A little care goes a long way when it comes to appearance
People are always telling me that they're complete fashion amateurs whenever I say I write a shopping column.

"Oh, my gosh, I know nothing about fashion," they say. "My style is terrible!"

The funny thing is, these are usually people who, in my opinion, look pretty good. Because here's the big secret about style: it mostly comes from caring even the tiniest bit about your appearance.

However, there are the occasional things that make even the most well-intentioned dresser look like a rookie. The outfit could be straight off the racks from a trendy store, maybe even expensive, and these mistakes will ruin it instantly. They include:

Not cutting the "X" that holds the vent of a coat or skirt together.

The thread that makes an "X" on the back of a blazer, coat or skirt is supposed to be cut off. It's just there to keep the item looking nice, so it will fold neatly, not crease. As soon as you're going to wear that bad boy, you cut of the "X." I can't count the number of times I've seen full suits or beautiful designer jackets with a huge, glaring "X" on the back. It depresses me. Get rid of it!

Wrinkled or dirty clothes.

My bus gets really crowded in the morning, so naturally I often spend the trip surveying the outfits of fellow commuters. The other day, I noticed a not-terribly-dressed man whose pants were incredibly wrinkled at the bottom, and also kind of dirty. Listen, we've all done the laundry basket dive, but we have to break out the ironing board too. Similarly, sometimes spills happen. If they've happened a lot, say on a white shirt, and you can't get them out, it's time for a new shirt.

Wearing too many labels at once.

This one may surprise you. I obviously love designer clothes, and would buy a lot more of them if I could afford it. But there's no reason to run around in logo everything, so the whole world knows you're wearing Marc Jacobs, Tory Burch and Michael Kors -- all at the same time. My most stylish friends are able to seamlessly pair expensive pieces with $15 shoes from Target, or make an entire outfit from Old Navy and H-and-M look chic. Wearing a bunch of labels just means you spent a lot, not that you look awesome.

Luckily, there are also some things that work the opposite way -- they help you look amazing without costing very much, or in some cases, nothing at all. Such as:

Dressing for the occasion.

So easy, yet so difficult. It's OK to recycle that 2-year-old dress you've worn to five weddings and wear it for yet another one. It's not OK to don a white sequined getup without giving a second thought to proper wedding guest attire.

Good grooming.

I don't mean that you need to get a full spa treatment every two weeks. For most, things like showering, shaving and getting a good haircut every eight to 12 weeks (rough estimate) get the job done. For women, well-groomed nails make a difference. Nails are something else I always notice on the bus, and wearing a trendy color is of minimal cost to you and really brings your look up a notch. And you don't need to get a manicure every time you want nail color. I am a nail-painting success story -- never very artsy, I was determined to practice until I could "stay inside the lines."

Good posture.

Good posture, much like style, is equated to confidence and power.

Spiffy shoes.

In some cases, people really are looking at your feet. I've never had a pair of statement shows go unnoticed, and they really add to my outfits. The same goes for men, too -- a high-quality pair makes the entire ensemble look high quality.

(E-mail Kristyn Schiavone at Kristyn@simplestyleguide.com, follow her on Twitter at @KKSchiavone or write to her c/o Tribune Media Services, 435 N. Michigan Ave, Ste. 1400, Chicago, IL 60611.)