At the New York premiere of Café Society this summer, Kristen Stewart was asked to describe her current style. Her response: “F-cking dope.” I totally agree. But are we allowed to praise our own style game? We should be. So here goes: I have good style. Now. But it took me 30 years to get here.
As a teenager, I modelled my style after Madonna and then the Fly Girls from In Living Color. Every day I am thankful that there were no smartphones then, so I don’t have to look at pictures from that era. In my 20s, I thought style was about looking sexy, which meant wearing clothes that showed off my curves. But I was never comfortable. And, more important, I didn’t yet realize that being stylish and being comfortable were not mutually exclusive.
During my early years on eTalk, everyone was wearing bandage dresses. I wore bandage dresses in every colour. And I can still remember how f-cking hard they were to get on; then you end up only half-breathing the whole time you’re wearing them. Along with self-consciously wondering whether or not everyone is looking at you. That’s the goal—and the genius—of the bandage dress, isn’t it? To make sure you are seen and admired.
Trust me, I want to be seen and admired. But not that way. About seven years ago, I started noticing that boxy, baggy, drop-waisted and drop-crotch pieces were much more popular. And celebrities started moving away from body con. They were being photographed in tent tops over jeans and in sack dresses. Clothes were billowing instead of clinging.
By my late 30s, I finally figured out my style rules. And once I established them, I was able to identify the exceptions. Together, they became my own style playbook, helping me build my favourite outfits of all time. Here they are.
Rule 1: Hang, not cling
I wear a size up in most dresses, unless they already fit wide. Doing this can completely change the personality of a dress. Instead of being short and flirty, the same dress worn in a larger size is transformed into a preppier, quirkier number. Exception: I wear a lot of skinny jeans and the occasional pencil skirt. But these items will never be paired with tightness on top. And the rare times I am wearing a fitted top, it’ll be with a full skirt or baggy pants.
This is what I wore to the iHeart Radio MMVAs in June. Both the rule and the exception apply here. The pants are Tom Ford, drop-crotch and drapey. To show off the fold-over waist I had to go tight up top. So I went with a Lululemon bodysuit and Christian Louboutin white stripe cap-toe pumps. This is what I want to be wearing every day.
Rule 2: No belts
I hate belts. If I see a dress with a built-in belt, it’s an automatic pass. Belts are just so restrictive. And they never stay in one place.
The was my favourite dress last winter. Rules 1 and 2 apply here. It’s a size bigger than my true size and it does not need a belt although some people would be inclined to ruin it with one.
Rule 3a: No colour unless it’s a print
I generally stick to black, white and neutrals; colour has to come in a pattern (stripes, animals, florals). I’m not interested in plain orange or all blue. Also, nothing says, “I’m here to give a presentation!” like a cerulean shift dress. Speaking of blue…
Rule 3b: Never, ever baby blue
It used to be the colour of prom. Now it’s the colour of Frozen.
Rule 4: No strapless
I have breasts. Generous breasts. And strapless is a pain in the ass when you have boobs. Because if you’re not yanking, then you’re tucking bits back in. You can’t be stylish if you’re constantly worrying about managing your tit flesh.
Rule 5: Begin at shoes
Most of the time, I just want you to look at my shoes. If the shoes are special, really, what else matters? When possible, I wear flats when they’re least expected. Like this Valentino dress with slingback oxfords at the Queen’s Plate:
I don’t generally like to go matchy-matchy with my shoes. In fact, I quite enjoy clashing my shoes with the outfit. Here’s a floral dress with a pair of zigzag stripe pumps:
When the shoes do match, they have to be spectacular. I bring my colour-blocked Aquazzuras out maybe three times a year, at most:
And they’re always the main event. Totally f-cking dope—and I’m not afraid to say it.
Elaine Lui on Music to F-ck To
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Elaine Lui: The Appeal of Not Taking the High Road
Elaine Lui: The Secret Life of Teenagers
Elaine Lui: The Prettiest Hair in the Room
Elaine Lui: Let’s Talk About My Favourite Porn Star