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51 Fashion Secrets Personal Stylists Won’t Tell You for Free

We asked stylists to the stars to tell us their secret weapons for having great style.

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People are totally judging you by your clothing


“Sadly, if I’ve learned one thing as the owner of a PR firm in LA, the reality is that people do judge a book by its cover. If you are slovenly or unkempt, most likely you will not be taken as seriously as one who is put together.” —Michelle Czernin von Chudenitz Morzin, founder and CEO of Popular Press Media Group    Don’t make these fashion mistakes that make you look messy.

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Having style doesn’t have to mean dresses and heels


“Fashion doesn’t mean having to be super girly. I am a tomboy at heart so I like to encourage women like me to experiment with menswear or more casual pieces. One tomboy trend I love is a trench coat with cute sneakers!” —Olivia Pierson, TipTalk fashion expert and star of WAGS

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Don’t believe everything you see on Instagram


“Social media doesn’t always show the whole picture. For instance, as glamorous as I appear on social media, I wish people knew that not only am I most comfortable in sweatpants and a sweatshirt but it’s when I feel the sexiest!” —Natalie Halcro, TipTalk fashion expert and star of WAGS

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Spending too much time choosing your outfit can ruin the rest of your day


“Not enough people have heard of decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is the result of making too many decisions during the course of the day. All of these little decisions add up and actually drain the brain of decision-making power later on. So don’t waste your brainpower in the morning trying to get dressed. Instead get rid of things you can’t or don’t wear regularly and simplify your wardrobe to pieces you like. Keep your clothing simple, so you will have the energy to tackle life’s tougher problems.” —Dan Moyer Jr., stylist and national director of social media for Closet Factory   You should finally get rid of these articles of clothing and accessories in your closet.

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The hottest clothing item isn’t clothing


“There are so many trend pieces, online articles, news snippets, and magazine blurbs about what the next ‘it’ things are or what things you ‘should never be seen in again.’ All that is propaganda. True personal style is that which looks great to the outside world but makes the wearer feel even greater inside. If you are confident in your style, it will project beauty no matter what you’re wearing.” —Stephen V Hernandez, a personal stylist based out of NYC  

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Save money by combining expensive items with sale-rack stuff


“It’s perfectly okay to mix expensive items with cheaper pieces.” —Ms. Pierson    In fact, try these fashion hacks that can make you look expensive.

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Don’t be a slave to trends


“Regardless of what’s trending at the moment, try to stay true to yourself. Know what you look good in and what you like and stick to that.” Ms. Halcro

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Investment pieces are actually a good deal


“Many people think they can’t afford high-end style. But you’ll get more value if you spend your money on one good investment piece that you’ll use for years, like a cool bag, instead of wasting money on multiple pieces that aren’t classic.” Ms. Halcro   Here are 7 classic handbags to add to your wardrobe.

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Fashion rules exist for a reason


“Your personal style should suit your lifestyle, mood, and resources but don’t feel like you have to break the rules to create a unique personal style. The classics are called ‘classic’ for good reason.” Kylen Moran, stylist and fashion blogger

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Don’t forget who’s the boss! (Hint: It’s you, the one with the wallet)


“The most important thing to remember about personal style and fashion is that you are the client. Fashion is here to work to fit you, not to make you work to fit fashion!” Mr. Hernandez

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You are not too good for second-hand stores

iStock/Armin Staudt

“Whether you’re buying or selling, consignment shops can be your best friend. Sell last season’s key pieces and you’ll have a bigger budget to pick up some fun pieces for next season!” Ms. Halcro   Check out these shopping tips for finding hidden gems at thrift stores.

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Stop trying so hard


“When people are constantly chasing the next trend, they can look like they’re trying too hard. It’s better to have a true, individual sense of style and for those of us who are navigating between work, family, friends, and a social life, it comes down to balance. Dress simply and have great accent pieces.” Ms. Morzin    Watch out for the things your boss wishes you’d stop wearing to work.

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Some people really should stick to the basics


“For most people it helps to stick to a basic color palate, like black, grey, white, oatmeal and tan. Then you can get a little crazy—think metal, wood, bright patterns—with outstanding accent pieces.” —Ms. Morzin

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Turtlenecks are not for busty babes


“If you have an hourglass body type, look for styles and fabrics that reduce bulk and showcase your waist. Tailored pieces and stretchy fabrics that hug and accentuate your frame will bring out the natural lines of your hourglass shape. Look for blended knit fabrics and slimming neckline styles such as v-necks and scoop necks. A simple wrap dress is the one go to piece a woman with an hourglass frame should have in her closet.” —Kristina Michniak, stylist and global apparel manager for Spreadshirt    Here’s how to dress to look ten pounds thinner.

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Some women just shouldn’t wear skinny jeans


“If you have a pear body type, look for styles that elongate your figure to take the emphasis away from your lower body. You want to draw attention to your upper torso, and the best ways to do that are with pairing dark colored bottom pieces with lighter shades and patterns up top. Think of bold patterns and necklines that have detailing like embellishments or ruffles. You should avoid skinny jeans and instead opt for boot cut or those with a slight flare. Showing your shoulders also helps in drawing attention upwards and balancing your top half with your bottom half proportions.” —Ms. Michniak    Here are other denim mistakes you make that could ruin your outfit.

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Don’t have a waist? Fake one.


“If you have a boxy (or apple) body type, the goal is to create curves and elongate your silhouette. Stay away from boxy loose fitting shapes and monotone colors on both top and bottom. Instead select wardrobe pieces that have a strong emphasis on the waist and when in doubt wear a belt to give the illusion of a natural waist. An ordinary boxy sweater when paired with a thick belt can add instant curves to your body.” —Ms. Michniak

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Knowing what clothes you hate is just as important as knowing what you love

iStock/Todor Tsvetkov

“Don’t be intimidated by fashion! Fashion is supposed to be fun and happy, not to cause stress. The key to finding personal style is to list—yes, write them down—items that make you feel comfortable and confident and the things that make you feel uncomfortable or just not yourself. The latter group? Don’t wear them! Not matter how trendy they are.” —Mr. Hernandez

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This season’s must-have is next season’s fashion must-never


“I don’t recommend buying a highly trendy item for a lot of money because in just a few months it’s almost guaranteed to be on the ‘OUT’ list next year. One example this season are the embellished handbags. These fun bags with stars, hearts, moons, and beading can be super fun for some nights out but really shouldn’t be a big part of your fashion budget. I’d look to stores like Zara or Topshop for great versions at an affordable price.” —Mr. Hernandez

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You have to try stuff on. Have. To.


“Whenever you think something looks good but you think you couldn’t pull it off, take it to the dressing room and try it on. Some of my most successful styling jobs started with a client saying to me ‘forget it, it’s not my cut, or color, or length’ only for them to end up loving it after they tried it on. What do you have to lose?” Mr. Hernandez     Watch out for these dressing room mistakes it’s time to stop making.

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Only runway models look good in head-to-toe trends


“Most people should do trends in small doses. For instance this season is all about velvet but you don’t have to go full goth or pimp to embrace it. Try it out on a small scale, like a velvet pump, a velvet skirt, or even a velvet corded necklace. Find a way to work it in in a way that is right for you.” —Mr. Hernandez

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Expensive clothing makes you act better


“You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to look fantastic, however, we do tend to feel and act a little different when we wear things that are expensive. We treat those things differently too; with more care. We tell ourselves that they are special and that we are special when we wear them. But really it’s the mental story we assign to those items that make them special. Expensive things might trigger those feelings more easily but you can shine just as bright every day with ordinary things, just by acting as you would if they were expensive.” —Jennifer Lowe, stylist and designer for Water Vixen Swim    Learn some more ways you can use clothing to influence your mood.

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Designer clothing online is often cheaper than generic clothing in stores


“Online shops like eBay and Poshmark allow you to get high-end brands at pennies on the dollar. There are so many people selling brand new or almost new items, that you can literally buy designer items at less than you would spend at a discount or big-box store for generic items.” Ms. Lowe

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Cheap artificial fabrics make you look cheap and artificial


“Natural fabrics longer, and feel better, and look more expensive. I can see the difference in, say, a silk chiffon blouse versus a polyester chiffon blouse in an instant. Silk moves nicer, feels nicer, and looks more expensive even if the item wasn’t more expensive.” —Ms. Lowe   Here’s how to spot a well-made piece of clothing.

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Expensive jewels make every outfit better

iStock/Dmytro Loboda

“If you want a designer look, you don’t have to wear all designer items. For instance, I have a great set of huge Chanel earrings. I wear them with a $18 black dress and still look like a million bucks.” —Ms. Lowe   These are the classic dresses every woman should own.

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Be prepared for painful high heels


“Love sexy shoes but not interested in getting blisters and the pain? Use moleskin on your feet. I cut six strips before I go out and keep them in my purse. Then, the minute I start to feel any pressure in an area, I apply it and I avoid any issues. I haven’t suffered from blisters since college. Being unprepared in heels is a rookie maneuver!” —Ms. Lowe

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You’re not dressed without accessories


“I wish people knew how important accessories are in style. Jeans and a tee-shirt are just that, until you add all the fun stuff that punctuates personal style.” —Carlton Jones, a designer and celebrity stylist

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Copy someone else’s style


“Sure everyone’s style should be dress to be true to themselves and not look like someone else but fashion insiders know that style is a journey not a destination. One way to fast-track that is to identify style icons that speak to you. Look for what aspects of their style specifically you relate to. Pinterest boards can be a great help. From there put your style into words, to help guide you through the exploration to develop your style.” —Mr. Jones

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Ask for help already


“Don’t be afraid to consult friends or even better a professional when you need fashion help. You wouldn’t hesitate to ask for help with algebra or geometry and your closet really is no different than a math problem. Professionals can identify variables, constants, and exponents that can help clarify and define your style.” —Mr. Jones

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Trends are suggestions and not rules


“Don’t go out and purchase all the latest trends if they are not flattering or don’t go with your personal style. Your style is about taking what is out there and combining it in unique ways that express who you are. It is not about being a clone and looking like everyone else. So don’t take the rules too seriously.” —Diane Pollack, a personal style curator and wardrobe consultant in NYC   Learn some secrets you never knew about your own clothes.

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A good tailor is even better than a good stylist

iStock/TW Creative

“Always wear well-fitted clothes. Bad fit kills even the best outfits.” —Sarmistha Goswami, designer and author of Style Over Coffee

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Having an off day? Wear your favorite hue


“When in doubt wear your favorite color. You will always be confident in it and thus will look good.” —Ms. Goswami

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Clothes reveal much more than they hide


“Wearing clothing that attempts to conceal who you are as a person shows that you are out of touch with your age, body type, or the social situation. Not only does the outside world pick up on this, but your clothing has an effect on how you feel about yourself psychologically.” —Mr. Moyer

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Stop worrying about the size on the tag


“One of the most important things that people need to realize is that just because they buy something in their ‘size,’ doesn’t mean that it’s going to fit them. People get very invested in being a certain size but this is a huge mistake as different designers cut for different body types and also, many companies ‘play with size’ in order to flatter customers. Buy what fits, regardless of the number on the tag.” —Michael O’Connor, personal stylist

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There is no such thing as “one size fits all”


“If you see this on a tag, run! Every body is different and nothing is truly one-size-fits-all. It’s the quickest route to fashion disaster and to making you look unkempt.” —Mr. O’Connor    Checkout our guide to the clothing that looks best on you based on your body shape.

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Be brand loyal


“When you find a particular piece that looks good on you and fits well, chances are that designer cuts for a body type like yours. Explore other options and clothing pieces in their line. Chances are they will look best.” —Mr. O’Connor

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Runway clothes are not meant to be real life clothes


“What you see on fashion runways are not looks every day people generally like to wear. Instead, I look more to movies and music for my fashion inspiration rather than what’s on the runway. It’s still current and fun but a little more realistic and wearable.” —Vicky Sullivan, stylist and blogger at Aspiring Socialite

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Repeat after me: Less is more


“I wish people understood that in fashion less is more.  For example, if you are wearing an off-the-shoulder top, make that your focal point. You don’t need anything else. Huge earrings or a statement necklace will be overwhelming—the top is sexy chic as is!” —Jennifer Berger, stylist and president of Wear it Well   These fashion mistakes are making you look older.

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A white t-shirt is the number one most important piece in your closet


“My secret style weapon is a perfect classic durable white tee. It never goes out of style and you can dress it up with a blazer, black skinny jeans, and a pair of heels.” —Ms. Berger

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Sunglasses hide a thousand sins

iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

“There’s a reason celebrities are never spotted without their shade. Sunglasses can be the best accessory, especially if you are having a bad day day, feel extra sleepy, or have a hangover. Glasses cover everything.” —Ms. Berger

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If you have to adjust something more than once, put it back


“The key to having great style is to buy things that fit you properly (or have them altered by a tailor). If you’re not sure, a good rule of thumb is if you have to adjust it more than once while you’re trying it on then it’s not for you. It should feel comfortable.” —Lindsay Narain, designer, founder and creative director of Vaughan clothing    Learn some surprising fixes you didn’t even know tailors could make.

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Find your white Hermes scarf


“Remember how in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ the editor always wore a single white Hermes scarf as her signature piece? What’s your version of this? No matter how traditional or fashion forward you like to be, have a think about what pieces you really gravitate to and make it your signature style. And it doesn’t have to be a scarf. Consider bright colored shoes, men’s style watches, or classic shirts.” —Ms. Narain

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Bad makeup can ruin a great outfit


“Your makeup can make or break a great outfit so it’s important to know what works for you and what compliments your features and coloring. Contacting a professional can help you figure out how to make your makeup and clothing work together. Also know that even though many women want a ‘natural look’ it actually takes a lot of products and time to do it right.” —Brooke Baker, beauty and style consultant    These makeup mistakes can make you look sloppy.

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Never buy anything too small, not even as diet “inspiration”


“As a male model, I’ve learned this the hard way. Even when I see something really eye-catching, if it’s the last one and it’s not my size I still have to pass. I used to impulsively buy things because they were the last one and I thought I could make it work. But you can’t fix it if the fit is wrong.” —Michael Freeby, model and fashion photographer

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Fashion and style are not the same thing


“‘Fashion’ is the tangible clothes, the ones you see in stores, in magazines, and on celebrities. Style, however, is intangible. Style is how you take the fashion and interpret it into an outfit or look that makes you feel like you. It’s not all about the fashion or trends but rather accepting yourself, working with what flatters your figure, finding what tickles your fancy and wearing wearing what makes you confident.” —Laurie Brucker, certified image consultant, personal stylist and speaker

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Don’t hide. Highlight.

iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

“Dress to show off your favorite areas and not to hide the ones you don’t love.  We all have trouble areas so choosing your outfit based on hiding behind your clothes is negative.  Instead, focus on the areas you love then dress them accordingly. Not only will you look great but it will help you appreciate the good things about your body instead of worrying about the ‘problems.'” —Ms. Brucker

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Anything less than four items doesn’t count as an outfit


“I call this the four-piece formula.  I believe that a great outfit consists of four standout pieces.  A blouse and a skirt are not an outfit, they are just clothes.  But a blouse, a skirt, a jacket and necklace?  Now that is an outfit. Any combination of four or more works.” —Ms. Brucker

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Curvy girls have to make their own rules


“As a size 14 myself, I have loved seeing the emergence of plus-sized women in fashion who have completely shattered expectations and rules over the last few years (i.e. Gabi Fresh, Nicolette Mason, Tanesha Awasthi, Margie Plus to name a few). Their confidence shines through in every photograph, and they don’t listen to silly rules about what ‘curvy’ girls can and can’t wear. They just wear what they love.” —Alison Jimenez, stylist and blogger at NYC Recessionista

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You probably already have enough clothes


“Many of us already own plenty of clothes, we just need to use them in new ways to make them feel fresh and interesting. Trying making new outfits by mixing what’s already in your closet in new and unexpected ways, like mixing patterns. Pair that polka dot top with that floral skirt, or that striped top with those animal print pants.” —Ms. Jimenez    These simple tips will help you save money on clothes (without sacrificing style).

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Get salespeople on your side


“A great trick to finding deals on high-end clothing is to make friends with the sales people at your favorite stores. Ask them when they get new arrivals in and when special sales start. If they say 10 a.m. on Monday, then you know what to do—you call in sick at work that day.” —Sam Russell, stylist and host of HLN’s Giving Closet    These are the secrets your salesperson won’t tell you.

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Avoid cheap accessories like the plague


“For men and women, jewelry is the defining path for creating your own look and vibe. Research designers that are new and untapped (they exist in just about every city these days), and with Etsy and the internet, you have really no excuses. And don’t forget the supportive accessories. I don’t just mean investing in a nice watch and handbag. Ditch the old umbrella and cheap shades and upgrade already!” —Mr. Russell

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People make their first impression of you based on what you wear, not what you say


“Are you a boho gal who loves kale salads, yoga sessions, and beaded jewelry? Or are you a preppy woman, who loves anything from Kate Spade and has a penchant for stripes? Ask yourself what image you want to project, and how you would want people to describe you based on first impressions. The truth is they are already thinking something about you when they meet you so make sure it’s what you want!” —Christina-Lauren Pollack, fashion expert and Editor of Inspirations & Celebrations     Next, check out these styling tricks that can help you revamp your wardrobe in a weekend.

Originally Published on Readers Digest