Style Lessons I Learned From My Exchange Student

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When I was in high school, my family hosted an exchange student from Germany. We became fast friends. She was confident, funny, and a ton of fun. She always was effortly stylish with a very small wardrobe that she brought from home. I wanted to share the style lessons I learned from my exchange student that I employ to this very day.

Style Lessons I Learned from my Exchange Student

My friend the exchange student was the epitome of effortless style. Her makeup consisted of lip balm and some mascara and her hair was cut blunt at the collar bone and was often up in a messy bun or pony tail. She always looked so chic and women often complimented on her style, but I lived with her and knew the small wardrobe she brought with her from Germany:

  1. A gray crewneck sweater of merino wool
  2. A black and white horizontally striped boatneck tee shirt
  3. A chunky black turtleneck sweater
  4. A thick fitted black turtleneck sweater
  5. Black pants – flat front, straight leg
  6. Two pairs of Levi's 501 Jeans.
  7. Black leather flats
  8. Sneakers
  9. Black loafers with a chunky low heel
  10. A dark gray wool knit skirt that came to the center of the knee
  11. A fitted dark gray tee shirt
  12. A black cashmere scarf

I think this, a black leather satchel-like purse and a navy wool peacoat were all the clothes she brought for three months of a winter in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. With these twelve pieces, she was ready for school, parties, awards banquets, school dances, and even a funeral.

Quality not Quantity

What I learned from her was that it's not about quantity, but quality. Our exchange student had a small wardrobe, but all of her pieces were of fine fabrics, expensive cuts, and well tailored. Her gray merino sweater was so perfect in color, quality and cut, it didn't matter if she wore it twice a week.

Minimal Makeup, but Always a Signature Fragrance

I also learned from her that natural beauty is more appealing to men than artificial. Lots of makeup, dark tans, sculpted hairstyles are not as attractive to men as a woman who can let her hair blow in her eyes.

She always had a broad smile on her face, her hair caught in the wind. She didn't do her nails, she didn't dye her hair. She wore little jewelry and less cosmetics. She did wear cologne. A signature scent that she still wears to this day, decades later.

Wear Your Clothes, Don't Let Them Wear You

She taught me that you should wear your clothes, not have clothes wear you. By wearing such muted colors and simple pieces, our exchange student let her personality and natural beauty shine through. People saw her, not her sweater.

Though it is almost twenty years later, I still build my wardrobe based on these tips I learned from my exchange student.

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

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  1. I just found your blog and can’t stop reading. There no style writing I enjoy more than well-written pieces about building a basic wardrobe.

    I will keep Tina in mind from now on when I shop…

  2. Oh gosh, not sure but it was a scent that smelled more like a man’s cologne. Something in German 🙂 We have lost touch since the writing of this post, but if I ever hear from her again I will find out!

  3. Oh gosh, if I saw the bottle I would recognize it. Clear glass, square, gold leaf design on the border of the ivory label, gold atomizer… label in German (of course)… Now you’re going to have me on Google all day! 🙂

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