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There is a particular breed of person who, at least on the surface, always looks like they have it together. Their white pants are pizza-sauce-less, their Google calendars are works of art; their beds are forever made, their nails forever unbitten.
And then there’s the rest of us. Luckily, it turns out that even the most perfect-seeming humans have tricks they rely on to look put-together, and even those of us who just found a dried noodle stuck to their shirt (like, right now, at this very minute) can get away with them, too. Spoiler alert: About half the people we spoke to recommended bright lipstick to counteract even the most shit-less of days.
Lipstick, of course, but also perfume, which makes you smell like you have your shit together. Perfume sends a signal to the person closest to you that you smell so good that maybe looking like trash that day is a CHOICE you are making (and owning). Lipstick says the same thing. I go with Original Love Musk Oil by Kiehl’s and Dare You lipstick by MAC (recommended by Katie Heaney in The Hairpin.) —Caroline Moss
I generally dress like a toddler but if I need to look like I know what’s up I put a blazer over the toddler outfit, and no one seems to notice I’m wearing stained jeans and a T-shirt and a baseball cap! —Jenna Weiss-Berman
I wear the same T-shirt every day; I just own 20 of my favorite shirt that fits well and is kinda cool but pretty basic. Every day I pull one out of my identical T-shirt drawer. It’s wonderful. I once made an unboxing video for nine of them! —Adam J. Kurtz
I have to wash my hair every morning because it gets so greasy overnight. On the mornings when I just don’t feel like doing it — maybe I overslept, maybe I’m hungover — my move is to flatten the life out of my hair so that the greasiness is less obvious: I part it down the middle, tuck my hair behind my ears, and use R+Co’s Park Ave Blow Out Balm to just lay that shit down. The combination of a kind of severe hairstyle and the fact that I’m working with the grease and not against it makes me feel like I’ve got it together.
Another thing is, if I really feel like a mess, I’ll throw on the most expensive thing in my closet because I feel like this is what rich people do, and rich people inherently have their shit together because they are rich. So if I don’t have time for makeup, or to even take off last night’s makeup, I’ll reach for something that cost me a mint and just say fuck it. —Tiffany Yannetta
- I put on bright pink blush if I look like I’m dying and/or dead. Works for hangovers or just when you’re having a blah day. It makes you look like a cherubic 6-year-old who doesn’t know what whiskey tastes like.
- Trader Joe’s salads for when I don’t have my shit together meal-wise and money-wise. They’re inexpensive and delish. I like the “golden beet” one, as well as the the “crunchy slaw” version. Throw one of these in a gigantic and glamorous salad bowl and no one will know that it’s not Chop’t or whatever $8,000 salad place people go to these days. —Molly O’Brien
I lay my clothes out the night before in literally the order they go on my body so I can sleep seven minutes later. —Tala Ginsberg
I’ve never admitted this to anyone, but in a pinch I’ve used a Sharpie [as eyeliner]. As a touring musician, conditions aren’t always ideal, and it’s the one thing I ALWAYS have on hand at a show (that and a spare pair of underwear in my guitar case). When I’ve found myself rushed and makeup-less about to go on stage, I’ve given myself a Sharpie cat-eye. Gross but true! Turns out I’m not the only one? —Cassandra Jenkins
N.B. We are not actually recommending you try this, except at your own liner-loving risk.
Benefit’s It’s Potent Eye Cream — on days when I’m feeling Not Great, this cooling cream perks me right up. Rubbing this stuff under your sleep-deprived eyeballs is like getting a drink of ice-cold water after hiking in the desert for days. I take an emergency stash EVERYWHERE. It’s especially good on red-eye flights to help me pretend that I actually got eight restful hours of sleep... even though it was probably half of that. —Nicole Nguyen
First, these hair clips. My hair is a little wavy and always layered, but often it doesn’t come out of bed just right. So I use these small clips. In the morning, I wind about six or seven sections of my hair around my fingers and clip them with these little guys. Then I go about my morning, showering, making coffee, wondering if my eyebrows are even. Just before walking out the door, I take the clips out and shake my hair. Sometimes I use a surf spray or a little dry shampoo. It honestly can’t take more than three minutes total, and it really does feel like cheating.
That brings me to my dry shampoo. As far as I am concerned, there is a winning dry shampoo out there, and it’s Klorane’s non-aerosol dry shampoo. The non-aerosol means you squeeze the bottle to release the powder and it goes only where you want it to. It also lasts for a good long time — you only need to buy one bottle every six months or so.
The last trick I’ll share is that I keep a Nars velvet matte lip pencil in my purse at all times and use it more often than I probably should to fake being on top of my shit. My faves are Dragon Girl for summer and Cruella for winter, but there are so many good options. The best part about it is that the color is super easy to put on when you’re on the subway (even standing up) because it isn’t fussy or messy. If you screw it up, it’s easy to wipe off. And it fades throughout the day, so if you forget to reapply or just run out of time to think about yourself in between meetings and deciding what to get for lunch, you don’t have a major ring around your lips. —Delia Paunescu
The Sleep Styler is a set of eight large spongy microfiber hair rollers that I wrap my damp hair around a couple nights a week. I go to sleep with these very squishy dildo-looking blue things strapped to my head like an insane Medusa, but I wake up with bouncy, shiny curls that still smell like my conditioner! There’s a slight learning curve — I recommend watching a YouTube video or two — but now that I have the hang of it, I save 30+ minutes of blow-dry/curling iron time AND cut down on damage from heat styling. —Alexandra Fiber
My trick is an industrial-grade steamer (Jiffy, of course, and its value is apparent when you think about the ratio of the steamer to my actual living space) and Calendly (which I don’t recommend sending to actual friends, but it’s great to save the back-and-forth of scheduling things AND makes you look really put-together). —Millie Tran
Add 15 minutes to any estimated commute time so you’re punctual and not running around like a headless chicken! The worst is you have time to chill and collect your thoughts before a meeting/interview/event. And if you are running late, never tell anyone you’re “on your way” or “nearby” when you aren’t — it creates unnecessary stress for you and the person you’re dealing with. —Atossa Abrahamian
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.