Dressing in alignment with one’s personal brand is a hot topic in my world lately. Here's how I incorporate my prior experience with personal branding in public relations with the styling work I do today with my clients.
Personal branding is the process of developing a distinct image that, over time and with consistency, delivers a message to other people about who you are. It's a shorthand message that you alone are in charge of drafting, creating and living every single day to position yourself as an expert at what you do.
Why Personal Branding Matters
The world we live in moves fast, flooding us with information, and (for better or for worse) we form impressions of each other quickly using mental shortcuts. The best way to leverage this is to make a clear and precise statement before you even get to the substance of your interaction. Thinking of yourself as a brand is an extremely effective tool for fast-tracking your professional ambitions.
Not only is using your wardrobe one of the most effective ways of leveraging your personal brand to stand out to other people, it’s an incredibly effective way for us to remind ourselves where we want to go professionally and how we want to feel getting there.
Applying Principles Of Personal Branding To Your Wardrobe
Building a personal brand is a process that unfolds over time, but in order to do it well there are three pieces of the personal branding puzzle you will need to have in place: style clarity, authenticity and context.
Style clarity is having a personal style that is so well defined it becomes a recognizable signature that people remember you by. It means that you have a specific set of personal style rules that define what you will and won’t wear. Developing these internal guidelines gives you a structure to build your personal style around. Other people don’t have to know about them, and they can (and should) change over time. Style clarity only develops through trial and error.
The true power of a having style clarity is that your style sends the message that you are self-confident and at ease with yourself. Feeling at ease with ourselves is what allows others to feel at ease with us, and it’s one of the primary reasons that so many executives and other people in leadership roles seek out a stylist.
Here are some examples of style clarity that are now iconic:
Anna Wintour's signature bob and sunglasses have been a constant throughout her career.
Alignment in your wardrobe is about having what you wear support you in feeling aligned to with how you want to feel on your best day. Whatever feelings you have when you are excelling at what you do best are exactly the feelings you want to elicit when you get dressed in the morning. Clothing can be used to prime these emotions and feelings – and since you have to get dressed anyway, why not use this to your advantage? (Not to get too nerdy here, but this effect is known as “enclothed cognition” and it’s a real thing).
I have a lot of clients that work from home tell me that wearing yoga pants makes them feel their best, so all pants they buy should feel like yoga pants. Comfort should be a priority but the confusion here is in thinking that feeling comfortable means feeling our best. It can take a little time for our brains and bodies to catch up to our reflections in the mirror when you’re used to dressing solely for comfort. Reminding ourselves (or having someone else to remind you) that you may be sacrificing short-term comfort for longer term connection can go a long way when you’re building a wardrobe that reflects your personal brand.
Context is the most important but least discussed aspect of creating a strong personal style and brand. Most people put their effort in one area of their life and neglect the others when getting dressed. Most of my clients think about what they'e going to wear to work but spend little time thinking about what they're wearing in their personal lives. The consequence of this is that there is a big disconnect between we show up across the many contexts that make up our lives. Understanding how contexts interact with and shapes your personal brand starts with answering two key questions:
In what contexts do you regularly show up in? (work, social gatherings, speaking engagements, time with your family, etc)
Who are you in each of those spaces and with all of those people? (Example: I’m a leader, I’m a partner, I’m an expert, I’m a trusted resource, etc.)
Of course, there are core aspects of who you are that remain constant across all contexts. Building a strong, dynamic visual brand is about knowing which aspects of our style need to shift to remain sensitive to context, and which aspects need to remain constant for the core essence of our style to come through clearly.
Not only is using your wardrobe one of the most effective ways of leveraging your personal brand to stand out to other people, it’s an incredibly effective way for us to remind ourselves where we want to go professionally and how we want to feel getting there.
Want to see how we can use personal styling through the lends of branding to make you feel more confident and ready for anything? Contact me here.
Lots of people start off the new year with style resolutions and, generally speaking, I’m a big fan of them. But, I also think it’s important to get clear about which resolutions are worth making and which resolutions are just keeping us busy and frustrated. Identifying the right resolutions means you can go deeper and use your personal style more intentionally as a tool for creating the life you really want.
Getting the “right” clothes is rarely the true block when it comes to being fully expressed in our personal style. That’s why I want to share three style resolutions I wish more women would make before they step foot in their closet for a 2019 edit or start shopping because it’s the things we believe about ourselves that hold us back in our closets and in our lives.
Figure Out Where Investing In Your Wardrobe Makes Sense For You
The movement toward minimalism and away from fast fashion has created a lot of conversation around the importance of investing in our wardrobes. I think investing in our clothing is essential yet the concept of investing can be overwhelming making it hard to know how or where to start.
Most people can’t afford to just scrap all of their clothes and start fresh with more expensive pieces. That’s why it’s really important to identify where your money will go the furthest when you’re trying to decide where to invest in your wardrobe. Here are some ways you can try to figure that out for yourself:
What are your go-to basics? Are you repeatedly running to Target or Marshalls to replace them? If yes, start by investing in these pieces.Shoes. This one is pretty universal. No one enjoys their feet being in pain so it always makes sense to invest here.Special/ Statement Pieces- What pieces in your wardrobe make a plain outfit more exciting? For lots of clients it’s layering pieces (a leather jacket or a blazer) or accessories. Identify what these are for you and set aside money to invest in them.
It’s also important to note that what it means to “invest” will look different for everyone. For some people spending more than $50 on shoes is a big investment. For others, $300-$500 qualifies as a investment. Remember the point of investing in our clothes is to save us the time, mental energy, and added cost it takes to constantly replace the pieces you wear regularly.
Stop Saving Your “Good Clothes” For A Special Occasion
I’m pretty sure one of the secrets of adulthood is that there are very few actual “special occasion” so it’s up to us to declare them if we want to have more fun in life. I love clothes because we can make an ordinary day feel special by simply injecting more intentionality around something we have to do anyway every single day. Wearing a kick-ass outfit on a random Tuesday when you have a huge work presentation or just aren’t feeling your best is going to do a lot more for you than leaving it in your closet for a holiday we deem a special occasion. Also, why are we allowing ourselves to only feel our best on a few random days externally dictated to us? Let’s stop that.
Stop Worrying About What Everyone Else Thinks Of Your Clothes
It is so, so normal to wonder if your clothes are sending the wrong message. Except here’s the truth: in most cases, if you’re someone who ponders the message your clothes are sending even a little, you’re probably not the person making style choices that push people away or make them think negatively about you.
Yes, our clothes send a message to those around us. Often it’s subtle and it’s (always, always, always!) actually a message about our relationship with ourselves. Getting caught up in what other people think about our clothes is an excuse to not think about or do the work to express ourselves through our personal style.
So, when I hear clients say these things like:
“I don’t want to look too nice when I go out with my friends”
“I don’t want to look like I think I own the room but I want to look nice.”
“How can I look pulled together and in-charge but not intimidating at work?”
“I love it but...is it too much?”
I want to scream: “STOP IT WITH THIS HEAD TRASH. STOP IT RIGHT NOW!!!”
No one cares about your clothes as much as you do. If someone in your life is overly concerned about your clothes or appearance one or more of the following is happening: 1) they have some deep insecurities they’re trying to distract themselves from (this includes your mother/ sister/ best friend who is always “only trying to help” with their negative feedback), 2) they are very bored which is not your problem, and/ or 3) they are not a good choice to be around if they can’t keep their opinions to themselves.
It is your right to dress however you like. Yes, there constraints in professional environments but that still isn’t a good reason to opt out of trying to figure out how to express yourself with your clothes in that setting. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time wondering if your style choices are hitting the mark with other people, this is the year to turn inward and starting making sure that your style is hitting the mark with yourself.
Finally, if you’re using your weight as a excuse from finding the personal style that will light you up, read this.
Want some help honing in on your personal style for the new year?
I was recently interviewed on The Savvy Business Show Podcast (you can have a listen here) and one of the questions the host and my friend, Hanneke, asked me was “what mistakes do entrepreneurs make with their wardrobes?” This began a really great conversation that I want to continue here with you. Here are the top three ways I see entrepreneurs avoiding personal style until they’re faced with needing to show up big in their business.
You’re Not Planning Your Day-To-Day Wardrobe
I often hear entrepreneurs say “but no one sees me” as their excuse to neglect their personal style. Here’s how I feel about that: when you run a business how you see yourself will always matter more for your success than how anyone else sees you. How you see yourself determines the energy you show up with in your business. Dressing in a way that makes you feel confident and powerful helps you make confident and empowered decisions.
If this feels overwhelming to you, start by trying to create a uniform (yoga pants don’t count here!) that you wear a few days a week. Play with what you have in your closet and see if you’re just one or two pieces away from having a few outfits you can wear while you’re working that make you feel like a badass entrepreneur.
You’re Breaking Trust With Your Audience In Your Branding Photos
I get that photoshoots are nerve wracking. In fact, I’ve seen that people who are usually the MOST prepared person in any room often leave finding an outfit for their photoshoot until the day before their shoot because they’re so nervous about it.
Trying to figure out what types of outfits represent your personal “brand” can be overwhelming. It’s easy to convince ourselves that the style that will appeal to our ideal client and the style that’s true to us is different. This can lead to picking outfits that are in the opposite of our authentic personal style. It’s easy to feel like people are expecting up to show up like we’re ready for a fancy, black tie event but here’s the truth: if you’re someone who’s personal style day-to-day is pretty casual, wearing a dress and 4” heels in every one of your branding photos is going to break trust with your audience.
It’s absolutely ok to elevate your look for photos but wearing clothes you would never wear in real life is going to evoke an underlying feeling of uneasiness when a client meets meet you. Regardless of how great you are at what you do, the client's trust is broken because they'll feel like they connected with someone who doesn’t actually exist in your marketing.
Picking two to three outfits for your shoot with different levels of formality is a great way to ensure you have images that represent all aspects of your personal style authentically across your marketing.
Seeing Style As Reward For Your Success... Instead Of An Integral Part Of Success
If I had to pick the number one mistake entrepreneurs make, it’s this one. I understand why it happens. When you’re running a business there are so many things competing for your time and attention. If you’re someone with a business that’s predominantly virtual, there’s likely long stretches when you don’t see your clients (or anyone related to your business) face-to face. Putting off spending money or time on your wardrobe can seem totally logical. So, you wait until you have a reason to invest and put off having a wardrobe you love until…you feel like you’ve earned it or you’re starting to attract more attention to your business.
The most vital aspect of any business is the mindset of the person in charge. Getting familiar with what clothes and outfit combinations make us feel our best before we have to show up to promote our business is a way of giving ourselves the gift of confidence in advance. Trying to figure out our personal style the night before a big event or a photo shoot, while battling the inevitable nervousness that comes with these events makes everything harder than it needs to be. So, here’s a reminder that cultivating your personal style isn’t something you deserve after you achieve some arbitrary goal. Instead, your personal style can be a tool to help you achieve your goals sooner.
Want some help gaining clarity on your personal style and brand? I have virtual and in-person personal branding packages available for 2019. Get in touch here.
In the scheme of life getting dressed can seem like a pretty straightforward activity… until it starts to feel hard more days than it doesn’t. When we feel off in your clothes it impacts our mood and mindset which are the two most important elements of being successful at anything we do. Here’s how you get your morning routine back on track and gain your confidence back when you’re suffering from wardrobe burnout.
You’re Not Planning Ahead
I’m not sure about you but I’m not fully human until I’ve had coffee and stared at a wall for 30 minutes after I wake up. That means mornings aren’t exactly the best time for me to head to my closet and try to predict what will make me feel my best. If you’re anything like me and you wait until the morning to plan what you’re going to wear, you’re basically doing the sartorial equivalent of grocery shopping on an empty stomach and then wondering why it’s not working out for you.
Plan your outfits the night before. Always. Even more points for planning out five days of outfits on Sunday night for the week ahead.
You’re Missing Signature Pieces
Signature pieces are those items in your closet that make you feel like a million bucks. Many of us focus on basics and forget that the real magic when it comes to personal style come from our signature pieces. These are also the pieces that we integrate with basics to create outfits that make up feel put together. Examples of common statement pieces are shoes, accessories and layers that pop and turn an average outfit amazing.
You Need To Rethink Your Attitude Towards Shopping Many women think they should just “know“ what their style is without spending time looking for inspiration or browsing and trying on clothes just for the sake of it. Most busy women wait to shop when they have a perceived deficit or gap in their closet and then wonder why they have a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. The energy with which we shop impacts the way we feel when we’re get dressed in the morning. If we are shopping from an emotional place that says “Ugh, I just need something to put on my body to go to this job/ baby shower/ bbq/ photo shoot/ networking event that won’t make me look fat” then we’re missing an opportunity to use clothes to show up braver and more confidently in our lives. In this mental space, we’re focusing on avoiding an insecurity instead of enhancing our joy. So, it’s no surprise that when you get dressed in the morning, or for that event, you’re going to be in a less than amazing mood. This is why I highly recommend clients do a sizable shop once a season vs. shopping all season long. Planning ahead and with intentionality allows you to manage your mindset because you don’t feel the immediate pressure (and piled on insecurities which always get heightened under pressure) of finding something to wear in a limited amount of time.
You’re Missing The Finishing Piece
Sometimes getting dressed is harder than it needs to be because you are missing one or two items that would make a big difference in completing a lot of outfits. This is one that happens a lot when seasons change. Examples of common missing pieces are shoes, layers and undergarments (especially body shapers like Spanx or a strapless bra). This one is as simple as prioritizing carving out some time to shop online or head to the store to pick up what’s missing.
If any or all of these resonate with you and you want some help tackling your closet so you have a wardrobe that makes you feel amazing every single day, get in touch. I’m booking a limited number of wardrobe refresh services this September and October and I’d love to help you streamline your style and your mornings.
This month I'm delighted to introduce you to a super talented chef and very dear friend-- which makes this installment of my Perspectives series that much sweeter. Karen Popeo is the chef and owner of Fox and Grape, a private dining and personal chef service in Boston and Cape Cod. Fox and Grape specializes in intimate gatherings that bring fresh, local, restaurant-quality meals to your home. Karen treats every client like family, adding personalized, thoughtful touches to each event she does. I've been friends with Karen for over 20 years, and her approach to her clients isn't a marketing ploy. It's who she is and always has been. This week Karen's sharing an easy salad she's been serving up several times a week that takes less than 15 minutes to preare, is healthy and delicious, and will make you look very fancy to your guests this weekend.
When spring finally comes, I’m so ready to stop cooking everything to death. And by that I mean, the delicious stews, braises and roasts that take a long time, tons of seasoning and proper technique. The lover of quick fixes and more time to chill or make fun drinks in me is SO thrilled when the farms start serving up the goods -- the veggies and herbs you barely have to touch to produce something delicious, healthy, satisfying and damned pretty.
I spend two months prepping (notice I won’t even call it “cooking”) some rotation of this spring salads before I’m deep into grilling and seafood mode. Here's my latest addiction, a 15 minute, crunchy, vegetable-packed, every shade of green, plate that keeps me (and my guests) coming back for more.
The Summer Green Salad I’m Living For
4-6 generous servings
• 2 cups sugar snap peas - Whole or cut if you want smaller pieces
• 1 - 2 English Cucumbers- Sliced longways and seeded, then cut into 1/2 inch pieces on the bias
• 3 Celery Spears- cut into 1/2 in pieces on the bias
• 1 Cup Parsley Leaves - Picked(you could chop, but the picked leaves are very pretty)
• 1 Cup Mint Leaves-Sliced thinly or chiffonade (I find the mint too hearty to leave the leaves whole)
• A handful of Tarragon Leaves- Picked
• 1/2 avocado cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Mix and dress with either green goddess dressing (I use this recipe by the New York Times) or a simple vinaigrette of red wine vinegar, olive oil, Dijon, honey and dried tarragon.
Optional: Add feta cubes or grilled, sliced chicken for a more complete meal versus a great side or starter salad.
Hosting a dinner party and want someone to make it an unforgettable experience? Contact Karen at Fox and Grape for an evening you and your guests will always remember.
One of the most common questions I get from women considering personal styling is whether they should wait until they lose weight to invest in a new wardrobe. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients at all stage of weight loss so I’ve learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t.
The interesting thing about style and weight loss is they tend to reinforce one another. If we don’t feel amazing about our bodies and we avoid buying clothes, showing up in life becomes twice as overwhelming. I’ve had clients tell me they’ve avoided attending social events, dating, and looking for a new job because they didn’t want to buy clothes at their current weight. The problem with this mindset is it keeps us stuck. The size on a tag means nothing. No one can see the tag. Yet, how we feel about ourselves can be very apparent to those around us by how we decide to take care of ourselves through our style choices.
I’ve also had clients contact me at the start of their fitness and wellness journeys to build wardrobes that supported them in reaching the smaller goals they needed to hit to make their bigger weight loss goal. These are the clients I’ve seen be the most successful at not only losing weight but keeping it off for years to come.
Ok, now onto the best strategies for building a wardrobe while navigating weight loss.
If you’re planning on losing weight…
If you aren’t at your ideal weight, I urge you to not let this be the reason you opt out of finding your personal style. Maybe you don’t want to spend a lot of money on clothes right now. That’s ok. Looking for style inspiration costs nothing. Begin to build new pieces that you’re excited about into your wardrobe slowly. These pieces don’t have to be expensive. They do have to fit the body you have now. Even if you buy lower priced pieces be sure to also set some money aside to work with a tailor. Tailoring is the fastest method I know of to help clients improve their body image and to make inexpensive items look expensive. When clothes fit your unique body shape you always look thinner and your proportions look more balanced.
I’ve worked with dozens of clients who have used a capsule wardrobe as a stepping off point for exploring their style without a huge investment. And, a funny thing has happened in almost every one of these cases. When a client stopped waiting to feel good about themselves they found the motivation to begin to take other steps towards feeling their best.
If you’re actively trying to lose weight...
By “actively” trying to lose weight I mean there is a plan in place that you’re working on. It’s ok if it’s not perfect or you struggle with staying on track some days (who doesn’t?). The key thing is that your weight loss isn’t something you’re planning on getting to some day. It’s your reality today.
Before a client who is in the process of losing weight and I work together, we talk about their style goals and explore their personal style preferences. These may change as the client loses more weight so I check in again around this as we work together.
As the client goes down a size or two we begin to integrate that style into their everyday wardrobe by creating a foundation of solid basics (a uniform of sorts) and then add elements of their unique personal style strategically. We do this piece by piece with the client’s budget in mind. Clients going through this process use a tailor pretty regularly to cut down on continuously investing in high quality basics. I usually call this process building a “bridge wardrobe” between sizes (think of it as a smaller capsule wardrobe). This is also a very effective process for helping new moms find their style when they are about to go back to work.
If you’ve lost the weight…
Sticking to any goal long enough to reach your desired result is a big deal and you should be so proud of yourself.
What’s interesting about clients who I’ve worked with that have achieved their weight loss goals is that there can sometimes be a feeling of overwhelm that they didn’t expect when it comes to getting dressed and shopping at their new size.
This feeling of overwhelm actually makes a lot of sense. When you’re losing weight you’re focused on your goal so you don’t invest much time in the different stages your body goes through along the way. Then, one day, you consistently have a new body but you have very little experience dressing it. Some clients who have experienced major weight loss are suddenly able to shop in stores they weren’t able to previously. This adds to their overwhelm. Most clients at this stage of their journey are excited to invest in their wardrobe but don’t because they are intimidated by all the options out there and are unsure how to dress their new shape.
Clients who recently experienced significant weight loss (two sizes or more) typically do a seasonal update package twice in one year to build a quality wardrobe for all four seasons at their new weight. This wardrobe usually last for two to three years before they’re ready for a smaller refresh.
One of the most basic acts we all have to take everyday is getting dressed. Punishing ourselves by avoiding wearing clothes that make us feel good makes it really hard to feel motivated and inspired to make changes in all areas of our lives. Learning how to dress for our shape (notice I said shape not weight) and express our personal style every single day is a right we all have regardless of what the scale says. If you want a partner to help guide you navigate it all, I'm here.
I happen to know a lot of smart and talented women who run impressive businesses. This month I've decided it's time for me to introduce them to you. My aim with my new series Perspectives is to share information on topics I know my clients and friends want to learn more about to help make their lives richer and easier. I'm so delighted to kick off my new series with Annika Roser. Annika's a Boston-based boudoir photographer and the owner of Ma Cherie Studios. Her ability to make women look and feel beautiful is second to none. I came across her Instagram profile over a year ago and was blown away. I've had the pleasure of working with Annika to take photos for my business and I was so impressed by her commitment to making me feel comfortable and have fun (not a small task when you're being photographed!) . If you've ever considered a boudoir shoot (or you need new dating or business pics), Annika is the woman for you.
In todays world of social media perfection, it's easy to get caught up in the comparison game and start chipping away at your own confidence. Trust me I know, I see it with all my clients. I am a boudoir photographer here in Boston, and the women I work with are all beautiful and unique but do have one thing in common prior to their shoot - not seeing themselves for as stunning and perfect as they are.
Boudoir shoots do help a great deal in shedding new light on the way we see ourselves. They are definitely a wonderful way to get an extra confidence boost! But what about everyday confidence? My clients experiences in front of the camera does carry over into their everyday lives, however if a shoot is not in your near future, here are some amazing (and simple!) tips to help you get an good confidence boost too.
Make Time For You
Be sure to schedule in some me time to your schedule. Doing things for yourself is so important. Whether you make time for the gym, self grooming, a yoga session, or even just some time to read every day. Be sure to get that time in doing something that you enjoy and makes you feel good about yourself.
Nicole can for sure help with this one! But it is so true, sometimes to feel good on the inside we have to adjust the outside. So if dressing up everyday isn't your thing, plan a date or girls night to feel glammed up and powerful. Even just one night a week can have lasting changes to your daily confidence.
This one might seem cheesy, but making people feel good will make you feel good! Spending time helping others will not only get you out of your comfort zone but it will make you feel better. Seeing other people or animals being helped will make you feel good about yourself!
Set A Small Goal & Achieve It
If you're anything like me, then your to-do list is a mile long. This never ending list could be weighing you down, and making you feel less than perfect. Stop looking at the list as a whole, and start breaking it down to smaller, more manageable parts. This will make ticking those items of your list so easy!
Clear The Clutter
This has been a big one for me every time I catch myself comparing myself or home to others. Cleaning out my closet, home, or desk makes me realize that what I have isn't bad. Cleaning out my closet or desk makes the spaces much nicer to be around, which is very calming for the mind. This is also a great way to gain more control in your life amongst all the chaos and hustle. Plus, I always find things in my closet or home that I had forgotten about!
I hope these help in creating some daily confidence! And if you're interested in a boudoir shoot, check out my websitehere.
New Client Question: I have a harder time finding casual clothes I like and feel comfortable in (vs. work clothes). Is that normal?
There’s nothing more normal actually. 95% of my clients are working women which means that they spend a lot of their time at the office, a place with a built-in culture that sets the expectations for how they dress. Spending five days a week thinking about dressing for the offices means they learn what they feel comfortable in faster than they would in their personal life.
Once you’ve been in the workforce for a little while you develop an understanding of where to get “work” clothes. Whether you shop at Ann Taylor or have a few go-to brands you know are “safe” for work, like Theory or Tahari, there’s some roadmap for where to shop. The same roadmap for getting dressed isn't as clear for our personal lives.
As women begin to approach their 30’s and 40’s, their lives tend to shift a lot. They are busier and, often, their priorities have shifted to their families, career or a serious relationship (or all three). Clients in this phase of life often think they’ve “lost” their style. They haven’t.
What’s happened is that the different casual contexts that they show up in has changed (think baby showers, weddings, school functions, playdates) but there is no one "go-to" store for casual style. At the very same time that all of these changes in their personal life are taking place, their bodies often start to change. Now, faced with new bodies, less time and even less mental space, they have to try to figure out what makes them feel confident without the time they had in their 20’s to experiment and find out. Naturally, something as seemingly routine as getting dressed starts to feel overwhelming.
The process I go through with every client allows them the space they need to really take a look at what makes them feel good at this specific stage of their life. Once we identify the signature style that makes them feel good, I help them get the missing pieces and build the looks that will take them from work to weekend confidently. We do all of this in two hour blocks over the course of three days which eliminates overwhelm and produces fast results.
As workplaces become more casual, getting dressed when you're the boss and you’re a lady is getting trickier. Many of my clients are the only woman in a leadership position within their organization. Being the only woman in charge is challenging because it means you're without examples of how to dress for your role or a sense of what's appropriate in different professional contexts.
If you’re sick of getting lost in the shuffle of pantsuits and sensible separates or, out of fear of not being taken seriously, you’ve veered towards styles that are overly masculine or stuffy, here are four tips to help you reclaim your personal style and maintain your authority at work.
Assess The Unspoken Sartorial Culture
When you’re the only lady boss in the building, trying to figure out the appropriate female equivalent of a button down and jeans isn’t always clear. Wearing the exact same outfit as a the guys can give off a less feminine feel than many women want. Plus, it’s boring.
One trick to gauge the general level of workwear formality in a male dominated office is to look at the shoes of several men in similar leadership positions as you. Are they wearing Ferragamo, running sneakers or some generic shoe you couldn’t pick out in a line up?
This will give you a sense of the wardrobe culture of the office and is indicative of the expectations around investing in your wardrobe. If they are wearing expensive shoes with jeans, invest in accessories and shoes and add one structured piece (a shoe, a bag, a blazer) to your look with dark denim. If they’re more of the running shoes and jeans crowd, go with a boot or flat (or a killer sneaker), skip the blazer and add a vest or a cardigan.
Use The +1/-1 Rule To Find Your Workwear Comfort Zone
Next, play around with wearing one level of formality up or down from your baseline until you get a feel for what works for you and your work context.
If you want to dress down play with heel height, proportion (wear a boxy top with a very fitted bottom or a wide leg pant with a fitted top) and pick pieces with less structure like a boyfriend cardigan instead of a blazer.
If you want to dress up one level add a structured piece to a casual look. Throw on a well cut blazer or a heel to stand out as the leader in an otherwise casual work environment. If you’re in a creative or more laid back environment, try one of these in a print or bold color to take the formality level down a notch.
Use the Third-Piece Rule To Look Polished
And by “rule” I mean something women's magazines made up but it’s actually pretty smart so we’re gonna roll with it.
The Third-piece rule states that in order to make a boring outfit stand out you should add a third item like a blazer, vest, cardigan, cape or statement accessory (hat, scarf, belt, necklace, cuff, etc) to your top (first piece) and bottom (second piece). It's a super easy trick and consistently adding a third piece when you’re planning your outfits can have a real impact on how polished and “together” you look and feel.
While not every promotion comes with a big pay increase, investing in your work wardrobe should be a priority because it contributes to building your personal brand and increases your confidence. Many clients I work with consider upgrading their wardrobe a business expense when they get a promotion. That doesn’t mean you have to go crazy and spend a lot of money at once. Just identify what pieces you can add to your existing wardrobe to elevate it and budget for them.
If you want to cultivate a personal style in the new year that’s uniquely your own, then a generic list that doesn’t take your lifestyle into account isn’t going to be much help. Upgrading your personal style by trying out a few easy mindset shifts and a couple of easy shopping and styling strategies will take you much further this year. The best part? Most of these style resolutions don’t cost anything, and their impact will be noticed immediatly.
#1. Stop It With The “I’ll Pay Attention To My Style When…”
Putting off investing time, energy or money into your style until you hit a certain milestone is often a futile approach. Here’s why:
1) This strategy can feel like you’re punishing yourself for where you are right now, which isn’t the greatest long-term motivation plan.
2) It takes focus and consistency to make a change. By avoiding dressing in a way that makes you feel great right now, you’re missing out on the chance to use your clothes as a tool in achieving your goals. Let your clothes act as a reminder to yourself of where we want to be every single day.
3) Once you do hit your goal, it’s not automatically the case that you’ll suddenly be ready to make the leap to dressing your body accordingly. I’ve worked with many people who waited until they got the job or lost the weight to start dressing in clothes they love. But, just because their body or circumstances had changed, doesn’t mean their mind was ready and easily adapted to their new wardrobe. The sooner you start dressing in alignment with your personal style, the sooner it will feel truly your own.
#2. Embrace Tailoring
One of the best ways to employ resolution #1 is to embrace tailoring. Tailoring is one of the most effective body image boosts I know of and next to what we all spend on clothes we never wear, it’s not that big of an expense. Punishing your body by not wearing clothes that are flattering doesn’t help you make positive changes anyways. So, why not cut the “there’s something wrong with my body” conversation out and spend a little extra to customize your clothes, so they fit you perfectly?
Here’s are the two questions you need to answer to decide if a trip to the tailor is worth it:
Does it go with at least three other items currently in my closet?
Do I love it?
Don’t worry too much about the cost of a piece. I’ve seen many an H&M gem be tailored and become a (much more expensive looking) closet staple. When in doubt, always ask your tailor what they think.
Here are some fabrics that wear well over time and are worth investing in and tailoring: cashmere, khaki, denim, silk, wool, Oxford cloth, Pima cotton, tweed, flannel, chambray, velvet, cotton shirting, boucle, and moleskin.
#3. Know Your Style Secret Weapons
This is one of my favorites! Style secret weapons are one to three really easy things you can wear to feel fantastic, pulled together, and ready to take on the world in less than one minute. Items don’t have to be clothes either. My current round up includes big sunglasses, a solid blow out, and an ankle boot and/ or a killer coat. You don’t need an entirely new wardrobe to do this, and if you only take on one resolution from this list, please make it this one. Your mornings will be so much better, and you’ll feel a little bit better each day which pays off over the course of a year!
Pssst! If you’re a new mom (or will be soon), this is THE tip for you.
#4. Decide Where You Want To Invest Before You Shop
I’m pretty sure that one of the universal rules of adulthood is that deciding things ahead of time is a good idea. I’m 100% certain that deciding what you’ll invest in before shopping makes a big difference in long-term sartorial satisfaction.
Knowing what pieces you want to invest in for a whole season helps train your eye to look for special details that makes the difference between liking an item and loving it. You’re more likely to pass over these details if you don’t focus your shopping list, and your brain, in advance.
Deciding what you want to invest in over a season can also help you see any disconnect in your closet between what you value (a few high-quality tops) versus what you’re actually buying on your lunch break (a bunch of $19.00 tops from TJ Maxx that sort of fit...in the right lighting).