There is a big difference between what looks “feminine” and what looks “girly” when it comes to fashion and style. As I’ve developed my own personal style over the years, I’ve noticed that my taste in clothing has changed to reflect my experience of being a woman rather than what I thought a woman should look like when I was younger. One is not better than the other, but it all comes down to how you want to express yourself.
Dressing in a “feminine” way infuses traditional feminine fashion characteristics with the needs of a modern lifestyle including more sophisticated casual, professional and formal wear. Dressing in a “girly” way focuses on expressing youthfulness and traditional femininity as it’s main priority. With that said, femininity can mean a lot of different things to different people so I’m going to narrow down what it means to me, because my interest and style preference is timeless and sophisticated elegance. So if you are interested in reinventing and re-energizing your wardrobe this way, then here are my 10 best tips on how to dress feminine and not girly.
- Embrace your unique femininity.
- Highlight the more subtle yet very feminine parts of the body.
- Develop your taste in quality clothing rather than nailing every fashion trend.
- Develop a discerning eye for timeless fine jewelry.
- Embrace and invest in your unique natural beauty.
- Be intentional about what fragrance you wear.
- Set the right tone for your outfit with the right shoes.
- Be playful but intentional with colour, texture, fabrics and energy.
- Invest high-quality accessories and treat them like art.
- Prioritise your comfort for the occasion, cultural environment and climate you’re in.
Before I go any further, if you are reading this and you happen to be a girl or a very young woman, EMBRACE THAT 🙂 Dressing in a “girly” way does not make you any less feminine! Confidence with your femininity is not something you wear only on the outside, it’s something that grows within you over time. It’s very important to allow femininity and maturity to happen naturally, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be something you’re not comfortable with yet. If you like the more mature feminine styles, then experiment with them slowly and soon you’ll begin to get a feel for what works for you.
Embrace your unique femininity.
As a woman, your body is inherently “feminine” no matter what body shape you have. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you need a certain body type, nose shape or hair length or whatever, in order to be feminine. Femininity comes in many shapes and sizes. Social media is always going to show you a picture perfect and highly curated image, that’s not necessarily as genuine as you think. This can make you feel like you are not normal and that you need to change yourself to become feminine. This is NOT true!
Try to find someone inspiring who has a similar body shape or physical attributes to you, study their style, connect with them, engage with their content and tell these social media algorithms what kind of content you want to see. By seeing more and more women with similar physical attributes to you, you’ll get a better understanding of your body shape and how to best enhance it in a way that is comfortable for you. Having a positive and healthy mental image of yourself is incredibly important and it helps to not be too judgemental with yourself or others. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading a book which you can find on Amazon called Psyco-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. It’s a brilliant book that can support you in building more self-confidence.
Highlight the more subtle yet very feminine parts of the body.
Despite what you may think, you do not have wear less clothes and show more skin in order to develop a more feminine style. The early designs of Christian Dior are a great example of this and they are immortal in the world of fashion for a reason. He understood that the expressive nature of the body can be a powerful way to showcase a woman’s femininity, elegance and poise. He emphasised all of the subtle yet extremely feminine parts of the female body like the wrists, the small of the leg, the decolletage, the neck and shoulders etc. Some people view this style as conservative today but in actual fact it is an extremely beautiful and refined way to exude style and femininity.
Develop taste in quality clothing rather than nailing every trend.
You can certainly have fun and experiment with trends but try not to rely on them too much because your outfits will be almost identical to every other woman who shops at your favourite store. Not only that but, trendy clothing is trendy for a reason because it will fall out of fashion within a season or too and you will be forced to throw or give it away and catch up with the next trend.
Developing taste on the other hand is about finding styles that transcend the seasons and the fashion trends and allows you to approach your wardrobe almost like a portfolio that exhibits your style. This wardrobe that you begin to build acts as a foundation of long-lasting wardobe staples that you can choose to add more trendier pieces to throughout the different seasons. To begin building your collection of tasteful and durable pieces, try experimenting with lesser known brands, invest in higher quality pieces including natural fibres, like 100% cotton, silk, linen or genuine leather that will last in your wardrobe for years. Another crucial point to add here is that creased clothing will ruin all your efforts so make sure to invest in a good clothes steamer as well.
Refined your taste for high-quality and timeless fine jewelry.
Rather than repeatedly buying dispensable fashion or costume jewelry, women should be able to wear authentic fine jewelry everyday that they can keep in their collection forever and hand down through generations. You don’t have to completely stop purchasing fashion jewerly if you don’t want to, but even just starting your own fine jewelry collection and building it slowly will be the perfect addition to a timelessly feminine wardrobe. This is because solid gold and silver pieces will never ever go out of style and they can also be repaired, replated and restored if needed. The earliest finding of jewelry was dated around 25,000 years ago and even then was used as a marker of taste and nobility.
Embrace and invest in your unique natural beauty.
To me this goes hand in hand with dressing feminine because again, femininity is not about creating a visual illusion. It’s about being as whole of a person as you can and feeling comfortable and powerful in your own femininity. Everything from your physical health, mental and emotional health, how you care for your skin, hair and nails and good grooming in general, all contribute to your inner well-being and that is a crucial element of learning to dress more feminine in my book.
So whatever investing in your natural beauty means to you, whether that’s a gym membership, tailored skincare, regular counselling sessions, or treating yourself to a spa day on a regular basis. Whatever resonates for you. It’s a precious part of your feminine energy and you should invest in that just as much as you invest in any clothing or luxury bag.
Be intentional about what fragrance you wear.
Try to become intentional about what perfume you wear during different seasons and different situations. Try not to wear too much but a good spritz of something elegant will do wonders to elevate your feminine vibe. Perfume is a whole art in itself and when you master the art of being tasteful and intentional about what perfume you wear and when you wear it, you add an extra layer of femininity to your presence in a room.
The power of perfume is extraordinary and I find it incredibly enjoyable to pick the right one for my outfit. It also helps to underline the fact that femininity is not just the visual, it can also be the whole atmosphere or aura you carry with you. Francis Kurkdijian, master perfumer of one of the world’s most expensive fragrances (Baccarat Rouge 153) believes that “Perfume is the art that makes memory speak” and I couldn’t agree more. A scent can make an everlasting impression and personally I get so much enjoyment from carefully choosing the right perfume for the right outfit and situation. And if you don’t like traditional perfumes there’s absolutely nothing wrong with testing some essential oils as well.
Set the right tone for your outfit with the right shoes.
We’ve all heard that a garment can have a personality of its own and if that is true then shoes have the charisma because they can instantly change what an outfit communicates and feels like. It’s not about wearing the highest heels, comfort is paramount but you should be as discerning as possible when choosing a pair of shoes for an outfit that is appropriate for the situation. For example, even wellington boots can be feminine, as long as you are wearing them in the right location and situation because it instantly communicates how thoughtful and prepared you are with your style, and how much attention you pay to your own comfort, which is the most important rule when it comes to dressing feminine rather than “girly”.
Be playful but intentional with colour, texture, fabrics and energy.
I believe that all colours, fabrics and textures can be worn in a feminine way, you don’t have to focus on bright colours only. You can wear an all black outfit and still look incredibly demure and elegant. Monochrome palettes are a simple and effective way to make an outfit look put together but you can also be playful with colour combinations and still make it look intentional and classy.
Dressing in a feminine way does not mean that you have to avoid colours, fabrics, textures and designs that may be considered masculine. Dressing in a feminine way for me, can incorporate a lot of different styles and energies. For example, wearing a formal black structured blazer might be considered masculine to some. However, when you balance that high masculine energy with something feminine like silk or lace fabrics underneath, it’s a beautiful way to find balance and harmony in your outfit.. something that I think reflects the power of femininity on a much much deeper level.
Invest in high-quality accessories and treat them like art.
The difference between a less developed and a more mature eye for detail and femininity of an outfit is whether accessories are added as an afterthought or carefully chosen and curated to compliment your outfit and the situation you are dressing for. Whether it’s a beautifully crafted handbag, belt, silk scarf or gorgeous hair accessory, think of it like a piece of art that is created for you, to compliment your vibe and communicate a snapshot of your personality to the world.
View accessories like a work of art and you will also start treating them and taking care of them in this way. It doesn’t matter if it’s a designer bag or one you bought on the high street but believe me people notice when a woman respects her possessions and looks after them carefully. The most obvious example would be not placing your handbag on the ground when sitting for a coffee with friends but rather placing it on the table or beside you on the chair. No matter what the value of your accessories, learn how to treat them like pieces of art that have value.
Prioritise your comfort for the occasion, cultural environment and climate you’re in.
Your comfort with what you’re wearing is by far the most important factor to consider when learning how to dress in a more feminine way. Is a tweed blazer a good idea for a woman who lives in tropical weather in India? Are high heels suitable for every city? Is a light trench coat warm enough for a woman who has to endure the Canadian winters? Sometimes the answer is just no. The number one rule of dressing in a feminine way is putting aside everything that does not work for you in your daily life despite what societal pressure there may be and wear what you enjoy and feel comfortable in because that is a luxurious way to live. Madame Coco Chanel famously said: “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury”. I agree.
I hope you get the same amount of enjoyment from applying these tips to the way you approach style as much as I do. You don’t have to take all of these tips into consideration at the same time or at all if they are not for you. Take the ones that you are comfortable with or even start with one at a time to test out what works for you.
I would love to see how you use the tips in this article to enhance your style so don’t hesitate to tag me on Instagram, Tiktok or Pinterest or you can or send me a message because I would love to see!
About the author
Mish has a Masters in Fine Art and she has an interest in classical design, history and culture. She loves to analyze fashion and style through this lens to help people develop authentic personal style.