How to Look Polished When You’re Naturally Scruffy
How to look polished is one of those questions I feel like I’ve been asking my entire life.
The fact is, I’m not one of those people who always seem to look groomed, even when they’ve just tumbled out of bed. No, in fact, I’m one of those people who has to spend an hour getting ready every morning, just to look vaguely presentable. Since I became a mum, however, I just don’t have that much time to spend on my appearance any more, so I’ve had to quickly get myself up to speed on how to look polished without making a massive effort. Here’s what I’ve learned…
HOW TO LOOK POLISHED: A Guide
Learn how to walk in heels
Yeah, yeah, I know you’re all shrieking in horror at the very IDEA of wearing high heels, but honestly, they’re the easiest way I know to instantly dress up an outfit. And, OK, when I’m out somewhere with Max, I’ll generally go for flats or sneakers instead, because even although he’s not mobile yet, heels don’t feel particularly practical for wrangling a small baby in. For those times when I only have myself to wrangle, though, you better believe it’ll be heels all the way. I will NOT go gentle into that good night. (Find out how to walk in high heels here!)
Find your perfect red lipstick
Even if I’m wearing no other makeup – and I’m frequently NOT – I always feel like red lips make up for it. They’re like the facial equivalent of those killer heels, actually: they kind of dress up the face, and make you look polished, even if that red lipstick is currently the only piece of makeup that’s been out of your makeup bag in DAYS. My go-to is MAC’s Ruby Woo – it’s a complete pain to apply, but nothing beats it for that old-skool glamour look.
Sunglasses hide a multitude of sins
I’ll let you into a secret: 9 out of 10 times, when you see me wearing sunglasses in photos (Which, yes, is ALL the time, basically…) it’s because my eyes are so light-sensitive that they start watering as soon as I leave the house, even on days which “normal” people wouldn’t consider particularly bright.
At least one out of ten times, though, I’m wearing sunglasses purely because I didn’t have time/was too lazy to put on mascara, OR I’m just having a Bad Face Day. Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about – we’ve all been there, right?
(These photos were taken on the one day out of ten, just FYI. And yeah, I DID feel a bit silly in the shades when it wasn’t really sunny, but not as silly as I’d have felt posting a bunch of photos of myself blinking constantly, so…)
OK, if you have kids – or are just super-clumsy, like I am – the thought of wearing pale colours probably sounds like an excellent way NOT to look polished, right? Trust me, though: if you can keep them clean (And I get that it’s a big ‘if’…), outfits made up of neutral shades like white, beige, taupe and cream always tend to look expensive, somehow, and just more polished than other shades. If you really don’t trust yourself to keep them clean, though, I have another suggestion for you…
Go minimal / monochrome
Some of the most stylish people I know are also some of the simplest in terms of personal style. It’s easy to dismiss simple as boring, but the question here is how to look polished, not how to look trendy, and the fact is that simple, classic styles generally tend to look that little bit more polished than fussy styles and busy prints. It’s also much easier to get it right if you keep it simple: there’s a reason head-to-toe black never really goes out of style, after all, and that sounds too funeral for you, you don’t have to stick to black – colours like navy, grey or forest green can be just as effective, without being nearly as draining.
Create a capsule wardrobe
Sticking with the minimal theme, when you don’t have a lot of time to get dressed in the morning, a capsule wardrobe is the perfect answer to that. When you wardrobe is bursting at the seams with clothes in a range of styles and colours, it can be overwhelming, and hard to stay on top of, so paring it down to a small selection of well-chosen basics which will take you anywhere will save you time AND help you look more groomed. (Find out how to clear out your closet and how to build a wardrobe that works.)
Find your iron
Look, everyone hates ironing. Well, OK, almost everyone. If you really want to know how to look polished, though, one of the most important things you can do is find your iron, and learn how to use it. Creased clothes never look polished: and neither do dirty or badly-mended ones, either, so take a look here for some ideas on how to look after your clothes…
Go for quality over quantity
I’m not claiming you have to spend a lot of money to look polished, or that cheap clothes can’t look good, but good grooming starts with good quality fabrics, so it’s important to seek them out, and be willing to invest in them, if necessary. Fast-fashion can be lots of fun, but when it comes to looking polished, quality will always beat quantity.
Fit is everything
With that said, however, even cheap clothes can look polished if they fit perfectly. That perfect fit can be hard to find, but it’s absolutely essential when it comes to looking polished: the most stylish outfit in the world will still look scruffy if it doesn’t fit properly.
Look after your skin, hair and nails
It’s not what anyone wants to hear, because this kind of thing does require a bit of effort, obviously, but it stands to reason that looking groomed requires a bit of, well, grooming, basically. The good news here, however, is that “the simple, the better” doesn’t just apply to clothes: it applies to everything. So, when I say look after your hair, I don’t mean you need elaborate hairdos and lots of products – I just mean you should keep it clean, stay on top of the split ends, and fidn a style that works for your face and your lifestyle: i.e. there’s no point in going for a style that requires a ton of maintenance if you know you won’t have the time for it. Similarly, neat, short nails with neutral polish will look much more polished – excuse the pun – than a set of chipped talons in a trendy colour.