Strategic simplicity has power

So, I’m thinking ahead to the American Idol showdown between Adam and Kris tonight and I happened upon InStyle magazine’s great online piece showcasing American Idol transformations.

The one thing that immediately jumped out at me is that the old adage really is true – strategic simplicity has power. All of the Idols (and runners-up) look fine in the “before” shots. But every single “after” is cleaner, crisper, more polished and simply more powerful.

What specific tricks so dramatically set the “befores” apart from the “afters”? The most obvious difference is the generous use of all-over, solid color – frequently a power color like pure red or vibrant royal blue. There are no patterns to distract the eye. There are no competing textures. And use of one overall color makes each Idol look sleeker, taller and thinner. (Frankly, who doesn’t want that?)

The second difference is the cut and fit of the “after” styling. The line of a garment, the overall silhouette, is unquestionably one of the most important elements when choosing an outfit. Simple shapes become spectacular when you add a “wow” element (shoulders, hem, belting – only one at a time, please!)

Of course, even the most fabulous ensemble will look atrocious if the garment isn’t fitted properly. Too tight and a dress rides up at the midsection. Too loose and a jacket bags at the shoulders. This is especially important for any event where you’ll be seen from various angles (isn’t that every event?).

Finally, the restrained use of accessories is extremely important and one area that can instantly ruin a look. In every “after” shot accessories are used not to distract but to add a punch of interest. It’s the difference between wearing a set of small earrings, a necklace, a watch, and an armful of bangles — to wearing just one, spectacular statement necklace showcased on a field of solid color.

These tricks are certainly not new. In fact, one of my favorite pieces of fashion sense is from Marilyn Monroe – the original “American Idol”. She advised to get completely dressed, walk away from the mirror, and turn quickly to get a glimpse of your image. Whatever the eye goes to first – a necklace, a scarf, an overpowering jacket – take off. Simplicity. Instant sophistication. And very, very Idol-worthy.

Susan McNeill is a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur and social activist. In addition to Susan Said What?! Susan also writes for Style on a WHIM, It’s how you play the game!, and Success Won’t Wait!


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