Most of us have a friend or family member who always seems to be stuck in a style rut. Unfortunately, and sometimes even despite their best efforts, these loved ones do themselves no favors dressing the way they do. And it's not just about the clothes; wearing outdated styles can often disguise the beauty hidden beneath. Maybe it's time to help them understand just how much they can shine with just a few updates to their look.
Or perhaps you are the one holding on tightly to your outdated neon, spandex, Madonna-circa-Suddenly-Susan outfits just as tightly as to your hair metal CD collection. Are you drawn to watching What Not To Wear marathons? Or is it your style-stuck friend who fits that description? In either case, you might be making (or hearing) a cry for help.
But how do you answer such a call? Even if a friend has asked for your advice, telling someone her personal style is out of whack is a very delicate topic and more than a bit complicated. While you may have the best intentions at heart, your style-challenged friend may feel like she is being judged or, worse, attacked, and she might react by getting defensive, upset, and leaving with hurt feelings. This will obviously have the exact opposite effect you are going for.
So here are six tips for easing into the conversation (or, if you're on the receiving end, for recognizing that someone is offering you help with nothing but love):
1. Begin by complimenting the positive aspects of someone's look, pointing out what she is doing right. Then mention in a non-threatening, cheeky way that she might be hiding all of her fabulous potential under bad clothes. This way, it's the clothes' fault, not the person's, and this will allow your friend to be more open to suggestions.
2. Flip through magazines together and offer your opinions on what items would look great on your friend and enhance her natural beauty.
3. Play dress-up in her closet and act as her stylist, pulling items for her to try on, including pairing pieces in combinations she would have never thought of. Use her accessories to style her and accentuate her assets. Doing this will help you help your friend realize she already has the tools to look great, and it will also help identify where there are gaps in her wardrobe.
4. After you've shopped her closet, go shopping together and make it fun! Having someone as a sounding board and second opinion can help make the shopping experience less painful and frustrating for some people. Your friend's outdated clothing might actually be less about her taste than about her dislike of dealing with overwhelming clothing stores and the whole shopping experience. The obvious bonus of having a shopping buddy is, of course, that other people can often see things in or about us that we can't see for ourselves.
5. When all else fails, try using some sneaky psychology by getting your friend to talk about her own style by first talking about where you may need improvements in your own look. Opening up about yourself with be an invitation for her to do the same.
6. A common mistake or excuse for someone getting in a style rut is the belief that you can't keep up with the times because you can't afford to buy new things. The truth is that you really don't have to spend a fortune to look your best. Figure out what's fresh and modern (which is as easy as flipping through a few magazines, using Pinterest, perusing a few fashion blogs, shopping boutiques online, or asking a stylish friend to be your guide), and then, armed with that knowledge, head out to discount stores or even well-stocked thrift shops.
If a friend is ready for a style upgrade and your desire to help comes from a kind and sincere place, you can absolutely have that conversation without losing the friendship. As you apply the above tips, just remember to keep the focus on letting the world see all the greatness you know someone has to offer. Don't judge or criticize the bad things but embrace and celebrate the good things.
Have you ever asked for or given style advice to a friend or family member? How did it go? What are your best tips for having this delicate style conversation without creating hurt feelings?
Check out my Resource Guide for some stylish inspiration!