How to Dress Fashion Forward Without Chasing Trends

One of the tenets of chic dressing is that it should look thoughtful but effortless. One of the quickest ways to look like you’re trying too hard or relying too much on fashion magazines to dictate your style is for your outfit to be too trend-driven. An It-bag, offbeat shoe, statement jewelry, color-of-the-moment pants, and a top with a quirky high profile runway print all in one outfit is just too much. Let’s talk about how to incorporate trends without looking like Forever 21 exploded on you. 

Speaking of Forever 21, limiting how many seasonal mass retailer items you’re wearing is often a good idea. Mixing high-low isn’t just fashionable, it also keeps the overall outfit from looking cheap, which is always a danger when dressing trendy. There’s nothing wrong with a good dose of H&M in your closet. But that blouse is going to look a lot chicer when paired with some nice wool pants from a higher-end retailer. The quality of cut, fabric, and fit is much more important than the label or price. You can get basics at a reasonable department store that last for seasons and mix in your pieces from “fast-fashion” stores that change over their inventory every month. When you’re talking about a trend, something that is in store for 6 to 9 months like a Tommy Hilfiger sweater has more lasting power than the one at Zara you won’t find next week. By minimizing the number of trends you’re incorporating into an outfit, you can have a lot more fun with the ones you choose! 

One of the easiest trends to incorporate into your wardrobe is a seasonal color palette. Color trends are easy to identify, and when you’re looking for it you can find a certain color nearly anywhere in a variety of items that are flattering to your body. Whereas a certain cut of a skirt might be the height of fashion but not look great on you, you can usually find a right-off-the-runway color that looks nice. Now is a good time to invest in jewel tones. The autumn staples of rich, saturated purples, teals, and magentas had a heavy presence on Spring 2013 runways like Burberry Prorsum, Gucci, Lanvin, and Thierry Mugler. Nearly everyone has some jewel tones in their fall/winter wardrobe. You could wear a light knit with more summery pieces this spring, or to replicate the trend more literally, wear it in a satin.

Black and white was another classic color story that was renewed on the runway this season. Alice + Olivia, DKNY, Catherine Malandrino, Diesel, and Alexander Wang are just a few designers who focused on black and white looks. This color way is so dramatic it almost counts as more of a graphic element than a color palette. You can wear it that way – with a trendy piece like an ink-blot print (Pierre Balmain or Jeremy Laing did these well in London) – or in a more classic combination you no doubt have in your closet. 

Loose pants got all 80s on the runways of Jean Paul Gaultier and Rouland Mouret, but this is another easy trend to try that’s almost always in stores in one incarnation or another. Diane Von Furstenberg, Reem Acra, and Rachel Roy have some great examples of how to wear this silhouette without looking too frumpy, but it’s still best left to the leggier ladies. Silhouette trends are a little harder to incorporate since they do depend so much on your body type. 

That is a point always worth making. A trend that looks ridiculous on you is a good example of looking fashionable but not stylish, chic, or elegant. A stylish woman will always wear shapes that flatter her body in the way she feels most comfortable. This means you don’t have to emphasize the slimmest part of your rib cage because style guides say to. But wearing something that was created for someone of a different height or with a much bigger or smaller chest is usually a bad idea. That just looks like you’re wearing a trend just for the sake of being trendy. Never a good look.