Fashion School Tips to Help You Go From Idle to Idol

For fashion design devotees, the best thing about “American Idol” isn’t watching the performances, but witnessing the incredible makeovers that the finalists undergo. After all, who can forget the way Clay Aiken transformed from geek to heartthrob in a matter of weeks? As the competition heats up this season on “American Idol,” our panel of fashion school experts have gleaned lessons learned from seasons past for makeover tips that will have you looking so good, even Simon Cowell would approve.

1. Step it up a notch. When David Archuleta wore jeans and a t-shirt to perform in Season 7, he looked like a high school kid on a field trip, not a potential superstar. But when he added a chic military-styled jacket over the tee in later weeks, he became a contender. Archuleta showed that the best Idol makeovers involve upping the glam factor, and the littlest detail can do so. For example, you could finish off a pair of jeans with a jewel-studded belt, or pair a conservative suit with a brightly-colored scarf.

2. Dress your age. Alison Iraheta from Season 8 was the perfect example of someone who dressed age-appropriately. Only 16 years old, she did not try to wear the serious gowns of her twentysomething competitors. Instead, she stuck with playful ensembles that were equal parts punk and pink. Because it was age appropriate, she looked perfectly natural. Viewers watching from home could take a tip from the teen rocker: dress your age, and you’ll look ageless.

3. Go for drama. A look that says “wow” even before the singer opens his or her mouth is usually enough to get the home voters on speed dial. When Season 5 runner-up Katharine McPhee stepped onto the stage not in her usual jeans, but in a canary yellow floor length stunner to sing “I Have Nothing,” she showed the world “I Have Everything.” So go for the OMG moment yourself with a dramatic style, silhouette, or color. You’ll feel like you have everything, too.

4. Mix it up. Savvy Idol contestants keep the audience guessing, wondering what they’ll wear week to week. The master of this strategy was Season 8’s Adam Lambert, who could alternate between glam rocker and sharkskin-suited crooner without batting a mascaraed eyelash. Similarly, our fashion school experts suggest shaking up your own wardrobe. If you’re usually super casual, surprise everyone with a more sophisticated look. Or if you tend to be conservative, show off your more playful side.

5. It’s all about the fit. Here’s a great lesson for all of us. The most beautiful outfit in the world is nothing if it doesn’t fit right. Lakisha Jones of Season 6 may have been plus-sized, but her dresses fit her immaculately, hugging her curves and flattering her figure. She showed us that the best fashion design is about both style and fit.

6. Do something about that hair. Before his makeover, Season 7’s David Cook was a slightly nerdy would-be rocker. After his makeover, he was not only the champion, but certified cougar-bait. What was the big difference? His hair. The show’s stylists turned his awkward combover into an asymmetrical faux-hawk, and he was suddenly sexy. Pay similar attention to your own coif. A simple cut can change your entire appearance.