Dressing Rules: A Minimalist-Maximalist Love Triangle with Off-the-Wall Accessories

Judging by all the "how-to" style and beauty guides on bookshelves, you'd think personal style were as easy as 1, 2, 3. In reality, of course, individual style is rarely so simple. With Dressing Rules, we ask industry insiders to spill the rules they dress by — and the ones they can't wait to break.

Jen Kao can always be counted on to present her expertly-draped, ornate-but-effortless downtown designs amid the dramatic fanfare of a theatrical runway presentation each season, and every time we've talked to her, her own look commands the same impossible cool.

While fashion week amps up the sartorial pitch on Kao's collection, we have a feeling her day-to-day dressing doesn't dissapoint, and had to get the skinny on how her creative mind curates her own clothes. Naturally, we learned a lot.


1. "Mix metals. Jewelry looks the most effortless when you visualize it as a layering process. Sometimes, even statement pieces can be worked into everyday wear."

2. "Find yourself in a love triangle with both minimalism and maximalism. Statements can be just as strong with one piece of clothing as they can with 10. A strong personality shows through in both ideas and reveals more than one side of beauty."

3. "Let your designer things and thriftier finds hang with each other. Twist 'curent trends' to another level by pairing them with old closet favorites." 

4. "Play with prints. The most fun and unexpected outfits come from pulling two totally different worlds together. A floral and a stripe, an ethnic piece with a vintage ditsy."

5. "Experiment with your hair. Colors, textures, lengths, up, down, etc. It's just hair, and more often than not, it's your best accessory." 

6. "Always grab off-the-wall and one-of-a-kind accessories: socks, scarves, jewelry, hair pins, wild sneakers, head pieces, etc." 

7. " Shop as an equal opportunist. Men's clothes may not always fit properly, but half of my favorite things come from scanning menswear stores."

8. "Stalk the sale rack. Someone's reject can most definitely be someone else's treasure. A lot of times, the risk factor of buying something dramatic at a high price leaves a lot of amazing finds when markdown season rolls around. The pieces that have faithfully survived in my wardrobe the longest are all discount rescues. 'Strange' can be so good, and items that aren't so trend-focused become your lifelong friends."


1. "Be afraid to take chances. Own what you put on after you step out the door. You may have picked out something awful, but nothing is more revealing than the expression worn on your face. Have confidence in your choices." 

2. "Follow! The more you do your own thing, the more you'll discover about yourself."

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