You know those people who always look like they take so good care of themselves? Their hair is nice, the clothes look easy to wear, but also stylish, and they seem to be so mysteriously happy in their own skin. In my mind I’ve always thought of these people as polished, and for a while now I’ve been wondering how they do it.

Yesterday I stumbled over a post from Already Pretty called Perfectly Polished, which had both great content and very interesting comments (yes, I read them all). It seems many people think “polished” equals “boring” or “perfect”, but I couldn’t disagree more. In my opinion, polished people simply know how to be well-groomed, how to take care of themselves and their clothes. And here’s how to do it.

Hair

You just can’t look bad when your hair looks good. A dramatic statement, but just look at the bottom pictures furthest to the left and furthest to the right here. Even though my makeup (and even expression) is pretty much the same, imagine the right picture with a pair of black sweatpants and a white button-down. Somehow it doesn’t look too shabby, right? Then put those clothes on the Maria to the left, with wet, limp hair. Yeah, that doesn’t look quite as good. If I have only ten minutes to make myself look presentable, I’ll spend eight of those on my hair, simply because it makes such a difference. You want to say “I made some effort, but didn’t spend three hours in the bathroom.

Face

Makeup is wonderful, but you don’t need a lot to look polished. In fact, too much or too complicated makeup pushes it over into I-made-a-serious-effort-land, and that’s definitely not necessary. Keep it simple. The most important things are actually your eyebrows. Well-shaped they make anyone look five times better. Badly done (either all-over the place or over-plucked), it doesn’t help what kind of makeup you put on, it will still look slightly off.

Nails

The picture is rather self-explanatory, I think. Keep them clean, keep them reasonably well-shaped and moisturized, and you’re all good. You don’t need nail polish at all, although it can be a nice touch.

The clothes

Now, here’s where many people mistake “polished” for “boring” or “classic”. I say there are other factors that are much more important than the style you choose, and the fit is on top of my list. Clothes that are too tight or too baggy will never look polished, ever. Yes, an over-sized t-shirt can work, but only if it suits your body. Also, clothes with the wrong fit will make you worry and fidget and adjust them constantly, which goes against anything associated with “polished”. You want clothes that you put on, and then can forget about for the rest of the day (except for when someone compliments them, of course). Next, the fabric. Very cheap nylon, fleece, denim that loses it shape after five minutes… you get the idea, they’re all bad. Say it with me: bad.

Accessories and jewelry

The simplest is to choose between statement pieces (and then choose only one, please), or small, personal touches. It doesn’t have to be the classic pearl necklace or tiny diamond studs to be considered polished, the important thing is that it suits your personality and your style in general. Again, cheap-looking materials are BAD. They tell the world that you don’t allow yourself to have nice things, which again speaks volumes about how you think about yourself in general. Polished people take care of themselves, both on the inside and outside.

It’s also important to care for your things. Even the cheapest polyester blouse can look so much better after it’s been ironed. It takes one minute, if that, to give your shoes a touch up with one of those quick-shine-blocks, and it makes such a difference. Remove lint, mend holes, treat your bags and shoes so they can handle a bit of rain. Hem pants so they don’t drag along the ground, getting dirty and ruined. It takes less time than you think, and once you know how to look after your items, they last a lot longer.

In short, be clean and well-cared for. “Polished” does not mean “boring” or “perfect”, it simply says that you are willing to make an effort. And the difference it makes is much bigger than the effort itself.

What does “polished” mean to you?