Important Tip #1: "The really fundamental rule is always be neat. You should be clean, your clothes ironed, your shoes polished." This is the first and foremost rule of being chic! Also the most important one, I sincerely believe. If you want to look nice, just keep yourself clean and neat. It sounds simple, but it makes a world of difference. Same designer shirt, ironed perfectly: gorgeous, wrinkled: a fashun disaster. Keep your clothes free of wrinkles, keep your shoes clean (wash regularly), don't wear stained clothes, keep your hair neatly trimmed, same with your nails, etc. Basic things, but a lot of these we usually handwave/ignore.
Important Tip #2: Avoid ill-fitting clothes. Today I read a very interesting post about body type and the (ir)relevance of clothing size. Truth: ready-to-wear clothes in the shops perfectly fit no one. They're mass-produced, of course they are not one-size-fit-all! It's not about you having an "unconventional" body type so you can't wear nice clothes (lol no such thing as "conventional body"), it's about the clothes that need to be fixed to fit you. Clothing size is generally just guideline. Your curves, slopes, and angles are personal and no retail shops will provide you with the perfect answer. You want clothes to look really good on you? Get them tailored to fit.
Of course, it's not highly possible to get everything tailored to fit, so invest in the ones that matter. A good suit, nice evening dress, winter jacket/coat, a quality pair of jeans. Get them altered to fit your body, it’s really worth it in the long run and you definitely don't want those to look bad. You can do the basic stuff by yourself like hemming pants, etc. Ill-fitting clothes will always make one look sloppy, so no matter how much you like something in your wardrobe, don't put it on if it doesn't fit (anymore). (Note: there's a difference between fashunable loose-fitting pieces and ill-fitting clothes. Don't try too much passing one for the other.) Of course this opens doors for you when you go shopping: if you really like something but don't think it will fit, you can definitely buy and then get them altered!
Important Tip #3: Good material. I can't stress this enough. The instant way to upgrade your wardrobe? Good material. Same design, different material, completely different experiences. You'll be amazed at how good material makes all the difference in being stunning. For example, this flawless sweater on Nicholas Hoult in A Single Man:
It's a simple, straight-forward sweater, but it's the clothing piece that stands out the most in the entire movie (no small feat, since the movie is one big example of flawless stunning gorgeous). It looks soft, glowing, rich and fine and gorgeous and warm and stunning and all the best adjectives you could say. It looks like it was made from material of the best kind of quality.
Go into the store, utilize your sense of touch. Touch the fabric, feel it drag against your arm. Touch good quality material and feel the difference. Go for something that feels good, something that makes you sigh with happiness when it slides against your body, something that makes simply wearing it a small spark of joy. Fabric really, really matters. Truth: once you know how good fabric feels like, you never go back. The best investment of your wardrobe will be investment in good material.
Important Tip #4: Value for money. Value for money is essentially the maximum benefits you can get with the resources you have available. In simpler terms, it isn't about getting the cheapest deal, it's about getting the best quality deal with the money you have. Ask yourself these questions before you buy: How long will this last? How often will I use it? How does it fit with the rest of my wardrobe? In how many ways can I use it? Can I alter it for an entire different look in the future? Is there a high possibility I'll get bored with it in the near future? By answering these kinds of questions, you can determine the long-term value of your clothes. Think about it this way: A is a $10 mediocre shirt, trendy, will become obsolete after 2 seasons max. B is an $80 high-quality, well-cut, gorgeous shirt with fine fabric that makes you really happy when you put it on and will last for at least 5 years in your wardrobe and still look great as new. Which one is a better deal?
Of course, I repeat, it's not about the money, it's about the quality for the money you fork over. Expensive but low quality clothes exist, you have to judge for yourself. Also visit the second-hand stores! They can have awesome quality clothes with very low price! Just remember: don't get everything just because it's cheap, get the ones that give you value for money! Think about the best quality you can afford, and do without short-term little trinkets. View your wardrobe as an investment, and you’ll see a substantial upgrade in quality and long-term value. Instead of paying for 10 below-mediocre shirts, maybe save that money for one perfect piece of clothing that truly makes you happy and you’ll never want to part with. This is how I’ve learned to construct my wardrobe - quality over quantity. It's obsolete for me to have a lot of clothes because I have to move around a lot, so investing in a small but quality wardrobe with high frequency of use is the best option. Invest in clothes that last. Fashion is not just about seasonal whims, it's really the classics and the timelessness that matter.
Important Tip #5: I'll end today with a quote from the first article itself:
What elusive quality constitutes chic? What makes a classy woman stand out?
"Personality. Self-confidence. A French woman dresses for herself, tries above all to please herself in the way she looks. [...] Chic is not a question of beauty or shape or age. It’s developing a self-identity, which you reflect in the way you dress. The sensuality of such a woman is subtle. [...] There’s never a sense of surrender, but an attitude of ‘I belong to me’."