that top once, and then it will just hang in my closet because it is so memorable. It isn’t for me! I have learned that trendy items do not make me look younger and stylish; they make me look like I am trying too hard, and they waste my money. A well made classic tee in a solid neutral color with a scoop neck and three-quarter sleeves would be a better choice for me. I can wear it a hundred times in many different ways by adding accessories. I will look appropriate and true to myself each time I wear it.

Styling classic pieces in a more modern way can bring new life to what you already have in your closet. A current styling tip that is difficult for some of us to embrace is the shorter outer garment over a longer base item. I have several cute short jackets, but if I wore them with an equally short top or tucked in, it would show off the fact that I have a thick waist and a very flat behind. When I wear those short jackets over a longer top and slim-fitting pants, it gives the appearance of a better figure than I have. The 1/3 over 2/3 rule comes into play here. If I had left off the jacket, the green tank’s hem would have cut my body in half visually, making me look shorter and broader. Wearing a shorter jacket over a longer top also creates the illusion of a better waistline.

Over the years, I have identified several guidelines that help me decide for or against things when I shop. I know in three seconds if something might work for me. These guidelines always help me get dressed quickly and without a lot of frustration. It might be helpful to you to share my Styling Points. (Yours may be completely different, but I am sharing mine as an example.)
1. Simple V-neck or scoop neck tops are best with my roundish face shape and ample bust.
2. Define the waist or wear a top that stops between the waist and the hip to show the leg’s full length.
3. Longer billowy tops should be avoided, but sleek tunics with uneven hemlines can work in warm weather with slim-fitting pants.
4. Cropped, Capri-length, or shapeless pants do nothing for me.
5. Always try to wear a third piece such as a scarf, jacket, or vest, to give the illusion of a better shape.
6. Add a bright color, interesting necklace, or a vividly patterned scarf near your face.
7. Shoes need to have a pointed toe, a low (not flat) heel, and match my skin color in warm weather or my pants and socks in winter.
8. Handbags should be structured, classic styles.
9. Your best colors are black, white, gray, blue, red, or any vibrant clear color with no yellow or gold mixed in. Muted colors or prints wash you out.
10. Jackets need to have sleeves that can be pushed up and should be nipped in at the waist or belted.

My exasperation with shopping has always been the difficulty in finding sources for classic, simple, affordable clothing and accessories. For example, after visiting countless online shops and more than twenty bricks and mortar stores just looking for a silk scarf one summer, I thought, “There has to be an easier way!”. I found lots of scarves in the $400 to $1,200 range, but those prices certainly won’t fit into my budget. More than a few three-season pants and tops were hundreds of dollars, but those items were rarely in classic, simple styles that weren’t memorable.

The green knit tank worn above is by Misook. The Ponte Moto Jacket is by Armani Exchange from Dillard’s last season. The pull-on black pants were from Chico’s a couple of years ago. The necklace is an antique. The bag is a couple of years old. The shoes are also a couple of years old from Sam Edelman.

  1. Pointed toe shoes can cause neuroma and other problems for the feet. As we age our foundation affects our legs, our back, and everything about our alignment. You always look fabulous and I am so happy you can wear pointed toes and not suffer the consequences. However, there may be more than a few of your readers who aren’t so lucky. I am certainly one of them.

    1. Yes, pointed toe shoes are a no-go with podiatrists and not good for bunions or for avoiding triggering them if you are prone to them (heredity). There are however many fashionable options of round, square, or toeless (with painted toenails, weather permitting). I have found that shoes made in Italy by family-owned companies, for Italian women, are most comfortable as well as fashionable and don’t pinch the toes; I have several pair that I have bought over years of travel and always get compliments on them. Question for Susan: Petite women (like myself @5’1″ have a difficult time with the proportion in terms of tops, as they are often much too long. I have tried looking at Covered Perfectly’s website but I would have to cut and hem every single top. If you come across or have any suggestions for us, please share! Great post, as usual 🙂

        1. As someone who is also 5’1″, I have the same concerns. Ann Taylor and Loft also have petite sizes, both in tops and pants and jeans. They have well made and fashionable options.

  2. I too cannot wear the pointed toe shoe and not too bothered by that.fact. Sometimes I feel that the extremely pointed shoes are not attractive. There are so many nice looking loafers to wear in cooler weather and nice looking sandals and flats for summer that to me is a very classic look.

    I wonder if you find the slim/skinny leg pants and jeans are too snug (at your lower leg) and seem to gather up at your knee? My thighs are big and I can not wear skinny jeans and have to wear straight leg.

    1. I never wear skinny jeans. All the ones you see me wear are the straight leg or a slight flare leg. Even young skinny girls have that gathering at the knee. I just go with it.

  3. With your encouragement Susan, I have spent the last year “going gray”! What I have noticed since then is that my “go to” colors of watermelon, peach, and orange aren’t working anymore. I am now purchasing more of the royal blue, kelly greens and more saturated colors. They seem to fit better with the mostly salt and pepper hair I have grown into. My stylist says I have a nice gray-silver color. When I follow your guidelines for classic pieces and colors I do seem to have more people notice and get more compliments! I am built like you-thinner legs and hips and butt. Ample on top or is that apple? Thank you for your tips and guidance.

    1. I always enjoy reading how you bring out the best in your appearance. That information helps me in my own evaluation. I am short and have a curvy, well proportioned shape. So even though we are quite different, your information is still useful. I’m so glad you don’t push the trends! I can see how much better you look since you have focused on classic looks. I’m sure that has helped the pocketbook too. Not buying trends helps me afford much nicer clothing when I do buy. Thanks for your blog!

  4. How do you suggest one go about creating their own styling points list? Did you do trial and error or consult a stylist to start with.

    1. That’s a good question. When you wear something that made you feel you were looking your best that day, you probably also got compliments. Take pictures of yourself with your cell phone in your favorite outfits. Study what it is about those looks that work so well for you. On one day it might be dark pants that were comfortable and fit well which made your behind look smaller. On another day it might be that you wore a boatneck top that made your narrow shoulders look wider. It is a combination of how the cut of the clothes flatter your unique body, combined with textures and colors that flatter you. Proportion and silhouettes can help you look taller, thinner or more shapely depending on your goals. Seeing pictures of myself helped me to see what looked best on me consistently.

  5. Susan:

    Again, thank you for your good advice and great tips. I will print them and keep them in my closet. I realized that for the most part, I have almost identitical styling points as you. I’ve been following your posts for a while now and I am inspired by your pictures and suggestions. Have a great day and again, thank you so much.

  6. Good tips, especially regarding trendy pieces that will be worn once. As we age, we have to recognize that we can’t wear what to 20 year old girls are wearing. However, we can actually look better than them if we know what works for us and we stay classic and classy. You always do both.

  7. I love how your style has evolved over the years that I have followed you. I find that what you are posting now much more classic and relatable and tips easy to incorporate into my everyday style. Thank you so much for the good advice

  8. I always look forward to your continued sensible style recommendations and tips. I am the same age as you, and while some of your suggestions may not apply to my body type and lifestyle, I still find them extremely helpful in tailoring them to mine. I also really appreciate your advice on your particular food choices. I’ve been eating mostly plant-based for most of my life due to medical issues, but you’ve really opened my eyes to making better choices as a result of your research. I find that my quality of life is so much better now, which enables me to elevate my personal wardrobe style as well. Your blog has truly been a godsend.

  9. Love, love, love your blog and practical styling tips. You’ve made my life so much easier and I can literally “skim the racks” in 10 minutes when shopping. Trying on pants…..still a time consuming ordeal but I stick with the solids now. Thanks, Susan.

  10. I agree with your rules. I too have tried the trendy route and end up giving the item to my daughter. I find I spend more on jackets and accessories to liven up my basic tops. I think I look better and so much easier to get dressed.

  11. Susan, I hope you are considering writing a book. After all, it’s practically written here in your blog! It would be so nice to have all your tips and insights (so far) rounded up and in one place. Your life experiences (which I and others, I’m sure, find so inspirational) and approach to a healthy lifestyle, along with your ability to analyze and communicate dressing decisions would make for such a valuable book. Whether through an established publisher or self-published on Amazon, I think your readers would line up to get it! I’m keeping my fingers crossed. (Final note: You’d have to include the photo of a young you in your Navy uniform. Adorable!)

    1. Mr. Mickey has suggested that I write a book so many times. He also wants me to include some of the comments because he loves to read them. Thank you for this one, Gail.

  12. I like your suggestions too Susan, thank you so much. The only one that’s not for me is that the top should stop between the waist and hip. I’m afraid that emphasises my belly area, not my best feature. I feel most comfortable when my crotch is covered by my top.

  13. I would definitely purchase your book! I think it would be my dressing bible. Just today I was choosing two outfits to wear to the city this weekend for an event, one dressy one casual. I pulled clothes out of my closet and tried different combinations on until three hours had passed. After being very frustrated, I thought, “What would Susan do?” Aha! I then was able to complete two appropriate outfits including shoes, jewelry, and a wrap for a chilly evening. And in the process I was able eliminate several items that did not serve me well! I agree with another follower that said in her comment today that you are a great communicator.

    1. Then I shall get to work on that book right away! Thank you so much for sharing your successful packing event. It always makes me smile when I hear, “What would Susan do?”

  14. Your comments are always so helpful. I am particularly fond of the black slacks with slightly tapered ankles in your online shop. I can wear them with almost anything. They are so easy to wash and dry quickly with no wrinkling. And they are very comfortable. I find myself wearing them very often and always like how I look in them! I do find the average length fits me well in the body but is always a little long. I have found a tailor who shortens them for me for a minor cost and am so impressed with the result. I will continue to invest in these slacks.

  15. I always enjoy your blog and have dressed very similar to the way you do for many years. I noticed in the blog above you said you have a flat bottom I have the same problem and have a very hard time getting pants to fit properly. Chico pants seem to fit the best but still not as I would like. What other brands have you found that work well for you? I am about your age, size and height.

    Susan in SC

  16. Susan, I love your blog and clothing choices as well. Many years ago I had my ‘colors done’ and it is still bang on for what I look best in. I have been frustrated in the past when a trend appears and all of a sudden it is everywhere. Sort of like the open shoulder tops now. I would never buy or wear one, just too trendy. I have always preferred the classics and have found over the years that the things I keep are generally those with no time limits. I generally look better in a blazer type jacket, a v or scoop next top and straight leg pants or a nice skirt without too much gathering. Not a necessarily exciting wardrobe but one I can take just about anywhere. Thank you for your ideas and pictures.

  17. Hi Susan. Love your blog with all your get sophisticated and stylish tips. I like to be fashionable, up to date,and love classics, I’ve never been interested in the over the top fashions that aren’t really me.

    Have a wonderful day!

    Best regards from,
    Ontario, Canada.

  18. To those commenting on pointed-toed shoes, I think you have to find the brand and size that works for you. And we all need to double check our shoe size from time to time. I have no problem with pointed-toe shoes but my feet are on the narrow-ish side of medium width (not actually narrow). Almond-toe is another shape that works to elongate. Just my 2 cents. Susan, I love your blog and your tips. Thank you for all you do!

  19. I love your style but for as much as the $400 scarves were beyond your budget your shop and your referrals like your bras are way beyond mine! Would love to have you recommend similar with better price tags. Thanks.

  20. Hi, Susan!

    I know your style resonates with many women who want to look classy as they get older, because you have mastered a classic look. The look that resonates with “my true self” is more bohemian and rock chic with an urban classic base, which may also resonate with others our age because we are baby boomers (and I am a city dweller). It is very helpful for you to do a post like this one because it shows how to update classic clothes with accessories.

    You mentioned what works for you, and that others of us may have styling points that are different. The points that are different for me are: 1) I have a long-waist, so longer tops look best on me, tunic length. 2) My coloring is neutral, cool and muted, so those types of colors bring out the beauty of my face making my skin more clear and youthful along with my eyes. Bright colors are harsh on me, or they at least don’t bring out the best in me. Color is good, but my colors have to be the right ones in the right shade. 3) I have wide feet, I discovered after I got bunions from medium-width shoes. So I need shoes with a rounded or squared toe box. It’s bad for my foot health to squeeze my toes into a pointed shoe. When I get pointy-toe shoes in a wide width, they usually look too long and big for me. 4) Structured handbags go with a classic, ladylike outfit but not usually with my style which is more bohemian with a a bit of an edge. Softer handbags go with my naturally soft look and my boho bent. 5) Muted colors are my best; bright, high-contrast looks are too harsh for me. Color contrast in my outfits need to be medium because my hair and eye and skin colors are medium contrast. So the classic combo of black and white, for instance, doesn’t look best on me.

    That said, as a fellow blogger (albeit a newcomer) I admire the way you guide women to be classy (and not frumpy!) I appreciate your expertise and understand why you are in high demand. 🙂

    Thanks for all you do,


  21. I really appreciate your emails I get from you. I have been trying to buy tops that are all 1 color and I’m having more success with finding something to wear each morning in a hurry rather than stand in front of my closet & say “I have nothing to wear!”. Thanks again. You’ve got good sound advice – Thank You!!

  22. I got side tracked with my last comment! I ment to ask you about the type of Express Portofino shirt you took on your vacation. I saw several types on the site. Thank you!

  23. Do you find yourself wearing pants from your store or Chicos more? From your store, do you wear the straight leg or the basic?

    1. I wear the straight more often in winter and the basic in warm weather. That little split looks better without hose or socks. I do wear the pants on my site more often than the Chico’s travelers. The reason is that the crepe is not shiny. It can be dressed up or down. I wore the straight leg pants to get a pedicure the other day, and it was the perfect pant for that. When I pushed the legs back down, there were no wrinkles.

  24. Thanks so much for another informative post. I have been following you a couple of years and gradually started changing my wardrobe. I’m probably 95% solid color now and have held on to a few items of clothing that have patterns/prints. I find myself wearing them less and less, mostly just summer dresses. Sometimes I’ll find something when I’m shopping and then remember, nope trying to keep it simple and classic. I also stick to a basic color theme of black, off white, gray, brown, and taupe. Then accessorize with color. It makes getting dressed a lot easier since almost everything matches. I buy most of my clothes second-hand (consignment and Goodwill) and have no shortage of luck finding Chico’s and Talbots, so that helps my wallet.

    I have difficulty finding scarves though. I’m petite and most of the ones I see are very large and bulky. I have a few, but don’t really care for them. I want people to notice me first, not the large blanket around my neck!

    So, thanks again for sharing your tips and suggestions. They are wonderful and useful to me.

  25. I am hesitant to try the short-jacket-over-longer-top idea. As I am a size larger around my stomach-hip-bottom area than my top, I wonder if that line of contrasting color across my middle and rear will emphasize my extra girth. Hence, my hesitation. Am I right or wrong?

  26. I must say I have always liked you in the royal blue you wear frequently but love love the green today! It is so fresh and spring like. I am forcing myself to get out of the black and white rut I find myself in and try new colours. I especially like the jewel tones and you wear them well.

  27. Susan, I love your blog! I just turned 50 and find your ideas to be on point. I have shared your ideas with so many people. I used to be into prints galore leaving me with one hit wonders. I have been going through my closet and thowing/giving things away. My question is – How to look fashionable in Florida in our heat – especially from march to September? It’s so hot – jackets are not an option- maybe in a restaurant. I want to look put together and yet able to be comfortable in our humid weather that is soon to be here. Do you suggestions? Thank you so much much for what you do.

    1. I am about to visit your beautiful state again in a few weeks. There will be different looks in my carry-on bag this time. I may even take a cotton shift dress or one of the black or navy tank dresses from my shopping site. Dresses can be the coolest option when the temps are very high. I try to keep the colors in a look down to one or two. If one of those colors is bright, then all the other pieces need to stand back and let that color or bold accessory have the limelight. I will share my warmer weather dressing experience when I return.

  28. I can relate! You are spot on with your guidelines. I have accumulated far too many clothes, many of them that I just don’t wear but they enticed me due to colour and print. I am trying to buy more thoughtfully rather than impulsively.

  29. Susan, I have just discovered you and I’m so glad! I feel like you are describing me to a T. Thanks so much for your efforts and great advice.

  30. I know this rather late to respond, but just saw your styling of the green shirt, (Love Misook), with your turquoise necklace. I usually pair My turquoise with white or blue. I realize I can be a bit more changeable.

    I have the same body type as you with the same height, and have taken your advice about neckline, etc, and have been told I look thinner when wearing similar styles to yours. Thanks and keep blogging!

    Barb M

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.