How to Look Polished: 8 Easy Tips

This article may contain affiliate links; if you click on a shopping link and make a purchase I may receive a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
tips on how to look polished by Wardrobe Oxygen, a site that offers real-life style for grown-ass women

How does one get the polished look? How to look polished? How can I look polished and professional? These, and different variations of these questions show up in my keywords in my blog analytics on a daily basis. And I receive DMs and emails on this subject weekly. It seems that most women are searching for the Holy Grail of style instead of working on those spreadsheets or proposals at work! 

I originally wrote this advice on how to look polished way back in 2007. I recently updated it because even though Yves Saint Laurent is famous for saying, “Fashions fade, style is eternal,” what is seen as stylish and looking polished changes over the years. 

To quote another fashion icon, Daphne Guinness said it well, “Fashion is not just about trends. It's about political history. You can trace it from the ancient Romans to probably until the '80s, and you can see defining moments that were due either to revolutions or changes in politics.” 

Fashion is not just about trends. It's about political history. You can trace it from the ancient Romans to probably until the '80s, and you can see defining moments that were due either to revolutions or changes in politics.

Daphne Guinness

Our world has changed drastically over these past few years, and with it, style.  Below I share how to look polished no matter your personal style for our here and now. These tips for looking polished will work regardless of your shape, size, budget, lifestyle, or personal style aesthetic.

How to Look Polished: 8 Doable Steps

Looking polished… well, some women are born with that skill. They are able to wear a simple tee shirt, jeans, and flats and look like a modern-day Audrey Hepburn. Their hair never frizzes, their lipstick never gets on their teeth, they have perfect yet natural posture, and possess effortless confidence and style.

Image of Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. She is wearing a pale aquamarine sequin shift dress from Ann Taylor with a matching ostrich feathr boa and gold strappy heeled sandals from Margaux.
Hi there, my name is Alison and there is likely spinach in my teeth.

I am not one of those people. I always spill my morning coffee on my sleeve. Friends are always picking a piece of lint out of my hair or a crumb off my sweater. I wear more bruises and scratches than articles of clothing and find my body shape can make a stylish t-shirt, no matter how expensive or well-cut, make me look like I'm ready to clean out the garage.  That being said, I have learned how to look polished, with bruises and coffee stains and all.

Image of over 50 influencer Elaine Davis AKA @squarepearls. She is wearing an all white winter look with a puffer jacket, slim joggers, and heeled white ankle booties with square toes.
Elaine Davis from the blog Square Pearls

How Does One Get the Polished Look?

Step 1: Get Real

The first step toward achieving a polished look is to destroy that mental picture of Audrey Hepburn, Meghan Markle, Tilda Swinton, Olivia Pope, or Claire Underwood. If you are asking how to look polished, I can bet you don't look like these folk, nor do you have their income or their connections. To attempt to force yourself into an ideal will never be successful, look authentic, or be enjoyable.  

That doesn't mean you can't look polished. It just means by accepting you are you and not another, you can create a wardrobe, beauty routine, and lifestyle that celebrates your unique self.  When you feel good, you look good.  When you feel you look good, it affects your posture, how you care for yourself and your wardrobe, and how others portray you. 

The most stylish thing a person can wear is confidence, and confidence is impossible when you are working to be something or someone else. Now let's figure out who the heck we are and what our style is!

Photo of Georgette Niles, an over 40 fashion blogger and influencer. She is wearing a sage green and white striped sundress with a wicker purse, tan leather belt, and orange strappy flat sandals.
Georgette Niles from Grown and Curvy Woman

Step 2: Gather Data

For at least a week, keep a style journal. Each day, note what you wore (and what condition it was in), how you styled your face and hair, and what events took place during the day. Notice how people look at you, respond to you, and what comments or compliments you receive (not just on your outfit, but on your work, your talent in another aspect of your life, your health, or vitality).

Also note how you felt when you looked in the mirror before leaving that day, and how you felt when you returned in the evening. This can be a paper journal, a Note on your phone, or there are apps like Day One (which I personally use) where you can journal with a combination of writing and photos.

If you leave your house in something that you don’t love and does not love you, you will not look polished, composed, or comfortable. Maybe it’s a dress that is a smidge too tight, a blouse that requires a few carefully hidden safety pins to keep your bra from public view, a sweater made from a fabric that itches, or of a color you don’t really like but seems popular this season.

I always say style comes from quality and not quantity; you likely don't need let alone wear all that is in your closet.  It is better to donate or re-gift those items that make you uncomfortable and save up for worthy replacements. Here are some questions you can ask to determine if that piece of clothing is worth keeping:

  • How does the garment wear throughout the day? Does that pencil skirt end up resembling Venetian blinds by noon? Are you constantly adjusting the neckline of your blouse so your bra doesn't show? Did the sleeves of your sweater stretch out so much from pushing them up on your forearms that now they are saggy bells around your fingertips? Who cares how sassy you feel at 8 am if you feel like a recycled grocery bag by happy hour? Such items do not deserve a place in your closet. 
  • How does the garment feel? Are you constantly pushing up the sleeves because they are too long and get in the way? Do the pants dig in when you sit? Is it itchy when you get overheated? These things matter. You deserve comfort and joy with your wardrobe, you can have them and polish and deserve both.
  • How does the garment make you feel? YOU matter. And it is impossible to look polished if you are uncomfortable physically or personally. Clothing can be a sartorial security blanket for both good memories and bad. Colors alone can elicit a certain response, let alone factoring in fit, fabric, trend, brand or retailer, or the story behind the garment. You deserve to feel polished and confident in your wardrobe. It's okay to say no to certain fashion for any reason, you don't need to justify it to anyone.

This is fantastic intel. A way to develop your personal style is to recognize what you don't like. This doesn't have to be negative. It's research, and a way to reduce further wardrobe negativity and look more polished and find your style.

Now, consider what pieces in your wardrobe make you walk tall and feel good. Maybe it’s that matte jersey wrap dress you found for a steal on clearance or a cashmere turtleneck in robin’s egg blue that you bought with your holiday bonus. Possibly it’s a frilly feminine confection that makes you feel as though you have been transported from a different time period or a pantsuit that has been tailored to fit you like a glove.

When I say “good,” I don’t mean cozy. I don’t mean an item that reminds you of your mom because she knit it for you back in college, or because it’s of cozy fleece and hides your lumps. Women often mistake feeling good for feeling safe.  Sartorial security blankets have their place, but you came to this article to find out how to look polished. To look polished, you want clothes that make you feel beautiful, strong, confident, sexy, creative, unique, daring, or special. You are important, your wardrobe should reflect that. 

Mary Orton, influencer also known as Memorandum. Orton is wearing a double breasted khaki tweed blazer with a beige silk slip-style skirt. She has belted the blazer with a brown leather belt bag and on her feet are brown pointed toe flats.
Mary Orton from the blog Memorandum

Step 3: Take Good Care of Yourself… And Your Wardrobe

A polished woman does not have snags in her sweaters, stains on her shirts, or wrinkles on her wrap dresses.  You spend hard-earned money on your wardrobe, it deserves to be cared for. And you deserve to wear cared-for clothing.

  • If an item says do not put it in the dryer, do not put it in the dryer.  Air drying will keep its shape and make it look better for longer. Want proof? Read how I ruined my Breton tee shirts.
  • You likely own an iron, but also consider getting a garment steamer.  It's a way to quickly release wrinkles from brand-new purchases as well as garments that were worn but don't need to be laundered before the next time they come out of your closet.  A steamer can refresh clothing that has lingering scents from an event, and it takes less time than an iron.  There is no need for a giant professional steamer, a travel or handheld steamer is usually less than $75 (I own this exact one) and can hold enough water to steam 1-2 garments. 
  • Hang up clothing at the end of the day.  Your chair, treadmill, and doorknob are not meant to hold clothing, and it can cause creases, dents, and damage.  
  • Use proper hangers.  The hangers you get from your dry cleaner can leave rust stains on clothes, put dents in shoulders, and creases where they shouldn't be.  For most apparel, I recommend the velvet flocked hangers you can find everywhere from Target to Amazon to an end cap at your local TJ Maxx; the texture keeps clothing from slipping off and the streamlined shape provides more room in your closet so clothing can breathe and won't be crushed. For blazers and coats, a moulded hanger will help it keep its shape.
  • As soon as you see a stain, take care of it.  This is my favorite stain removal recipe, it works on almost any fabric. 
  • If you can't take care of it, don't get it.  It's okay if you don't have a hand wash or dry clean-only lifestyle; few of us do.  Don't set yourself up for frustration or damaged clothing by buying pieces that won't work with your life.
Influencer Sapna Delacourt who is also known from her blog and social media platforms Lunch with a Girlfriend is wearing a pale blue linen sweater and white lightweight beach pants with a straw bucket hat and brown leather fisherman sandals. She is standing on a wood path to a beach, the ocean in the distance.
Sapna Delacourt from the blog Lunch with a Girlfriend

Step 4: Keep it Simple

You never see a “polished” woman in cabbage roses, brand logos, and bedazzled fabrics. The simpler your pieces, the more versatile they are, the chicer they are, the more timeless they will be.

It is tempting to buy the blouse with the kicky embroidery, but more often than not, you will tire of the pattern, the look will be out of fashion in less than three months and people will think, “oh there she is again in that embroidered shirt!” Fun and flashy pieces are added once a simple working wardrobe is created to show your personality.

Consider building a capsule wardrobe of hardworking pieces that can lead multiple lives.  If you're not sure where to start, this piece shares how to create capsule wardrobes and this link will offer all the capsule wardrobes I've created for a variety of situations, lifestyles, and personal styles to inspire you. 

Influencer Caralyn Mirand Koch walking down a sidewalk waring a snakeskin blouse over dark wash skinny jeans. She is wearing bright orange suede pointed toe flats.
Caralyn Mirand Koch from the blog Caralyn Mirand

Step 5: Focus On Fit Above All Else

A polished woman's clothing fits.  Pants are the right length for her heel height, buttons are never popping open, sleeves aren't hanging over hands (or into soup), necklines never gape to show a bra.  A polished woman buys not what is trendy or a really great deal, but what fits their lifestyle as well as frame.

The best way to make your body look amazing is to get your clothing tailored.  Whether it's a t-shirt or a pantsuit, when it is trimmed to fit your unique figure, it will make you look fantastic, make the garments look more expensive, and the whole effect will be polished.  All those style icons in your head?  They aren't wearing a single item off the rack. Everything, seriously everything, has been altered to fit their frame. 

Tailors are not just for the rich and famous; your dry cleaner can do simple alterations like shortening a hem or sleeve. A local seamstress or tailor can make that dress or blazer you scored on clearance look like a million bucks.  Buy fewer clothes, spend the money to have them altered to fit you perfectly, and you won't miss the extra pieces in your closet.

Check Yelp, Nextdoor, and community Facebook groups for recommendations for local tailors and sewists for hire. Ask bridal salons, those involved with pageants, local theaters, and boutiques that carry men's suiting and high-end women's fashion for suggestions as they all likely deal with alterations. Some department stores like Nordstrom have tailors on-site; call your local shop and see if they offer it for already-owned items for a fee.

Influencer Assa Cisse from the blog My Curves and Curls wears a pale aqua printed one shoulder maxi length caftan from the brand diarrablu
Assa Cisse from the blog My Curves and Curls

Step 6: Embrace Your Shape

It SUCKS when you are sure you are size X and you need a size Y or even Z to get the zipper closed. It SUCKS when your closet is full of your past self of a different size. And it SUCKS when your body does not seem designed for clothing from popular brands. This does not mean you are fat or bad or weirdly shaped. This is just proof that the sizing in stores these days is all out of whack. It's NOT you, it's the clothes.

Once you let go of the “oh, I’m a size X” mentality, you will have a better time shopping. If need be, cut the tags out once you purchase these garments. Stylish women know the trick to great-fitting clothing is to size up and then have it tailored down to their unique shape and curves. When you wear garments that are too big or too small, you look uncomfortable, and you never look polished.

Shop for your current self, your current shape.  We all have buyer's remorse from purchasing an item we KNEW we'd lose five pounds for that is sitting in our closet, tags still on, never worn.  Stop that cycle, it is not stylish and it only makes you resent your perfectly lovely body.  Honor your body by buying clothes that fit it now.  If your size or shape change in the future, you can tailor your clothes to adjust.  

Veteran influencer and over 40 bloggr Ahn Sundstrom from 9to5chic styles a lightweight gray silk trench over a white blouse and black ankle pants.
Anh Sundstrom from the blog 9to5chic

Step 7: Get over the Name

Stylish, polished women hardly ever wear obvious brand names. So many times, a fashionista is stopped after attending a runway show or a gala and is asked who she is wearing and we find out that fabulous frock was purchased at J. Crew or that blazer was from Topshop. Crap is sold at all price levels, and so is quality. Wearing an ill-fitting, and un-you piece from Prada is far worse than wearing a well-fitting simple one from LOFT. 

Especially now as we're exploring new retailers and shopping more online and seeing how the trend of fast fashion has affected the quality across retail as a whole, it's important to let go of stereotypes and try new-to-you brands and designers.  A few tips for shopping new online retailers:

  • Before you make a purchase, research the return policies.  How long is the return window?  Can you wear an item and return it if it doesn't hold up during the day?  Do returns cost money?  Is there a prepaid label offered or are you responsible for figuring out postage?  Which shipping company do they use for returns?  Is there a restocking fee? Along with this, check out my tips for managing online purchases and returns.
  • If you have questions, ask them.  Retailers these days offer a variety of ways to contact them and most understand the importance of open communication.  Whether it's a contact form or chat widget on the site, a comment on their Facebook page, or an Instagram DM, don't be afraid to get the information you need to be an informed consumer and prevent buyer's remorse.
  • Buy a measuring tape and know your measurements.  A size Large at one retailer may be several inches different from another retailer; even retailers that use number sizing do not have consistency.  If you do not have someone to help you with your measurements, you may find it easier to use a measuring tape with a slightly adhesive backingThis video on YouTube is a really helpful guide on how to measure yourself for online shopping.
  • Google the brand, and then look at images.  Bloggers like me will save images with names that include brand and style names for SEO (search engine optimization).  Google will also show photos from websites and even social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram if the brand and description or style name is used in the text.  This way, you may find reviews beyond the retailer's website and may also find another person with a shape similar to yours wearing it. 
Influencer and over 50 blogger Beth Djali from Style at a Certain Age styles a black turtleneck and trousers with a red wool double breasted winter coat and leopard print kitten heel pumps.
Beth Djalali from the blog Style at a Certain Age

Step 8: Know Thyself

You got rid of the impossible dream to be Audrey Hepburn, now get rid of all those lists that say you need X perfect pieces to be well-dressed. I’m talking about that crisp white shirt, that trench coat, that pencil skirt, and the little black dress. Yes, these are great pieces for many women, but not all women. You’re an artist, you’re a weekend warrior, your wedding registry was at REI, you have more curves than Marilyn Monroe, you live hundreds of miles from a city and heck, it never rains where you live.

Go back to your style journal. Did you feel strong in that rust-colored turtleneck with your brown tweed trousers? Did someone say you looked great that day, or notice your green eyes while wearing it? How about that turquoise sundress you bought on a trip to Mexico two years ago, the one that you were wearing when your husband told you that you looked beautiful and then the bartender flirted with you? More often than not, these pieces feel good to you AND to those around you because they express your personality best.

Personally, I love the look of a crisp white shirt tucked into a pencil skirt with some fabulous slingbacks… on another woman. On me, I am focused on all the parts of me that I don't want to get the focus. I am uncomfortable, less secure, and no matter the fit and design, I will not be looking polished.

However, I feel really confident in a Breton-striped top. Yes, even being short, with full shoulders and arms and an even fuller bust. I am not “supposed to” if I was following outdated style rules, but for some reason Breton striped tops make me feel… me. And because that gives me confidence (and because I followed the previous tips regarding fit etc.), my look is more polished.

Polish comes from knowing yourself, and no style book or style blog, not even this one, can tell you who you are. You need to put in a little elbow grease to get a good polish on a pair of shoes, and also on a person. But the end result is worth it. When you look polished, it's clear you care.

Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen at the Avenue Inn in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. She is wearing a navy and white striped zip front tunic rash guard from Lands' End with red Sunny shorts from Universal Standard. She is carrying a Scout Deano bag with Washington DC icons on it and on her feet are Teva Hurricane Drift sandals.
Polished doesn't have to equal dressy, and creating a polished uniform simplifies the daily practice of getting dressed, even if it's to the beach!

General Guidelines for Looking Polished

These don’t always work for everyone, but a few tips that may help you on your journey to a polished look:

  • Update your handbag. When you find a bag the right shape and size, it's hard to let go.  And it likely shows it, with threads hanging off the strap, bulging pockets, stains on the bottom, creases in the leather.  While social media may make you think you need a fancy designer to craft your bag or that it's cool to wear counterfeit to get the “look for less,” a polished woman knows it's not who you carry but what.  A bag that is the right size and shape for your frame and lifestyle, is a color that works with the majority of your wardrobe, and is well cared for can look incredibly stylish at any pricepoint. Before you buy a new dress, consider using that money to either get your bag repaired and updated by a cobbler or invest in a replacement. 
  • Update your hair. A polished woman does not have her hair in a claw clip or a messy bun 24/7. Get a cut that fits your lifestyle as well as your personality. Only have five minutes in the morning and have wavy fine hair? Don’t try to replicate Anna Wintour's bob – you won’t have the time to keep it looking crisp. Talk to your stylist before they shampoo your mane. Let them feel the texture, get to know you as a person before those scissors get anywhere near you. And be realistic – unless you want to spend a lot of time on your hair, you can't reverse nature and make straight hair curly and fine hair thick. Just as you should accept your body, so should you accept your tresses.
  • Reduce the prints in your wardrobe. Prints are the icing on the cake of a wardrobe.  You need to bake the cake before you can decorate it.  Focus on your core wardrobe, consider building a capsule wardrobe, and then on that add the prints and embellishments to “ice” your style.  
  • Simplify your grooming routine. A polished look is clean skin, groomed brows, a look of health and self-care.  A polished woman rarely has visible highlighting, contouring, or multiple statement features. Try adding a drop of face oil to your foundation to thin it out or replace it with a tinted moisturizer. Try creams instead of powders for a sheer wash of color on your eyes or cheeks.  Instead of focusing on eyeshadows and liners, try a fuller, groomed brow.  If you don't have time for regular manicures consider a buffing block so your hands still look cared for. You may find that this simplified routine actually makes you look more polished!
  • Take care of your shoes. They say shoes define the man, but they also define the woman. Be they ballet flats, classic pumps, or knee-high stiletto boots; your shoes need to be cared for. Get them re-heeled and resoled each year, polish them, store them carefully, and immediately treat them for stains, scuff, or any other damage. Instead of five pairs of fun and cheap shoes that will last a season, use that money to invest in one pair that will last you for years. No matter how beautiful the person, how sassy the outfit, or how perfect the hair is, a pair of scuffed, cheap, and worn-down shoes will destroy your image.
tips on how to look polished by over 40 midsized fashion blogger Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen

Do I Need to Look Polished to Be Stylish?

Heck no, you do you, grown-ass woman! In fact, you will see that GenZ is leading the way in showing that true personal style comes from accepting your personality, frizzy hair, and coffee stains and all. We live in a different time, and it is a time that is more accepting of what makes each of us unique and fabulous.

While I don't think that means we should all run around town in stained, ill-fitting clothing, it means that if looking polished is not a priority for you, this article isn't for you, and that is great. The most stylish thing a person can wear is confidence. True style comes from knowing yourself, not attempting to be someone else!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

Did you like what you just read?

Consider tapping here to buy me a coffee in thanks. The best gift you can give a content creator is the gift of sharing. Consider sharing this article on Facebook or Pinterest. Thank you so much for your support!

Similar Posts


  1. The advice about prints is interesting. I agree with it, but never thought about it. After a botched breast reduction, prints tend to camouflage the discrepancies, but most prints are generally not flattering on me.
    My work wardrobe was always paired down. When younger and willowy, I wore a bit of trend because I could. As age advanced, the classics came more into play. The last ten years of work when ‘business casual’ was forced into place, and after a fairly epic personal struggle, I hit upon the basic black wardrobe. It works in the summer since one is seldom out of air conditioning and is three season friendly. I ultimately owned several Eileen Fisher black washable silk shells, sort of cap sleeve, round neck tops paired with black Elliot Lauren slacks. Over that I collected a vibrant selection of cardigans, heavy on the 3/4 sleeve versions, solids and patterns. The shoes were Sofft black patent platform pumps which I don’t believe are manufactured now or Rockport platform booties. All together the look was age appropriate with a hint of youthful.

  2. I find it so much easier to stay “polished” in cooler temps. Less clothing, showing skin that does not have time to get the “glow” even artificially, always seems less professional. This year, the motivation needed is so much less as well. Always look forward to your everyday style posts where you are “polished” in your own way!

  3. What a great post!!! You are so right about feeling good when you know you outfit is on point.
    The diversity is well appreciated
    Thank you

  4. …”find my body shape can make a stylish t-shirt, no matter how expensive or well-cut, make me look like I’m ready to clean out the garage. “
    Oh GIRL. I FEEL YA!!! ❤️❤️❤️

    1. Exactly why I can’t relate to all the bloggers who fetishize tomboyish French fashion editors.

  5. What a great post! Very inspiring. And thanks for your obvious care in having a diversity of models – it really makes a difference.

  6. Still relevant all these years later!

    I’d also add a tiny detail I see missed a lot. Clean your jewelry now and then, and especially your wedding ring(s) if worn daily! I often see otherwise very put together people wearing wedding rings or other fine jewelry that is obviously dirty and no longer shining. For the gold or platinum and diamonds that make up most traditional wedding rings, a simple dip in jewelry cleaner and a gentle brushing with the included brush will have them looking great, and jewelry cleaner is very cheap and one container will last years. If jewelry is badly scratched or worn, a jeweler can often polish it (for solid pieces) or re-plate it (for things like watches or “gold-filled” items) for very little money, as well as reshape rings back into a circle if needed. Fine jewelry, especially pieces worn regularly, needs care just like clothing to keep it looking its best.

    My only caveat is be careful and do some research on what to use to clean which types of stones. For example, NEVER use any kind of chemical, including soap, on pearls. It will destroy them. Even things like perfume or makeup will wreck pearls- always put your pearls on last, after hair and makeup are done, and don’t wear perfume where your pearls will sit when worn. Diamonds, garnets, rubies, and sapphires are all tough and are fine for regular ammonia-based jewelry cleaner. For anything else, like emeralds, opals, malachite, turquoise, etc. a quick Google will tell you what’s safe to use, or you can ask a jeweler.

    Costume jewelry can also be cleaned. Rhinestone pieces can be dusted with a soft, dry toothbrush (sounds goofy but it really works) and any piece can be polished gently with a microfiber cloth. The one rule of thumb with costume jewelry is to NEVER get any rhinestone with a foil backing (the metallic paint or foil applied to the back of the “stone” to make it shiny) wet. Never wash them, never go swimming while wearing them, never let them get wet in the rain. It will cause the rhinestones to discolor, stop shining, turn black or gray, and permanently ruin the piece. For goldtone or silvertone items without rhinestones, rhinestones without any backing, or for plastic or resin pieces, you can gently wash when needed with a little hand soap or dish soap and dry immediately and thoroughly with a soft cloth or towel. For vintage or antique celluloid or bakelite pieces, anything wooden or painted, or other specialty materials, research and/or extra caution may be needed. Costume jewelry comes in a vast array of materials, so it’s hard to be comprehensive, but there’s a lot of good advice out there from people who collect the vintage stuff.

    1. Great advice! I’d like to add that I clean all my sterling jewelry with toothpaste. The slight abrasion works perfectly — generally, I just put a pea-sized amount on my finger and then rub the jewelry with it, then rinse and dry. Nontoxic and easy.

    2. This is some of the best advice. Especially if you’re wearing something expensive. Take care of it and it will look great forever. Plus if you have a loose stone or scratches that need minding, you’ll likely catch it before it’s too late.

  7. One more thing I thought of that really is important. Make sure your nails look nice. They don’t have to be polished all the time, but I always notice this about a women. I especially don’t like to see chipped and barely on polish. This may sound petty, but I feel it’s important to mention.

    1. AMEN! It only takes a minute to remove that chipped polish and apply hand lotion. Makes a world of difference.

    2. Completely agree! I find it a total turnoff to see chipped, split, too long, and obviously fake nails. It is super unhygienic, esp in this pandemic era. Gross.

  8. Funny how relevant this post is after all these years!
    Am working on losing excess poundage I’ve gained since doing a famous weight loss program several years ago; being at my “ideal weight”, for better or worse, helped me feel much more confident. I want to get some of my mojo back.
    Thanks for all these tips! Also for putting them out there with such an engaging writing style.

  9. I see myself in this article — in the what not to do bits, LOL!

    >>A polished woman does not have her hair in a claw clip or a messy bun 24/7.

    I need to get a grip on life again.

    1. Can I add that “polished” doesn’t have to be everyone’s aesthetic? I have a beautiful artist friend with a great sense of style whose signature look IS a messy bun and playful clothing. I must admit to feeling slightly conflicted about this post. I know that many women aspire to feel more polished and find several tips in this post personally very practical, but based on some of the comments, I also worry that some might read it as “more stuff we have to do to be presentable as women.” Again, I recognize that this is 100% not the intent and that I may be projecting my own insecurities here.

      1. I fully agree that polished doesn’t have to be everyone’s aesthetic and TBH isn’t mine. It was when I wrote it, isn’t now, but I know it’s something many desire to have, just like a preppy aesthetic, or a rocker aesthetic, or a boho one. And I think with such posts about any aesthetic there will be those who subscribe to that aesthetic who have very serious feelings about it and expound on it. I hope it doesn’t seem that I am preaching this is necessary to look presentable! And I thank you for your comment because I think this is a very important discussion and it’s important to see to balance some of the other comments on this post!

        1. Thanks for the thoughtful response, Alison! And no, your post didn’t come off as stating that polished is a prerequisite for looking decent. We are all working through so many preconceived notions about style as women in this culture of ours (like the example below of ethnic or curly hair being viewed as “unprofessional” – one that, sadly, I’ve heard often). I just felt that it was important to state that a woman can be totally unpolished and still look damn amazing!

  10. I wish I could look polished – is it even possible with naturally curly hair? You have inspired me to polish my work shoes and to rethink my makeup. Perhaps I could do something with my eyebrows as I have never done a thing with them. Maybe eye lash extensions too.

    1. I have naturally curly hair! Hair texture does not determine whether one is polished. In the past maybe, but that is an outdated expectation for us all to achieve a very specific, and very white ideal. I encourage you to seek out fashionistas with natural texture to their hair to see that you can have curly hair and still look polished. Tracee Ellis Ross, Diane von Furstenberg, Blythe Danner, Elaine Welteroth are ones off the top of my head who are stylish and polished and embrace their natural texture. And you don’t need lash extensions if you don’t want them. Brows are a super easy way to look polished. I don’t recommend going to your local nail salon for a waxing as they may take off too much. Once stores open, check out a waxing studio and seek out reviews. Go in saying you want to keep your volume and shape just clean it up. Also Benefit a beauty brand has brow experts in Ulta stores that can help.

    2. Your comment hurt my heart, because I’m imagining you think you’re NOT polished because of your hair. I was walking to work one day, and a woman in a suit told me how pretty my hair was. I thanked her, and she went on to say that her hair was also naturally curly, but she straightened it to “look more professional, because I’m a lawyer.” I wasn’t wearing a suit – probably a wrap dress. I replied, “oh really? I’m a lawyer, too!” She looked me up and down and walked away quickly. I was furious. I am a lawyer, by the way. If you really want to look “polished” with naturally curly hair: Find a stylist who specializes in cutting curly hair. Be prepared to spend a little extra for that expertise. Search Pinterest for photos of curly hair and find a handful of styles that you like. Screenshot the images to your phone or tablet and show them to the stylist. Ask if any of them will work with your particular hair texture and curl type. Once you have the style down, it’s really about maintenance. The curly world is overwhelming, as are the products and recommendations. I truly believe that if you spend the money on a good cut, you can use almost any products to a good result. Your hair has to be healthy and moisturized, so conditioning is the most important step in maintaining your hair other than a good cut. I haven’t had my hair cut since January or February. I can still make it look nice by making sure I deep condition it once a week. I alternate between fancy deep conditioners or coconut oil. Pre-pandemic, I had my hair cut every three or four months, which works for my length (between shin and shoulders). Good luck, Claire!

      1. I’m Latina, by the way. About 50% of my family has stick straight hair, 50% curly. I look exactly like my mother with straight hair, ha!

    3. I have naturally curly hair and have made it my “signature” for many years now. A hair stylist experienced with natural curls, a good cut and the right products make all the difference and are worth it. When you see a woman with great curls, compliment her and ask her who her stylist is. Your curls should be embraced!

  11. You saved me. I love, love, love the style of Claire Underwood character on Netflix’s House of Cards, but need to remove her from my list of trying to be like that, instead of working on being me. I can rock a pencil skirt, but an oxford shirt tucked inside is not figure flattering on me as it is on Claire. I love the recommendation to get over brand names and to remove tags a labels. It’s so true as you have written, Crap is sold at all prices and so is quality. I have been doing a lot of what you recommended, but maaaaaybe I have a just a few too many prints. Out they go. I’ll keep a few. I am comfortable in solids and tend to look better. Great article even though it’s 8 years old. I’m encouraged. Here I come world!

  12. Love this post. I think my hardest goal is to cleaning out my closet…always hoping I will lose weight and fit into a piece of clothing and will then regret giving it away or know I paid too much for something that was either a bad purchase to begin with or haven’t worn enough given the price (because I “saved” it for special occasions). My other big challenge is the shoe issue…I have had plantar fascilitis for approx. 12 years (the pain caused my options to narrow severely year after year) . Had foot surgery in Dec. and I am now able to wear larger variety of shoes as long as they still have good arch support and cushioning.
    I don’t think I was ever a huge “shoe person” until my options were so limited. I basically had to wear black athletic shoes every single day…shoes really affect your clothing options and I love fashion, it def. hurt of pride. So long story short, hoping I can now wear those black pumps again your mentioned in your post…along with booties, cute wedges, etc

    1. I am the same way with clothes. Always holding on to them or buying them just a pinch too small for “when I lose weight”. I just went through some that I have had for so long …waiting, that I have aged out of them. I would love to have the money that I spent on them. I don’t mind getting older and am only 20 lbs overweight. My issue is knowing where I belong. I’m too old to wear “young clothes”(49) but not old enough for “old lady ” clothes. There is nothing worse, in my opinion, than not dressing your age. Especially, the 40 somethings wearing AE clothes and hoodies etc.
      I had PF too and had surgery. My feet feel ok now for the most part, but as I get older they get wider. I love shoes and have some great ones. They will be the hardest to let go of.

    2. Plantar fasciitis and widening feet have definitely changed my wardrobe. With careful selection and sometimes arch inserts, there are interesting shoes that work (Romika, definitely Earth, sometimes Born) but so many cute shoes are simply not a possibility anymore. Especially heels and flats. And of course that has changed the clothes I wear! The proportions have to be different to fit a more solid shoe. As long as sneakers and boots with dresses are in style I still have some options there, but dresses and skirts are dropping out of my wardrobe in favor of a more creative casual and less feminine look. Everything about me is getting a little bolder (and chunkier lol) in my 40s so I don’t think it’s entirely a bad thing. 🙂

      My unrealistic fantasy is that I want to look “effortlessly chic”…which is the opposite of my personality. I gotta give that one up and make peace with my colorful, messy self.

  13. Love this post. But shoes are my downfall. If you can tell me where I can find flats as comfortable (and cushy and supportive, that don’t fall off my short, wide feet) as my trainers, I’d love to get a pair.

  14. I couldn’t agree more with your article! I am turning 50 this year and no one ever guesses even close to that (late 30’s early 40’s). I attribute that to a simple classic wardrobe with a few “pops” of color added in the right detail. I have been like that since I was in my early 20’s and I’ve always had people ask how I look so “put together”. You have just re-affirmed that I am on the right track and not to change what/who I am. I wasn’t actually sure what to do when my 50th comes up and was struggling, so thank you for your wonderful article of common sense!

  15. Great post! I’ve been asking myself what makes a woman have that polished look we all want to achieve and your article really underlines the most important thing: feeling good in the clothes you’re wearing. I don’t spend much time shopping, sometimes i don’t even try on what i’m buying and i think it’s a big mistake. When I’ll go and buy something, from now on, I’ll take my time and search for those pieces of clothing that will make me feel good about myself, that are fit and of good quality.

  16. *Sigh* – I have my hair in a messy bun/claw clip 24/7. There’s no other way to control it. I don’t want to cut my hair because I love having really long hair. My husband prefers it long too…

    So claw clips it is.

    1. I’m with you there. My hair has always been fine and wavy but after contracting hypothyroidism, it began thinning as well. To do anything with it, I keep it a medium length so it can be rolled occasionally or clipped generally. Now living in Florida and with the weather and all the gathering restrictions, a few still in place, it’s been in an alligator clip or ponytail about 95% of the time. The alternative is far worse.

  17. I agree with everything except for shimmer in makeup. In eyeshadow it can often brighten your eye and make you look less tired. Strategically placed, its not that bad, and you can look polished with it.

    1. Agreed – think this depends more on your kibbe type though. Romantics & Soft Classics can probably get away with it more than Dramatics & Gamines, who probably look like they’re playing dress up with too much glitter in their look (I don’t know for sure though, since I’m neither of those 2 types myself)

  18. I have a great tip that saves me when I’m stuck I’ve got wardrobe woes. I add a pearl necklace to the outfit. Chic, professional and it never goes out of style, I got one at and it’s saved me on many days.

  19. Great post (sorry I missed it last month). I am so with you: I look AWFUL in that “crisp white blouse” everyone drones on about. Keep them away from me!

  20. I’m new to your blog, but this post has me hooked! One of my resolutions is to dress well this year. I’m having a baby in March, and I’m looking forward to returning to normal clothes with a sense of purpose! Thank you!

  21. love this post. i’m a sahm of 4, no need for stilettos or anything crazy, but i did my errands today wearing a nice black sweater, dark wash old navy jeans and grey patent-pleather ballet flats from payless and a grey peacoat from walmart, and i got alot of looks and smiles. looked alot better than my ratty nikes & sweats. felt better, too. like the other lady said… new year, new rules…new me.

  22. This is a really great, well-written piece! Looking polished really is something most women strive for every day and often feel they fall flat of. It’s so hard to banish those images of Jackie or Audrey or Gwyneth when you don’t look like them, but I’ll try!

  23. great post. you are channeling my mother! i was raised with little money but people never knew it as my mother has great style. she taught me these very wardrobe building basics from a young age out of necessity. as a teenager i hated that my clothing was, in my self-conscious opinion, blah boring, but now i appreciate what she taught me. my style is honed after many many years of my mother’s guidance and stays with me now even though i can afford to spend on more — i choose not to. the best part is that she can shop for me from 6,000 miles away because she knows exactly what i want and need — she taught me, and i am now teaching my own young daughter!

  24. Just as everyone else as said, this is a brilliant article. Thank-you so much for writing it. I felt positively liberated when I read your words about destroying my mental image of Grace Kelly et al (I also laughed heartily).

  25. Allie – you are amazing. I love that you remind us that it’s ok to not always wear bright prints and trends, and that looks you love might look better on other than you. You rock!! Happy new year!

  26. This is a fantastic post. I love the idea of keeping a journal about how you feel and what happens when you wear a give garment. Brilliant!

    I totally agree about the brows and minimal makeup. I love Chanel brow pencil in Auburn. I won’t go out without it on.

    I think that really knowing who you are and accepting who you are is the absolute key to personal style. As much as I am drawn to the artistic/bohemian style, I look awful in anything that is not a clean and simple line. I look better at 40 than I did at 20—because I really know who I am.

  27. I agree – I think you’ve definitely become my style guru, Allie! I’m always making mental notes about my clothes after reading your posts here or at My Wardrobe Today. Thanks for all the insight! 🙂

  28. You are THE BEST! What a great read for New Years. I think many of us are motivated to purge, polish, and start anew this week. If you wrote a book I’d buy 10 copies! Keep up the motivating posts!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *