Seven deadly sins of style - and how to avoid them

There are a great many sins we can commit when we don our clothes, but redemption is at hand, writes Rose Mary Roche.

Style is strangely indefinable: we can recognise when someone has it but can’t always explain why something which looks amazing on one woman looks awful on another. 

Knowing your bodyshape, best attributes and parts you are better concealing rather than revealing all contribute to dressing stylishly.

Crimes against fashion are the antithesis of natural style and while slaughtering style may not rank alongside first degree murder, torturing fellow humans with tasteless dressing is still reprehensible.

While this season has the usual quota of silly trends including wedgie jeans, Deirdre Barlow specs and squashed-down shoes to lead us astray, there are also the enduring mortal sins against style which include:

1. Clothes that are Too Small, Tight or Ill-fitting

So many people don’t own a full length mirror and fail to see that their clothes are too tight, too short or simply the wrong size. It is also surprising the number of women who claim straight-faced to be a size 10 when they are a 12 or a 14. Be honest about your size. Nothing is more unflattering than a body squashed into a garment that is a size too small. It looks cheap and nasty. Back rolls of fat, gaping zips, strained seams and buttons about to pop are not elegant. Go up a size and if the label upsets you, cut it off.

2. Getting Frozen in Fashion Time Warp or Mutton Dressed as Lamb

We all know them, women who cling to the style signature of their youth, be that the 70-year old in a beehive, the 50-year-old in a body-con mini or the 40-something in grungy dungarees. Fashion is a fluid evolution of ideas and getting left behind in the look of a past decade is ageing and defeatist. Be brave and try new things. Get professional advice if necessary and embrace who you are now not the you of 20 years ago. Don’t infantilise yourself, if you are 50 dress like a woman and not a girl. Also note, reviving a decade you have already lived though is fraught with peril, eg Saint Laurent’s recent 1980’s show resplendent with Dynasty sequins, power shoulders and tiny minis is best left to anorexic 20-somethings who weren’t born then.

3. Being a Slave to Silly Trends aka Fashion Schizophrenia

Silly trends will always be with us. Frequently laughable, they do move fashion forward and produce publicity for designers. However, be warned, copying the catwalk literally is not for those who value their spending power or sanity. What looks striking or spectacular on the catwalk will often look riduclous translated to everyday. Case in point: Gucci’s goat-fur slippers last season (which bore a striking resemblance to Donald Trump’s hair) caused fashion hysteria but would be a disaster on a wet Monday morning. Designers compete manically for attention and bizarre styling combinations and accessories allow them to grab headlines and fashion editorial. Be inspired by the shows but wary about adopting the look. Instead, analyse what you like best and adapt that without slavishly copying everything.

4. Crop Tops on Muffin Tops

We all wish we had abs of steel but self-delusion is a dangerous indulgence. The recent revival of the crop top has led to multiple muffins bulging out under abbreviated hemlines. Unless you are flat of abdomen and trim of waistline, avoid. If you want the silhouette without the exposure, layer a short boxy top over a longer vest in the same shade.

5. Leggings as Trousers aka Camel Foot

We all know the athleisure trend is huge but wearing leggings 24/7 is not advisable, particularly if paired with an equally form fitting top half. Leggings are great layered with a tunic, slouchy sweater or oversized boyfriend shirt but nobody needs to see every detail of your pudenda outlined in shiny lycra. I know Kourtney Kardashian has christened her camel foot ‘Camille’ and that sister Kim hasn’t taken off her nude Yeezy bodysuit since giving birth but discretion is infinitely more alluring. That’s not to forget lycra-clad male cyclists who blatantly parade their meat and two veg, off saddle. Deciding where to level one’s eyeline when confronted with such exhibitionism is now an everyday trauma. Both genders please cover up your reproductive organs. Now.

6. Bland Beige Can Kill You

For women as they age there is a temptation to opt out of colour completely and to adopt beige as a default setting. While neutrals are an excellent foundation, wearing only beige as your complexion and hair lighten, can be a sartorial death sentence. Disappearing completely into beige or neutrals can suck all the life out of your appearance. Warmer and deeper shades of camel and tobacco are more life- enhancing and should be paired with stronger shades such as chocolate, navy, white and even red. Fibres such as cashmere, wool and silk look great in blonde tones. Remember that neutral clothes work better with stronger make up like a red lip or defined brows and eyes.

7. Boho Gone Bonkers

Some women like to visualise themselves as Sienna Miller circa 2005 wafting around in a cacophony of fringing, beads and embroidery. “Hippy bohemian chic is very hard to carry off: you need an astute sense of style to mix disparate elements into a ‘thrown together’ look that appears effortless. Overdoing too many colours, trims, texture and accessories is confusing — the equivalent of visual noise. If in doubt leave it out— less really is more unless you have the gift of accessorising with the panache of Iris Apfel, who advises: “If people try to look like me they’ll look ridiculous. “They should think about who they are and learn how to think for themselves.”


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