Styling 101 – add panache and personality to the way you dress with some simple styling tips

It’s not what you wear, it’s how you wear it. Style is not just about beautiful clothes. The prettiest outfits can look simply awful if they are styled badly. Vidya Balan in this lovely Sabyasachi Mukherjee jora at the Cannes film festival is a prime example.

Vidya Balan at Cannes in Sabyasachi - Fashion disaster
Vidya Balan in Sabyasachi Mukherjee

A great look is about a whole lot more that just the outfit. Hairstyle and makeup are of course central, but the way an outfit is draped is also key. Simple adjustments like the way the dupatta is worn, the way a scarf is arranged and the use of belts to accent waist or hips can completely alter the effect that an outfit gives. Layering is another clever technique that can add interest to an ensemble. A cropped embroidered jacket over jeans or a kurta can take an outfit from “meh” to “wow”. Other great layering ideas include wearing a tank top over a T-shirt, throwing a sheer top over an embellished slip and using stoles and shawls to accent an ensemble.

Samira Dada in Sania Maskatiya lawn
Samira Dada gives Sania Maskatiya lawn an edgy twist

Clever styling helps you get more wear out of your clothing as you can wear the same clothes in very different ways. For example there are dozens of ways to style the versatile plain white shadow-work kameez. Wear it with jeans, a printed cotton scarf, khusas and chunky bracelets for a funky, laid-back air. Team it with a lace and chiffon duppata, cigarette pants, pearls, huge sunglasses and a neat low ponytail for a more formal look.

Ritu Kumar fashion anarkali with Louboutin shoes
These nude apparent Louboutins are totally wrong for this Ritu Kumar ensemble

Styling is one of the reasons so many women are obsessed with footwear. The right shoes can make or break an outfit. Consider this Anarkali from the Ritu Kumar website. The “nude” apparent Louboutins are totally wrong for this piece. For a start they are the wrong shade for the models skin. Louboutin now do “nude” shoes in 15 different shades and a shade matching the model’s skin tone would have been a better bet. Even if the shoe had been the right shade, this style is too chunky for the ethnic anarkali. Just because a shoe is a “designer” piece, it doesn’t mean you can pair it with everything. If heels were a must then a strappy sandal or a peep toe would have been a better bet with this suit. A kolapuri chappal however would have been the best bet, as you can see from this picture from the Ritu Kumar Lakme Fashion week show.

Ritu Kumar Lakme fashion week
Kolapuri chappals perfectly complement this elegant look by Ritu Kumar

While shoes are important, accessories are the cornerstones of styling. Belts, handbags, scarves and jewellery can totally transform the effect that an outfit gives. Misha Lakhani, for example, wowed Lahore with her debut Bridal collection at PFDC L’Oreal Bridal Week in 2012 but was criticized for not using any jewellery.

Pakistani bridal fashion Misha Lakhani PLBW 2012
The lack of jewellery jarred at Misha Lakhani’s PLBW 2012  show

Most commentators felt that the bridal ensembles looked incomplete on the ramp without jewellery and this was a reproach that Lakhani addressed in her show this year. Beyond the ramp, everyday outfits also look better with the right accessories. Costume jewellery comes into its own here as bold necklaces, rings and cuffs can give a trendy twist to any outfit.

Pakistani fashion at Lux Style Awards 2013
Fab styling on the red carpet at the the Lux Style Awards 2013

Styling is something that designers take seriously, both for the ramp and for the red carpet. At this year’s Veet Celebration of Beauty several models mentioned that the designers of their outfits had given them input on styling. Similarly Hira Tareen explained that Natasha of Natasha’s Salon had not only done her hair and makeup for the Lamhaa premiere, she had even helped her put together an entire look by loaning her accessories such as chunky gold cuff.

Vidya Balan's grandmotherly pearls and bag contribute to an ageing frumpy look
Vidya Balan’s grandmotherly pearls and bag contribute to an ageing frumpy look on the Cannes red carpet

It’s easy to understand why stylists and designers prefer to take charge considering Vidya Balan’s Cannes Red Carpet disasters. Her aging hairstyle, grandmother-like pearls and boxy handbag have over-whelmed this red sari. A softer hairstyle and edgier accessories could have compensated for the frumpy blouse but then Vidya is known for her eccentric dress sense. She can look glamorous when she wants to but she seems to delight in scandalizing the fashion world.

Sanam Chaudri, Shehla Chatoor and Maheen Karim at the Lux Style Awards 2013
Sanam Chaudri, Shehla Chatoor and Maheen Karim at the Lux Style Awards 2013

Meanwhile fashionable celebrities on both sides of the border continue to inspire the rest of us to pay more attention to styling. It’s interesting to see how some stacked bracelets or a statement necklace can instantly add a hip vibe. A statement bag or some pretty shoes can bring a look together. A change in hairstyle can transform the impression you make. So play with your outfits -experiment with hairstyles, draping and accessories. There’s more to style than picking the most gorgeous jora on the rack.

Published in the Express Tribune on November 10th 2013

Copyright 2015 Karachista. All rights reserved
Salima Feerasta
Salima Feerasta
Salima Feerasta is chief editor of and one of Pakistan's top fashion and lifestyle journalists.

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  1. This is un-Islamic. Don’t care for such clothes and fashion. Can you post fashion-related items that cater to more of the middle-class Pakistani female segment? That would help me. Most of us would relate to it better.

    • The same basic principles of styling apply no matter how you choose to dress. The way you cover your head if you choose to do so, the accessories you accent your outfit with, the shoes you wear – all of these can add personality to the way your dress.

  2. You have a very westernized fashion sense. I love fashion but it should be within the realms of modesty and practicality. I don’t find the fashion sense in this article suitable for most women here in Pakistan. I wonder how many women can dress around like Humaima Malick, Shehla Chatoor or Ayaan.

    • I have highlighted beautiful outfits by Ritu Kumar and Sabyasachi which are very Eastern. The Ritu Kumar pink anarkali is badly styled in the sense that the shoes are wrong for the outfit – the outfit would look much better styled properly. The Ritu Kumar outfits on the ramp are beautiful and I would wear those in a heartbeat. My personal style is not the issue of the article but I would describe myself as neither very conservative nor very liberal. This doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate both conservative and liberal styles from a fashion point of view. I think Humaima, Shehla and Ayaan look great here. As a journalist its not for me to impose my values on any one else. It would however be interesting to do a piece on conservative fashion – I’ve seen some fabulous styling by very conservative dressers and maybe that would be something for my more conservative readers.


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