The Top Five Dressing Mistakes

What does it take to dress well?  A lot of money?  A perfect figure?  An enormous closet?


Dressing well is a lot like cooking well or painting well or playing the piano well:  once you learn the basics and apply them repeatedly, you become proficient.  Like a botched sauce or a missed chord, you begin to recognize your clothing missteps and in time, you stop making them.  All it takes is a little practice.

But as I look around at people on the streets and see how they present themselves, it’s apparent that many have never learned the basics.  They may know that they’re supposed to wear certain types of clothes to certain functions, but they’re missing the main ingredient:  how to dress THEIR body.

THEIR hips.  THEIR thighs.  THEIR arms.  THEIR waists. 

In a world where everyone is different, one size does NOT fit all.  Thus, learning how to dress yourself becomes the essential ingredient in dressing well.

Here are the top five mistakes I see on a regular basis:

1.  Not Understanding Your Body Shape

One of my sisters is a classic pear while the other has an hour glass figure.  I’m an inverted triangle.  When did we learn we had different shapes?  Back in high school when we tried to borrow each other’s clothes.  Our sizes may have been similar but our body shapes weren’t.  The clothes we had bought for ourselves just didn’t fit each other as well.

Thus it is with every woman.  Don’t rely on what your best friend wears, your favorite celebrity wears, or even what your sister wears.  Learn your body shape and look for clothing styles that accentuate YOU.  If you do, you’ll be well on your way to dressing success.

2.  Not Getting a Proper Fit

“How do I know if something fits?” a client once told me.  “If I can get it zipped, it fits.”

Not true.

It fits if it conforms to the contours of your body without pinching, sagging, bunching, or straining.  If you don’t have full range of movement, it doesn’t fit.  If it cuts into your skin or rides up when you move, it doesn’t fit.  If it drapes your body like a tent, it doesn’t fit.  If it causes parts of your body to bulge or get smashed, it doesn’t fit.  In short, if your shape is completely obscured — or encased like a sausage — by your clothes, get them altered or find something else to wear.  It doesn’t fit.

3.  Not Wearing the Right Colors

No one can wear every color equally well.  No one.  Depending on your skin tone, some colors will make your eyes sparkle and your skin glow — while others will wash you out.  Some people look better in blues and pinks.  Others look better in browns and greens.  If you find your best colors and build a wardrobe around them, you’ll not only look great every day, you’ll also be able to mix and match your clothes more easily.  You know what else?  With fewer colors, you’ll need fewer accessories.  Look great and save money?  Woo-hoo!

4.  Not Wearing the Proper Undergarments

What you wear under your clothes can have a huge impact on how well your clothes drape and fit.  Sagging bras, pinching panties, no body shaper in sight – all can ruin an otherwise flawless ensemble.

If you have never been properly fitted for a bra, go to a good department store or lingerie shop and get fitted.  If you haven’t been fitted in a while, or if you’ve had a baby or gained or lost weight since your last fitting, get fitted again.  A properly fitting bra can make a world of difference to your figure.

As for underwear, look for styles with a cotton crotch that are comfortable and fit fully over your bottom.  Before you leave the house, always stand in front of a full length mirror and do a “rear check” to see how you look from behind.  Make sure your clothes fit smoothly over your backside with no bulges, dimples, or panty lines (briefs and boy cut styles offer the least visible panty lines.)  Looking for a little smoothing and contouring?  Try a body shaper for an instantly better-looking figure.

5.  Not Accessorizing Correctly

Ever seen a great outfit undone by a tacky pair of shoes or an unworthy handbag?  How about an overwhelming scarf or an underwhelming piece of jewelry?  Me too.  Often, the eye is drawn to the one wrong element, completely overlooking the rest of the ensemble.  What a shame.

Remember:  accessories should compliment and finish an outfit, not sabotage it.  If yours don’t, don’t wear them.
Dressing well doesn’t require a big budget or a fabulous figure.  All you need is an understanding of your body and the clothing and accessory styles that suit it best.  Start by accessing your own body, then look for the lines, fabrics, and colors that suit you best.  Insist on proper fit and appropriate undergarments.  Finally, finish with accessories that fit the mood of the ensemble and that are proportionally correct for your body.

It doesn’t take a lot to dress well.  With a little practice and some consistent effort, you’ll have people admiring your fashion savvy – whatever your age, shape, size, or budget.

Need some help in determining your body shape, your clothing personality, and the silhouettes that suit you best?  WARDROBE MAGIC can help:

Aren’t sure how to use accessories to their full advantage?  Download a copy of ACCESSORY MAGIC:

to see how to stretch your budget and define your style with accessories.


Diana Pemberton-Sikes is a wardrobe and image consultant and author of “Wardrobe Magic,” an ebook that shows women how to transform their unruly closets into workable, wearable wardrobes. Visit her online at .

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