Ever looked at yourself in the mirror and been underwhelmed by the image looking back at you? Nothing's changed, necessarily. It's just that your appearance is beginning to look bland or even a little dull and dowdy around the edges. Sometimes, looking good is about making periodic adjustments before you end up on one of those total makeover shows. You don't want people to think you're trying too hard -- oh, no. That would be worse than doing nothing at all. But you do want to fine tune your appearance. You want a look that's somehow fresher and brighter -- like you just got back from vacation, or lost 5 pounds or won the lottery. You want this transformation to be easy, though, and relatively painless -- and cheap. Impossible? Nope.
Let's take a look at five fast and easy ways you can change your look for the better. This isn't marketing hype, either. These tips actually work.
Change Your Lip Color -- to Red
Yeah, this sounds too good to be true, but think about it for a minute. For generations, women have been pinching their lips or darkening them with anything from henna to cinnabar to pomegranate juice in order to add some color. Why? Women of old knew something many of us have forgotten: Lips have a sensual appeal that's strengthened by every smile, moue and pucker. Your lips may actually be the first feature -- anywhere on your body -- that a man notices and admires about you. Now, that's powerful.
If you're one of those women who prefer subtlety in your makeup choices, take a walk on the wild side. Think of it as an experiment. Red is a surprisingly democratic lip color. The bluer shades (as opposed to orange-reds) favor most skin tones and hair shades. They also work well with neutral wardrobe colors like black, white, brown, blue, grey and khaki.
To balance out vivid lipstick, take a moment to darken your eyebrows with an eyebrow pencil or just a dab of petroleum jelly applied with the tip of your finger. A little eye shadow or mascara wouldn't hurt, but they aren't strictly necessary. We aren't talking a major overhaul here, just a little extra shading around your eyes. It doesn't take much. The added emphasis will help create a more balanced look for your luscious lips.
All of a sudden your cheekbones will look more prominent, your teeth will look whiter and your eyes will have a shine you never noticed before. Skeptical? Try it, and see for yourself.
Switch out Your Accessories
Accessories get no respect. If you're on a tight wardrobe budget, they're usually the first things dropped from your shopping list. When you upgrade your look, sweaters, slacks, jackets and skirts get the lion's share of the attention, with maybe a splurge on a decadent pair of shoes. Here's the real secret of a successful mini-makeover: Forget about the broad strokes this time around and pay attention to the details.
You may not be able to buy a new winter coat, but you can buy a scarf and matching gloves to wear with it, or invest in a silk scarf for your navy blue suit or a new belt for that little black dress. If coral is the in color this season (or aubergine or ruby), use it in a few accessory purchases like a new blouse or pin. A few small updates can have a big impact on how you look.
Change Your Hairstyle
Your hair is an integral part of your look, and changing it can be scary. The problem with staying with any one look too long, though, is that hair styles can date you faster than almost any other element of your appearance. It doesn't matter what's in today, in three years it will look tired, in five it will be amusing in old photos, and in 10 it will be an embarrassment to your children.
This isn't to say you shouldn't stick with a general length or color that suits you, but changing up your hair style occasionally can mean the difference between looking fresh and looking like the high school freshman who never got to hang out with the cool kids.
If the idea of a little hair therapy terrifies you, take it slow. Start with a little experimentation. Part your hair on the opposite side or down the middle. Try using a curling iron if you don't already. Put your hair up for a change (or take it down). Consider adding highlights for a younger, more sun kissed look, or go a shade darker to add some mystery. Take it a tiny step at a time, but do be open to new things. You weren't born in an old lady hair helmet, so let your tresses fly free.
Shop Out of Your Comfort Zone
Style is more than the way you look in clothes. It's about how you feel in clothes, too. If you don't stretch yourself occasionally and try new things, you'll have a hard time ever feeling comfortable with fashion. New styles, materials and accessories can be exciting or intimidating depending on your perspective. If you peel off your comfy jeans, sweats or yoga pants with trepidation every time you're forced to go shopping, your forays into this year's latest styles could seem more like trying on costumes than treating yourself to a new look.
Here's a tip that will help: Go shopping before you absolutely have to -- that means before you need a new suit for that business trip or dress for the company Christmas party. Shop for experience and for fun. Visit a medium- to large-sized mall and look in the dress and accessory shop windows. Visit a few shops that are somewhat upscale for your lifestyle. Get comfortable with the process of looking around, asking questions and trying things on. Think of it as recon.
In a couple of hours, you'll learn a lot, like: what's available, what appeals to you, what colors are in and what shops have an atmosphere and price range you're comfortable with. That's a great deal of insight for a casual stroll around the mall.
Now, stop at the food court, and take a break. Write down some notes about the places you want to revisit. Of the garments you think you may want to look at again, choose at least one that's a style renegade -- nice but not quite you. It may be a color or cut that's more feminine, trendy or flirty than you've worn before. It may be tighter or have a slightly shorter skirt. If it made your short list of memorable items, consider giving it a try. Buy it if you can -- and wear it. It's a painless way to change your look and hone your fashion sense in a few easy lessons.
Imitate the Best
The Internet offers an almost endless parade of slideshows and clips from last night's awards show or last week's premier. Stop admiring fashion from afar and start downloading photos and taking notes. It's a sure bet that's what your tween is doing. We're living at a time when life imitates art. The designer garments that looked so au courant on the runway or in that celebrity interview will be copied, mass produced and on sale at a dress shop in your neighborhood before the ink dries on the style section of your Sunday newspaper.
More than ever before, celebrities are photographed, interviewed and evaluated based on their style sense. If you like the way a particular public figure dresses, pay attention to her look for tips about how you can update your style from someone whose fashion savvy you trust. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so they say. It makes good fashion sense, too.
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