"Rachel Zoe’s Style DOs and DON’Ts" \\ Rachel Zoe \\ Photo: Michael Kovac\Getty Images for FORWARDbyElyseWalker.com

I started styling people when I was just eight years old, without even knowing what a stylist was. One of my guy friends wore only soccer clothes to school, and it bugged me because his family was very well-dressed—they always wore Ralph Lauren—and I knew he had better clothes! So I went to his house one day and set up looks for Monday through Friday. I laid them out head to toe with shoes and everything. Isn’t that weird for an eight-year-old to do? But he wore them and was so handsome.

Fashion, style, taste—I know it’s all subjective. But at the end of the day, I think we’re all just trying to achieve that Pretty Woman moment when we go from God-knows-what-we-were-wearing to total princesses. Shouldn’t every woman feel like she has red-carpet moments? Just saying, shouldn’t we all live the dream? It doesn’t matter if you’re going to an office party or dinner with your boyfriend. It’s about feeling great in that moment and having a picture you can look at later and say “I turned it out that night.”

So here are my DOs and DON’Ts for style like that every day—and what I’ve learned about living a happy life to go with it.

DO tread lightly on trends.

You have to interpret what’s hot to make it work on yourself. If tweed suits are in but you’re not a suit kind of girl, wear the jacket with jeans and a pair of Converses. The idea is that you wear it the way that becomes the most you. For example, skinny jeans couldn’t be more in style, but they make my legs look really short, so I only do them with thigh-high boots.

DON’T wear pants the wrong length.

Something that’s very painful for me is when people wear pants that are too short. I can’t, you know what I mean? Here’s the rule: Unless they’re cropped to ankle length on purpose, your pants should always skim the ground, like just a quarter-inch above the bottom of your foot. In the luxurious life, we would have different pairs of the same style hemmed for heels and hemmed for flats, but most of us don’t, so you have to choose. If you’re going to make the commitment to wear heels, your pants have to skim the ground. Please just commit. I can’t bear too-short pants. They make me crazy!

DON’T mix hardware

Let’s say your bag has silver metal, but your jacket and your belt and your shoes have gold. No. I don’t love mixing.

DO go for “pops.”

Accents of color always brighten you up, whether they’re from a trim, a bag, a shoe, jewelry, a hat, or a whole article of clothing. If you have on a pair of black trousers, and you do a great printed shirt with some beautiful floral print or a bold red color, your whole face can really come alive. The same goes for animal prints or sequins and glitz. But I call it a pop because you should only wear one piece like that at a time. I’ve seen more women in allover looks, and I’m sorry but you just can’t. Pick one.

DO copy people

Take someone in the public eye whose style you admire or whose body you think yours is most similar to, see what they do, and try to emulate it. It’s not bad to copy a celebrity—God, no! That’s what they’re there for!

DON’T get discouraged by a limited budget

Listen, some of the people I know with the smallest spending accounts have the biggest style. The key is creativity in mixing and matching what you wear. Even the girls with Balenciaga bags or Lanvin flats pair them with H&M, Anthropologie, and Topshop. At this point fashion is so accessible, it’s easy to be on trend for very little money.

DO think big picture

Getting dressed is a head-to-toe experience, so you have to think about how your hair and makeup play into what you’re wearing. A ponytail always works. A pony, a braid, a messy topknot, please. Everyone in my office on any given day has a messy knot or a messy pony.