I have worked with the same salesperson at Saks, Carole, for about 18 years. She’s basically retired but we’re still very good friends. We have spent countless hours together walking the Saks floors pulling for my clients and in dressing rooms and my clients know and love her. One thing Carole has said to my clients over the years when describing a successful outfit is, “it’s a look.” I also think of Tim Gunn during the early Project Runway days when he would say to a designer, “that’s a lot of look,” when describing an outfit that was way over the top. Looks can definitely have a positive and a negative connotation.
When Carole would use the word look to describe an outfit it would be in the positive sense and these outfits were never overly complicated. In fact, they were quite often quite simple and last week, when this all popped into my head, I started to give some thought to what exactly makes a look successful and how to create it. I have put together some thoughts and outfits on the topic.
HOW TO CREATE A LOOK
#1- A Look Sends a Message. It Communicates
Regardless of whether it is simple or overly complicated, a look sends a message regardless of whether or not you intend to. This could be done simply by styling jeans and a t-shirt or it can be an outfit that is festooned with tons of trends. It’s not so much what the outfit is that makes it a look but more so what it communicates. Clothing communicates and a look tells a story and inspires a mood. Our demeanor, confidence level, and body language all change when we feel our look is aligned with who we are and the message we want to send.
#2- A Look Sparks a Connection Between the Outfit and the Person
A look creates a connection between the person wearing it and the outfit itself. This is why it doesn’t matter so much about what the outfit is or how overly styled it is. It’s more about the clothing effortlessly capturing an essence of that person visually and when it happens it is like magic.
Think about people who have an iconic look, like Carolina Herrera’s white shirts with popped collars or Michael Kors’ blazers and t-shirts he always wears. These are such simple looks that manage to capture the essence of that person. It’s effortless.
Conversely, we can look at someone like Bjork or Helena Bonham Carter, whose looks are usually anything but simple. Often they are over the top and complicated. However, despite how complicated they are, these outfits still capture something truthful about who they are, that is their spark connected.
The key in creating a look is to wear what feels is honest for you, that makes you feel like you are personified.
#3- A Look is Comprehensive
There is nothing random in a look. It’s not matchy-matchy in the traditional sense, it’s more harmonious as if everything belongs. So often, I see an outfit and it’s full of decent pieces but they just don’t belong together in one look. When putting a look together, pieces should be considered individually as well as how they all work together to create a good overall look.
You are the conductor and all the pieces in your look are the orchestra.
#4- A look has a clear point of view
Think of your look as part of your personal brand. You have to be a good editor of what you wear and just like last week when I wrote about creating a chic, simple outfit needing restraint. A look needs restraint as well.
When I was getting married back in 2007. I happened to get involved on a bridal message board with other brides getting married around the same time. Many of them would post about how many elements they were adding to their wedding, many of which had no business being included in the same event. These brides would have benefitted from setting a clear direction or point of view for their wedding, culling down the different elements to those that worked with the direction, and being better editors. Creating a comprehensive look often means letting go of things that just don’t work in the bigger picture.
There is nothing random about a look and the clearer you are about your brand and your point of view, the easier it will be to select things for your wardrobe that match it. Sometimes, we get excited by all the different options we have to choose from and when we lack a clear direction or mood for what we are looking to create, it’s hard to decipher which should stay and which should go.
#5- The clearer you are on your point of view, the better you will be at mixing and matching and creating looks
When your point of view is clear and your closet is full of things that are in alignment with that, your wardrobe becomes much easier to work with because the pieces more harmoniously and comprehensively come together.
- Know the Message
- Set a Point of Vew
- Create the Mood
- Think Comprehensively
- Establish a Connection Between You and Your Looks
Four Different Looks for Inspiration
Below I have created four different comprehensive looks and my thoughts on creating them.
I created this look using this skirt from Massimo Dutti that I styled with a linen buttondown from Frank & Eileen. Accessories play a big part when creating a look and I selected these strappy block-heel sandals in cognac patent, this cognac bag from Rebecca Minkoff, a wood and gold statement bracelet from Tory Burch, a goldplated oblong link necklace, and tortoise sunnies from Bp.
All the pieces come together in harmony to create a comprehensive look.
A look doesn’t have to be overly styled. In this look, I am styling this tan blazer from Reiss with a pair of black pants from Theory and an ivory knit top from Milly, beige pumps from Schutz, an olive bag from Cuyana, and two-tone metal drops from Dannijo.
This dress has a modern feel, so to complete the look, it makes sense that all the pieces strike the same mood in order to come together harmoniously. I styled this COS dress with an interlinked ring necklace, also from COS, a pair of metallic flat sandals from Seychelles, and a black bag from Street Level.
I created this polished, casual look using a pair of straight-leg jeans from J.Crew, a peplum jacket from The Fold, and a sleeveless mock buttondown shirt from BOSS. I finished the look with a pair of flat slingbacks in python by AGL and a black croc-embossed bag from Brahmin and huggie hoops from Tory Burch.