How to Dress Classy
Is it time for you to change up your style? Add a bit of sophistication and class to your everyday look? Maybe you have a new job, maybe you’ve moved to a new city, or maybe you just need a change to represent who you have become. Are you wondering how to make that transition and how to dress classy? I’ll walk you through the ins and outs of styling yourself with a more sophisticated, chic, and classy style that you can wear for years to come (or the rest of your life!).
Classy styling is timeless. The navy shift dress and camel-colored pumps you buy today will still be wearable ten years from now. Buying one good pair of pearl stud earrings outweighs the 10 pairs of trendy statement earrings that will be passé a year after they are purchased. It is an elegant style that can be worn to work, Sunday brunch, a city shopping trip, or traveling the world. You can even go sailing while rocking a classic look!
Sophisticated dressing is all about key elements and combining them properly. So if you are ready to delve into a new classier look, let’s get started.
Know Your Personal Style
Personal style is something that each of us has, we just have to identify it, understand it, and then live it. It projects your mood, personality and you as a whole, reflecting your personal interests, lifestyle, inspirations, and your past.
When you find your personal style you know you look great and feel confident when you leave your home. Whether you prefer bohemian, street, high fashion, minimal or classic, you can make your style look classy when the occasion calls for it.
Typically, classic and minimalist styles will look classy all the time, based on the color palettes and clothing options that these styles represent. But don’t discount the other styles when you want to class it up.
Let’s see what it takes to elevate your style to a more sophisticated level…
The Basics of Dressing Classy
#1 Wear Items that are Made of Classic Fabrics
Classic, timeless clothing is made of materials that will last well into the next decade. Think: cotton, wool, linen, and silk. These four basic fabrics will stand the test of time if cared for properly. Cleaned and pressed, items made of these fabrics tend to give off a classy vibe all on their own.
These fabrics also have variations that allow you to expand on your wardrobe. Denim is one example of a cotton fabric that cuts across all style lines, from street to boho to minimalist. Similarly, chino cotton works great in pants, blazers and even moto jackets (for the street style in you!). Then there is cashmere, a type of wool that feels heavenly against the skin and doesn’t pill with age. Cashmere sweaters, whether they are cardigans, V-necks, or crewneck pullovers pair perfectly with those denim jeans, as well as tailored pants and skirts.
A word to the wise with these fabrics: Read the labels and care for them properly to make them last. While wrinkle-free cotton has become more available, most cotton items will need to be ironed. (Classy doesn’t do wrinkled!) Wool, linen, and silk often have to be dry-cleaned or hand-washed. Make a mistake and you may have to give your 6-year-old-niece that wool cardigan that was a staple in your wardrobe but shrunk in half thanks to your dryer.
#2 If in Doubt Wear Solid Neutrals
Bold patterns and prints can definitely work in a classy and sophisticated look, but you may not be comfortable with those, especially if you are just starting out with classy styling. Neutrals are your friend in this case. They are plentiful in the stores (and probably your closet), easily combined with one another, and help to stretch your wardrobe.
Typical neutrals are white/beige/cream, navy blue, black, and gray. Now, don’t think you have to dress head-to-toe in black (or other neutral). Monochromatic (different shades or tints of the same color) allow you to vary a color but still remain classy, or you can add small accents that can transform a solid into something eye-catching, like a skinny burgundy alligator belt, a paisley scarf, or a pair of red pumps. Want to know more about monochromatic dressing? Make sure to read What is Monochromatic and How to Wear a Monochromatic Outfit.
#3 Fit is Key
Classy and sophisticated clothing is typically tailored and form-fitting (not too tight, but you can show off that figure). Skirts should hit just above or below the knee, as should your dresses. Classic trousers are straight, slightly wide, faintly bootcut, or menswear inspired and should be ½-inch off the floor in the back. Wide-leg pants and skinny pants in classic fabrics are also acceptable, as are ankle pants (shades of Audrey Hepburn!). Blazers, blouses, and sweaters should follow the curve of your waist.
Do not hesitate to take items to a local seamstress or tailor to be altered to fit properly. Love that shift dress at Nordstroms, but it’s too big in the bust? That’s a $15 fix. Are those gray wool pants in your closet too long for classic 3-inch pumps or do you want to wear them with flats? Another $10-15 fix. Remember, good quality clothes will last you for 10+ years, and it is a small price to pay for alterations. Beats having to replace cheap pants every 3 years.
Not everything you wear has to be perfectly tailored and form-fitting. You can mix in unstructured pieces for a more relaxed vibe. Pair a blue-striped t-shirt with chinos and a denim jacket or a flowy maxi skirt with a crisp white button-down shirt (roll up those sleeves for added panache!).
#4 Never Overexpose
Classy dressing requires a bit of modesty. No midriff-baring tops, revealing low décolletage, or mini mini skirts.
Necklines are typically collared, boatneck, crew neck or V-neck. For some variety, you can also try square, cowl, and scoop necks, and for more formal times, asymmetrical, sweetheart and halter necklines work as well. Regardless, keep your cleavage and your belly button covered. Additionally, armholes on blouses and dresses should not reveal your bra.
As noted above, hem length on skirts and dresses should be just above or below the knee for everyday wear, with slightly shorter and full-length appropriate for summer events or classic formal wear.
#5 Don’t Go Overboard with Accessories
Simple jewelry is the best way to go when aiming for a classy and sophisticated style. My recommendations are:
- Earrings: small silver or gold hoops, pearl or diamond studs.
- Bracelet: silver or gold bangles (one heavy or several delicate), tennis bracelet, watch (gold or silver with metal or leather band).
- Necklace: Long pendants, pearls, diamond solitaire, cross.
- Ring: Not necessary, but if you do, go either delicate or statement. Thin bands, diamonds, or heirloom rings are fine, and everyone should have one cocktail ring to wear to events or dress up your jeans. Stick to ring and/or middle fingers only.
- Scarf: Scarves are great way to add color and visual interest to a sophisticated outfit, particularly if it is a solid or monochromatic in color. Again, cotton, silk and wool are your best options. Try multiple colors and fabrics, with light silk or cotton for spring and thicker wool ones for winter. Florals, paisleys, stripes, and solids are great options.
And don’t forget your shoes. Yes, shoes are an accessory! Pumps, slingbacks, ballet flats, or boots in solid neutrals, such as cream, navy or black, are your best bet. All go with a multitude of outfits, meaning you won’t need to break the bank for a closet full of shoes. It’s also said that every woman should own a red pair of shoes, and it never hurts to have an animal print to make an outfit pop a bit. (Think leopard print flats with khakis or denim.)
You Don’t Need a Lot of Money to Dress Classy
Contrary to popular belief, classy outfits don’t have to break the bank. Yes, you can spend $200 on a designer-label button-down shirt, but you can also find one of comparable quality and appearance for $68 at Banana Republic, the Gap or Ann Taylor. And because classic, well-made clothing lasts for years, and even decades, you can often find good bargains at secondhand and thrift stores.
Invest in good quality basics that fit well, and that you can mix and match. Accessories—which are much cheaper than clothing—can help change up your looks and stretch those basics even further.
Keep a Pretty Mani
Your hands, and the jewelry on them are an extension of your wardrobe, and a reflection of the care you take with your appearance, especially if you are wearing a statement bracelet or ring that brings extra attention to those fingers.
Indulge in regular manicures, either at home or in a salon. Keep nails short to medium in length, opting for a nice round or oval shape, with clear or nude polish or a French manicure. Stay away from stiletto nails and bold or neon colors, as well as nail art and jewels.
NOTE: If wearing sandals or peep-toe shoes, a pedicure is a must. I find that a simple clear gloss or nude colors work best, but you can always go with a classic red or pink.
Pay Attention to the Details
They say that the devil is in the details, and dressing classy is no exception. The trick to wearing sophisticated clothing is to keep everything neat, clean, and simple. Make sure that the clothes are flattering on you and colors and patterns are balanced.
All items should be free of wrinkles and color coordinated. Check for holes, loose threads, missing buttons, or a hemline that is frayed. Stick with neutrals with pops of color here and there. Don’t over-accessorize; stick with simple minimal jewelry like a pair of earrings and a watch or earrings and a pendant necklace.
Your hair and makeup also play a role in your overall look. Again, neat and clean. Stay away from metallic eyeshadows in loud colors, be careful not to overdo the blush or bronzer, and stick with a neutral or light lip.
Dressing Classy and Your Personal Style
Dressing classy doesn’t have to be difficult, but it will take some time to meld your
personal style with the new sophisticated way of dressing. Don’t automatically discount the clothing you already have in your closet. You may be able to integrate items in ways you didn’t think possible.
My style is more classic and minimalist but I do like to add color whenever possible. As you can see in this outfit post, I’m wearing a classy dress but with with a pattern that screams personality. The small pops of color don’t overwhelm the dress or me but add to my look.
This dress has all of the details I mentioned above, with the hem ending just above the knees, a crew neckline, and it’s form fitting but not tight. It has that classy shape but with a little attitude.
I’ve paired it with a red handbag, fun metallic pump, and minimal accessories: sunglasses, earrings and a dainty watch. Simple, elegant, sophisticated and it reflects my personal style.
So take a look through that closet again. Maybe you can let the hem down on your favorite skirt or add a cuff to pants that are too long for your ballet flats. And that floral silk blouse? It will look great paired with a neutral skirt and matching pumps. You don’t have to completely give up your own style to be classy and chic, but it will require some effort and modifications.
Are you ready to make the classy transition? Remember classy doesn’t mean boring or without personality. Dressing classy means dressing stylishly and sophisticated. It’s also timeless and elegant.
If you feel like you’re jumping from style to style and don’t have the wardrobe that represents where you are in your life then start integrating the style tips I mention in this post! Shop for pieces that you can wear longer than a season and remember that a good tailor is worth every penny.
I hope this post has answered all your dressing classy questions and you now know how to dress classy. If I missed something leave me a comment and I’ll answer you directly!