In 2013 I published my first book, The Power of Style—a handbook for women full of every kind of tip and trick and guide to make getting dressed an easier and more enjoyable part of every day. Over the years I've spent covering the red carpet, writing for magazines and preaching the good word of Bobbie's Buzz on TODAY, I've learned (and taught myself) invaluable information about how we dress our bodies, the colors we wear and the secrets to making it all come together. Below, you'll find an introduction of sorts to three of the styling pillars I rely on (which are detailed in the book, of course!).
PILLAR 1: THE X FACTOR
If you’ve ever loved a dress on a friend and borrowed it only to realize it didn’t look quite right on you, or been drawn to a trend, like high-waisted denim, but have never been able to find a pair that flatters, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Sadly, clothes aren’t cut with every body in mind. While you can recite your jeans, dress, shirt, and shoe sizes off the top of your head, could you tell me what your body shape is? Have you ever thought about it? If so, do you know what items work for or against your figure? We live in a three-dimensional world, so our challenge is finding the right fit from clothing that appears two-dimensional on a hanger. It’s not about size; it’s about shape.
As an individual, I’ve gone through this with my own clothes over the years and had to figure out what looks best on my body. As a style editor, I’ve also had to become intimately and instantly familiar with complete strangers of all shapes and sizes, who depend on me to come up with the perfect outfit on the spot. Born of necessity, the X factor appeared. I visually spot an X on someone’s frame to quickly assess that person’s body type, how I might balance his or her look, and in turn suggest the most flattering option.
Seeing this mental mark allows me to envision an axis point from which to focus, as well as areas that should be highlighted or adjusted. The X factor can help you shift your mind to shift your shape. For every perceived problem area there is an equal and opposite positive area. Understanding this concept will spare you hours of frustration in front of your closet, save you decades of dressing-room drama, and give you hints when looking at something on the hanger. We are all of various heights, we all carry weight a little differently, and all our body parts are uniquely our own. Yet most people typically identify with one of five general body types: hourglass, triangle, inverted triangle, diamond, or rectangle. To figure out which body type you fall under, all you have to do is find your X.
PILLAR 2: KNOW YOUR COLORS
One of the most powerful styling tools you have at your disposal, and the first place I like to start when talking about fashion, is color. It’s something that surrounds you every day and is already hanging in your closet. Not only do colors carry with them certain associations that can help you attract the things you want and make stronger style statements, but they can also visually alter your look in dramatic ways.
You’d be surprised at how a simple color change can help you look more alert, improve your mood, and visually brighten you up. On the flip side, if you’re wearing a color unsuited to your specific complexion, it has the potential to wash you out, highlight imperfections like dark circles or fine lines, or cause you to appear run-down. This is why it’s so important to know which colors work best, not only for your physical makeup, such as your skin tone and features, but also for specific circumstances. When you use color to your advantage, to accentuate your features instead of compete with them, and to reinforce your messages, it will further articulate your style speak. Best of all, it’s a great place to begin building a flattering wardrobe, since you can start with items you already own.
COLOR TONES AND SEASONS
WARM IF BY LAND: To state the obvious, warm colors evoke feelings of warmth: fire, heat, etc. I like to take it a step further and call these the land colors. Think of rolling hills, lush harvests, golden sunsets, the vast landscapes of deserts, and rich red earth. These are your browns, orange-reds, dusty yellows, and earthy forest greens.
AUTUMN: Autumns are part of the warm category, with green undertones, and often have low-contrast features. Not all but a majority of people with brown hair and brown eyes fall into this category, as do most classic redheads. They may appear to have an overall rich, spicy coloring. If you are an autumn, you look best in earthy as well as muted warm colors, such as spicy reds, burnt oranges, moss greens, and deep plums. Your best neutrals would be cream and dark chocolate brown. Celebrity Autumns include Susan Sarandon, Beyoncé, Julia Roberts, and Eva Mendes.
SPRING: Springs are also part of the “warm” complexion category, with green undertones, and they tend to have low-contrasting features. Many springs have an overall clear, golden coloring and look best wearing golden browns, corals, peaches, yellow greens, and aquas. For neutrals, go with ivory instead of white and golden brown instead of black. Celebrity springs include Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Reba McEntire, and Rashida Jones.
COOL IF BY SEA: Cool colors, on the other hand, are meant to conjure feelings of cold, ice, etc. I call these the sea colors. Whenever I envision the cool color palette, my mind immediately goes to deep ocean waters, the jewel tones associated with sunken treasures, and all the blues, emerald greens, and purples associated with this.
SUMMER: Summers also fall under the cool category but generally have a low contrast between their hair, skin, and eye color, meaning everything is similar in intensity (e.g., light eyes paired with light hair). Summers may be referred to as having a “soft and subtle” appearance and seem to have a more neutral (sometimes beige in lighter skin tones) coloring. They can lean toward presenting an overall ashy tone rather than a golden one. If you are a summer, you look best in cool, muted colors, including most blues (blue-gray, periwinkle, etc.), lavender, pastel pinks, and browns. When it comes to neutrals, opt for sand or soft white and slate gray or charcoal. Celebrity summers include Farrah Fawcett, Rihanna, and Jodie Foster.
WINTER: Winters are classified as those cool people with blue skin undertones, who usually possess a high contrast between their hair, skin, and eye color. This typically means they have darker hair and lighter skin and eyes. Their coloring can be referred to as crisp and distinctive, and they look best in similar bright, deep colors, such as navy, emerald green, hot pink, and true red. As far as neutrals, winters should wear stark, crisp white and clear black. Celebrity winters include Elizabeth Taylor, Courtney Cox, Brooke Shields, Anne Hathaway, and Ann Curry.
PILLAR 3: THE KIT
A good styling kit can save you from any number of fashion catastrophes. I recommend making sure you add any essentials you don’t already own to your emergency stash because trust me—it’s better to be safe than sorry! Stock up on these style savers for when you need them most.
SECRET WEAPONS FOR EVERY OUTFIT
Ann West shoulder pads: It depends on your body type, but for me, it can help fill out a blazer or a dress, or it can be a fix in a pinch if something is cut a little too broad to fill it out better. Can add shape or
QUICK FIXES & FINISHING TOUCHES
Assorted safety pins ($12)
Clear Packing tape & Black gaffer tape (to help keep a belt in place)
Assorted binder clips
ESSENTIAL & AMAZING TOOLS
STEAMER FOR HOME:Joy Mangano 'My Little Steamer' handheld clothing steamer ($30)
FOR TRAVEL: for travel and professional Jiffy J-2000 garment steamer, $175
Large ($TK) and small ($TK) scissors