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Three Tips Joan Rivers Taught Us About Personal Style

While she may have had a sharp tongue with her “What were you thinking?” fashion statements on Fashion Police, Joan Rivers was still a positive style icon in many ways. Aside from being the foundation of such transitions (whether you love them or not) as Kelly Osborne and others, her own style and beliefs have a few nuggets that you may not have seen on the red carpet but which were in her personal and professional beliefs about life, style and self.

Photo credit: Helga Esteb /
Photo credit: Helga Esteb /

Build a Strong Foundation
Before evolving into the fashion icon she became later in life, Ms. Rivers built the ‘foundation’ of her being as a Queen of Comedy. This translates easily into a great wardrobe tip! One example of this is the Ponte knit skirt from her QVC line. In pure Joan Rivers’ style, she passionately recommended a slim skirt that “doesn’t add an inch to your waistline” and is streamlined with a little taper at the bottom.


She learned this quintessential fashion secret about tapering skirts during her first guest appearance on the Mike Douglas show many years ago when she met Gloria Swanson (a renowned silent film star) who generously shared her knowledge with her. That little bit of taper (an easy alteration at the tailor) keeps your bottom half from looking wider than it is and adds grace and beauty to even the simplest skirt or dress.

The moral of this story: Build the foundation of your wardrobe before really getting into the accessory avenue.

Be True to Yourself
No matter what happened to Ms. Rivers, bankruptcy, bad press etc., she always was herself. While we are regularly inundated with opinions about what is considered “attractive” or “not attractive” (in fact, even by Joan Rivers!), it seems we have to work harder to remember this tip.

How does this affect you? As you take a peek in your closet, you may recall that magazine cover you saw in the checkout line or the woman you admired walking into the restaurant ahead of you and wonder why you don’t look like that. Before you get yourself into a funk, ask yourself what it is about what you saw in the magazine or the woman’s dress that you feel is missing from your own personal style? Is it the specific outfit OR is it the air of self-confidence and feeling of natural beauty, flow, ease, spirit or elegance that you want to exude as well?

Why not follow Joan Rivers’ lead. She knew that all women (no matter what their age) want to look great. Her affordable QVC collection speaks to that and always included slim ankle pants, relaxed “boyfriend shirts,” ponte-knit pencil skirts and sheaths for that very reason. She steadfastly advocated knowing your style and sticking to it! She certainly did that. She didn’t care whether anyone else thought she looked great, had had too much plastic surgery or wore too much fur.

Whether or not you agree with her choices, you have to admit that she did it her way throughout all of her life. For better or worse, she never let others dictate what she should or shouldn’t wear. You can do the same. Don’t let fashion magazines, your sister or that enthusiastic sales woman define you. You have full reign to create a style that reflects the look, feel and vision you want for your wardrobe. Sometimes easier said than done, I know, but it is always worth reaching for!

Have Fun
In remembrance of his fallen friend, Editor and Chief of Yahoo Style, Joe Zee told the Hollywood Reporter that these two words were the advice (have fun!) that Ms. Rivers gave him when they met at a fashion show which concluded with a private dinner with her and a few of their friends.


What this teaches us about our self-style is that no matter what the situation we are handed, the thing to remember is to enjoy the moment. This helps you in your personal style because it reminds you that clothes are also supposed to be fun whether it means adding bright colors, funky details, exciting lapels or simple elegance. You get to choose and the sky’s the limit!

The next time you get dressed, ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Is my outfit fun—do I feel great wearing it?
  2. Does it look like me or is it a poor imitation of someone I think I should look like?
  3. What can I do to feel even better about this outfit? (i.e., add more color, try different shoes, add accessories, smile!)

These are the steps that help you create a style that reflects the look, feel and vision you want for your wardrobe. When you can look in the mirror and admire what you see, feeling that self-confidence you admired in the woman at the restaurant, then you know you’re onto something! Joan Rivers would be proud.

Of course, if you say, that’s great, I’d love to have that feeling, but I don’t know how, then don’t hesitate to fill out the ‘I Need Help’ ( form on my website. That’s why I’m here. I can help you bring back the fun, add authenticity and boost your self-confidence.


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Ginger Burr is a fashion stylist and personal shopper serving clients worldwide from metro Boston.