Fashion Rules to Break

When it comes to fashion, it’s easy to play by the rules, but you may end up looking pretty much like everybody else. Instead, why not defy the conventional do’s and don’ts in favor of a style that's simple but also expresses a more updated, authentic you?

“Style is the way we speak to the world about who we are without words,” says Bobbie Thomas, the “Today” show’s style editor. “Challenge your own fashion rules by saying something new and unexpected.” Here’s a roundup of rule-bending advice:

Pair Brown with Black
Wearing head-to-toe black or brown can look harsh and evoke the formality of a stodgy uniform. “Mixing black and brown adds an instant softness,” says Thomas. “It takes a conservative look and makes it more accessible and casual.”  One of the best ways to give visual interest to an otherwise simple and monochromatic look is with accessories. Wear a brown pump with a black suit, a black bag with a brown coat, a chocolate belt with charcoal slacks. “Even Matt Lauer wears brown shoes with a black suit,” says Thomas. “I love that. It’s an unexpected twist that works for men and women alike.”

Mix Your Metals
The days of the verboten mix of gold and silver accessories are gone, says eco-chic fashion designer Karen Stewart of the brand Stewart and Brown. “That paradigm has shifted in favor of a much more contemporary look,” she says. Jewelers like David Yurman seamlessly incorporate gold and silver into their designs, and who doesn’t love the classic Cartier Trinity ring with its combination of three different colors of gold? It's simple to start the style: pair gold and silver bangles or wearing a chunky stainless watch with gold details. Ready to get a bit bolder with your style? Wear hoop earrings that don’t match your rings, or layer necklaces in different colors and textures.

Dress up and Down
“I love mixing high and low,” says Hollywood fashion stylist Lauren Ehrenfeld, who once dressed Jennifer Aniston in a simple white T-shirt and a beautiful chiffon skirt. Ehrenfeld herself might wear a flirty dress and swap strappy sandals for Converse tennis shoes. She loves to pair casual cashmere with silk (“It’s a very rich look and creates great contrast”), and suggests sassing up a basic black dress with brightly colored tights. “It’s a more playful way of going about your day,” she says, “and because it’s so unexpected, it looks fun and sophisticated at the same time.”

Wear Out-of-season Clothes
Fashion pros are no longer packing away their summer wardrobe when fall comes. “Playing with traditional seasonal wear off-season creates an eclectic look,” says Stewart. “And it can make a dreary wintertime wardrobe of black and camel pop with a hit of vivacious summer color.” Toss a cable-knit wool sweater over a silk tank dress; layer a black, ivory or gray cashmere tee under your favorite brightly colored summer maxi dress; or pair a sheer skirt with knee-high boots.

Double-dip Denim
With a new wave of denim in different weights, cuts and shades, you can mix and match to create a fresh style. Balance and contrast will help you avoid looking like you’re drowning in a sea of denim, advises Stewart. Pair a sleek denim pencil skirt with a denim jacket in a heavier weight or an inky tailored jacket with jeans in a lighter shade. Get creative and stay comfortable -- just remember the ultimate denim do: Vary the styles -- color and weight -- of fabric on top and bottom.

How to Get Kate Middleton’s Style

All eyes will be on Kate Middleton as she weds Prince William this week, and small wonder. Like her late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, Middleton is a classic beauty on the verge of becoming a fashion icon. Her impeccably tailored dresses and coats have a tendency to sell out shortly after she’s photographed wearing them.

Even if you’re not married to a prince, you can do the next best thing by dressing like the newest royal. “The base clothes that make up Kate’s look are classic, timeless pieces that any woman could find and incorporate into her wardrobe -- simple shapes that don’t really go out of style and look good on most people,” says Sarah Shirley, a New York City-based fashion stylist.

Another cornerstone of Middleton’s look is her color palette: reds, blues (royal and navy), black, brown, and neutrals like cream, white and beige. “And she always -- in whatever she wears -- has definition at the waist to flatter her slim, hourglass shape,” says Kendall Farr, a celebrity stylist and author of Style Evolution and The Pocket Stylist.

Here’s how to shop your own closet or look for new basic pieces to recreate Middleton’s style.

For Everyday
When pulling together an outfit, keep in mind Middleton’s clothes are fitted -- nothing oversized -- and she combines structure with softer pieces. “Her choices are tailored, but always feminine and a little romantic -- a velvet trim on her coats and jackets, for example, or a wool trench coat with a feminine frill hem,” says Farr.

Choose simple shapes, like straight pencil skirts that fall a few inches above the knee, in plaid wool or houndstooth fabrics. Middleton pairs these with easy tops, like a fitted T-shirt, a short blazer or a jacket that’s nipped at the waist, black hose (not tights) and tall, black suede boots.

She has also been seen wearing flowing wrap-style dresses that fall just above her knees. With V-necks and delicate prints, they’re perfect for daytime. A definite essential to her everyday uniform is a knee-length overcoat, often double-breasted with a tie at the waist.

For Downtime
Middleton’s jeans-and-T-shirt look reflects her passion for equestrian sports. She opts for straight-leg jeans in dark denim -- minus any rhinestones and fading -- and often tucks them into tall brown or black boots. If you’ve never tried a straight-leg jean, give it a whirl. “It makes your legs look long,” says Shirley. A cream-colored sweater or a feminine top and short blazer reminiscent of a riding jacket (in black, brown or plaid) finish the look.

For Special Occasions
When an important dinner or soiree is on her schedule, Middleton chooses long, form-fitting V-neck or halter-style dresses that wrap at the waist, in solid jewel tones like teal and bright coral pinks. Look for these styles in fabrics like satin or jersey and with feminine details like Grecian draping or crystal embellishments, says Farr. For a daytime event, go with a classic dark, knee-length skirt suit -- never a pantsuit.

Accessories
Stick with minimal, understated accessories. A thin chain necklace with a pendant for day will accentuate a V-neck top or dress, says Shirley. Choose a solid-color leather handbag with just a touch of slouch and little hardware.

Stick with classic footwear: simple black suede or leather pumps, espadrille sling-back wedges, knee-length boots, all with around a 2-inch heel. And to top off the British look, Farr suggests a fascinator or hat with whimsical details, like a bow or feather for special occasions.

Photo: Getty Images

Your Day-to-Night Holiday Wear

‘Tis the season to celebrate -- which often requires a speedy switch from work to wow. Fortunately, it’s easy to transition seamlessly from day to night with minimum of fuss.

“The rest of the year, less is more,” says Sam Saboura, style expert and host of TLC’s Something Borrowed, Something New. “At the holidays, more is more. When it’s time to play, piling on that third and fourth piece takes your look to another level.” Here are day-to-night holiday wear tips from Saboura and other top celebrity stylists:

Plan a big reveal.

For an easy office-to-party look, wear a festive top under a work-appropriate jacket. “This season’s ‘date tops’ often reveal drama in the back -- with sheer lace, cut-outs and open shoulders, that remain unseen until you take off your blazer or cardigan,” says Roseanne Morrison, fashion director for retail consultancy Tobe.

Sparkle!

Wear one embellished piece that sparkles or shines during the day, such as a matte sequin tank, beaded cardigan, or boucle jacket with chain details or Lurex threads. “At night, add extra jewelry and accessories in rich metallic: pewter, gold or bronze,” Saboura says. “They’re an instant nod to the holidays -- and a great investment for spring, since they’re on trend.”

 Evoke Audrey Hepburn.

“The Little Black Dress is so cliché, but it’s a great blank canvas,” Saboura says. He suggests wearing an interesting knit or textured top over a jersey dress to give it party flair. Or use a simple jewel-toned sheath dress as your base: “That ups your style game.” You also can transform your daytime LBD by adding lacy hose or a shimmering wrap, bold printed scarf or satin jacket, says Julie Matos, Alyssa Milano’s fashion stylist.

 Fake it!

Throw a faux-fur stole around your neck -- as designer Marc Jacobs did on fall runways -- and a sweater and pencil skirt or a blouse and trousers instantly go from desk to party. “It brings anything to a luxurious level,” says Saboura.

Denim will do.

Dark, wax-coated or brocaded denim pants worn with a tunic or cable knit are fashionable both during and after work hours. Come sunset, throw on heels and an embellished or sequined cardigan or velvet blazer in hunter green, claret or teal, Saboura says. “Not only will it make most underpinnings very dressy, but it’s a nod to the holidays -- and it’s on trend,” he says. “Or add a statement necklace and clutch (tucked in your office tote), and even a tank top and skinny jeans becomes appropriate for evening.”

Split your tuxedo.

A tailored women’s tux makes a great holiday look when you use the pieces as separates. Wear the slender slacks to work with a blouse or sweater. Add dramatic heels plus the tux jacket, a sequined vest or showy earrings “and you’re instantly holiday chic and super on-trend,” Saboura says.

Step it up.

When it comes to footwear, don’t be afraid to go beyond gold, silver and black. Keep leopard-spotted or tiger-striped strappy stiletto sandals in your desk for fashion emergencies. Another good option, says Saboura: “Burgundy or deep green suede pointy-toe pumps will take anything into the holidays without

Coats to Fall For!

What…. summer is over already? Sadly, yes. But just because the weather is turning cool doesn’t mean you can’t look hot!

Thanks to the great new coat styles from this year’s runways, you can greet the season with outerwear that looks both fresh and beautiful. Here’s what’s in this year:

ASYMMETRICAL ABANDON
Coats are typically symmetrical -- matching pockets, collars cut evenly on each side -- right? Well, not this season.

“Fall 2012 offers asymmetry in abundance,” promises David Zyla, Emmy Award-winning stylist (and 2012 Emmy nominee). “Gorgeous coats in soft leathers and shearling are cut with asymmetrical abandon.”

Our Picks:

CAPTION: GUESS Asymmetrical Collar Bouclé Coat from Nordstrom.com


CAPTION: Nicole Richie for Impulse Long-Sleeve Faux-Fur Faux-Leather MotorcycleJacket from Macys.com

BLANKET CHIC
Blankets aren’t just for keeping you warm at bedtime. This fall, they’ve been reinvented into street wear, says Zyla. Cozy lodge-inspired fabrics appear to have minimal seaming as they drape across the body. This trend is hitting every editor's must-have list, so snuggle up to the trend.

Our Pick:

CAPTION: Coat with Leather Sleeves from Zara.com

MAKINGS OF MAROON
It’s “a color once forsaken on the fashion color wheel (and mostly dedicated instead to Adam Levine and all of his greatness),” says Stephanie Harary of popular blog www.StyleByMixtress.com. But this season, the warm red hue is taking center stage as a popular color for jackets.        

Our Picks:

CAPTION: See by Chloé Cropped Wool-blend Duffle Coat


CAPTION: Pull & Bear Tweed Jacket With Faux Leather Sleeves

FURRY FUN
Look out, ladies! This season, oversized fur collars are back and better than ever in gorgeous new fabrics and presentations. Furs both real and faux appear in new, unexpected tailoring and silhouettes.

Our Pick:

CAPTION: BB Dakota Miko Knit and Faux Fur Belted Coat in Black from Misskl.com

MILITARY MAGIC
This season, designers were inspired by uniforms both past and present of all branches of the armed services, says Zyla. Outerwear from pea coats to greatcoats accented with military-styled buttons, epaulets and pockets stormed the runways of Fall 2012 Fashion Week.

Our Pick:

CAPTION: Stones Eric Twill and PU Leather Sleeve Military Jacket in Olive from Misskl.com

COLORFUL AND PRINTED PIECES
Familiar outerwear shapes drawing upon vintage silhouettes have been given a fresh take and interpreted in horizontally striped cashmeres and wools. And the season’s hottest pattern? Stripes! Whether wide or narrow, bold or subtle, formal or informal, you can’t go wrong. Stripe-loving designers this season include Michael Kors and Philosophy's Alberta Ferretti.

Our Pick:

CAPTION: Asos Petite Exclusive Leopard Print Coat with Ears

Love Your Body in a Bathing Suit

If you’re like most women, getting into a swimsuit probably isn’t at the top of your favorite-things-about-summer list. So what’s the trick to bathing suit confidence? You need to love your whole look. That means finding a flattering swimsuit, of course, but also creating a pretty (and easy!) beach-inspired hairstyle and perking up your skin. These tips will have you looking and feeling great all summer long.

1. Find a flattering swimsuit

Certain cuts, styles, colors and patterns can turn the ugh of bathing suit shopping into a happy aah, says Nicole Brewer, a style expert in New York City. Carve out plenty of time and try on several options to find one that makes you feel best. Here’s how to:

  • Slim your waistline. Look for a crisscross or gathered fabric (called ruching) at your waist. This gives the appearance of cinching -- and slimming! -- your midsection.
  • Find the perfect fit. Many women are one size on top and a different size on the bottom, making it a challenge to find a one-piece that fits. Instead, look for tankinis: You can usually buy the top and bottom separately, which means you can get a suit that fits and flatters everywhere.
  • Look tall and trim. Swimsuits with empire waists, which sit just below your bust, will help elongate your torso and make you appear thinner and taller.
  • Draw attention to the good (and camouflage the bad). Try to use well-placed colors, patterns and details to your advantage.  Bright colors and patterns draw attention, while dark, solid colors camouflage. So if you want to minimize your bottom half, look for a suit that accentuates your bust with bold hues but is black, brown or navy below. The same holds true for little extras like keyholes, drawstrings and ruffles, which all say, “look here, not there.”

2. Create a pretty, carefree hairstyle
When your hair looks great, you feel more confident no matter what you’re wearing. Forget the usual ponytail and try loose, beach-ready waves. This effortless style works on all hair types and looks sexy and casual, says Matt Fugate, a stylist at Sally Hershberger Downtown salon in New York City. How to get the look:

  • Apply anti-frizz cream or texturizing spray. If your hair is frizz-prone, rub a small amount of styling cream between your hands and rake it through towel-dried hair, from roots to ends. But if your strands tend to go flat, spritz on a texturizing spray instead. Next, flip your head upside down and blow dry until your hair is about half dry.
  • Create coils. Twist several random sections of hair around your index finger to make ringlets. Then let your hair finish air-drying.
  • Tousle and go. Once hair is dry, ruffle the coils with your fingers to break them up or let them naturally unravel in the wind. 

3. Get glowing skin
Sun-kissed skin is always in, but baring your bod to UV rays isn’t the healthiest solution. Instead, try gradual self-tanning lotions, which can deliver skin that’s soft, smooth and even-toned, helping you feel more confident, says Meredith Baraf, a makeup artist for Victoria’s Secret. These daily moisturizers contain low levels of DHA (a skin-tinting agent), so they’re easier to use than regular self-tanners and give a subtler result.

Before you apply the self-tanner for the first time, exfoliate head-to-toe in the shower so the lotion absorbs evenly. When rubbing in the lotion, keep your fingers together to prevent streaks, suggests Baraf. Reapply every day until you reach a color you like. It’ll last about five days; after that, exfoliate and start again.

Using these easy tricks to look and feel your best means you can focus on what’s most important: spending time with your family. 

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/cdwheatley