Fashion 101: 11 DIY tricks for amping up your personal style (without Stitch Fix or Trunk Club)

Years ago, secretly desiring to resemble a fashion model, I sat in the salon chair of a hair stylist who was kind of a big deal. Guess what he whispered in my ear, right before he gave me the sleekest bob of my life?

“Just because you are a mom, doesn’t mean you have to look like a mom.”

Some ladies may have taken offense to that. I did not.

Instead, I drove home and made a pile of donate-to-Goodwill clothing which included every single sweatshirt and pair of sweat pants I owned. And approximately 17 saggy-baggy, slightly stained, very unflattering t-shirts.

I also ditched several pairs of jeans that would, let’s be brutally honest, never fit me again. Because my hips will never forget the fact that I’ve birthed three children.

Once I purged my dresser drawers and closet, I made a startling discovery:

I owned a ton of cute clothes! That I wasn’t wearing!

From that day on, I made a concerted effort to look put-together whenever I went out in public.

Contrary to popular belief, dressing fashionably does not have to cost a lot. Some trends are even FREE!

Here’s my list of favorite fashion-styling tricks.

Goldilocks Sizing (Not too big. Not too small. Just right.)

Years ago on her television show, Oprah asked ladies from the audience to walk onstage. Twice. The first time, they wore pants in the size they thought they were. The second time, they wore pants one size larger. In almost every case, the audience agreed the larger size was more flattering.

When trying on trousers, always ask yourself, if I gain five pounds (due to an obsession with the confection known as Coldstone Coffee Lovers), will I be too big for these britches?

Skin-tight pants flatter very few people. Instead, too-small-trousers can cause you to resemble a loaf of bread with a rubber band around the middle. Can’t unsee that, can you?

Belt It Out, Sister

This is one of my secret squirrel style tricks. So many ladies eschew belts, but to my mind, belts serve three functions:

  • Belts make your clothes fit better.
  • Belts “complete” an outfit. To me, it’s weird to see jeans sans belt.
  • Belts are another opportunity to display pizzaz.

These days, a lot of pants are manufactured with a stretch component. This makes them more comfy, more form-fitting. However, by noon, you may feel your britches becoming baggy in the butt. When that happens, you will probably spend the rest of the day hoinking them up.

Not if you wear a belt. A belt buckled—not too loose, not too tight—will keep your trousers from sliding south. And if your belt is snazzy, BAM! You’ve upped your fashion game.

Come on, Vogue (The Madonna song…remember it?)

For decades now I’ve purchased the September issues of Vogue, InStyle, and Elle magazines. As soon as they hit the newsstand. Because I want to know how to look as chic as possible.

Purchase one or all of these magazines and at home, flip through the pages. With a glass of wine or sweet tea. This, darling, is called self-care.

Tear out pages with outfits you love, ensembles you can re-create with pieces you already own. Also keep a pen and pad nearby to jot down colors, prints, and accessories that are trending this season.

Chewed Hem Jeans

A few years back I saw this look when I visited my daughter in New York City. I immediately came home and created a pair for myself.

If you subscribe to my monthly e-newsletter, in the August edition I supplied how-to directions for creating this super popular denim look. If you haven’t opened that e-newsletter yet, go do it now. I’ll wait:D

The great news is, this look is still trending. I predict it will continue to be fashionable for a few more years.

Pick a color, any color.

To prevent being “all over the place” with your wardrobe, pick one to three colors to focus on when you go hunting and gathering. Black is classic. So is navy.

Besides black, my wardrobe includes a lot of navy, green, and orangey reds. Pick the colors you love to wear, hues that flatter your skin and eye color.

Pick a peck of patterned separates.

Wearing multiple patterns is a trend that is still going strong. I consider myself an expert in this skill. Want to know my secret? Every item in your outfit should “talk” to the other items, often via a common color.


  • Maroon plaid pants
  • maroon striped t-shirt with coral trim
  • off-white Converse Chucks (which happen to feature a maroon stripe detail)
  • coral cardigan

Go High-Low

I love to build a look using the concept of high-low. This is when everything I’m wearing is from a consignment or thrift stop. Except one “investment item.” My investment item is often a great pair of shoes.  Here are a couple of examples:

So I don’t go broke, I like to make sure my investment pieces are classics so I can (fashionably) wear them for years, if not forever.  Examples include:

  • Timeless black blazer
  • Classic ballet flats
  • Silk blouse

Investment pieces do NOT have to cost a lot. Check consignment shops. Shop for classics on clearance on websites such as, Talbots, or Boden USA. Or at Gabriel Brothers (in Best Virginia), TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, etc.. Or try the websites of “fast fashion” favorites like H&M or Zara.

Roll, roll, roll your pants

Here’s another look that continues to trend strong: Rolling the hem of your skinny pants a time or two. This can be a slimming trick as it draws the eye downward. And if you’re wearing cute shoes, the rolled hem shows them off.

The Casual Tuck

I love love love this trend!! This is you not 100% tucking in your shirt, and it’s you not 100% leaving your shirttails flapping in the wind.

I don’t know why this look makes EVERYONE appear instantly cool, but it does. This adorable video shows four trendy ways to tuck your top like a fashion model.

The Power of 3

If you want to be a fashionista, every morning when you get dressed, strive to implement the “Power of 3.”

What the hay is “The Power of 3?” To utilize this super fashion power, do your best to include THREE components in your ensemble that will catch the eye of folks you come in contact with. Examples:

  • A hat
  • A statement necklace
  • A scarf
  • A graphic t-shirt
  • A snazzy belt
  • Patterned pants
  • Mixed patterns
  • Great blazer/coat
  • Brightly colored socks
  • Funky shoes

Pick three to include every day. Here’s a fantastic example.

The power of the Pin(terest)

Are you on Pinterest? I am, though I’m not obsessive about it. I get on there maybe once a week and pin a dozen or two items: usually outfits or low-carb-high-fat recipes. On my “Passion for Fashion” board, I pin all the looks I love. When I have no idea what to wear, I open this board, find an outfit I love, and recreate it.


The above tricks are pretty timeless. If, on the other hand, you want to know what fashion looks are trending THIS fall, make sure to open my email newsletter next Wednesday, September 4. And if you’re not yet an email subscriber, you can do that down below. See that cute orange button?

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