Despite being something that everyone does literally every day, getting dressed (or putting together an outfit, if you want to get fancy), can feel like the trickiest, most frustrating part of the morning. Who hasn't stood in front of a closet full of clothing and thought “I have nothing to wear!?” Rest assured, you're not alone in this daily conundrum. To that end, we consulted a panel of experts—top designers, style consultants, and retail pros—to demystify the act (art?) of getting dressed, once and for all.
Spend as much as you can afford on staples.
How to actually do it: First, a disclaimer. There's no need to break the bank on the basics—tees, button-downs, jeans—of which there are plenty of quality options available at low prices. Instead, splurge (if you can) on the types of items in which even the cheapo versions aren't exactly steals. For instance, bargain cashmere will still set you back $100. But that sweater will stretch out quickly, and then you'll have to blow another $100 to replace it, rather than spending a little more only once. When buying classics, like a great black blazer, it's important to invest in better fabrics— say, wool—that will hold up better over time. Try calculating the price per wear to help stave off sticker shock.
Develop a signature style.
How to actually do it: Figure out your go-to, foolproof looks, then seek out variations on that theme. Stumped? Picture the outfits that you feel most comfortable in. Or ask people close to you what you look best in. Once you've zeroed in on what works, find different takes. For example, if you gravitate toward jackets, you can do a bomber style, then a silk version, or a denim jacket with leather sleeves. Whenever you feel the need to talk yourself into things, that's a red flag that you shouldn't buy them. If you have doubts in the dressing room, it may help to take a photo of yourself in the item. It's much more accurate than looking in the mirror.
Everyone should own a classic white shirt.
How to actually do it: Opt for a pure white, rather than ivory, which may skew dingy. But since white has the potential to make your teeth look yellow in comparison, consider wearing a bold lipstick with a blue undertone, like fuchsia, so teeth appear brighter. Not sure which cut is best for you? A button-up with darting at the waist or curved princess seams can create a feminine hourglass shape on anyone. Be sure the seams of the shoulders line up with your shoulders and that there is no pulling across the front or the back. To keep all-cotton shirts from discoloring, don't dry-clean them.
Mix prints and patterns.
How to actually do it: Doubling up on patterns can help you come across as confident and chic—or as if you got dressed in the dark. Achieve the former by following these guidelines. Stick to a similar color family—and preferably the same background shade. Polka dots with stripes or florals typically go well together. The same holds for leopard print with a non-critter pattern or paisley with squares or checks. Near match is a no-no. For example, houndstooth and plaid are too similar to be simpatico. And two large-scale prints will compete for dominance—and give people a headache. Finish off the outfit with neutral accessories. Don't add another color into the mix.
Jewelry should accentuate your features.
How to actually do it: The right pair of earrings can flatter your face shape. For instance, long earrings make your face look skinnier if it’s on the round side. On the other hand, if you have an oblong face, short, chunky earrings, like oversize studs, will draw focus outward, and your face won't read quite as narrow. If you have a large bust, a necklace should hit an inch above the cleavage or higher. Longer strands or pendants will rest awkwardly on the body and call attention to every contour. Lastly, choose earrings in lighter colors, such as pearls or white stone, to make your face look radiant.