Style and Styling

Style Shortcuts

More Style, Less Effort!

Happy day, reader dear!

Sometimes when I meet people they ask about shortcuts to style. I could tell them something like, “Wear a scarf,” “Always wear earrings,” or “Master the half-tuck.” But those tips aren’t for everybody! Style is a skill, not just a mystical thing that some people have, and others don’t. If you want to be more stylish, you can learn about style, just like if you want to learn to stand-up-paddleboard, you can do that! It will take some time, some falling over, and some frustration, but if you want to learn, it can be done.

Style really comes from knowing who you are, and how to express that. Once you learn the language of clothing, and practice it, turning out stylishly gets easier and easier. There is no such thing as “Effortless Style” but it becomes much moreso when you internalize some style shortcuts! When I work with my clients, I like to help them create a:

1. Style Cocktail

A style cocktail distills (hence cocktail) the essence of you in two to four words. It will change as you change, grow, and evolve. It reflects not only who you are, but how you want to express yourself, how you want others to perceive you. Your cocktail in your 20’s will be very different than in your 40’s, and it evolves as you do. It’s not a style name, like Classic, or Boho, Dramatic, or Feminine, because any one woman will like aspects from different styles. One style is usually too snug a fit! Your Style Cocktail may incorporate a style word or two; they will speak to you, and to your definition of them!

The words in your cocktail help you shop and dress. They are your ingredients. If something you are pondering at the store doesn’t fit into your cocktail, you’re not likely to wear it. Everything you buy and/or wear should reflect or support your Style Cocktail.

2. Outfit Recipes

Outfit Recipes are simply easy (for you) favorite outfit combinations. Just like chicken and potatoes can be changed hundreds of ways by changing the spices and cooking methods, your outfit recipe can also be changed by changing your outfit spices (accessories, colors, etc.). Here’s a whole post about Outfit Recipes, but the ideal recipe is highly adaptable, and repeatable with variations… Just like chicken and potatoes.

Looking back over my outfits for the past month, I see some repeated recipes:

Loose Top + Narrow Pant (Or Shorts) + Flats

Yes, I am in love with the new denim top I bought in Arizona to replace my loose chambray shirt (With stains that cannot be removed… Sigh.)

Loose Top + Cropped Jean + Heels

I prefer a loose or untucked shirt when the weather is hot, and when I am feeling fluffy. Better for air circulation!

Dress + Trousers + Heels

Dress + Trousers is a look a friend of mine rocked 15 years ago when we lived in England. She was cute and quirky in her dress, jeans and sneakers. I never imagined myself in it then, but never say never. I’m not much of a sneaker girl, but when I tried it with heels? Bam. I fell in love with it and how it feels last year. I’m still working on why…

Hmmmm. I think an outfit recipe file post for different body shapes might be in order! Let me know if that sounds like a good plan to you!

3. Style Touchstones

Style Touchstones are a refinement of the Style Cocktail. Maybe your cocktail is a mojito, but this season you are loving a blueberry mojito served frozen rather than on the rocks. It’s more of a seasonal vibe, in the same way we eat more fruits and veggies in summer when they are fresh and abundant, we may shift our style to reflect that seasonality. When I was struggling (Very odd for me!) with my Spring Capsule, I was missing a vibe, which turned out to be One-and-Done. When I thought that through, I saw that I wanted Simple Soft Drama. So Simple Soft Drama is my Style Touchstone for spring. Simple might mean One-and-Done, like a dress, or monochromatic dressing. Soft can manifest in texture and/or color; I’m really drawn to whites and greys this season, nothing harsh. Drama is expressing as something oversized, like an accessory: scarf, necklace, or earrings. But that Drama needs to stay soft and simple. There’s nothing fussy or overdone about it. Extravagant, yes. Overdone, no. One really big bling, rather than lots of bling.

You can see how my Style Cocktail and Touchstones dovetail. The touchstones put a day to day focus on how I choose to show up in the world. They can change from season to season, but will always be consistent with my personality, lifestyle and values as expressed in my cocktail.

If style is a struggle, start with just one. Like any habit, style takes practice. When the first becomes easy, add another to the mix. There’s no special order you need to follow, any one of them will help inform the others; start with whichever one seems easiest to you! Hint: If you are a perfectionist, you might want to skip over the Style Recipe until you’ve had some practice with the other two. When you get wrapped around trying to get it perfect, you won’t get anywhere. (Lesson hard learned.)

Let me know how it goes! Or if any of these speak to you. Do you work any of these shortcuts or habits already? Let me know in the comments below… I love to hear from you!

Stylishly yours,



    Liz, I realized I have my cocktail worked out and I LOVE my outfit recipes but I realize I need to work on my touchstones. How would you suggest I do that? Is that my particular mood I want for the Spring season we’re in? Does this mean also concentrating on the special details as well? I’ve never heard of this idea of touchstones before!

    • Liz K

      Yes, Natalie. For me, touchstones are a feeling, mood, or vibe that I’d like for a season. This varies depending on what we are going through. For example, last winter was all about cheerful and cozy for me. (The ‘rona restrictions were really wearing on my spirits.) Often it is the details that really bring this to the fore. When I plan my capsules, they will always be in line with my coloring and Style Cocktail/Personality. Sometimes I ask my clients “How do you want/need your wardrobe to support you this season?” What’s coming up? What do I need to be my best?

  • Ruth Baxter

    Love the concept of the style cocktail – I’ve always found style genres and style icons (What Would xxx Wear?) a bit restrictive and the idea of an overall vibe is much more useful – creating the definition is the tricky bit.
    I am currently working with “off-duty architect who isn’t afraid of colour” as my vibe – it’s not perfect (and it’s definitely not catchy) but it’s as close as I’ve come to defining the way I choose to present myself though my clothes.

    • closetplayadmin

      Off-duty-architect-who-isn’t-afraid-of-colour is a fun cocktail, albeit a little long! Do you gravitate toward more structured (no pun intended) or more relaxed pieces? The architect portion of your cocktail makes me think structured… My vibe changes from season to season depending on mood. Over winter it was more cozy, and now more airy. My cocktail hasn’t changed, but the touchstones/vibe certainly does!

  • Leslie Susan Clingan

    Ok, I want to do this and understand this because I think I often see something that someone else is wearing and buy it just because it looked great on THEM. A recent J.Crew Factory dress is one thing I bought without regard to how it would look on me.

    So, my cocktail… fun, on-trend, colorful and usually involves a print or pattern or texture…is that a cocktail? Please help!

    • closetplayadmin

      Thank you for visiting, Leslie! You are not the only person who makes that buy-it-because-you-liked-it-on-her mistake… I see it in wardrobes all the time! And it’s corollary, buying-it-becuase-your-friend-with-whom-you-shopped-loved-it. But you want to do what, Leslie? Adopt a new style habit and work on it? Or create a style recipe? Fun, On-Trend, Colorful sounds like a good start, but more of a description of what you like to buy. Color and pattern are often associated with fun (and casual) so you have some repetition in there. Your recipe should have some personality and/or values ideas grounded in there, as well! I have to get down to the personality posts shortly… Was the J. Crew dress fun? On-trend? Colorful?

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