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updated 1/7/2009 11:55:52 AM ET 2009-01-07T16:55:52

You don't have to be perfect to attract a guy and keep him, according to relationship columnist Whitney Casey, but you have to be pretty close. From keeping the wrong pictures near your bed to showing off too much cleavage, there are many everyday details that can turn a guy off for good. Start by examining your wardrobe: Read about common fashion pitfalls in this excerpt from chapter one of "The Man Plan: Drive Men Wild ... Not Away."

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Chapter one: Clothing and accessories: Undressing your dressing

It was a blind date for Mike. He picked the restaurant — a laid-back and cozy place that he had been to a handful of times. He wasn’t nervous.

On the other hand, his date, Jennifer, had just spent the last 30 minutes undergoing 30 wardrobe changes; all seemed to be malfunctioning. She was running out of time and hated being late for their first date. She decided on outfit change number 15. It seemed halfway between the way she really wanted to dress and the way she thought she ought to dress for a first date.

Change number 15 did not land her a perfect 10, however. As she walked through the restaurant’s bar looking for Mike, her black, super-stomach-sucking-in, knee-length pencil skirt began to hike up her knees to her thighs as if it were a Ferrari racing from her hemline to her waistline. Just as she thought it was OK to shimmy it back down her legs, Mike stood up to introduce himself. Too late! Now they had to walk to their table. She tried to walk slowly as Mike followed her, and she knew he was looking at her behind, which was about to show everything under its hood. She made it to the finish line. But so did her hemline. By the time she needed to sit, her skirt was ready to split, which is exactly what happened.

Warning: Slippery when worn
In hopes of avoiding fashion accidents like Jennifer’s, a well thought-out set of style directions is needed. From head to toe and all the accessories in between, you need to be completely comfortable and self-assured with your wardrobe choices. Men feel this comfort level. They know when you aren’t feelin’ it. Warning: “Comfort” isn’t the same thing as saying “you need to wear something comfortable.” Often the perfect outfit to woo a man may not be the most comfortable. But you have to be comfortable with its uncomfortableness.

The comfort you’ll own is more about knowing ahead of time how things move and work on you. You have to know your clothes and accessories — what they are going to do, what they are going to say (they can be pretty loud sometimes, literally), and how they are going to move. The ultimate goal is to harness your self-confidence even if it means harnessing in your wardrobe choices.

A man will never say, “She was acting weird because she didn’t feel comfortable in the skirt she had on,” or, “Her accessories were making a lot of noise, and I think they made her aware that I didn’t like them.” They aren’t aware of what wardrobe malfunctions are afflicting you while you are with them. Instead, they may note, “She was acting weird; I don’t know why. Maybe she isn’t the one for me.” A bad impression can make a man move on quickly, so it is time to get comfortable with your getup.

Directions from a fashion traffic stop
Singles expert, style guru, and author Jerusha Stewart has made it her life’s mission to get women into their true and sexy comfort zone. When it comes to fashion, her tips for finding the perfect fit will fix any fashion foibles and focus his attention on you, not the skirt that is riding up your leg the wrong way. According to Jerusha, it just takes seven steps to self-confident and sexy man-dressing!

1. Don’t wear black. Your mission is to stand out, not blend in with your surroundings. (An unofficial poll of single guys found that they find black totally desperate — and boring.)

2. Don’t wear your closet. This is not the time to layer your favorite shirt underneath that gorgeous sweater you just couldn’t resist at the mall and cover them with ropes of chains and pearls. With that much eye candy, your guy may have trouble figuring out where to focus.

3. Don’t show up in anything that makes you look like you’ve been wrapped, twisted, or tied up in knots. This only leads to wrong-way thinking on his part, such as, “How did she get into that getup ...  and how am I supposed to get her out of it?”

4. Focus on looking great above the waist. Chances are, most of the evening you’ll be sitting down. Give him something to talk about: a blouse in a great color, a well-made top that shows off your shoulders, or jeweled earrings that catch the light.

5. Embrace color. You don’t have to dress in a Technicolor splash, but a little color around your face will bring out your eyes and your smile. Adopt a signature shade. Use the rich hue to get up close and personal.

6. Fit and flatter. Don’t worry about size; focus on fit. When the dress is on you, it should fit you and not your imaginary size.

7. Last, a first date is not the same as the big reveal. Flaunt your best features but not all of them at once. A plunging neckline does not need to compete with a thigh-high skirt. Less is more. The less you show now, the more you’ll have for later.

Caught on camera
Jerusha also suggests spending some time in your closet with a friend who will be lovingly honest with you about how you look in different ensembles. Pick three different outfits from casual to dressy that make you feel like a rock star (and that your friend agrees make you look like a rock star, too). Also pick the shoes and accessories to go with the outfits.

Take Polaroids or digital pictures of the outfits and keep them for when you need to get ready for that first date. You will not only save time but also save yourself all the anxiety by knowing that these outfits look good, fit correctly, and won’t ride up your thighs.

Accessorizing for the finish line
Now that you have your outfits in place, it’s time to take a look at what you’re adding to the mix that may be mixing him up. The challenge is to find out which “shiny thing” can distract or, better yet, attract him.

Enlisted for this challenge is Sylvana Soto-Ward, Vogue magazine’s 2007 accessories editor. Sylvana explains that a woman’s accessories have to serve a purpose. Sylvana adds that men can understand and notice a woman’s accessories if she does it right. And doing it right starts with a little geometry. Sylvana says the better way to think about accessorizing for a man is to do it in “planes,” or regions of the body. Each accessory fits on or in a specific plane of the body. For instance, if you have earrings on, skip the necklace and wear a cuff; therefore, you are only putting emphasis on one plane at a time. Men aren’t good multitaskers. Each accessory is considered a task for them. They look at it and think, “What is that shiny thing on her? Why is it clacking, jingling, or sparkling?” If you give them too many tasks in one region, it just ends up confusing and distracting them. No more than three planes (or parts of the body) is a good rule to adhere to when it comes to jewelry and men.

Making noise for the boys
Anything that creates a cacophony, whether it is your bangles or your belt, has got to stay home. It can make all the noise it wants in your jewelry box, but while out with a man, loud noises are just turnoffs. Again, it is another task they have to sift through on you. Switch out the bangles for a large cuff or nothing at all.

Another big no-no for men is wearing matching sets of jewelry. Sylvana explains: “It is old-fashioned to wear jewelry in sets. It is too matchy. You can still buy sets and keep the ones you have, but mix them up when you wear them out. Even try mixing gold and silver pieces together.” Men perceive matching accessories as matronly, which can add a few years to your age because, heck, as boys, their moms were way older than them ... right?

Speaking of old, when it comes to Grandma Gerty’s vintage brooch or pin, Sylvana says, “Keep those as keepsakes. Men don’t understand those types of sentimental pieces. They only see ‘old and dated’ — not sexy and fresh.” Also, when it comes to statement pieces — for example, pieces that say “I’m bohemian” or “I’m for peace” — Sylvana says to leave them at home. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning your style altogether; it just means you aren’t telling all up front. A woman’s mystery can be one of her best accessories when it comes to attracting a man.

Another hard and fast rule when it comes to bling and boys: “No pearls. They are boring, too conservative, and should only be worn to church or to meet the parents.” Again, men pull from the cadre of memories they hold of the women who participated in their lives while growing up. Their Sunday school teacher wore pearls, or maybe it was their aunt Betty, who knitted those horrible sweaters they had to wear every holiday. You get the picture. He sees it on you and his subconscious recollects very unsexy sensations! However, Sylvana concedes that if you have a real penchant for pearls, then wear a great pair of dangly pearl earrings or chandelier earrings with pearls. This will help update your accessories look even if you can’t put the pearl out to pasture. Dangly earrings draw a man’s eyes toward your décolletage, a super-sexy spot for his subconscious.

From chic to chintzy
Ah ... the décolletage, a hot spot for men that women need to focus on. The space between your shoulders horizontally and from your neck to your breasts laterally is one of the most sensual parts of the body for him and is generally a place that is beautiful and perfect on every woman.

Be warned: Don’t overdo the décolletage. Sylvana says this is a sure way to cheapen your look. If right below the décolletage you have great cleavage, she says you should never wear something dangling down in it. “That’s the fastest way to go from elegance to chintzy. It is not chic to be so blatant about your best asset,” says Sylvana. Instead she suggests that if you have a great cleavage, you should try to emphasize the décolletage and collarbone area. This can be accomplished by wearing a long or dangly earring to draw the eyes down, but not too far to where it gets tacky and too suggestive. In other words, if there is something you like on your body (such as your cleavage), don’t flaunt it — flaunt something next to it.

A watch for function and fashion
Finally, there is one accessory all men truly understand. If you are to invest in any type of pricey, long-term accessory, it should be a good watch. A watch can be timeless and can give you instant credibility. Men know watches; they respect them. However, Sylvana advises, “Don’t wear a watch when attending a formal or if you are on a sexy or romantic date with a man.” Wearing a watch to a cocktail party or black-tie event or into the wee hours of the night can look like you aren’t ready for adventure or excitement. You shouldn’t be looking at your watch at one of these events anyway ... where do you need to go? You are so fabulous, time doesn’t matter!

Clothing the deal
When it comes to accessorizing and dressing to attract that man, take your clothing and accessories on a test run, so that when you do wear them, you’re so comfortable, you feel as if you were born to seduce and conquer him. Go ahead, bling up your best asset. Jump in that jewelry box and closet and go get him.

Reprinted from “The Man Plan” by Whitney Casey by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright (c) 2009 by Whitney Casey.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

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