Nikki’s Inbox: “I Feel Too Formal and Outdated When I Wear Skirts and Dresses”

Hi, Nikki! I’m 19 and I’m on my second year of college. I’m 164cm tall and my measurements are 88-67-100cm. I wear mainly blue or black jeans in different cuts, and all kinds of tops: message T-shirts, shirts in floral and other prints, sweaters, hoodies, button-downs… I own pieces in every color and material. I love variety and I pay attention to trends. I also wear skirts and dresses from time to time, only midi or just above-the-knee lengths, but I don’t really know how to style them. Each time I wear my skirts or dresses, I feel my look is too formal and outdated. How can I look trendy and chic while wearing midi skirts/dresses?

Eunice, 19/Spain

I can only imagine how big your closet is with all those clothes, Eunice! I think you must have a complete outfit already for each day of the year. But then, you can have a wardrobe full of the nicest pieces but if you have no idea how to put them together, you’ll end up wearing the same things repeatedly. The result?

Source: Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Touchstone Pictures (via Giphy)

My first advice is to be more self-confident. You say you love variety and pay attention to trends but without that crucial element that is confidence, all those pretty clothes will just stay in your wardrobe, darling. Fashion is always a game of trial and error, and nobody — NOBODY — ever gets it right the first time. Accept that you’ll make mistakes occasionally, and use those to become a smarter, more style-savvy dresser.

The following are my questions for you and I hope you’ll think about your answers carefully.

Are you using colors that flatter your figure & skin tone?

If there’s anything that writing this column has taught me, it’s that color plays a very important role in how we see ourselves and the impression we give to others. That said, I wish you shared more details about yourself like your skin tone and hair color because that would really help.

The wrong color combination can end up emphasizing features you wish to downplay such as wide hips or shoulders, bulky arms or muscular thighs. A simple rule of thumb is to wear light tops and dark bottoms if you’re bottom-heavy, and vice versa if you’re the opposite. Another chic but simple option is to go monochromatic, which means wearing shades from the same color like gray, black and white, or variations of pink and red, for example. This is especially useful if you’re not that confident about color matching just yet. Deeper colors and jewel tones are trendy this fall and winter and won’t make you look out of place.

Are you wearing the right cut and silhouette for your shape?

I’m glad, however, that you prefer midis and above-the-knee lengths for your skirts and dresses, Eunice. Those are indeed suitable for petites. But length isn’t the only issue — you also have to consider the cut. If you have broad hips or thick/muscular thighs, pencil cuts and mini skirts might not be suitable for you, even when you’re 164cm tall. Revealing V-necks and scoopnecks may not flatter those with smaller busts. Try every piece of clothing in your closet and find out if they really fit you as well as you think.

If you feel outdated or too formal in your skirts and dresses, it might be due to ill-fitting separates or a weird combination of textures, fabrics or prints. An A-line skirt or dress — regardless of length — looks best with a fitted bodice on top. This balances the flare of the skirt, which usually widens from thigh to hem, plus it hugs a small waist like yours! The same principle applies if you choose to wear wide-leg pants, which are still quite popular. Just keep in mind that if you’re wearing anything voluminous/roomy/loose/boxy, it looks better with a fitted counterpart.

Do you wear a statement piece?

I’m mostly a comfort dresser but there are times when I want to add something else to make my outfit less lazy. A white T-shirt and blue jeans can be accompanied by a bright-colored cardigan or jacket, a fancy watch or eye-catching earrings. The key here is to add a statement piece — one that makes your outfit visually pop.

If you’re wearing an LBD or a ballerina skirt as a casual, everyday piece, you can make it look more playful by wearing a distressed denim jacket and white sneakers. Let a vividly patterned skirt be the statement by wearing neutral coordinates around it. I like using secondary colors in a print or pattern so it really looks put together. You can also use fashion jewelry like earrings, necklaces and bracelets for emphasis, especially if you want to draw attention to your face, hair, neck or upper body. Shoes and bags in animal prints or saturated colors can also do the trick.

Your answers to these can hopefully serve as a guide so you can really maximize that huge closet of yours, Eunice. Take baby steps and don’t forget to have fun!

P.S. If you’re sending a question, please don’t forget to include any helpful information about your body type or shape, your tastes or personality. You can include a selfie (link only please) or a photo of your clothes (which I will never publish without pre-approval). Thank you!

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