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Styling you: your questions answered

Do you have a burning style question and need some quick advice? Post your question here and I will do my best to answer, alternatively you can email me at and I will reply via email…Below is a selection of previously (and often, frequently) asked questions?

May 2017: Do you have any tips on how to shop for the best vintage jewellery?

We asked vintage jewellery expert, Jennifer Gibson. “I’m often asked for tips on how to buy vintage successfully,” says Jennifer. “My advice is simple and mirrors my own buying techniques with 3 simple steps.

  1. Firstly, it has to be love at first sight! Otherwise it will sit in a drawer unworn which is a waste. My heart races when I spot and try on the perfect piece, so if you’re not getting that buzz when you look in the mirror then it’s probably not for you.
  2. Secondly, take a really close look at it and carefully assess out the condition. On the whole go for a piece with zero or extremely minimal ‘’age appropriate wear’. For example, the older the piece the more acceptable a little wear is. However if parts of a piece are missing or damaged, or all of the pearls are peeled or all the rhinestones have dulled or blackened [for example] then this affects how the piece, looks so avoid it. It’s always better to pay more for a piece in great condition than a piece in poor condition, if you can afford it.
  3. Finally, find out a little about it and decide how much you are willing to pay for it. Ask the seller to explain the materials in the piece, any knowledge of the history or designer of the piece – often pieces are stamped by the manufacturer but not always so keep in mind that not all rare and important pieces will bear a signature, there are many, many unsigned beauties! TOP TIP: Don’t prize a signature over style and remember step 1, always fall in love with the look of the piece first and how it looks on you – you’re not wearing the signature/brand – the signature is a lovely addition to a great looking piece.

When you’ve satisfied yourself that this is the piece for you, then you just need to decide if the price is right for you. Unfortunately there’s no hard and fast rule for this beyond typically that the premium brands and couture house pieces command higher prices.

You can always visit vintage markets to see if there’s a similar piece but often a direct comparison is tricky and it’s always hard to gauge if condition comparisons are true.

Generally, if you believe it’s worth that price and you’ve fulfilled steps 1 and 2, then it’s time to take the plunge – pay for it, get a receipt and some care advice and above all, enjoy wearing it!”

Click here to read our interview with Jennifer and to find out more about Jennifer Gibson Jewellery. [link to article once live]

April 2017: We’re going on holiday in a couple of weeks and I need to buy a new swimsuit but I’m worried it won’t be flattering around my stomach. I think I have an apple or pear body shape, what styles should I look for?

If you’re a pear consider styles that diminish the size of the hips and waist but that accentuate the bust; avoid high-waist shorts-style briefs instead look for low cut bottoms, and flirty skirt detail is great for balancing out wide hips. Halter-neck and tankini styles will maximise the bust and broaden the shoulders and you can mix and match plain darker bottoms with a light coloured top, this will slim your lower half and add volume to your upper body.

Apples should do the opposite, select bottoms with a high cut like the shortini to make the hips look bigger and the stomach smaller, and try to stay away from low waist bottoms and styles that end right at the hip, this will only make your waist look narrower. One-pieces with hidden support panels or ruched detailing will help create a streamlined silhouette.

March 2016: I’m lucky to have a number of special occasion events to attend this year including Ladies Day at Ascot. I’ve never worn a hat before but I would love to and this seems like the perfect opportunity. Where do I start in terms of choosing a style that suits me and should I have already decided on the outfit?

Rosie Olivia, Founder of Rosie Olivia Millinery, said: “Wearing a hat is not something you do every day so when you have an event to attend that give you the opportunity to wear one… go for it!! When you wear a hat that you love, it feels comfy, fits correctly and gives you confidence, and in my opinion it finishes off an outfit. You often see the hat before the outfit so, being a milliner, I would always say get the hat first and then work the outfit around it.

“Start by going to a milliners and trying on lots of different shaped hats. You will find the style that best suits your face shape and once you have a hat, choose your trimming and then colours. Hats are very hard to buy online as personally I think you need to try them on to know what feels right. Hats are a great accessory and there are so many different variations and styles that there is one to suit all! Enjoy wearing it!”

February 2017: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and this year I don’t want to get it wrong! Are there any trends I should be considering when buying a gift of lingerie?

A. Johanna Bolhoven, owner of See-Saw Lingerie in Hale, Cheshire said: “The lingerie market has always lagged a bit behind mainstream fashion trends and in most cases, especially when considering a gift, it’s best to stick to timeless classics such as black and white. Black is a lingerie staple and every girl’s must have; look for sets crafted from the softest satin and opulent lace.

“However if you would like to consider the trends the main themes emerging this season are: floral (for spring, of course), the colours (mint, gold, orange, coral, yellow and pink), the neutrals (beige, blush, brown, black and grey), texture/embroidery and sheer/illusion tulle.

“If you can’t decide on lingerie you can also consider a sexy silky slip, the Nineties are making a comeback for Spring/Summer 2017 and (if she’s the adventurous type) the underwear as outerwear spaghetti strap dress made famous by Kate Moss is back!”

December 2016: My baby girl will be one year old just before Christmas and I’m looking for a special ‘sparkly’ outfit but it still needs to be practical. Is there a brand I should consider?

We asked Gillian Franks, owner of Pixie Childrenswear in Hale, Cheshire for her advice. She said: “Petit Bateau has been designing and crafting beautiful clothes since 1893 and their Christmas collection is full of covetable pieces that are both practical and stylish.”

Gillian continues: “Their adorable striped jersey dress is perfect for adding some subtle sparkle into your baby girls wardrobe, the long sleeve design features a pale pink and silver lurex striped upper body, completed with a pretty silver glitter tutu skirt. But my favourite is this super soft long sleeve white bodysuit dress, which has a frilly collar with navy stitched trim, and a contrasting slate grey tulle net skirt with mini sparkle star print.”

October 2016: Shopping for jeans frustrates me, how do I find the perfect pair?

There’s something about jean shopping that fills even the most experienced shopper with dread; did you know that women have, on average, 10 pairs in their wardrobes but only ever wear two of them, AND a whopping seven out of 10 women say they NEVER wear jeans because they struggle to find the right pair. So you’re not alone.

I believe that everyone is capable of finding the perfect fit. The key is dressing to suit your body shape, find the right style and it can take you effortlessly from season to season. Here are some top tips to get you started.

  • If you’re conscious of your tummy look for high-rise (which sits just below the tummy button), not high-waisted.
  • Darker denims will give a slimmer silhouette;
  • A higher waistline will provide a better fit for those with long torsos;
  • Rear pockets can make the bottom seem smaller;
  • Straight or tapered styles are best for pear-shapes, they enhance a slim waist while slimming thighs;
  • If you’re curvy try boot-cut for balance;
  • Give straight leg or skinnies a go; it’s a style that suits most shapes and allows you to experiment with layering.

August 2015: What will be the high street’s hit winter coat?

A winter coat is always the biggest purchase of the year and now is the time to start thinking about it…. remember back in 2013 when everyone hailed the oversized pink coat as the cover-up of the Autumn Winter season, and in particular the fashion frenzy around the M&S Collection Duster Coat which was sold-out before we even hit September! We’ll be looking in to coat trends in more detail next month but in the meantime…. expect it to be shearling, with weighty fluffy cuffs, and a chopped hemline.

October 2014: How do you wear a blanket coat? I like the idea but as a busy mum with two young children, I’m not sure it’s the most practical style.

Blanket coats are one of Autumn’s biggest trends and with a plethora of styles available on the high street, not to mention length, texture and print options, there should be one to suit you.

This style is designed to be voluminous and statement making so think about your proportions and keep the rest of your outfit streamlined to balance out your silhouette. A blanket coat is the ultimate layering item, so smart layering is essential; avoid using too many and the thinnest garment should be worn closest to your skin. Showing some skin – a collarbone, wrist or ankle – will keep the look feminine.

The shape is flexible so you can be creative; casually drape it over one shoulder, wear around your neck like a super-sized scarf, or use a leather belt to cinch it at the waist, thus keeping hands and arms free to control the little ones.

However you choose to wear it, embrace the trend because this season, blankets are the new coats!

July 2014: I’m going to a wedding in early September and I've brought a black dress with a pretty floral print to potentially wear, however I'm not sure you should wear black to a wedding?

It’s perfectly acceptable to wear black to a wedding, monochrome in particular can be undeniably chic, classic and understated. A short, rather than long, hemline is more playful, and bright splashes of colour will really add a pop to the outfit. With your dress [image provided] I would pick out one or two of the colours in the print and carry them through to the accessories.

May 2014: I’ve seen lots of lovely new things in the shops but what’s the one must-have item for Spring Summer 2014?

With so many trends to choose from, it’s hard to pick just one. However, the humble skirt has really come in to its own this season embracing many of the other key trends such as sheer fabrics (used by designers from Preen to Calvin Klein and Fyodor Golan), pleats (seen everywhere on the SS14 catwalks) and high shine.

This black skirt with a sheer panel around the hem, from Next, is an easy way to get the look. Wear it now with a sweatshirt on cooler days and a luxe tee for summer. The corrugated skirt has been touted as the ‘star buy’ of SS 2014 but pleats have been around for a while. Bring yours up-to-date with an iridescent fabric, tackling two trends in one. This M&S skirt is perfect and it will take you seamlessly from day to night.

April 2014: I am a 34D and I am wearing a dress with a very low back to an event in a few weeks. I do not feel comfortable going without a bra, but I don’t want to have the band showing. What are my bra options?

Perhaps the most feared of the formal looks are backless and very low back dresses as they make wearing a bra next to impossible. You can buy low back bra convertor straps but I find these have a tendency to ride up over the course of an evening so if you want a guarantee ‘no show’, my favourite is the ‘body sculpting backless strapless bra’ from Fashion Forms, available from most retailers throughout the UK. It gives great support and is barely detectable under clothing. The 100% silicone grips your skin for maximum support and you can wear it without the wings for daring backless strapless fashion.

March 2014: I’m a male in my mid-thirties and I notice that a lot of men of a similar age are wearing styles that I would consider to be more suited for a younger age group. Do you have to dress your age?

Of course this dilemma isn’t restricted to men, but women’s awareness of fashion trends does tend to be a bit more acute. We will be looking at this in more detail next month with the results of a wardrobe revamp for a 36-year old male, but in the meantime here’s some basic advice for that wardrobe staple, the denim jean. There are no hard or fast rules (although the Top Gear team set the benchmark for bad denim) however men over a certain age (let’s say 35) should stick to high-quality, non nonsense, classic denim; avoid distressed jeans with holes and patches (you’re not Justin Bieber…this is a good thing) and make sure they fit properly (not baggy, long, short, high-waisted or tight), a straight leg jean is perfect.

I hate buying sunglasses, I never know what style suits my face shape and I just want a pair that will last.

Given the plethora of different styles out there getting the right pair of sunglasses is no mean feat, but once you know your face shape you’ll have a better understanding of which styles to look for; in a similar way to clothing some styles will work better than others on a particular shape. For example:

  • HEART: If you have a heart shaped face you can wear one of this season’s hottest trends, the cat’s eye, as well as a more classic round shape;
  • OBLONG: If your face is oblong in shape look for oversized or wrap styles (think Victoria Beckham);
  • ROUND: A round face shape can carry off wide, square or angular frames (a key look for Autumn Winter 2013);
  • OVAL: An oval face shape (considered to be the perfect shape – lucky you) looks great in most styles but looks best in soft angular frames.

If you’re looking to make a long term investment, you can’t go wrong with the classic aviator which works well on most face shapes.

TIP: To find your face shape, stand directly in front of a mirror with your hair pulled back. Stay as still as possible as you trace an outline of your face (on the mirror) with lipstick. Once you’ve finished drawing an outline of your face, stand back and take a look…

I would love to embrace the white trend this season but how do I wear it without looking like a bride?

White is a Spring Summer staple but it’s also a colour where there is no running and hiding; choose flattering silhouettes and fabrics, and apply smart tailoring when considering outfits. To keep white fresh and classy I like to pair it with neutrals and a dash of summer shine.

I’m starting a new job and there’s no dress code. I want to look smart but so smart that I stand out from everyone else. What should I look for?

One of my most common enquiries from clients is how to achieve the holy grail of outfit creation, the smart-casual (or ‘smasual’) look. Presentable yet a comfortable way of dressing, what’s not to love!

Look out for:

  • Mid length dresses (tea dresses and shifts are a great example)
  • Mid-rise, dark wash denim jeans
  • A classic skirt, such as A-line or pencil
  • A blouse (a good place to add pattern, colour or texture to your basics)
  • Tailored jacket/blazer (this can be thrown over dresses, jeans, trousers)
  • Cardigan in a fun, flattering colour (cashmere is a good investment)
  • Dress shoe (a nice kitten heel is practical and dresses up jeans or a day dress)
  • Pretty pump (just because….)

I’m looking to refresh my wardrobe but can’t afford an entire revamp, what should I be looking for in the sales?

You can potentially categorise your wardrobe as follows:

  • BASICS – white vests, black cardigans, t-shirts, flat shoes etc
  • FOUNDATION PIECES – hard working, investment pieces: coats, jeans, black trousers etc
  • LOUNGEWEAR – comfy clothes
  • ON-TREND PIECES – clothes that change each season e.g. flares, wedges, cropped jackets
  • EVENT WEAR – special dresses, skirts and tops
  • LINK PIECES – those items you love but never get to wear because nothing goes with it

I usually recommend that you look for foundation pieces and basics: sales are a great opportunity to pick up quality items such as tailored black trousers, a little black dress, classic jackets or good quality basic t-shirts etc. all at a fraction of the price. Happy sale shopping!

September 2013: I need to buy a winter coat but I’m not sure what styles are out there at the moment?

This season coats are over-sized – capes, crombies and cocoons; military-inspired – double-breasted, pea coat and trench; and heritage-inspired – from tweed and tartan to houndstooth and check. However where possible you should invest in something classic and in a colour that works with the other items in your wardrobe. Keep the following in mind when you’re looking.

  • Tall figures can go for a classic, long coat or a trench coat. A cape is also flattering as it enhances long legs.
  • A double-breasted design creates a clean silhouette and typically suits pear body shape (as it balances out hips) and an hourglass figure (look for belted options).
  • Athletic body shapes look for coats that add curves, such as structured fit and flare styles, sharp tailored coats and coats with strong shoulders.
  • Over-sized styles can be a touch masculine. Make sure you keep the rest of your outfit fitted. These styles typically look great with a crisp white shirt, tapered or skinny trousers and loafers for a sharp, androgynous look
  • Hourglass figures look for a coat that follows the contours of your body; this will further emphasize your curves.
  • A well-fitting peacoat should stop just below the hip and it looks best with knee-length dresses and skirts. Wear with understated heels for a classic look or with knee high boots for city chic.
  • If you have a small bust choose a coat with detail on top, while those with a bigger bust should go for deep V-necklines and narrow lapels.

I will be relying on my LBD to get me through the party season but how can I make it stand out among all the other little black dresses AND make it look different for each occasion?

You can’t go wrong with a LBD, it’s a wardrobe staple and there are several simple ways you can change the look. But first, make sure you have selected the right dress for the right occasion; some have more style and suitability than others.

If the dress is daywear avoid anything that clings to the body, instead opt for styles that skim your curves (i.e. shift dresses that fall just below the knee). For evening events the dress can be slinkier but should still remain structured and well-shaped. Consider the following to help change your look:

  • Hosiery. The right tights can even out your skin tone on your legs and provide the finishing touch to the look. For eveningwear, sheer black or grey tinted tights are a good choice. Colored tights could also work with a black dress provided the color matches with other accessories and suits your skin tone.
  • Colour. Although the LBD is a staple favourite, adding colour and texture to your outfit can give you confidence and ensure you stand out from the crowd – attention-grabbing red, blue and canary yellow dresses were all on display at this year’s Emmy’s.
  • Shoes. Shoes can provide contrasting colour or style to the LBD and as a result become the feature piece of your outfit; people’s eyes will be drawn to them with your black dress as backdrop.
  • Dazzle in diamanté costume jewellery. Statement jewellery is such a strong trend for Autumn Winter that [paired with simple necklines] earrings and necklaces can really stand out. Instant glamour!
  • Belts and scarves. Provided the style of the dress can handle the addition of a belt or scarf, it can provide an effective contrasting feature.
  • Bags. The bag is going to stand out against the black backdrop so treat it as part of the overall look. Try a dazzling or sparkling color to dress it up for the evening.
  • Gloves. Timelessly elegant, long gloves are one of the most beautiful accessories trends for Autumn Winter, so if you don’t mind wearing them they can really dress up a LBD.

I just threw out a load of old clothes. The only thing I rescued from the ‘to throw’ pile was a long denim skirt. Was I right to save it? And, if so, should it go in the back of the wardrobe until (or if) it’s back in fashion or can I wear it now, and with what?!

Yes, definitely keep it. Denim skirts have never really been considered fashion-forward but they enjoyed a fashion moment in Spring Summer 2011, and variations will continue into 2013.

Although long maxi skirts have been a huge skirt trend for 2012, and long column skirts are big for Autumn Winter 2012, this year denim skirts are hovering around the knee either in a swingy style (paired with chunky sandals and a slouchy, soft tee) or as a pencil skirt with a split or button front (paired with a button-up blouse, a tied top, or wedges).

A long denim skirt can easily look too frumpy or too dishevelled [if worn with extremely casual items like loose t-shirts or trainers]. To make it more stylish consider the following:

  • When choosing tops look for those that stop at the hip (long tunic tops combined with a long skirt will cover too much of your shape), ideally pair a long denim skirt with a fitted top or t-shirt, and a belt to balance the width.
  • Keep it simple. Wear a plain fitted tee (tucked in – you definitely want some definition around the waist with a skirt that length), ballet flats (if you are tall) and a statement necklace.
  • Alternatively (and as it gets colder) layer two tops; for example, wear a camisole under an open cardigan.
  • If you’re not tall, opt for shoes or boots with some height – wedges, high wedged boots, high-heeled boots – this will keep you from looking frumpy and overwhelmed by the volume of the skirt.

Do heel protectors work for any heels (or just stilettos), and where can I buy them?

Heel protectors are available in a wide selection of styles and sizes to suit all sorts of modern fashion footwear. Timpson sell them but they can be quite expensive, so have a look on websites like eBay first. I don’t really use them but I believe you can now get ‘heel stoppers’ which are a plastic sort of “coaster” that your heels slide into. They come about 1-inch up the heel and have a small base at the bottom. They are perfect for any time you wear high heels outdoors as they stop your heels from sinking into the ground and they also protect the bottom half of your heel from scratches and nicks.

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