I’ve been wardrobe-planning-multi-tasking these days, my friends. And thinking how much styling matters in wardrobe planning.

I’ve been planning for early fall, doing some research on Pinterest, and thinking how I can spin my summer and spring closet into one that will work through September. Not just for the weather, but also to satisfy my yearning for a fall aesthetic and still fend off the desire to turn my closet way too early. Not to mention deciding what works now, what to wear out to dinner with a friend, or to lunch on a patio, when it’s August and still really, really hot. Plus I need to decide what to pack for our trip down east. So… multi-tasking. But my absolute favourite kind of multi-tasking, so I’m not complaining.

And as I choose what to wear with what, I’ve been thinking how much styling matters, as I said. As much as the pieces I choose, surely. Because simple styling tricks can turn an outfit from okay, into just right.

Not that I am the queen of styling tricks. Not at all. There will be no sage advice from me, folks. Except to look around to see what others are wearing that looks just right. And to try what is in your closet with whatever else is in your closet. And when one outfit doesn’t work, to try and try again.

To me a well-styled outfit is all about the mix. The mix of textures, and colours, the proportion between top and bottom, the right footwear, the right jewellry and bag. You know. Plus how all of that looks on my body, at my age, with my colouring. And… if all of that works… does the outfit still look wrong because it’s dated? Because fashion has moved on, and if what I’m wearing looks totally 2011, instead of 2021, my outfit will be all wrong… instead of right.

This is what I wore to dinner with an old friend the other night. I wanted to be comfortable, casual, but still look as if I made an effort. And I wanted to wear these “birch” cargo pants from Aritzia and my new chunky Birkenstock-style sandals from Brown’s shoes (similar.) I’ve been wearing these pants a ton since I bought them. Mostly with my black Everlane tank top and my old Michael Kors flat sandals.

But here’s the thing. I wear the pants full length with the flat sandals, like I showed in this post. But the longer, slightly wide-leg pant with the chunky sandals looked too bulky for a summer outfit. Rolling the leg up and flashing a bit of ankle lightened the look. I tried a trick I learned on IG, to fold the leg of the pant over making it narrower, before rolling up. I thought my black Helmut Lang blazer, bought back in 2015, looked really great with the new pants and sandals. This jacket is quite long and can often look too dressy with casual pants. But with the sleeves of the jacket pushed up, the hem of my tank turned under to make it shorter and a bit neater, and my structured leather Mackage cross-body bag… everything seemed in balance. And looked just right.

I was really pleased with this outfit… as you can see. Ha.

Happy that this outfit works well. Two photos on my deck, of me in cream cargo pants, black tank from Everlane, black Helmut Lang jacket, black Brown's sandals.
Off for dinner with a friend.

To keep track of looks I like or outfit ideas that I want to remember, I’ve started two new Pinterest boards. My plan is, as I said, to wear my spring and summer clothes as long as I can. Spring is such a short season, and what with being in lock-down, I’ve hardly worn my spring jackets and coats. So I’ll try to pair them with darker jeans, or with sweaters to be able to wear them longer. I’ll wear my summer pants with fall jackets, fall skirts with sandals, or summer skirts with sneakers and a sweater. That way I can stave off turning my closet for as long as possible. Of course that’s the plan for now. I may capitulate once the leaves start to turn and my yearning for my heavy sweaters and tweed jackets is too strong.

Here are a few pins that I saved. The shot on the far left, above, is of Lydia Tomlinson, a vlogger and influencer from Manchester, UK. I subscribe to Lydia’s YouTube channel. I like her style ideas a lot. Despite the fact that she is way younger and much thinner than I am, many of her outfits can be spun into something appropriate for someone of my age and size. Mind you, with less of the tucking in and none of the short shorts. Ha. You can follow Lydia on IG here @LydiaJaneTomlinson.

The other two shots are from Feminique_Official and The_Kimo.Official, two Korean brands which I follow on IG. Back in May, I wrote about them and some of my other style inspirations in this post. My time on Pinterest is not wasted time, in my opinion. I save photos that give me ideas, or contain a piece which I already own, worn in a new way. I save photos which depict a new style aesthetic or trend that I like, or which simply inspire me to up my style game. You can follow my “Last Days of Summer” or “White-ish Pants” Pinterest boards here and here if you’re interested.

While I was trying ways to style my cargo pants, I also tried them with my white Lafayette 148 shirt. I changed up my silver hoops for black ones, tied the shirt in the front, and wore a black belt that you can’t see in this photo. This outfit actually looked a lot better when I was standing up. But sadly, as you can tell from the look on my face, not good enough to tempt me to wear it out of the yard. Ha. Once again, the too-tailored shirt was, well, too tailored.

What I need is a black linen relaxed-style shirt like this one from Everlane. In fact, I may order this shirt when we get home from our trip. When the temperatures cool a bit, I’ll wear the pants and sandals, or my black loafers, with my black Everlane light cashmere crew neck. And possibly my old black Max Mara jacket. As you see, I’m planning ahead.

Styling matters. And this tailored Lafayette 148 shirt does not look good with my cream Aritzia cargo pants. Sitting face in hand on my deck stairs.
This look was not a hit.

This combination, below, is one I plan to pack for our trip to New Brunswick. I’m wearing my white Everlane tank, Stan Smith Adidas, and a Theory crochet sweater (similar.) I eschewed jewellry of any kind, except my watch. I like this outfit because it’s super casual for running to the grocery store, dropping in on relatives for a cup of tea or a dip in their pool, maybe stopping off for take-out fish and chips (yum), or even for travel days.

All in cream and white for the last days of summer. White Everlane tank, white Theory crochet sweater, cream cargo pants from Aritzia, Stan Smith sneakers.
Super casual: no jewellry, no bag, keys in my pocket.

Styling matters a lot. Wearing an old jacket from 2015, like my dressy Helmut Lang blazer, with loose, casual cargo pants and chunky sandals makes it look current. And totally relevant in 2021. That way my old jacket doesn’t sit unworn in my closet. Styling old pieces with new, and investment pieces with more moderately priced pieces, gives new life to old. And makes our wardrobe and our outfits more interesting.

I had lunch this week with with my friend Liz. You’ve no doubt heard of Liz before on my blog, former personal shopper at Holt Renfrew, and more lately at Nordstom. Liz always knows how to style something just right.

When we met earlier in the week, she was wearing a lovely cognac, boxy linen jacket, from the Massimo Dutti summer sale. The short jacket and rolled up sleeves were just right on Liz’s small frame. With the jacket she wore a white tee, dark-wash jeans, a pair of Prada flats the same congac, what Liz calls “luggage leather” colour, as the jacket, and a classic Gucci tote. The linen jacket is new. The Prada flats and Gucci tote are old, bought back when she still worked at Holt Renfrew. Investment pieces. Vintage, even. The jacket, shoes, and bag worked wonderfully together. The bright white tee lightened everything up. She looked great. And that cognac linen jacket will work well into the fall, I think.

I texted Liz later in the day to ask if she could send me a photo of what she’d been wearing to lunch. She laughed when she sent the photo, that she should have brought Lincoln, their dog, to lunch. He matched her outfit so beautifully. Ha.

My friend Liz in cognac linen jacket from Massimo Dutti, Prada flats, Massimo Dutti tee shirt and jeans. Plus her sweet dog Lincoln.
Liz and Lincoln in matching cognac.

Building a wardrobe of pieces that work together to create outfits which are just right…. which make us feel like a million bucks, when we haven’t spent a million bucks… is not the work of a moment. Investing in classic pieces like Liz’s Prada flats or my Helmut Lang jacket is wise shopping in my view. These pieces might be styled years later with more current, and possibly much less expensive, pieces like my Aritzia cargo pants or Liz’s Massimo Dutti jacket.

Then, you might roll the sleeve or the pant leg. Change out one tote bag for another. Add a chunky sandal to offset a wide-leg casual pant. Change to a structured bag to shift the balance to a slightly dressier esthetic. Or tuck a shirt in, or not. Until you have a look that is just right. For you. And your body. And for the season.

That’s why styling matters. What you choose to wear with what, and how you wear it is every bit as important as the clothing you buy. And paying attention to styling, observing what others wear and how they wear it, looking for ideas on how you might update this or that in your closet, then trying new ideas and combinations with what you already own might just mean you don’t have to go shopping at all.

Now, how about you my friends? Any styling tips that you’ve tried lately to spin an okay outfit into one that is just right? Care to spill the beans?

P.S. Most clothing links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a commission. Except for the Aritzia link. I don’t make any commission on Aritzia links.


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From the archives


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19 thoughts on “Why Styling Matters”

  1. I especially like the look you styled with the white tank and the crochet sweater tied over your shoulders. Thank you for another inspiring Sunday morning coffee read.

  2. I bought your Birks! As I mentioned last week, I was inspired by your purchase to go try them on, and they worked a treat. They’re perfect here in Cascais – they work surprisingly well on our calçada stone sidewalks, which can be slippery and slightly uneven. I wore them out with white jeans (rolled) and an Eileen Fisher high/low silk tank I’ve had for years, and looked, if I do say so myself, rather cute.
    In bigger news, our container finally arrived, so I have a whole new wardrobe (said Eileen Fisher tank was part of that). Since we’re still hip deep in unpacking I haven’t done a whole lot of outfit planning, but I’m looking forward to styling some outfits for the balance of summer here.

  3. It’s nice to see Liz again – almost upstaged by Lincoln in his own cognac outfit . I love how you dissect your outfits explaining why they do or don’t work . I have some baggy cream denims that I roll up but I didn’t know the ankle fold trick . It isn’t always easy finding a new twist to our wardrobe but very satisfying when it comes off . We recently went into York for our wedding anniversary lunch & I was keen to wear my navy Max Mara pencil pleat skirt . It’s very light & floaty – a sort of romantic skirt as it’s longish . I like it with a shortish loose linen jumper in white but felt it needed something else to bring it together . As it was a lovely sunny day , we planned to walk along the riverbank into the city . It’s an area popular with joggers , cyclists & dog walkers so I didn’t want to look too out of place – like her ladyship out for a promenade . Comfy shoes were a must of course , so white leather trainers then I was stuck , still boring . Tailored jackets were wrong & a cardy felt wrong too . Then I saw my old washed navy combat jacket which is soft linen , unlined & very casual so it tempered down the dressy skirt . Added my tan cross over bag , new Welsh pendant & off I went feeling relaxed but put together . It was a lovely lunch only spoilt slightly by a cloudburst as we walked back . Normal British summer .

    1. Your outfit sounds lovely Wendy … belated Happy Anniversary. Isn’t it a great feeling when you realise that you already own something that works perfectly with an outfit? I love walking by the river in York … can you walk to town from your home?
      Rosie xx

      1. Well no Rosie . We drive five minutes , park up & walk . I’d be asleep at the table if we walked the whole way 😄

      2. Rosie,I was wondering about your outfits (more than one,if I remembered :)) for your son’s wedding
        I still remember your Mother of the Bride’s dress,wonderful pearl grey colour lace,wasn’t it? I loved it so much

    2. Belated Happy Anniversary from me,too,Wendy! I could imagine your outfit,classy with the modern touch and a wonderful lunch

  4. I love those Birch pants and the way you’ve styled them — both the dinner-with-girlfriend styling and the keys-in-the-pocket-no-bag look. You’re so good at this! The best I can do these days is throw on a dress and wear it with sneakers — So (too!) much summer here on the formerly-known-as-Wet Coast. . .

  5. You are looking great in your outfits Sue. Putting pieces together and making it look current, is what I always have trouble with. Especially with limits on what shoes I can now wear. Thanks for including the Lydia Tomlinson You Tube channel – it was very helpful. She not only shows you what works but what does not work and most importantly why it doesn’t work together and suggests alternatives.
    Wishing you a great trip to see your Mom.

  6. Your style and the thought process behind it, resonates with me. Have been following you for a few months now, and I really appreciate your outlook and the voice of someone my age.😉

  7. I love how you’ve styled these outfits Sue. Clever trick when rolling up the trousers … I hadn’t heard about it either. Liz’s cognac jacket is gorgeous! I’d buy it in a heartbeat lol . ( I had a quick look on the MD website ) I love both the colour and the shape. Also great to see Liz and Lincoln. My great niece who’s a redhead as are her children have a boxer with the same colour coat as Lincoln. She says when they’re out walking people regularly comment on her dog matching the family!!
    Not sure it’s a styling tip as such 😊 but I bought an ecru / off white denim style jacket last year and I’ve pretty much worn it on repeat this year! It works with everything and most occasions. Except for extra smart, I guess … although I did pop it on over my dress around midnight at my sons wedding and it felt just right for the occasion as we were dancing outside and in a converted barn, in the country. As you know Sue they had their own denim jackets! 😍
    Great to hear that you’ll be off to see your Mum soon.
    Rosie xxx

  8. I also meant to say how much I enjoy looking at the IG links from Korea … I remember you mentioning them before. So stylish and classic. When we were travelling in the cities, so many people looked so well dressed. Dressing beautifully in such classic styles, wearing them in a perfect, casually smart way. Nothing was creased or looked “thrown on” Almost as though they’d just stepped off a Catwalk or straight out of the changing rooms of a designer store. They made it all look so effortless. I remember even in a theme park, some people looked straight out of a Ralph Lauren catalogue.
    I think that I’ve mentioned before how some of the school uniforms looked like Chanel Suits! They looked stunning.
    Rosie xx

  9. I look at some younger bloggers too. Not because I want to look young, but they seem to represent the simpler styles I enjoy, whereas bloggers my age tend to be a little more fussy than I’m comfortable with. I too save outfit inspiration-I’m style challenged. All your outfits are wonderful. I’ve added them to my inspiration boards. I have found, contrary to what you would think, that looser button blouses style better with cargo type pants. Oddly enough this doesn’t work with tees. They look better a little more form fitting.

  10. You’ve always been the queen of styling and making lists each season about the pieces you need in your wardrobe. And as always, we love the same brands. This time Aritzia! Love your suggestion about getting styling ideas from Pinterest. Since I’ve been writing for the past 18 months my thoughts about clothes have fallen off my radar and with Covid still on the move I don’t get out much to wear clothes. Sorry I’ve been missing in action from commenting on your blog posts. My writing is shifting into another gear for a short period of time, so I will try harder at reading and touching base. xoxox, B

  11. I purchased two pairs of cargo pants from Roots in early Spring. They are a cotton linen blend, one pair in off white the other is charcoal. I wore each as a full pant but found as Summer arrived, the look was too heavy so tried my hand at rolling and it instantly changed the look…who knew! I haven’t tried folding before rolling though so will give that a try. Also, I have some t-shirts that are a little on the long side which limits the bottoms I can wear them with. I never thought of folding them under to make them shorter. Thanks for that tip Sue! Loved watching Lydia’s video too.

  12. Love this post and your blog in general. Styling makes such a difference, and can be so difficult. It requires patience and many efforts at trying on… and a good eye.
    Thanks for sharing the Korean ladies. They seem to have what I’m looking for, even though they’re decades younger.
    And also thanks for occasionally sharing an outfit that doesn’t quite work. Your analysis of why it doesn’t work is so helpful.

  13. Yes,styling matters a lot,it is the most important! Love your outfits for dinner and lunch (Liz’ as well,I miss your shopping sessions together,so happy to find that she approves “recognizable” bags ,I’m thinking a lot about one of them,it has everything I need and am looking for but…..)-your Aritzia cargo pants are such a good choice
    I’m on holidays,hence sparse comments
    Enjoy your holidays with Mum,family and friends
    <3 Dottoressa

  14. I just discovered your blog and you are so relatable! I also am a high school teacher in Mississauga and although I am ten years away from my retirement, I completely agree with your sentiment about fashion and dressing well. Love your outfits by the way!

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