When you think of sophistication what words spring to mind? Worldly, refined, elegant, current, calm, grown-up, confident?
It’s these adjectives that help you gain insight and direction to achieve the look.
Another way is to think of women you think of as sophisticated. For me it’s celebrities like Olivia Palermo, Kate Blanchet, Anne Hathaway and Halle Berry. Each of these women look impeccable and in control even in the most casual of circumstances. The peak of the sophistication can also be seen in prominent personalities like Princess Kate Middleton, Queen Rania of Jordan, and of course, the ultimate in power dressing, Scandal’s Olivia Pope. Lastly, I can’t talk about sophistication or elegance without mentioning the one and only late Aubrey Hepburn.
If you’re now thinking, ‘this sounds like it’s going to be expensive‘ relax I assure that it’s not necessarily so and even on a budget you can look polished. So here’s my 15 ways to look polished from your head to your toes:
With all looks, the most important place to start is at the top with your face and hair. It’s the first place people look, so your makeup, skin and hair will all need to look as pleasing, refined and finished as the rest of your look.
Like all things deemed ‘polished’ your makeup should be ‘flawless and understated’. This means blending your makeup to create a smooth, subtle finish. Don’t put on too much liner and sweep a beige or taupe eyeshadow on your lids for a subtle sheen. The next step is mascara to open up your eyes, blush for a healthy glow, and lipstick.
Use lip liner to prevent your lipstick from running throughout your day. The key to having a polished makeup look is to make sure it is set for the rest of the day. A spritz of some facial toning water will ensure your makeup won’t budge or smudge.
Nothing says polished as much as a great style; perfectly cut and beautifully maintained it will beautifully compliment your makeup and finish off your outfit. Fashionable but not avant garde you hairstyle portrays femininity and control. The most refined looks are smooth to sleek while casual elegance is displayed as controlled waves. If you like parts then a side part is the one most favored by socialites.
Dress Up Your Hair
An easy and quick way to dress up and polish up your hair do of the day is by adding hair accessories. Whether it’s a topknot or a ponytail, a bejeweled hair accent will make you look more glam and will make you stand out in a chic way. If you’re wearing your hair down, a scarf headband or a sleek patent one will have the same effect.
Aside from the physical aspects of your look, from clothes to makeup, your posture and carriage carries a lot of weight when looking polished. Slouching will definitely ruin the look of a beautiful designer dress or a structured blazer. Always stand and sit up tall. Keep your shoulders square. It also helps to visualize your head attached to a thread being pulled upward.
When it comes to sophistication, err on the side of caution. The surest way to achieve real sophistication is to be modest yet chic. Look for modest necklines and hem lengths and fits that are not too revealing. When you want to wear a short mini skirt covering your legs with dark tights will instantly elevate the look. In general the more covered you are the more likely you are to be moving in the right direction.
Think Structure and Tailoring
Keep an eye out for structured silhouettes; tailored separates, semi-fitted jackets and even classic structured bag shapes like satchels, doctor bags, and frame bags are all great additions to your wardrobe and great foundations to your polished look.
Nurture an eye for quality and pay more for the items you’ll wear the most. These pieces will be your investments and better quality means superior fit and fabric. If higher-end pieces are out of the equation for you, opt to get off-the-rack, fast fashion, or discount pieces altered to fit your body. A little cinching here or a little hem shortening there can work wonders in making a garment look more high quality and have a more elegant feel. Perfect fit should be your number one goal when shopping, as this lends a polished look instantly.
Choose the Right Fabrics
Conger up the vision of an elegant woman, can you imagine her clothes, can you describe the fabrics or fabric quality? Fabrics that portray a sophisticated image are of high quality (or at least appear to be), have a fine weave, a soft pliable hand(feel), little to minimal texture and are matte to a subtle sheen. Think silk, wool, cotton, cashmere, fine velvet, and microfiber. Dressed in these any woman will feel a queen.
Less is more when trying to attain the polished look, think non bulky and your half way there.. If you’re wearing a dress another additional layer, like a pashmina shawl or structured jacket, is more than enough. If you’re wearing tailored separates, a maximum of 3 layered items should be your rule of thumb.
Hue and Contrast
When trying to achieve a sophisticated look, steer clear of loud prints and neon colors which will put your look in more trendy territory. Subtle prints in a low to medium contrast are best. Neutral colors like black, white, navy, and gray are also your best bets. Beige and nude tones are a ladylike approach to the look. You can also opt for rich jewel tones, but bear in mind that it should still be rich or even muted but never bright or loud i.e. teal instead of turquoise, emerald or hunter green instead of bright acid green.
Color coordinating your outfit doesn’t mean wearing one color from head to toe (although the monochromatic look is on trend), it means that to you should make sure that one element of your look visually relates to another. You’ll look more polished and sophisticated this way. For example, match the color of your lips with your belt and shoes, or you can match the red hue of your bag and shoes with red color in the print of your dress.
Sophistication extends to every aspect of your look. From the mirror you use for touch-ups to your phone case, all of the things you wear and carry with you will reflect your lifestyle, disposition and act as an indication of the care you take of yourself. Everything sends a message, so if you whip out a raggedy wallet at dinner, it’ll certainly leave a bad taste in the mouth—despite having an ultra chic look.
Also a sophisticated look doesn’t necessarily need a lot of accessories. Keeping your accessories, especially your jewelry, to a minimum is a guaranteed way to look both appropriate and chic. Always opt for classic styles, in medium-small sizes. Large and imposing jewelry might look too garish
Tips and Toes
From the tips of your fingers to what you put on your feet, every little detail matters when it comes to looking sophisticated. Make sure that when heading out for the day, your fingers are well manicured. Avoid nail art, or nail colors that are loud. A classic French tip manicure or timeless colors like taupe, beige, nude, soft pink, and red are all perfect. Round, oval or round-square shapes are perfectly in-sync with your look. Avoid long pointed nails they totally send the wrong message.
Also pay attention to your legs if they are being exposed. If your legs are perfect then ‘maybe’ go bare legged; however quality hosiery always presents a polished look. Exposed feet call for a perfect pedicure and they are best teamed with flats such a loafers for ballet flats or medium to high heels. If you’re going to wear stilettos, err on the side of caution and wear them in classic hue to avoid looking too sexy (forget ankle straps; they’re too sexy). A slight sheen or some patent shine can also be a nice touch.
Act the Part
One of the best things about leaving this point until now is that looking the part often helps you feel the part. Like when an actor when they dress in character and only then truly feels the part so you too will start to feel more sophisticated and confident when you’re in character. When you’re confident you stands tall, look people in the eyes when they are talking, smiles and nods when you’re in agreement and is not afraid to introduce themselves or others,or introduce a new topic of conversation. Sure, it may take some practice but I promise you it will be much easier when you look and feel the part. Another bonus is that other people will open up to you and give you the floor when you have ‘the look’.
Think Mint Condition
Nothing can ruin a polished outfit faster than a loose button or a loose thread. Before you even put on each item of clothing, give it an once-over. Check for stains, wear and tear, or any quick sewing fixes that need to be made. If found, change or fix it before leaving.
A well-pressed outfit is essential to your look. Press your outfit in advance to avoid rushing out in the morning in wrinkled clothing. Invest in a good iron or steamer, it will go a long way in taking care of your clothing and looking polished 24/7.
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