The secret to looking pulled-together (even if you’re totally not and just want to crawl back into bed)

Despite the long holiday weekend, I woke up Tuesday morning feeling tired. Not my typical, steady state, mom-of-two-toddlers tired, but exhausted. Worn out. In need of a serious vacation, and a good five days’ worth of sleep.

It was likely due to a combination of factors: a sinus/throat/ear infection currently healing, an active weekend with the little ones, and possibly anticipation of the upcoming, post-Labor Day, end-of-year push at work. Regardless of the cause, I still needed to drag myself out of bed and head into the office.

On days like this, I rely on a secret I’ve discovered to looking polished. Well, I don’t know if it’s actually a secret or just an epiphany I’ve had after years – the majority in an industry where appearance matters – of getting up and getting ready for work each morning.

Okay, so here it is. There are three key elements of a pulled-together look:

  1. A well-thought-out outfit
  2. Skillfully applied makeup
  3. Styled hair

Together, these three can require a lot of time, but the good news is, you only need to accomplish two each day to look like you have it all together.  

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Classic tees can work hard for you. Photo: Madewell

Combo #1: Hair and makeup
If your hair and makeup are impeccable, it doesn’t matter if you’ve thrown on a simple dress – or even jeans and a tee shirt. Think about stylists at many hair salons. They are often limited to wearing just black, so their clothes remain pretty simple. But don’t they always look amazing, with gorgeous hair and makeup?

My go-to items for this combo:

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These flats make an outfit. Photo: Nordstrom

Combo #2: Clothes and hair
If your hair is styled and your outfit is carefully put together, makeup can be minimal or non-existent (think the J. Crew model look).

My go-to items for this combo:

  • Flat iron – This mighty tool creates volume and dimension in just a few minutes. I’m the worst at styling hair, but even I can use this one!
  • Big Sexy Hair Spray & Play Volumizing Hairspray – This spray holds style all day long without leaving hair a sticky, stiff mess.
  • Accessories – My overall clothing style is pretty classic and simple, so I rely heavily on jewelry and shoes to complete an outfit. These flats, this necklace and these earrings are in heavy rotation right now.
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 A swipe of color on lips instantly brightens. Photo: Bare Minerals

Combo #3: Clothes and makeup
Lastly, my personal favorite combo: if your clothes are carefully selected and makeup is on point, your hair can be simple. Casually tossed tresses or a simple pony can still make a major impact with the right outfit and makeup (we often see this look on runways).

My go-to items for this combo:

  • Living Proof dry shampoo – I have super-fine hair and have tried so many dry shampoos. This one is, by far, the best in keeping hair looking clean and creating volume.
  • Benefit They’re Real mascara – With just a few swipes, you get long lashes that open up your eyes.
  • Mac Pro Longwear Paint Pot – I love this creamy eye shadow, because it doesn’t crease on your eyelids or disappear by mid-day. Wear it alone for subtle color or as a base for a bolder shadow.
  • Nars Orgasm blush – No surprise here, I’m sure, given that every beauty publication raves about this product. There’s a reason: it stays put and looks amazing on every complexion.
  • Bare Minerals Gen Nude Liquid Lipstick – This collection of everyday colors stays on lips for a while before wearing off,
  • Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder – This silky powder gives makeup a smooth finish and helps it remain intact while combatting shine.

I’d love to know: Which is your favorite combo – and what are your go-to items?

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