There is a thin line between hot and hot mess.
You already know that stains, rips, wrinkles, discolorations, pulled threads, missing buttons, and any other sort of generalized disrepair will make your outfit — and you — look like kind of a mess. And so will wearing clothes that pull, bulge, sag, or just plain don’t fit very well. But there are other, subtler ways that your look could be sending an unflattering message about you.
Most days, you probably couldn’t care less. You have to live your life, after all. But those times when you do care — when you are interviewing for a job, giving a presentation, meeting someone new, etc. — keep these details in mind.
1. Wearing your hair tie on your wrist.
It’s a hair tie, not a bracelet. Sure, it’s convenient to put it on your wrist when you aren’t using it, but is it really so inconvenient to put it in your bag or in a pocket? It’s a little thing, yes, but it tells the world, “I’m just really busy right now and can’t be bothered,” which is fine, until you find yourself looking through pics from your best friend’s wedding and all you can see is that black elastic cutting off the circulation in your wrist.
2. You’re carrying two big bags (and one of them is a cheap canvas tote).
Cheap canvas totes are an epidemic. Not only are they everywhere, but they instantly drag down your entire outfit. Reusable bags are great for chores like grocery shopping, but not for every day, especially not as a sad annex for the spillover from your nice bag. Not only can it ruin your whole outfit, but, honestly, it makes you look like a bit of a hoarder. Do you really need all that stuff? Really? Or do you just not want to clear out your bag (which, I grant you, is annoying AF)? Try this instead: Combine the contents of your bags and then, as the week goes by, transfer the things you actually use to the second bag. At the end of the week, the second bag will contain the things you actually need and the first bag will hold all the junk you need to get rid of.
3. Your hair is up in one of those half-ponytail-half-bun loop things.
It’s fast and easy, and it gets your hair out of your face and off your neck, all of which are great, but it also looks like you couldn’t be bothered to commit to an actual hairstyle. In most situations, it’s really no big deal, but if you find yourself about to walk into a situation where looking shabby would be to your disadvantage, like if your boss calls you into her or his office for a mystery meeting, or the friend you are meeting for a drink tells you she’s bringing a third person she’d love for you to meet, you might want to take a minute to pull that ponytail of yours all the way through.
4. Your underwear is showing.
It’s one thing to make your bra a conspicuous part of your outfit (here are 16 badass ways to do just that), but it is quite another to have an errant nude strap sticking out the back of your sleeveless top. You see people doing it all the time, but that doesn’t make it attractive. If it did, then picking your nose would be the hottest thing on earth. The same thing goes for visible panty lines and the creeping edge of shapewear poking out from under a skirt. It’s not like these things are shameful in any way. You shouldn’t beat yourself up over them. Just know that showing something you don’t mean to be showing makes you look shabby.
5. You keep having to adjust your clothes.
Whether you’re hiking up your sagging strapless dress, twisting your shapewear back into place, or tugging down the crotch of your shorts, adjusting your clothes just makes you look like you don’t quite have your shit together — like your clothes either don’t really fit or you are uncomfortable in them. If you can’t wear something with ease, don’t wear it at all.
6. You’ve got stuff clinging to the surfaces of your clothes.
Cat hair is the worst — lonely people glitter — but lint is just as bad. If you don’t have a lint roller, make a loop with some tape and use that to clean the surface of your clothes. Leaving the plastic bags on your dry cleaning until you are ready to wear it can also help protect your clothes from animal hair floating in the air, as can waiting until you are outside your apartment to give yourself a final once-over with the lint roller.
7. Your pants are dragging on the ground.
Flared and wide-leg pants are very in right now and every time you see them on celebrities or in magazines, they are worn with super high heels and hemmed so they stop just above the ground. That’s great and all, except that most people are too fickle to stick to one pant and shoe combo. Also, sometimes you just don’t want to wear heels, which would be totally fine, except now your pants are dragging on the ground behind you, getting all dirty and ripped up. Not chic. Not chic at all. Better to just say no to flaresand stick to more versatile skinny and straight-leg styles instead.
8. Your top is coming untucked.
You are literally coming undone in front of everyone, and sticking your arm down your pants or skirt is just so undignified. If you really like the look of a neatly tucked-in top, invest in some nice bodysuits. Most of them have snap crotches, so you don’t have to strip down to nothing to use the bathroom, and they even make ones that look just like button-up blouses, which are perfect for the office.
9. Your shoelaces are a big ol’ mess.
It’s one of those things that doesn’t really matter on its own, but combined with some of the other items on this list, can definitely add to someone’s overall shabbiness.
10. You’ve got a crease running down the sides of your clothes.
This is another professional styling no-no. It happens a lot with blouses and shirts that have been professionally ironed. Most cleaners use a machine to press the shirts quickly, resulting in creases down the sides. A steamer can usually take those out pretty quickly, but the steam from a shower won’t do jack. You can also ask your dry cleaner to hand iron a particular piece of clothing so you don’t end up with the crease. It usually only costs a dollar or two more, but the overall look is much more chic — not a daily necessity, but certainly a nice thing to do if you have a big interview.