There are three tricks to making any clothes look a million times better.
1. Choose decent fabrics (nothing will make a cheap synthetic or badly produced silk that creases the moment you put it on look better).
2. Experiment with textures to provide interest and keep the eye moving.
3. Last, but equally important, ensure they fit properly. Too tight, with buttons or zips a-popping makes even the most luxurious items look cheap. But it’s not just about sizing up.
The Princess of Wales (long torso), Akshata Murty (short, at 5ft 4in), Selena Gomez (small, short torso, long legs) and Queen Letizia (needs to make high street look polished) are highly visible maestros of wearing clothes perfectly in sync with their physiques.
If you’re doing the maths on a high street buy, bear in mind it’s more about alchemy than a simplistic equation. Spending £20 to alter a £40 dress can make it look a million dollars.
A one-season wonder can become a long-term player if it’s flattering. Oversized might be the silhouette of the moment, but unless you can carry off the supersize shoulders and extra-long sleeves on the catwalks, keep proportions in scale with your body. Wide trousers can be as long and drapey as you like, but you probably don’t want them sweeping the ground.
Narrower trousers look clunky if the ‘break’ falls awkwardly above your shoes. Cropped jackets can sometimes be made to look much more chic by shortening the sleeves to bracelet length. Ditto a pair of jeans that hit just the right (slimmest) spot above the ankle.
If your main issue is hems being too long or short, it’s worth checking out brands with a choice of petite and regular (and in M&S’s case, long) options. Boden, Hobbs, Mint Velvet, Seasalt, Ro&Zo all do.
I include Ralph Lauren and Polo in this, because although in price terms they’re a little above the high street, the petite range is excellent. Uniqlo stores, meanwhile, offer free alterations on all jeans and trousers prices over £19.90.
Aligne (pronounced Ah-line) has gone one further. The sustainably minded, online British label with a sleek, minimalist aesthetic, is on a quest to help customers find lasting joy from fewer clothes (and cut down on environmentally unfriendly returns). So it’s partnering with Sojo, a nifty app that aims to simplify and demystify alterations and repairs.
Once you’ve received and tried on your Aligne item, you can access the Sojo/Aligne portal at aligne.sojo.uk and select the alterations option. Both the waistcoat and trousers I’m wearing here needed shortening. A few easy-to-follow instructions help you pin your items at the right point.
If you’re in London, Sojo can collect and deliver to your home in five to seven days. Outside, they use DPD couriers and items are returned in seven to 10 days. Aligne is offering alterations and shipping for a reduced flat fee of £15 per item. Bargain – and a brilliant idea that I hope will catch on everywhere.
Lisa wears (top): Longline waistcoat, £149 and wide leg trousers, £119, Aligne; Leather bag, £159, All Saints; Gold plated and blue quartz earrings, £140, Gem Bazaar; Shoes from a selection, Loeffler Randall; All other jewellery Lisa’s own
I’m looking for those dresses which you’ve shown on various members of the Royal family, which look like suits so that what would normally be a separate jacket is part of the actual dress. Are you able to please advise?
I think you’ll find what you’re looking for at Self Portrait. Han Chong, the designer and launcher has perfected dresses (worn by the Princess of Wales) that look like a jacket and skirt – excellent for a fuss free, streamlined look. There’s a very smart cream one on there with black trim and a pleated skirt.
My husband and I have been invited to a late October wedding in Cheshire and I’m at a bit of a loss as to what to wear! The invitation states ‘formal attire’, but now living in Devon and in our mid 60s, we’ve rather given up formal.
I’m 5ft 2ins on a good day and sadly not as slim as I would wish, but we’re very happy with our now ‘informal’ style. I don’t want to spend a lot and I’d like to be able to re-wear an outfit. Your help and direction as to where to start would be much appreciated!
Thank you for your query and nothing wrong with us all having been around the block a few (hundred) times. I reckon formal is often in the eye of the beholder these days and as long as you pull off something stylish and polished that you feel happy and confident in, job done. The re-wear consideration is key too – no one needs a once-only outfit these days.
So, my question is, what do you enjoy wearing most of the time? Even if it’s a t-shirt and leggings, there are bound to be smart alternatives – a tunic and slim trousers for instance (Zara’s a good place to start) Me&Em is a bit pricier, but so good on flattering trousers and dresses that can be worn belted or unbelted, though you may need to get them taken up.
Definitely worth looking to see what they have left in the sales. Also, it may sound daunting, but Vinted, the second hand platform, has some amazing bargains. EBay’s the place for high and low buys (Clare Waight Keller, who was creative directors at Chloe and Givenchy told me it’s her go to).
By the way, on September 15th, her first collection for Uniqlo drops. Some great pieces in there – not your typical wedding guest attire, but you could put together a very elegant outfit.