The art of ‘Effortless’ Dressing

The Parisian style mavens have had this down for a while – always so infuriatingly fluent in painless dressing. Then there’s the UK queens of artfully throwing things on, like Laura Bailey and Alexa Chung. This less strenuous style SHOULD be as easy as it looks in theory. However, it’s paired down aesthetic can be hard to stick to when we feel a constant pressure to standout.

I come from the angle of someone, who has at times, and often still, tries a bit too hard outfit wise. Despite always admiring others who I interpret as having an effortless style, I often fall  short of the mark…actually it would be more accurate to say I sprint way past the mark, and leave a trail of clattering accessories in my wake.

I think when part of your job is to show off your outfits, or put together looks in the hope they’re be much-liked on Instagram, you often overthink things. You have in your head that it has to stand out, and make a statement. And in an effort to firmly stamp the ‘wow’ factor onto your upload, you fool yourself into thinking more is more, and pile on those statement pieces, or incorporate those interesting colour combos. I constantly have to remind myself that maybe not all aspects of my outfit need to be a statement, perhaps even just one needs to be. The rest can be simple, or good quality, well fitted or classic, and in being so they don’t scream how stylish they are, they just sit nonchalantly within the image, casually impressing those that see it. An amazing belt-buckle of killer pair of sunnies can transform an uncomplicated ensemble for instance.

When we’re digesting trends via numerous style influencers, fashion articles, or catwalks, you’re often absorbing all of the ingredients that make up the given aesthetic – from the shoes all the way up to the headgear. In the past I’ve gotten so giddy on a trend that it’s definitely ended up more like costume than everyday wear, and I look back and wonder how on earth I couldn’t see how extra and try-hard it was the time. Despite the cringe factor, in a way its fine if I was looking to create an editorial concept shoot – during my styling days we’d often create looks that worked great on glossy magazine pages,  that would of looked a bit out-there or stupidly impractical in real life. But that’s not what I personally want for my platforms now. I want to create wearable looks, things I’d would and do wear to carry out my everyday activities, rather than put together looks purely for impacts sake. I guess it’s another area I want to start being more true to myself within, while still giving people style inspo .

I feel like more and more people are adopting this approach to their personal fashion on Instagram lately. I’m not sure whether it’s just because muted colour palettes and classic or basic pieces are ‘in’ at the moment, because a lot of us are trying to participate a bit less in fast fashion and invest in these timeless but versatile pieces, and/or because more are buying into ethical brands who always tend to steer their style in that direction. Either way more bloggers definitely seem to be going down the simple but effective route when it comes to dressing. One major plus point, is that I think they’re quite easy to recreate whatever your budget.

In general though, I like people pushing the envelope, those that clearly work hard or put in effort, as well as those that push boundaries or reject conforming. I like to appreciate and reward those that have grafted for something (including creating an intricate fashion look for their content), but when it comes to whose outfits that stop me in my tracks and make me want to touch that little empty heart icon, its those that look like they haven’t done many if any of the above things.

It’s the well fitting white tee, with the awesome jeans and mules. It’s the amazing jumpsuit with a pair of trainers. Its the expensive-looking blazer dressed down with casual pieces. It’s a simple summer polka dot dress and a straw bag.

Don’t get me wrong I will always love the likes of the Native Fox who will dare to go where I never will – I can almost hear my mums sigh of relief as I type that, don’t worry Ma I won’t be strutting my stuff down Weybridge town centre in some metallic orange thigh-high boots. With exposed pelvis bones, wild colour and pattern combos, bright wigs, and shoes that would only lead to my untimely death, she’s always added welcome sass to my feed. And the likes of Lina Bugz who will always bring joy via her acids brights, checkerboard prints and edgy style. It’s just not the type of style that I think will influence mine anymore, even though I still think they look ruddy fantastic. I also think it’s because I have formed such an appreciation for those that have mastered the art of making something so minimal, look so fantastic. I feel I’m still very much an apprentice in this area, but I’m working on it. But should I have to work at it, or is that defeating the purpose? I dunno. Maybe all the effortless beauties have to work quite hard to nail looking like they haven’t tried. After all many of us know just how many products it can take to create the ‘natural’ make up look.

It think this evolution of my personal style taste has happened purely because I believe the lesser approach suits me and my lifestyle more these days. The muted make-up, and reduction in eyeshadow in particular, has definitely shaved a few insomniac years off my face, and the removal of excess accessories has really helped to make me look more put- together and less fussy. But maybe in this hectic time of my life, where I also put emphasis on comfort, I’m looking for ease and simplicity in terms of how easy it is to put an outfit together too. When you de-clutter your wardrobe or create one filled with these pieces, it becomes much easier to put together more looks, with less items. Not just that, there so much versatility and flexibility. Via clever layering, and swapping over of certain items, you’ve always got numerous looks per piece.

How many of you look in your wardrobe, your drawers (or the floor) and waste minutes or not hours contemplating your outfit? Obviously some people enjoy the lengthy process of curating their looks, but some of us simply don’t have the time, or at least can’t justify using it this way. There’s lots of people making videos about their staple pieces or capsule wardrobe, and I thoroughly recommend you checking it out – I guarantee they’ll make you think.

If you can’t be bothered to head over to YouTube right now, here’s a few pointers from me….

For Spring/Summer 

Espadrilles, black, brown, metallic or straw sandals. These will go with most things and look chic.

A Straw, Tan or Brown across the body bag.

Tortoiseshell style sunglasses or simple metal brass rimmed Raybans.

A plain loose-fitting jumpsuits – I personally like tan, khaki, rust or black ones – although any linen ones look fab too.

A pair of trainers that go with everything – classic Vans, Converse, or plain white pumps.

Breton tees (I have way to many but they all have their unique plus points, honest)

Ditsy print floral tea or wrap dress.

Cute slogan tee (to team with jeans, under a blazer, with a cute floral skirt)

A blazer – a linen one preferably, or one in a versatile colour.

Khaki trousers – wide leg or culotte style.

Denim skirt – yes the distressed denim skirt is back (team with a simple tee or oversized shirt and a gold necklace)

Gold disc necklaces (I’m obsessed with my Missoma one)

A sold pair of blue jeans (I love Weekday, ASOS and HM)

A mannish fit shirt (System of Motion do great ones)

For Winter

Camel Coat – forever chic and goes with everything (Zara always deliver but New Look did great affordable ones last year too)

Boots – This is a great way to inject personality – animal print, bright red, patent.

Beige Trench – if it’s too warm for the camel coat this looks great with jeans and a breton ( Oasis do great ones if Burberry is out of the question).

Animal print coat – use this for effective but classy clashing. Looks great over a striped tee.

Brogues/loafers for those days you don’t want to wear heels

Bold Jumpers – The potential statement pieces of the outfit. Red, Yellow or Green are my personal faves.

Muted/pastel knitwear (HM do my personal faves, but Uniqlo is a good shout too)

Cigarette Pants in black.

I am wary of writing lists like these because then this could fall into the trap of becoming a predictable uniform. Fashion with formulas can be stale and boring, so I wholeheartedly believe we should try and find ways to put our personal stamp on things, even if its just something as mundane as the way we roll a sleeve or not.

This and any ‘in’ style shouldn’t be a dictatorship. In fashion I truly believe there is no right or wrong if it makes you happy (cultural appropriation and anything universally offensive aside) you should wear whatever you damn well feel like wearing. The world would be a very dull place if everyone was to an adopt a so called ‘effortless’ style. I still want to see people go OTT, over-egg it, be a bit too much, or break some fashion ‘rules.’ But if, like me, you have yearned to achieve peak Sienne Miller Boho, Kate Bosworth, Kate Moss, Chloe Sevigny and Erin Wasson. Or get excited by the OOTD’S of bloggers such as Stylonylon, The Frugality, Lucy Williams, Lizzy Hadfield, Ropes of Holland, Kim Tarkington (Love Cloth), Emma Hill to name a few, then maybe this post will speak to you.

Right, time for me to get back to de-cluttering. As a hoarder I’ll never be an ‘Anna Edit’ Capsule Queen, but I’m determined to get a bit further away from jumble sale territory over here.

Photography by Derek Bremner


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