It’s an age-old question and, quite honestly, a very fine balance: how to look sexy- without looking sleazy
Let’s face it. There are times we love to dress up and look pretty. Who doesn’t like looking pretty?
But as a stylist that works with people to find the perfect outfits, one question crops up every time when we are discussing going out/date night/sexier looks (whatever you want to call them!).
IS IT TOO MUCH?
As women, how many times have we gotten dressed for a night out (or even a coffee date if I’m being honest) and thought, “Is this too much?” You may not be necessarily dressed like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman pre-Gere (aka a prostitute) but that doesn’t mean you can’t still question the ‘too muchness’ of your outfit. The ‘is this too much?’ question is usually seen hanging out with the ‘is this age appropriate?’ question- but more on that later.
Although different people are comfortable dressing at different levels of showiness- I’m going to go over a general rule for keeping the balance between sexy and classy in an outfit.
The rule of alternating zones: Put together outfits with alternating sexy and conservative pieces.
*Note: For the clarity of this post, I am going to use the words sexy, showy, or revealing as synonyms. I will also use conservative, classy, and casual to mean the same things. I do not mean to use any of these words in a negative manner and will refer to the above sets of words as opposites rather than good and bad. Everyone has their different ideas of what constitutes sexy, conservative, etc. so please keep in mind that I am aiming for middle ground.
This rule is one of those things that seems easier said than done, right? I know you have follow-up questions, so keep reading.
First, think of the body as three or four different zones (as shown below).
Zone 1: Your hair or face
Zone 2: Top (shirt)
Zone 3: Bottom (pants/skirt)
Zone 4: Shoes
Zones 2 and 3 would combine in the case of a dress.
Let’s go back to the rule: Put together outfits with alternating sexy and conservative pieces.
When I say alternating, I’m referring to alternating ZONES. Below are four examples of different ways you can alternate zones between sexy and conservative.
Zone 1: Hair or face (More made-up face and hair)
Zone 2: Dress (Casual dress)
Zone 3: Shoes (Heels)
Don’t both of these ladies look amazing? Notice how zones 1 and 3 are sexier (makeup/fixed hair and over the knee boots) while zone 2 is more conservative (loose sweater dress).
If either of these ladies switched out their sweater dress for a skin-tight mini dress, the outfit would look a whole lot different. That’s not to say it would look bad, but (in my opinion) it would look less stylish and make the wearer appear like they are trying hard to look really sexy.
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The opposite works also.
Zone 1: Hair or face (Light makeup and ponytail)
Zone 2: Dress (Fitte/shorter OR fancier)
Zone 3: Shoes (Flats or sneakers)
This time, zones 1 and 3 are more conservative and zone 2 is sexier. We have a fancier dress and necklace that she has toned down with flat sandals. She still is pretty made up, but I’m taking these pictures off Pinterest and it’s hard to find images of women looking too casual in the makeup department. Haha.
Did you know: that you look better when you wear clothes that look good on your body shape? I mean, just look at how great this pear-shaped woman looks in her dress! It seems like a no-brainer, but you’d probably be surprised to discover how many things in your closet are working against your body shape. Take the quiz to figure out your body shape and see personalized advice for your shape.
Image Credit: Pinterest
The same concept works if you have a top and bottom rather than a dress.
Zone 1: Hair or face (styled hair and statement earrings)
Zone 2: Top (jean jacket and tank)
Zone 3: Bottom (maxi skirt)
Zone 4: Shoes (flats)
In this picture, zones 1 and 3 are dressier with statement earrings and a maxi skirt. Zones 2 and 4 are more casual, featuring a jean jacket and flat sandals.
I love this example, because it shows that you can get dressed up without looking super flashy or (skin) showy. I don’t know who this woman is- this outfit may be her idea of dressing down. However, for the sake of this example, let’s pretend she’s a primary school gym teacher (speaking of, if you’re a teacher, you’ll want to check this out) who favors casual clothing over getting fussed up. If her everyday outfits are more along the lines of athleisure, a hip-hugging skirt and perfectly coifed hair give her a sexy look that isn’t out of character.
Image Credit: Pinterest
Zone 1: Hair or face (lighter makeup)
Zone 2: Top (off the shoulder/low cut shirt)
Zone 3: Bottom (jeans)
Zone 4: Shoes (heels)
This example is one I tend to gravitate towards when I have to attend a casual function but still want to look nice (without over-doing it, of course!)
It starts with more casual hair in zone 1 (although, once again, it’s Pinterest- so everyone’s hair is looking amazing…but it’s still not pulled back in a perfect french twist or anything) and then zone 2 alternates to a sexier top. For the woman on the left, sexier may mean an off the shoulder top, while for the woman on the right, sexier is a low cut v-neck. They are both wearing more conservative, casual pants (zone 3) and, lastly, they dress up zone 4 with heels.
Do you see how alternating zones between classy and conservative not only keeps you from looking too frumpy or too dressed up- but it keeps your whole outfit balanced and visually making sense?
This is THE MAIN WAY you can dress sexy AND age appropriate. The rule of alternating zones can be applied to any body shape, body type, and age of woman. It works because it gives you just enough guidance, but also leaves room for you to determine what works best for you in terms of sexy and conservative. If you look at the last two pictures, you’ll see how two women used the rule of alternating zones to make an outfit age appropriate for 20 and 30-year-olds (left) and also 50 and 60-year-olds (right). Both are equally sexy, don’t you think? By the way- did you know that I dedicate an entire lesson to dressing age appropriate in my e-course? Check it out here.
Does this rule always work? Keep scrolling to hear my honest opinion.
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Lastly…there is one big question: do you have to always keep the rule? What if you want two adjacent zones to both be casual or sexy? Is that okay?
The answer is YES! (Come on…you knew I’d say that) Fashion is meant to be fun! Try experimenting with different levels of sexy and see which one fits best for you. I personally know my comfort level of sexy and make sure to have at least one or two more showy options in my basic wardrobe that I can easily make into a sexy outfit at the last minute.
And don’t forget: the above is really only intended to be a good starting guide; don’t forget to have fun!