15 steps to acquiring style if you are not born with it

by Sylvia

How to get style

Photo: F.C. Gundlach ‘Rainweather, party sunshiny. Three poplin coats by Staebe-Seger’ Berlin 1955

In my recent profile on Diana Vreeland, I mentioned this quote from her:

“Style is something you’re born with, you don’t acquire it”

That seems a bit harsch. Does this mean that you can never look stylish if you don’t innately have it?

Sure, it will be more of a challenge, but I believe that everyone that wants to, can look stylish.

Perhaps with a bit of help and some tools, but don’t we all need a little help sometimes?

Here are my top 15 tips on how to look effortlessly stylish, even if you feel dat you have to work hard at it:

  1. Although I’m all for mixing and experimenting with patterns, if you are not sure about style, you may want to keep it simple at first. You will almost always look stylish in high quality, minimalist clothes in enduring colors. If you do want to mix, check our article on how to mix prints.
  2. Start acquiring wardrobe essentials so you can ensure you look stylish for every situation.
  3. When mixing colors, stick to trusted combinations.
  4. Always stylish color combinations include: black and white, navy and white and cream and camel.
  5. Be sure you have a pair with good fitting jeans. They will go with everything.
  6. Buy dresses! That way you don’t need to mix and match. All you need is one garment. If you buy a simple shift dress in a good fabric and combine it with simple jewelry, you will always look stylish!
  7. Measure your own body and find out what body shape you have. Wearing the wrong clothes for your body shape can be very unflattering.
  8. Do the same with your vertical body type. Creating a nice silhouette with the right proportions will get you 75% there towards a great outfit.
  9. Pay attention to grooming. You will always look more stylish with nicely manicured nails and toes.
  10. Get a really good haircut. Find out your face shape and select the best haircut for it. You may want to have a look at some hairstyles for women over 40 that I have pinned to my pinterest board.
  11. Pay attention to accessories. Even the most boring outfit can be transformed with accessories. But keep it simple at first, until you get more comfortable with your style.
  12. Find clothes that suit your personality. You will always feel better in clothes that suit you, which in turn will make you more stylish.
  13. You may want to add your ‘signature’ to every outfit. This could be a particular style of dress, a scarf, hat, belt etc. One of my components is asymmetry.
  14. You can read some style books, which will inform you on the basics of style. You can check out my list of style books to choose from.
  15. When you get more comfortable with your (minimalist) style, start to experiment more. Perhaps add some pattern, more color or a different silhouette. Find out what works for you and what doesn’t.
  16. And of course, read 40+Style. I give new tips and inspiration every day to make sure that you will look and feel your best and look effortlessly stylish!

Do you have a good tip for acquiring style?

p.s. Want help finding your style? Take our style course.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heather Fonseca

I’ve been pondering this very question recently. I think you’ve hit a lot of good points. The most stylish women I know tend to dress very simply and with good quality garments. However the women’s know who have the most fun with their wardrobes are also very stylish. I think it’s important just to put some effort into dressing. Like anything else, getting good at it takes practice.


2 Sylvia

Exactly Heather. Everything comes with practice. It’s certainly easier to look very stylish by keeping it simple, but for the next “level”, its’ great fun to mix with colours, prints, irregular shapes etc.!


3 Greetje

My tip is: seek professional help. And I do not mean this as a joke. Ask the help of a really good professional stylist. The money you invest in that advice, is money you win back easily because you do not buy the wrong clothes anymore.
The funny thing with all these tips is, that it is preaching to the already reformed. Women who do not have a clue, need to start more simple. I think. And you have to have at least a great interest in clothes. But for those who are searching and have not found their exact style yet, these tips are great.


4 Sylvia

Great tip Greetje. I had wanted to add that to the list but then forgot!


5 Shilpa

I believe, many of us have basic knowledge of style naturally &through some reading but every few years we all need some revisions…can be through tips from a friend,but there is nothing as unbiased & precise as professional stylist! So keep up the good work


6 Sylvia

Thanks Shilpa!


7 Erica @ Recycled fashion

Fantastic article! Thanks for writing.


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