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20 Style Tips to Master Before You're 20

20 Style Tips to Master Before You're 20

Anyone can be trendy, but what does it take to have style?

There is a difference, after all. Whether you’re buying a candy bar or shopping for health insurance, every brand tells a story. Packaging, logos, images — they all tell you more about the product than a three minute advertisement. The value, target audience, and strengths can be summed up in a single glance.

The same can be said of style, to some degree. We are not here to market ourselves or advertise our value according to what we wear, but an individual’s style can be a sort of personal brand. People who are more aware of their style tend to have a concise wardrobe and a good idea of what story they want to tell. Their style is not a projection or definition of who they are, but rather a reflection.

I’ve always loved plaid!

I’ve always loved plaid!

I grew up about sixty miles off the end of the earth, riding my horse to school and sporting my brothers’ hand-me-downs. Rural life is not the best catalyst for style evolution, but when God gives you gifts He also provides ways for you to develop and use them.

“Fashion” was never in my vocabulary, nor in my mother’s, but she was the epitome of ‘class’ and brought me up to respect and appreciate quality workmanship and beauty with meaning.

I may have been in the middle of nowhere, but my mother directed community theater and always had a love of classic film and historic costume. We didn’t have access to T.V. or magazines, but my mother’s imagination was infinite and wildly contagious. We never had money for new clothes or even trips just to look at them, but she was still able to teach me about style and resourcefulness.

In the same way that leftover beef bones and vegetable skins were boiled into a hearty broth, an old lace curtain became a Marie Antoinette dress, and a smooth blue bedsheet provided ample fabric for medieval sleeves and a flowing skirt. We told our own stories with our creations, and also fabricated those for Arsenic and Old Lace and Tom Jones in her community plays.

Her grandmother, Dorothy, looked like Barbie and practiced every style trick in the book. She had six high quality outfits in her closet that could be mixed and matched, and later, my mother wore them all for decades before passing them on to me. I still wear them and they are in better condition than pieces I bought three years ago.

We like to think that it’s 2018 and our culture is so over judging books by their covers. I’d contend that a few social media movements haven’t erased thousands of years of neurologically categorizing each other into classes and sects from our human nature. There are numerous studies that correlate physical attractiveness with income; Americans will spend $845 million on face-lifts alone in a year. But there are also studies suggesting that for every dollar spent on cosmetic products, only four cents returns as salary. (How Much is Being Attractive Worth? SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE)

Austin Powers, anyone?

Austin Powers, anyone?

So. What do we like to do? If we look good, we’ll make more money. Have better relationships. Be more successful. That’s what the media and several researchers say, right? Let’s dump all our money into clothes and products that we probably don’t need. Let’s tell a story with our clothes that says “I’m better, more important, more powerful, than you.”


That is not style. That’s marketing.

The way you dress doesn’t have to go into any of those petty issues. Style is supposed to be an extension of who you are: a sort of packaging that you can use, not to sell your story, but to tell it. It’s not a tool to empower you, but a tool to express the feeling of empowerment that comes from the root of who you are. You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money. You don’t have to look like Audrey Hepburn or even dress like her. Just know yourself. It doesn’t mean you can’t go to the store in your pjs. I do that all the time. But when I do go out and about, wrapped up in pink and green and black, with a little hint of vintage and a dash of grunge, I feel so incredibly and wholly “myself.” Find what’s important to you and go with that.


When it comes to Style, I’ve had a pretty bizarre evolution, and I’ll probably spend my whole life fine-tuning it. I haven’t reached twenty yet, the influence of my mother’s creativity and my great grandmother’s direction with vintage clothing have helped me accumulate some guidelines that have given me some “flow.” These tips are for my style and tell my story, so they won’t apply to everyone, but a few might: and if they don’t, they might get you thinking about your own Style and what story you’d like to tell with it.

Stop copying the mannequins in Macy’s or H&M each season. They have no soul. They have no story to tell. They’re just there to ask you for money. I think that’s the difference between ‘trendyness’ and ‘style.’


20 Style Tips to Master before You’re 20


13 Items Always in my Closet

  • Quality leather jacket

  • printed button down long sleeve shirts

  • plain t-shirts and sweaters

  • plain jeans and trousers

  • 2 plain and printed skirts

  • simple dresses

  • statement earrings

  • simple necklace

  • a bright beanie or beret

  • collar clips and ribbons

  • 2 pairs of dress shoes

  • 1 pair black creepers

  • 1-2 pairs tennis shoes

  1. Quality over Quantity.

    It’s the GOLDEN rule when it comes to building a lasting wardrobe. Having a dozen well made pieces with quality fabrics and simple lines will save you a lot more time and money in the end than buying new “cheap and trendy” pieces every season. Build a foundation wardrobe with nice things that you can wear for years and add trending pieces only occasionally to update your looks. 

  2. Color scheme

    Choose three colors that you feel most confident in and stick to that when buying clothes so that you can mix and match all of your pieces. Throw in a contrasting accent piece every now and again, but try to keep colors that can be worn with the majority of your other garments. My wardrobe consists primarily of forest green, blush pink, and black. 

  3. Consult Mother Nature

    If God put the colors or textures together in nature, go ahead and put them together in your wardrobe! A great deal of thought went into designing flowers and sunsets and furry animal coats. Mixing textures is my favorite way to make an outfit more interesting.

  4. Tasteful Shoulder Pads

    Wear small shoulder pads in your new sweaters to give your entire outfit a vintage, 1930’s vibe that will also accentuate your waist by broadening your shoulders. Just be careful to keep it 1930’s with the little pads and stay away from the 1980’s. 

  5. Dress it up

    Replace the buttons on your shirts and cardigans with more interesting ones to make the look your own. Use small clips and brooches on the tips of your collar for extra sparkle or tie a thin ribbon bow under your collar for a vintage feel. Opt for heels with jeans or a nice jacket with a sundress to dress simple articles up, or try wearing embroidered patches. I have a rose patch I love to wear on sweaters and jeans.

  6. Does it really need to be washed?

    Wash your clothes as little as possible. Washing machines are extremely rough on clothing, especially when the proper detergents and water temperatures aren’t used. Natural fibers, such as wool or silk, deteriorate when exposed to common chemical detergents.  They hold up much better when cleaned in cold water with proteins found in hair shampoo or natural acids such as vinegar. In most cases involving synthetic fibers, you can get away with using significantly less detergent overall to make your clothes last longer.

  7. How aggressively does it need to be washed?

    Wash and dry your clothing on the lowest setting you are comfortable with. Workout clothes are designed to withstand thorough and frequent washing and drying, but other items such as jeans and dresses don’t need to be washed as often and are happier when left to dry in the sun. For nicer clothing, clean only the perspiration and spills when needed in the affected area in the sink or with a wash cloth. Consider using mesh washing machine bags for delicate garments.

  8. Slips are wildly underrated.

    Always wear a slip under a dress or skirt. The more fabric between you and the outside of the garment, the better it will flow. Slips also prevent unwanted lines and static, especially when wearing tights. Furthermore, a slip holds up in washing much better than dresses do, and protects the garments from oils in your skin or perspiration. 

  9. Distressed Stockings

    Remove the elastic strands from the top of your knit stockings to bring a softer, warmer, and more authentic feel to your layered outfit.

  10. Eyeliner is serious business

    Give the liquid eyeliner a break for everyday looks. Try dampening a small slanted brush and dipping it in eyeshadow for a more natural and controlled line. Experts suggest following the angle of your last lashes when making cat eyes to give you the best shape for your eyes. You can dress it up by lining your inner corners with a contrasting silver or gold eyeshadow. After I line my top lids, I use whats left on the brush for the lower lids for a more subtle look. Using white or nude eyeliner on the inside of your lower lids can really brighten your eyes and make them appear larger. 

  11. Lipstick is always relevant

    Give a bold lip a modern twist by wearing a slightly lighter color on your lower lip or opting for magenta over true red. Consider wearing pale colors if you have bolder eye makeup.

  12. Think tall.

    Choosing socks the same color as your trousers, pointed or nude shoes, and wearing high waisted bottoms help elongate your legs and make you appear taller. Small prints, large earrings, and darker colors are good at that too.

  13. Know how to mix prints and colors

    Small prints and large prints work really well together without getting too loud.  Stripes and florals work well together, but are best combined when following the small print + large print rule. Wearing a monochrome outfit with contrasting shoes or bright accessories is my favorite way to mix colors. Black and navy clash like the Hatfields and McCoys, but black and brown can work together if you have a black and brown belt, print, or weave that can tie the look together. 

  14. Don’t box up all your friends for six months

    Make your summer pieces wearable in colder months by pairing them with fun tights and cropped sweaters. A good pair of short leather boots and a long jacket or cardigan can also do the trick. 

  15. Be kind to your feet

    Invest in high quality shoe inserts and try to wear a sock when you can. I have a great pair of insoles that fit into every pair of shoes that I own. Find a pair that suits you, and then keep them in mind when purchasing other shoes. I also find that as long as the shoe can hide a very low-cut sock, the chance of getting blisters or feeling unsupported will go way down. Your feet will thank you in 20 years if you keep them properly supported and save the cute but painful shoes for very rare occasions... or someone else. The ‘Quality over Quantity’ rule definitely applies to shoes.

  16. Wash your face twice a day and moisturize religiously.

    I hate being fussy with beauty routines, but taking care of your skin can save you a lot of time and money not having to mess with face makeup — and you’ll probably delay a few wrinkles while you’re at it. I’m sorry to suggest wearing sunscreen because I’m the worst at remembering that, but it’s definitely a really good idea.

  17. Hats are also wildly underrated

    Many people feel silly wearing hats, but I find that aside from keeping you about 12 times warmer, they also make people smile and can really crank your outfit up to eleven. Jewel-toned Berets and beanies are a great way to add color and spunk to an outfit without looking like you’re off to the Kentucky derby… or just a boring person who doesn’t believe in hats.

  18. Leggings are not pants

    Leggings are comfortable and warm and in everyone’s closet. The tricky part is knowing how to be tasteful with them. Large-printed leggings and mesh cutouts are cool for the gym, but not always attractive in an everyday outfit with boots and a sweater. This may seem like the principal’s office calling you down for a wardrobe check, but I strongly suggest wearing shirts long enough to cover what pants are designed to cover and drawing more attention to your shoes or accessories. 

  19. Second hand isn’t always second rate.

    Vintage coats, belts, and skirts are probably going to last you longer than new ones. A vintage coat can make a statement without making noise.

  20. Get inspired

    Watch black and white movies from when Hollywood’s costume budget was through the roof. Click through the designer runway collections on the Vogue website, or simply pay attention to what people are wearing around you. Pinterest can be a great resource, especially for looking at vintage fashion, but can lead you to a bit of a mainstream rut if you’re not careful. Finding bloggers on instagram is another great way to get inspired. 

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