The Lazy Girls Guide to Making an Effort

Thursday, February 17, 2011

We all like to look nice.

We do. Our concept of what constitutes “nice” might differ, but at the end of the day when you feel like you look your best you feel good about yourself.

I witter on a lot about dressing up and how no one makes an effort anymore, but the truth is it’s all too easy NOT to make an effort. No one really minds if you just fling on a jumper over jeans and trainers when you’re just popping to the Post Office, Supermarket, doing the School run, or even going to the Pub.

We all live varied and busy lives, we don’t often have domestic help and most of us like an extra half an hour in bed in the morning. None of these things are conducive to perfectly coiffed pin curls and elegantly manicured red nails, but it IS possible to look groomed in a hurry, even if you’re only going to the shop. Trust me. I don’t get up any earlier than I have to.

These are my top tips for minimal effort glamour. They probably require a little thought, but they’re not hard, if they were I wouldn’t do them…..

Natural nails

File them into a nice shape, keep them a sensible length, a maximum of half a centimetre over your finger tip, and paint them a neutral or clear shade. Your nails will look nice and glossy, breakage will be minimised, and they can be chipped to hell but no one will know unless they look really closely.

Manageable Hair

This is different for everyone and only you know how much effort you can be prepared to make. I can be bothered to set my hair twice a week and spend 10 minutes before bed putting it back in pin curls so it stays curly. If you can’t don’t try this hair do!

I also work from home so if I want to spend all day in curlers that’s fine. It might not cut it in the office.

Wear it longer so you can put it in a bun, cut in a fringe, wear it short and deliberately tousled or get a perm. Whatever is manageable for you, your hair and your lifestyle.

When your pin curls fall flat, you couldn’t be bothered to set it last night, you’ve got no time to brush it out or it’s in dire need of a wash it’s always handy to perfect 2 or 3 hair styles and have some tips and tricks to freshen it up.

A few suggestions, they might not work with all hair styles/types, so play around!

  • A Hat – I tuck mine under a beret and roll the fringe. It takes about 2 minutes and everyone thinks I have lovely hair. This also works with no time to brush out curls. Just unpin the front few and cover the rest with a hat.
  • A Hair Rat – Roll your hair around it into a long bun and stick in a few pins. Speedy and looks good when your curls have fallen flat. If you’ve a bit more time you can roll your fringe or just twist the sides and stick in some combs. This looks elegant and grown up.
  • Dry Shampoo & A Hair band – Spray on some dry shampoo, brush it out, then scrape all your hair back into a high bouncy ponytail or turn it into an Audrey Hepburn style high bun with a bit of backcombing and some grips.
  • A scarf – wrap it round your head Rosie the Riveter style or fold it into a hair band and tie it on top of your head. roll your fringe back into a quiff and tie the back in a pony tail for a cute rockabilly look


Don’t leave choosing what to wear until the morning, especially if you have an early start. You don’t need to lay it all out but at least check that your essentials are clean and have a few outfits that you can wear if all else fails. That way you won’t end up in a screwed up blouse with custard down the front just because everything is still wet in the machine.

My fall back outfits are a couple of black jersey dresses. I know if they’re clean I’ll be able to cobble together some kind of outfit by adding a cardigan and shoes. In the winter it’s probably best to try and be a bit organised about things like tights and stockings too, or have fall back trousers!

My top tip is to take the time to dry things flat. Stretch your trousers and skirts out as straight as you can before you hang them on the line and smooth down collars and turn ups. Fold and hang them as smooth as you can too. I hardly ever iron anything apart from a couple of cotton 50s summer dresses!


It’s amazing the psychological impact of a few accessories. It’s like peoples brains fill in the gaps and decide you must have made a massive effort to pin that brooch on your coat lapel/put in a pair of earrings/tie a scarf round your neck/pick up some gloves.

Keep things like shoes in good clean condition. If you don’t have time to remove mud from them then wear another pair until you do. Scruffy shoes can make the rest of you look scruffy. Most people won’t notice your shoes UNLESS you go out with them covered in mud. They don’t have to be polished to a high shine, but don’t wear them dirty.

Perfect Minimal Make Up

On an ideal morning we’ll all spend several hours in front of our vanity.  Sipping earl grey tea from vintage china while we perfect a leisurely toilet ably assisted by bluebirds and squirrels from the nearby forest. In reality I, at least, never get up when my alarm goes off. I sit grumpily in bed for half an hour before getting up in a panic knowing I have to be out of the door in 20 minutes.

It’s ok! I can put a hat over my pin curls, I know my nails are already neat and I’ve checked my emergency fall back clothes are clean so I can leap into a dress, stockings and little cardigan.

Make up, however, you can’t do in advance. I can do a full face of make up in under 10 minutes. Foundation, concealer, bit of blusher. Eyeliner, mascara, eyebrow pencil and a slick of red lippy.

If I’m really pushed for time I skip the eyeliner. And if I’m really, really pushed then I’ll wear a neutral lipstick. I NEVER skip the eyebrow pencil. Well groomed brows make your face look finished. If you already have dark eyebrows you might just need to tidy them with clear mascara or vaseline.

If you have perfect skin you can probably skip foundation (and I hate you). The key is knowing the minimal elements you can add to your face to give it a polished finish in the time you have remaining. Multi purpose products like blusher/lipsticks and full coverage powder/foundations can save time. Do try not to end up doing full make up on the train though. Lipstick and a touch of powder is one thing, but tweezing your eyebrows in public is probably a step too far, other people have to watch you!

Last minute cheats

Shhh, you’ll have to pretend I never mentioned any of these.

Fix the bits people can see

The corner shop is a minute and a halfs walk away, you’re watching TV in your pyjamas. Do we really want to do full make up and hair to go and buy milk?

In winter a smart coat is a life saver. Fling it over any old thing and run to the shop (but PLEASE don’t go to the shop in your bunny print pyjamas, it’s just rude. You must have a pair of trousers to fling on?)

Wearing curlers? A beret will fit over the lot, or just swap the front couple for pin curls and let them poke out of the front

No make up? A bit of concealer and a light stain of red lipstick will convince casual observers that you’re fully made up. Dab a bit of lipstick on your cheeks and rub it in for last minute blusher. Roll on Summer when we can add a huge pair of sunglasses without looking like we’re avoiding the paparazzi!

That’s all I can think of for now! When ever I do these kind of posts someone else always comes up with the most amazing tip that I forgot to mention, so……

Do you have any tips for looking good in a hurry?

31 Responses
  • Fashion Limbo
    February 17, 2011

    VERY useful right now. I have to dash to the local post office and right now I’m wearing a leopard print robe over my jumper and jeans as I’m so freaking cold! somebody just rang my bell and I forgot to take the robe off and now I’m so embarrassed, nobody should ever be seen like this!! at least I had no rollers on yet, which is what I plan to do today hehe.
    Good tip about the fast make up with just some concealer and lippy 🙂
    I love winter simply for being able to wear a woolly hat to hide any bad hair day 🙂

  • LandGirl1980
    February 17, 2011

    Tip top tips!!!!

    I already outfit plan the night before. It takes 5 mins and saves me a potential 15 in the morning when I am standing in front of the wardrobe and thinking of nothing more than when I can next get back into bed!

    As for curls – I have never repinned – but pop them up into a headscarf to try and prevent them from getting too straggly.This is where having long hair is my downfall. AGAIN.

    I really need to get into the neutral nails thing. Then again, I already keep them short so they don’t chip too quickly 🙂 But – ooh – it would save me time!

  • perdita
    February 17, 2011

    Amazing tips! 🙂

    Much more helpful than those internet style guides that say ‘look perfect 24-7 and have never worn jersey, ugh, everyone except me is a ch*v and has low self esteem’ (err or maybe lives such a busy life the fashion laydee couldn’t imagine it?).

    Thank you- this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that’s useful to busy, busy people!

  • Shona
    February 17, 2011

    Ohh lovely tips! I agree on the coat thing – I leave a broach on it that I change when I have the fancy to do so.
    I say my top tip is rotate your wardrobe, get all the out of season and doesn’t-quite-fit-at-the-moments, and need-to-fix-a-button items out of the way so what you have left is what you CAN WEAR. Even if you have one dress and one pair of jeans, at least then you know your choices.
    Brilliant topic as always

    • Retro Chick
      February 17, 2011

      That’s exactly what I do! At the moment it’s my little 1930s leaping deer. A while ago it was a celluloid lotus flower, and before that it was a turquoise and silver one.

      Good tip with the clothes, I try and do that, I hang repairs at one end so I don’t look at them.

  • Abi
    February 17, 2011

    Love, love , loved this post!
    I’m a stay at home mum and spend most of my life slobbing about in my PJ’s. But I so long to be one of these women who look glamorous all the time. My friends think I always look glamorous because I go out so rarely I always make a big effort when I do.
    This post has inspired me to make more of an effort the rest of the time too! xx

  • Lauren
    February 17, 2011

    Great post – so nice to see how realistic these tips are!
    My advice is always – wear a dress.
    As you said with the accessories, people see ‘dress’ and think ‘dressy’. Even with a jersey dresses, low heels and hair in a plait I’ve had people ask me where I’m going. Plus a dress can be more comfy than jeans and is quicker to pull on!

  • paperdoll
    February 17, 2011

    excellent tips! I just add a few pearls to smart trousers/pencil skirt and jumper and everyone thinks Im dressed up retro style!!!

  • thebirthdaygirl
    February 17, 2011

    My “running to the bakery for the morning baguette” a white cashmere scarf wrapped around my head,cat-eye sunglasses, a swing coat,tights and ballet flats. Which takes a whole 4 minutes to put together!

    My boulanger thinks I’m such a glamourous Mademoiselle…little does he know!

    Lovely AND useful post! Thank you!

  • JoAnn Slaugh
    February 17, 2011

    Great, practical advise! I remember (I’m 53 yrs old) watching my mother getting dressed. Even though she wore little makeup and dressed rather plainly, when she put on the red lipstick her whole attitude brightened and I thought she was beautiful!
    So I always dab a little lipstick and throw a pair of sunglasses on to walk the dog. Makes me feel glamorous.

  • Jess
    February 17, 2011

    Sunglasses! Oh I can’t wait until summer!

    I pile my hair up in a bun and add a hair band/clip/scarf of some description. As for makeup, lipstick and mascara.

    My go to ‘popping to the shop’ outfit is leopard print trousers, military boots and a massive fisherman’s cardigan. It’s not exactly glam but it does the job, I’m dressing like a weirdo and it doesn’t bother me, therefore I am a fashionista…

  • Hannah Cruse
    February 17, 2011

    I live in Liverpool so its quite alright to walk around in curlers all day aha!

    My bandanas are my best friend – I just roll my fringe and go!

  • BooBoo Kitty
    February 17, 2011

    I love this post, all good in theory. But i am so disorganised, i dont think i will ever change!

    A leopard doesnt change its spots!

    hey whats wrong with rollers to the corner shop! Nothing wrong with a bit of the white trash look!

  • Angie
    February 17, 2011

    Excellent advice Retro Chick! Couldn’t agree more. Women do seem to forget that they are gorgeous inside and out…these are simple yet effective tips for looking your best and I hope many women follow them and rediscover their sense if self worth!
    You might even inspire someone back into a dress! Imagine!

    • Perdita
      February 17, 2011

      You might find some very, very scruffy women have a hell of a lot more ‘self worth’ than those who look perfect 24-7. I say that as someone whose main hobby is fashion: my day-job isn’t, it’s something much, much more important and I work with some women who never wear a scrap of make-up and yet represent/have the security in themselves that transcends fashion.

      Additionally, this doesn’t strike me as a post about wearing dresses or ‘vintage’ per se: every tip could apply perfectly to a mainstreamer or even someone who ALWAYS wears jeans.

  • Dee
    February 17, 2011

    My burlesque buddy Rose Sparkles swears by NOT OWNING ‘loungewear’. I like this tip, make sure your pjs are NOT something you’d be happy to answer the door in.

    • Perdita
      February 17, 2011

      I do the opposite but with the same line of thought: I spend absolutely ages choosing my loungewear and PJs, they are never a cheap afterthought. I’ll got to Harrods sale or Bicester and pick up designer PJs if I’m flush. Then of course I am NEVER caught out in an old tea-stained t-shirt and trackies!

  • Ms Wanda
    February 17, 2011

    “I tuck mine under a beret and roll the fringe. It takes about 2 minutes and everyone thinks I have lovely hair.”

    This made me laugh! I’m sure you do actually have beautiful hair!! It always looks wonderful in your pictures.

  • Fiona Culshaw
    February 17, 2011

    Good tips hon! As you know I work from home and often leave the trip to the post office til too late and rush out perhaps not looking my best but my hair is always done & I always look presentable at least!!

  • Perdita
    February 17, 2011

    My top tip: ballerina head bands from a dance shop. They are very wide, teamed with a wrap knit and biiig black shades they say ’60s heiress’ or ‘undiscovered future star’ with neither too much hair styling nor eye make up (which of course is the ages bit!).

  • Wendy
    February 17, 2011

    As you know, I have to leave the house at 5:15 am when I go to work and the last thing I am in the mood for at that hour is trying to faff with my hair and makeup. For me, owning a variety of alice bands – from simply black plastic to prettier pearls – is my life saver. One of those, a touch of childrens spray in conditioner (it smells like apples rather than like chemicals) because its fine and a black bobble and my hair is done.

    Make up wise, tinted moisturiser saves me the job of having to wait for my moisturiser to do its job before I use foundation. I also like a good mascara that only requires one coat. I can do my make up in around 2 minutes these days!

  • Emma Cossey
    February 18, 2011

    Great post! I’m definitely going to have to get a hair rat.

    I tend to leave a lipstick and a tin of vaseline in my car to add a bit of colour and tidy my brows and lashes if I haven’t had time to sort them. I’ve got a couple of pairs of heels in the car too for smart events.

    I’m also loving the Babyliss Big Hair as I haven’t had to use my straighteners since getting it.

  • Laura Connell
    February 18, 2011

    You know what, girl? I was sitting here working in my sweats (fellow blogger) and you’ve prompted me to go get dressed in something nice, and reminded me it’s not that difficult…

  • Ashlee
    February 19, 2011

    I just found this via StumbleUpon. I was blessed with naturally curly/wavy (depends on the day)hair that I can scrunch with mousse and let air dry. I think I’ll try washing it at night and pin curling it to see if it behaves better in the morning. Thanks for the tip!

  • fluff
    February 20, 2011

    in which countries are people going shopping or outside their house in pyjamas? I have never ever seen this.

  • Men of Men
    February 22, 2011

    Love the classic look wish I was born 50 years earlier.

  • eyeliah
    March 8, 2011

    You have some great tips RC. I also keep neutral nails and plan outfits ahead of time.I have straight hair, my quick do is 50 brush strokes and a bit of coconut oil for shine. I use burts bees tinted balm for a quick look of lipstick. And yes to nice shoes, matching scarf/gloves/coordinating hat and always a flower on my lapel (red).

  • Mallory
    March 11, 2011

    Opaque stockings for when I haven’t gotten round to waxing. And always have a spare box for when you put a run in them because you’re hurrying.

    Short hair is also a life-saver. I have a tousled pixi cut; I just shampoo it, scrub a towel through it, scrunch some gel in, and I’m done. I have to get it trimmed every month, but it’s worth it, as it takes less than 30 seconds to do it in the morning.

    My best tip: choose a wide-brimmed felt hat and a long, full coat, and keep a gorgeous scarf and some tinted glasses in the pocket; in combination, they will cover a multitude of sins.

  • Amy
    April 5, 2011

    You are right on track about the coat! In fact, a trendy coat is the best money saving fashion tip as well – for winter at least. You may not have the funds to buy everything that is on trend for a new winter season, but if you have the new “it” coat, you will always look up-to-the-minute while outside!

  • fajas colombianas
    April 12, 2011

    here in our country, its quite fine to walk around in curlers. no one really cares.