For well over 20 years I was a Careers Adviser, well in the end I was a Manager of Careers Advisers (collective noun – a gaggle), I’ve never stopped wanting to support people to realise their career ambitions. However in January 2019 I quit and retrained as a Style Coach and I thought that was me done with career guidance. BUT, it recently became clear the two skills complement and enhance each other, especially when working with other women; like career returners looking to re-establish their work identity, whist embracing the new reality as a working parent or carer; or, those who’ve been newly promoted and want to dress the part without feeling like they’re playing dress up or conforming to a media stereotype of the ‘lady boss’ and latterly, women facing redundancy and the crisis of identity that throws up.
So what do I mean by dressing to feel your best? You may think you always feel your best when you’re wearing your comfiest tracksuit bottoms/ leggings and baggy jumper and I don’t doubt you feel comfortable and yourself, but there comes a time when you need to present yourself to colleagues, bosses and potential employers and most of us really can’t do that in athleisure wear as it’s now been dubbed.
What you wear in any given situation has to work for you and it has to make you feel good about yourself – those are my golden rules and I have a few tips to help you achieve that.
Identify your personal style
My best advice for doing this is to think about whose style you admire, it’s good to pick a few people and try and work out the similarities. This also helps to eliminate styles that you like but would never wear yourself i.e. Cher in her amazing Bob Mackie designs – I love them but they’re not practical for everyday life in and around Southsea (I also don’t possess the body and chutzpah of Ms Sarkisian)!
Take a look in your wardrobe and pull out the things you have never worn, or if you have, you feel self conscious or uncomfortable in. There’s a danger of falling into a style rut or staying in your comfort zone and you can establish if that has happened to you by seeing how many duplicates you have e.g. 10 white t-shirts/ beige jumpers.
Not everyone has a ‘classic ‘style and it’s good to keep an eye on fashion, but try to avoid falling into the trap of buying the latest trend, there is a difference between fashion and style and some fashion trends will suit your particular style personality, others wont and I guarantee if you buy them because they’re trendy, you will never feel your best wearing them.
Consider colour psychology
This is especially helpful if you are going for an interview, meeting with colleagues, bosses or prospective clients; you can influence your own mood and messages you want to convey to others. Bearing in mind that there are some cultural differences and associations with certain colours, for the purposes of this post, we’ll stick to modern, western associations.
Here are a few tips:
- Although red is most definitely a power colour, be careful not to wear too much in a professional setting, psychological studies have shown men often associate the colour with sexuality, fertility, romance and women may judge others wearing it as threatening or lascivious. Studies have also shown wearing the colour in a competitive situation can lead to a decline in performance. My recommendation is if you love red (as I do) use it as an accessory, such as lipstick or earrings – enough to demonstrate your self confidence without risking misinterpretation!
- If you’re lacking motivation or energy or you want to be motivational to others wear orange
- Similarly, if you want to feel cheerful or diffuse a stressful situation (job interview?) and appear friendly and approachable then a pop of yellow is a good idea
- If you’re looking for a power colour that isn’t red then go for green, it can project strength, prestige, stability and trust.
- My top tip however, is blue, if as women you’re likely to be in a room full of mostly men, then a wearing navy (the colour most worn by males in business) is going to project competence, being in control and trustworthiness.
A special note about black; in business it’s easy for it to be your go-to fail safe colour, however, beware it can mask you’re personality and overpower any message you want to portray. Wear black, it’s easy and practical, but add another colour such as the suggestions above.
Start to build a capsule wardrobe
I am a huge fan of the capsule wardrobe for a number of reasons; sustainability is high up there, if you have a core collection of clothes, you can spend a little more on them, knowing they will work hard for you and last a long time. I believe this will also save you money in the long term. It takes the stress out of getting dressed, if everything works together, then you can mix and match and you’re less likely to open your wardrobe and think “I’ve got nothing to wear”. That also leads to perhaps the best part, which is the time saving, everything goes together so you can throw anything on in a minute and know it’s going to work!
There are a few different ideas about putting together a capsule wardrobe but my suggestions are to:
- Pick a base colour to build around – blue/black/grey/ beige.
- At the very least think 5,4,3,2,1 – you will need 5 tops, 4 bottoms, 3 layers, 2 pairs of shoes and 1 special item.
- Standard items that should be included in a capsule wardrobe are; black dress, white shirt, tailored black trousers, well fitting jeans, blazer, day dress and skirt (that suit your personal style), Breton top, soft sweater, court shoes and trainers.
- Think about the 60/20/20 rule; ideally your wardrobe would be 60% what you wear regularly, 20% for leisure or weekends and 20% for occasions or special outings.
Our clothes are our ‘outer skin’ they can be our protector and our projector they are a huge part of our personal brand. Getting dressed shouldn’t be a stressful or emotionally draining experience, but sadly it does become that for many people. The tips I’ve shared in this post, will hopefully help towards creating a wardrobe that ‘works’ for you.
I’m offering an exclusive 20% off of wardrobe edits, style consultations and career guidance sessions for delegates of the She Has No Limits conference. Please quote SHNL when booking.
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