Smart or Stylish – How to Tell the Difference

Last weekend there was an article in the ‘U on Sunday’ magazine called ‘Roaring Forties’. It was about helping women over 40 dress on-trend without looking like a teenager.

As I read the advice and looked at the clothing examples, something was not quite right. I saw it again in an article called ‘Mix-Master – Part 2’ in the latest ‘Dressmaking with Stitches’ magazine. And I have seen it on the women I meet while out networking.

It’s the difference between looking smart and looking stylish or as one of my clients said – between looking neat and looking smashing.

We have all been taught to dress well and to co-ordinate a bit. We walk out the door feeling smartly dressed. All the articles in newspapers and women’s magazines show us that too. What they do not show us is how to lift ourselves to the highest level where we always walk out the door feeling great or smashing.

Here’s my simple fashion translator guide to the difference between smart and stylish. It is easier than you think.

Smart but Dull


This model is wearing black pants, top, shoes and handbag. Her jacket is dark blue and the blue and black patterned scarf co-ordinates and brings the two colours together. It is following the correct style principles but the colours are very similar. The result is smart but dull. I also think that the high neckline will drain the colour from your face. To look smart, stylish and fabulous, lift the contrast level.




Stylish with Good Contrast

This model is wearing blue top and jacket, white pants and a white and blue scarf. It is the same style principles but there is a more obvious contrast between the colours. A white and blue scarf rather than a blue & white scarf works better and the white brings light to her face. The result is smart, stylish and fabulous.




Smart but Missing Something


This model is wearing black and cream striped skirt, cream textured top, pale gold jacket and yellow and silver strappy sandals. Black and cream or black and white can be worn with any other colour. The colour proportions are right and she looks smart. The missing something is an accessory that brings the colours together. That could be a black, cream and yellow scarf, necklace, earrings, brooch, bangles or shoes. The yellow sandals are not enough.



Stylish with Colour Co-ordination


This model is wearing black pants and sandals, orange top and a black, orange and white scarf. The scarf brings the colours together. When you wear two or three plain-coloured items, your main accessory needs to combine all the colours. A black or orange necklace would take the outfit from stylish back from stylish to smart.







This model has added a necklace that is white with a brown piece in the centre front. She has added brown bangles. Without the necklace she would be smart. With it she is stylish.




Smart but Wrong Accessories

I see many examples of accessories looking smart and colour matched but not stylish.


This model is wearing cream pants, black and white patterned top, black and white necklace and black, white and red bangles. The necklace disappears into the pattern of the top. To lift it from smart to stylish, ditch the necklace. Add black and white earrings if desired. Change the four bangle combination to two black, one white and one red (or any colour) or one bangle with all those colours.






This model is wearing white pants and jacket, black and white striped jacket and a red, yellow and white scarf. It is casually smart but the colours in the scarf do not co-ordinate with black and white. It would be stylish if the scarf was black, white and any other colour.




Stylish with Co-ordinated Accessories



This model is wearing white pants and top, brown jacket, shoes and handbag, brown and black scarf and an animal print belt. The scarf (could be jewellery instead) add a touch of black and it is a great colour contrast over the white top.







This model is wearing white pants and coat, a blue top and handbag, neutral shoes and a blue and white scarf. The scarf is 50/50 blue and white and as it is worn over the white jacket, it stands out. If it was worn over the top, it would not be as noticeable or as stylish.




Simple Stylish Rule

Wear two colours or one colour and a pattern in unequal proportions. Add a tiny touch of a third colour if desired. Then add at least one accessory that brings those two or three colours together in medium or bright shades so that you shine rather than look dull. You are a whole rather than bits.

Then in the words of my client, you will always be noticed positively, remembered easily and feel ‘smashing’.

(Article sent to subscribers of The Fashion Translator eZine’ on 29 November  2012. Click here to sign up for The Fashion Translator eZine.)


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