Self-help books don't all have to make you feel like Charlotte from Sex and the City (ashamed, appalled and generally worse about herself for cracking one open).
Some are even fun and uplifting, giving you a healthy dose of I-actually-feel-better-about-myself. Fashion editor and style expert Jacqui Stafford's new The Wow Factor: Insider Style Secrets for Every Body and Every Budget (Gotham, $25) without a doubt falls into the second category.
If you hate the way you look in the mirror and equate a trip to the mall with a trip to the dentist, Stafford's book will change your perspective. Blessed with big hips? You're no longer a pear shape -- Stafford prefers to call your kind a fragrance bottle, making you the envy of the rest of us sunglasses (formerly the hourglass) and cocktail rings (apples no more).
To learn more about the "wow" factor and how we can achieve it, we talked with Stafford for more of her secrets.
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Why did you decide to create new names for body silhouettes?
So many real women would always feel very negative about their bodies; they don't want to be described as an apple or a pear. I wanted women to feel good about themselves and realize that every body has something beautiful about them.
I created these names because they're fun accessories, exquisite-looking, beautiful things you want to say you are. So if you're unhappy about your middle, you're a cocktail ring! And that's much more enticing than being an apple, for example, or a barrel. I want women to love their bodies and appreciate what they are.
What are some of the worst mistakes women make when trying to dress for their shape?
The No. 1 mistake women make is that they get completely obsessed with the size on the label, so I cut out all sizes and labels. All I care about is does it fit you? And does it look great on your body? We've been conditioned to think we need to be a certain size; they think whatever size they are they need to squeeze into something smaller. But you'll look better if you go up a size or two to get the clothing that works for your body.
Are there any outfits that can look flawless regardless of your body shape?
A great blazer -- a beautifully cut blazer in a lighter-weight fabric that fits to the top of the thigh, a nice tailored one that's going to give you a shape to a curve -- is universally useful. You can wear a great blazer with a pair of jeans, you can wear it for work, and you can wear it with a dress. I find once women throw that on, it works with a thousand things.
Everybody needs a skin-tone, high-heeled pump because it will make your legs look much longer. And if you want your legs to look even longer, go for a d'Orsay style -- that's where the sides are cut away and exposing most of the foot. That makes your legs look even longer and leaner.
What are some upcoming spring trends, and how can women work them into their day-to-day lives?
Black and white is everywhere, and it's a perennial classic; they're easy to do to look really stylish.
Layering sheers are also very easy to incorporate -- something that's slightly transparent, like gauzy chiffon that you can actually layer over a tank.
Florals are everywhere! If you're nervous about incorporating trendy pieces, I always recommend using them as an accessory and use them as an accent.
Scarves for me are the thing I can change with every outfit. I call it my lazy girl's guide to style because if you throw on a scarf, it automatically makes you look pulled together. I stole that from the French!
You dedicate a whole chapter to undergarments. Are we really that poorly dressed underneath it all?
Oh, my god, that's the biggest thing! What you wear underneath is really just as important as what you wear on top. A lot of women will pick up a nice piece of clothing and say to me, "I love this, but I don't know how to wear it -- it dips too low or it's backless." But if you wear a tank top underneath it, you can wear things a multitude of ways, so get a series of great tanks.
Shapewear is so important, and I'm not talking about our grandmother's shapewear that's really constricting. You can get it at all department stores from any brand. You should have one that's high-waisted and just to the knee that's really smoothing for wearing dresses and skirts.
On days you feel uninspired, how do you "fake it"?
My secrets to looking far more fabulous than I feel are a bright lip gloss in a bright coral that will illuminate your face and make you feel more awake, a bronzing powder to make you look like you've woken up, a fabulous vibrant scarf -- I wear scarves with everything -- and if you can wear a heel, I always wear heels. The heel will lengthen your leg, your posture is so much sexier, and you'll strut out the door.
What's important is that you emanate what you feel inside. So if you're feeling fabulous and you're not comparing yourself -- it's not about a certain size -- then you'll emanate confidence that everyone will want to be around, and that's the real wow factor.
What are your shopping commandments?
Don't buy anything on sale that you wouldn't be willing to buy if it was full price. Don't be lulled into buying something just because it's cheap.
The other one is don't buy anything unless you know you have at least three things in your wardrobe you can wear it with. If you don't follow that rule you'll have a bunch of clothes that never get worn.
When I'm shopping online I always buy two sizes, because every brand fits differently. That way one will fit and you can just return the other. I love Nordstrom for the free shipping, and ShopStyle.com is fabulous; it's such a great aggregator and you can find everything you need.
In the book, you talk about the best time to buy certain things. What should readers buy in February?
In February, stores are bringing out their spring stuff. You're seeing spring colors now. You always want to look for and buy things that are out of season. That's the key.
In [North Texas] right now I would buy work-appropriate winter clothes. Go to the sale rack and say, "What do they have here that I can wear in the cooler months that's more office-appropriate?" But again, don't just buy it because it's on sale.
Because you recommend buying off-season to score the best deals, what are things people can look for that won't look dated come time to wear them?
A great blazer and white shirt never looks dated.
Great pants in a charcoal, black and cream always look good and you'll always need them.
A fabulous pump, for example, is another thing you'll always need, as are layering tanks and a wonderful solid or print wrap dress that will just make you feel like a million dollars, and great jeans.
But here's the thing about jeans: Don't hop onto the "it" style. Some people say, "Oh, it's all about the skinny jean, I have to get the skinny jean," but you've got to base it on your body shape. Often the most flattering type is the modern boot cut -- fitted to the knee with a slight flare. And here's a tip: If you hem your pants long, your legs will look longer.