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.


Sylvia is 40+style’s editor-in-chief and has been helping women find their unique style since 2011. An alumni of the School of Color and Design, she is devoted to empowering women of any age to look and feel their best. Read more about Sylvia and 40+style on this page.

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