A few weeks ago I turned 25. Instead of having a quarter life crisis (OK, I totes had that too) I decided to use this as a chance to reflect on everything I’ve learned about style.
Here’s your opportunity to learn from my wardrobe mistakes, with 25 lessons on how to always be stylish and embrace your own look.
Trends come and go
Fashion trends are great in a way, but I actively avoid outfits that scream a specific season or look. Fast fashion brands have encouraged me in the past to buying new pieces often on a weekly basis, but now I’m officially in my mid twenties (gross) I’m after clothes that I’ll want to wear long term.
Buy less, buy better
My late teens and early twenties were definitely a time of overconsumption. Like many young fashionistas, I thought constantly buying new clothes to keep up with the latest trends was important. However, over the past few years I’ve started to take an interest in the craftsmanship behind what I wear, and I’m particularly into indie brands and small designers from the UK. So many of my cheap buys have ended up in the charity pile a short time after buying that I’ve decided to curate my wardrobe carefully from now on.
Look after your clothes
Following on from the above, I’ve learned it’s important to treat clothes with respect. Washing instructions are there for a reason, people! Repairing your clothes is also a hugely underrated factor in maintaining a great wardrobe. I’m lucky to have a mum who is great at sewing, and I’m planning to learn myself. Fixing fallen seams (thank you Wonderweb!) and re-attaching buttons will keep your clothes looking new for longer.
You are allowed to change your style
My look has changed so much over the years (and I’m glad it has!). From wearing Abercrombie and Fitch and Jack Wills eeeeeerything aged 14, to a 20-year-old trend addict, and now living for everything bold and bright, over the years I’ve developed a confidence to wear what I really want to instead of what I think I should. I’ve made a pledge to myself never to be someone who wears black or beige in an attempt to appear invisible no matter how old I am, though I am increasingly becoming a fan of comfort!
Coord is from Shein (get 15% off with code alicec15); Boots and sunglasses are past season Primark and two of my FAVE items; Scarf is made in Scotland by the wonderful Johnstons of Elgin; Bag was custom made for me by Edinburgh-based designer Leyelesi
Embrace colour whole-heartedly
Black is not the solution to looking slim and trendy – colour is! Seriously, I can’t stress enough how flattering a vibrant palette is. The key is finding which colours work best for you (and you feel most comfortable wearing) and build your looks around them. Even bright accessories will add a modern take to your outfits.
Work with, not against your body type
While I believe no one should avoid wearing an outfit they love because it allegedly doesn’t suit her shape, it’s a fact that certain styles suit particular bodies best. As my figure has changed through age, I’ve certainly adapted my look. While teenage teeny Alice loved to showcase her slender legs, 25-year-old Alice prefers an outfit that showcases her hourglass figure. If an outfit doesn’t make me feel like a solid 10/10 I won’t wear it. Simple.
Sort through your wardrobe regularly
Are you familiar with the expression: so many clothes but nothing to wear? I’ve made a vow to myself to frequently comb through my clothing rails, and either store, sell or donate anything that isn’t receiving the wear it deserves. Sometimes all it takes to find style inspiration is to actually look at what you already have. You may have totally forgotten about a few fashion gems.
Be realistic about your lifestyle
I love sequins. Anything embellished, beaded, or in anyway sparkling is my jam. But I’ve put a moratorium on buying anything more of the bedazzling nature because, quite frankly, these days I hardly go anywhere sequin-worthy. I think the key to creating a wardrobe you’ll find the most value in is to focus on high-quality pieces that work for whatever lifestyle you have, with a few ‘I just HAD to have it!’ wildcards thrown in for good measure.
Investment buys don’t always work out
I’ve bought some pricey pieces over the years with the view that I’ll wear them for years. As I’ve grown up I’ve either outgrown them or no longer like the style. I definitely think your teens and early 20s is a time to play around with fashion, as opposed to investing in lifetime pieces. Buy pieces that you love, as opposed to the ‘essential’ items such as a LBD or trench coat etc.
Shoes make an outfit
As much as it pains me (literally) to admit it, nothing is more critical to creating the perfect outfit than the right footwear. Want to elongate your legs/ make ankles look slimmer? Wear a nude pump. Trying to make a simple outfit on trend? Try a bold ankle boot. However, in my 25 years I’ve still not found the perfect, comfy, wear-with-everything shoe – I’m starting to think it doesn’t exist!
Be prepared to experiment
Whenever people ask how I’ve learned to style outfits so well, I always bring them to one specific memory: I was 14, and wearing a blue china print top. I was going to pair it with a blue cardigan (makes sense, right?) but my friend Georgina (hey George!) suggested I try a rich fuchsia-coloured one instead. And just like that, my love of colour and ability to think outside the box when it comes to fashion was born. The moral of the story? Never be afraid to try something out of your comfort zone – you never know what you’ll achieve!
Plan your outfits
Back when I worked the ol’ 9-5 I’d always look out what I was wearing the night before. Not only did this speed up my morning routine but it helped me avoid a style rut. Taking this approach also helps you wear more of your clothes, instead of rotating the same few items for ease.
Aim to mix and match
This is something I still struggle with, largely due to my love of statement pieces that are amazing on their own but don’t go with the dozens of other statement pieces in my wardrobe *sigh* However, I do acknowledge that the best way to fill your rails with outfits you’ll actually wear is to find garments that work with each other.
Fashion is a wonderful icebreaker
There’s been many times at events I’ve had people come up to me and compliment my outfit, or vice versa. I’ve found fashion to be a great conversation starter and it’s even helped me make friends. True style transcends any income bracket or location in the world, which is one of my favourite things about it.
Beware online shopping
Growing up in a small town where the only clothes stores were New Look and TK Maxx (seriously) I fell into the world of online shopping in my early teens. There’s a lot of plusses to buying clothes digitally – the convenience, the ability to compare different brands, and of course the access to a heeeuuuge scope of items – but as I’ve become older I’m more aware of the pitfalls. It’s so easy to spend a fortune at the touch of a button, plus loads of items aren’t as they seem. I’m not saying don’t shop online. Just keep tabs on your purchasing if you do.
Great outwear is an outfit in itself
My love of coats and jackets is well documented, and that’s because I honestly do believe they are the quickest and easiest way to update any look. From bikers to bombers, trenches to tuxedo jackets, this is a field I’d definitely advise to invest in. I love a bold coat on a dreary winter’s day. Or a bold jacket to brighten up summer neutrals. Tbh I just love bold everything.
Aim to accessorise
Coco Chanel always advised to take one thing off before you leave the house; my ultimate style icon, Iris Apfel, advises to add another on. Whichever school of thought you subscribe to, we can all agree that accessories are the key finishing touches to an outfit. At the moment I’m a fan of wearing a scarf open over my ensemble, or accessorising with some massive earrings.
Animal print is a neutral
I love anything animal print, which is great as it goes with everything. Seriously people, try it! While it may be very on trend right now, leopard fabric is timeless. For a low-key, classic look, try brown leopard accentuated with black and pillar box red. If you’re feeling bold, clash alllll the animal prints, baby!
The perfect jeans do not exist
I honestly don’t understand why most women find jeans shopping so tricky, or why no brand seems to have fully taken this on board. You know what? Jeans aren’t actually essential! These days I prefer a good high-waist trouser, though if I ever do find the holy grail that is a pair of comfy, flattering and versatile jeans, I will absolutely let you know.
Well-fitting garments are key to high-end style
Nothing screams cheap like an ill-fitting item. Look for clothes that fit you like a glove, and if they don’t then make friends with your local tailor. Over the years I’ve regularly visited tailors to have trouser legs taken up, skirts taken in, and all manner of other adjustments. It’s generally very cheap and really elevates an item from average to spectacular.
Adopting a uniform is fine
Formulaic dressing? I’m here for it. My formula may be a bit more, er, in-your-face than others, but day-to-day I definitely rely on styling-by-numbers like most people. Once you find a look you like, it’s absolutely OK to replicate it. In fact, this is pretty much what having a personal style is all about!
Some people will hate what you’re wearing. Get over it
The joy of dressing in the 21st century is that it’s so diverse. Personally, I’m drawn to people who aren’t afraid to rock the clothes they love, regardless of if I’d wear the look or not. I believe all styles, body shapes, colours, prints, and trend inspirations are to be celebrated. Don’t expect everyone to love what you wear, but you should expect to enjoy the freedom to express yourself however you feel comfortable.
‘Real’ people inspire my style more than any celebrity
Even before the days of Instagram, I’d trawl the feed on Lookbook to find real life outfits to covet. I love looking at what other people are wearing, and I’ve made many a purchase on others’ recommendation. One of my favourite aspects of social media is the ability to share our looks with people all over the world.
A great outfit makes my day
I love the motto: ‘get up, dress up, show up’. Wearing something I love automatically makes me happier and more confident. Fashion is often criticised as being a vacuous pursuit, but I truly believe in the power of clothing to make people feel good about themselves, and that everyone can look amazing.
Perfection is overrated
Scrolling through Instagram, it’s easy to feel inferior from the screeds of Insta-models with impossible figures, clad head-to-toe in designer clothing with hair flowing down to their waists. I think looking ‘flawless’ is overhyped. What you wear is the first insight others have into who you are as a person: make the most of it! You don’t need a 25-inch waist to look good, nor do you need to spend a fortune. When you are confident in your own style and who you are it really shows.