Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Why hire an Image and Wardrobe Coach?

Why hire an Image and Wardrobe Coach?

Because you are tired of spending money on clothes your closet wears!


Recent Posts

Wardrobe Tips from Military Life (Part 2)

Wardrobe Tips from Military Life (Part 2)

Previously, I shared a few things I learned about dressing from my short time in the military, and (much longer time) as a military spouse. I have come to realize that many of my attitudes about clothing and wardrobes come from this part of my past. It can be illuminating to poke into our past to see where some of our values and attitudes about dressing come from…

A Wardrobe Can Fit in a Suitcase (or a Seabag!)

I have this ideal of my wardrobe fitting into a suitcase. Actually two. One for clothes, and a second for shoes and accessories! It may be a holdover from carrying a year’s clothing wardrobe in a seabag. A seabag is the vertical green duffle bag you receive as a Navy recruit to transport all your new uniforms from boot camp to your future schools and duty stations. Everything except your cover (hat) and uniform to travel in was to fit into your seabag. (Please note: Uniforms have changed since the 1980’s!) Civvie Parallel: If you plan well, your clothing wardrobe can fit into a suitcase, and take you far. Any trip less than a household move does not require a 70 pound suitcase!

UOTD (Uniform of the Day)

In the military, depending on your duties you have a UOTD. This tells you what to wear. One day you may dress in a working uniform, another in a service uniform. You have what you need for everything from scrubbing bathrooms and repairing equipment to attending a military ball. You may not have a lot of options, but you are covered for all occasions. Civvie Parallel: Make sure you have what you need for the life you live, and the unexpected (funerals, jury duty, visiting your lawyer, banker, or accountant) You don’t need a lot of options, but your wardrobe should cover all the bases!

You Can Survive with 4 Pair of Shoes

I had some lovely shoes before I joined the military, and plenty of them, but I never wore them nearly as often, or learned to take care of them, as I did in the Navy. The 4 included: running shoes, boondockers (work boots, and I still have them), oxfords, and pumps. They were all incredibly comfortable and practical. Civvie Parallel: If you feet aren’t comfortable, you won’t be comfortable. When I pack a suitcase to travel, I often start with the shoes. Do I have what I need for all the different adventures planned on this trip? (But I probably don’t need more than 4 pair…)

Pumps and Trousers

I know the pumps and trousers look is ubiquitous, but in my 1980’s new-university-graduate mind, trousers and jeans (and anything else) were worn with flat shoes. Heels were reserved for skirts and dresses. When we were fitted for our dress and service uniforms, we were instructed that either oxfords or pumps were our shoe options. Oxfords with a skirt? Pumps with trousers? I certainly didn’t see either as a fashion statement, but it got me out of my default habit of trousers and oxford style shoes, and skirts and pumps.  Civvie Parallel:  Mix up your silhouettes and see how you like it! Sometimes we get into a rut, and forget we have other options. Trousers with heels can rock! So can a skirt or dress with oxfords!

What attitudes about dress come from your childhood? Or from your university and early post-uni days? Please share in the comments below!

 

 

Confused by Business Casual?

Confused by Business Casual?

If you are confused by Business Casual, you are not alone! Business Casual dress is loved by many, and despised by others. To understand Business Casual, let’s talk a little about the history of business dress. In particular, men’s business dress, since appropriate women’s business wear derives from the men’s.

Once upon a time, anyone working in an office wore a suit, light colored shirt, and a tie. No choices. Shirt cuffs and collars were separate pieces attached to a shirt. This made laundering less of a chore, as the collars and cuffs (which dirty first) could be removed for cleaning, and the shirt worn more than once before laundering. White collars and cuffs were the most likely to get dirty, and were worn by office workers, while laborers wore blue collars, as they showed the dirt less quickly. Electric washers and dryers have made the practicality of removable collars and cuffs a moot point, but we still hold onto the white collar/blue collar divide.

Business dress has its roots in military uniforms. Imagine the three-piece suit, shirt and tie as more “armored” and therefore, more formal or businesslike. The most common business suit, the two-piece, worn with a light-colored shirt and a tie, is still the standard for conservative business environments such as law, banking, and finance. This makes sense as more formal “reads” as more trustworthy or professional; I certainly don’t want to put my life or life savings into the hands of someone who looks casual or “risky.”

So where did Business Casual come from? You can thank the manufacturers of Hawaiian shirts looking to drum up business in the 1960’s. (Does anyone remember the Tiki craze?) Their marketing strategy was Aloha Fridays. The concept was to stimulate the local garment industry and showcase their unique look and product. We could discuss the leisure suits of the 1970’s, but some stones should be left unturned!

Fast-forward to the recession of the 1990’s. Businesses were looking for ways to give their employees an inexpensive (read: free) perk, and some experimented with Casual Fridays. At many workplaces too much casual, and not enough business was showing up in the office Friday mornings. At the same time, Levi’s had just acquired the Dockers brand. A brilliant marketer decided that Dockers were the answer to the What-to-Wear-on-Casual-Fridays problem, and created How-To-Dress brochures targeted to Human Resources departments. Voila! The Casual Friday uniform was born.

Through further economic and societal shifts, Casual Fridays became Business Casual, which has since morphed into the khakis and polos considered business wear in many circles. Employees are often pleased because Business Casual means less money spent on clothes only worn for the office, and fewer dry cleaner visits. On the down side, without good visual cues, clients can wonder if they are talking to the mail clerk or the CEO.

A recent evolution in business dress is the Dress-For-Your-Day concept touted by companies who think of themselves as flexible, employee friendly, modern, and team driven. Essentially, it means dressing for what you have on your schedule that day. If you will spend the day in your cubicle writing reports, then jeans and a tee may be just fine. If you have client meetings, you could need to don a suit and tie. Internal meetings may require trousers and a polo, or sport shirt. Dress-For-Your-Day sounds like the perfect answer as a more friendly dress code, but often leaves much to be desired. Plans change at the last minute, and running home to change clothes on the way to meet a client is an added stress most of us don’t need. And if the client shows up at the office unannounced? A roomful of employees in jeans and logo tees may not be the desired impression!

How would you define your work dress code? Does it create issues for you or your fellow employees? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Wear Colored Shoes

How to Wear Colored Shoes

I love colored shoes! I may have a bona fide problem, but I’m not interested in recovery. I know some people think colored shoes weird, or impractical, but I have never found them to be so. Many women will wear colored tennis shoes and flip flops, but buying a colored “dress shoe” strike fear into many a heart. If you have been on the fence, here are some pointers…

Pick a Color You Love!

You are more likely to wear something if the color is one you love. Applied to the matter at hand, that would mean buying shoes in one of your favorite colors. Ideally, you will already have other pieces that will coordinate with your new shoes. They don’t need to be an exact match. Let me say that again: They do not have to be an exact match! As long as they coordinate, or look like they are from the same family, you will be fine. Your shoes are not going to be seen up against your blouse or scarf. Also, shoes are likely to be made of a different material than your clothing, and the different textured surfaces would make even dye-matched items look different. The other plus to a color you love is that if someone does compliment you on your shoes, you have the perfect response… “Thanks, it’s my favorite color!”

Keep The Color in Your Palette

If your new shoe color is one of the colors in your personal color palette, or your wardrobe’s color palette, you will find it easier to mix and match with the pieces you already own. Why does this matter? It will save you from spending money on shoes only your closet will wear, and make it easier to work them into outfits and look pulled together. The exception to this rule would be if you are buying a color that you love but is unflattering on you. For me that would be bright yellow or olive green. I love them, but they don’t love me! I would buy them in a cute shoe though, to get a color fix and wear them with my neutrals for a better look.

Repeat the Color Near Your Face

Beauty Bundle: PinkThey key to wearing colored shoes and not having everyone staring at your feet is to draw the attention back up to your face with your shoe color. Some stylists call this topping and tailing. When looking at a person, humans start at the face and move downward toward the feet. This is a natural progression. When we get to the bottom, if there is a similar color at the top, our eye pops back up to the face. This is why wearing a shoe in your hair color will always work, because the color is already there at the top of your head. Now, if you want to wear pink shoes, there is no need to dye your hair pink! Just throw on a pink necklace, scarf, or earrings , or even a bold pink lipstick will help.

This is where the genius of Beauty Bundles comes in. When you buy a shoe that is not a color you already own and wear, grab an inexpensive scarf, pair or earrings or a necklace in that same shade. You will have the beginnings of a Beauty Bundle. If you decide you love the color and it loves you back, you can grow your bundle in bits and pieces over time. If you decide that color isn’t for you, you can gift the shoes and jewels together and start someone else out with a sweet bundle that might be just perfect for them!

A Last Note

If you have very challenging-to-fit feet, and would love to buy colored shoes, but they only make shoes that fit you in black, and if you are lucky: tan or white, don’t be discouraged! I am happy to introduce you to Angelus Shoe Paints. This versatile product is for leather shoes, and can change any shoe color to the color of your choice.  I am incredibly craft-challenged, and have successfully painted at least 3 pairs of shoes. A friend with “difficult” feet decided to paint her old and worn orthotics-friendly shoes, and is very happy with the results. She feels like she has a new pair of shoes, and a new lease on style.

Do you like colored shoes, or are they out of your comfort zone? What is your favorite pair of shoes? I’d love to know! Please share in the comments below…

Thanks to Catherine of Not Dressed as Lamb for the link up!

Choosing Accessories

Choosing Accessories

A few months ago, I listed questions that can help narrow the search for a handbag. They fell into Know Thyself questions, and Know Thy Bags questions. Know Thyself is key for all purchases! Accessories covers a lot of ground, but for simplicity, I’ll limit this post to jewelry. Frequently, a client will ask me about choosing jewelry to complete an outfit. Most women have no issues with putting together a top and bottom they like, but find themselves flummoxed when it comes to completing an outfit with accessories. This is a pity because accessories can give you variety with very little investment.

The reason I love accessories is that they can change a look in just a few seconds, and are a great way to play with your style, or try on a new personality. If it’s time to let out part of you that normally doesn’t see the light of day, fashion jewelry is a great way to go! Now, if you are a woman who wears only fine jewelry, and genuine stones, this kind of play may not be for you. The expense of your preferences makes experimentation less likely, but I would still encourage you to try out some fashion pieces for a travel jewelry capsule. Taking your heirloom pieces on a cruise, or to the beach is not always good for your piece of mind or wallet.

Personality

As with all other fashion items, your personality should be the main driver for what you buy and wear. What is popular at the moment, or will be next year shouldn’t be much of a concern, unless trend chasing is a sport you enjoy. If you have a very feminine and relaxed/natural personality, biker bling and skulls are probably not for you. Likewise, the rebel is unlikely to feel called to wear a delicate pearl drop on a fine chain. Jewelry is very personal as it is often worn right next to the skin, so if a piece doesn’t reflect an aspect of your personality, it’s likely to stay in your baubles box.

Levels of Refinement

Many clothing items are wearable across levels of refinement. We see jeans everywhere from hiking trails to offices on Casual Friday, but it’s what you wear with it that makes them fit in either environment. The accessories we wear tell the world what our level of refinement is for the day. The single strand pearl bracelet above with the leather lacing is far more casual than the the triple pearl necklace. In the watches illustration, you can see how the sparkly evening watch would look out of place on the hiking trail, and the red silicone could be worn to the office, but may not have enough gravitas to keep your jeans looking professional. The leopard band women’s watch is deceptive. The gold finish and leopard band look more Level 2, but the cat ears and kitty collar bling give it a more juvenile feel.

Coloring

What is your personal coloring like? Do you look better in silver or gold? Cool colors or warm colors? An outfit of warm tones will look more harmonious with warm toned jewelry. Last spring, I watched a bride-to-be shop for a pearl necklace to wear with her wedding dress. The bright white pearls were too cool for her warm coloring; they didn’t look right on her. The coloring disconnect make them look cheap. The ivory toned pearls she tried on were lovely with her warm skin and honey hair. She was struggling, because the ivory pearls would look “funny” with her white gown. (Lesson for brides: Buy the dress that makes your skin look amazing! Not just the bright white because that’s what you (or mom) thinks the bride should wear!) Is your personal color lower color contrast, or high? Colored jewelry is a great way to add extra color to your outfits. If you are a lower color contrast woman, colored jewelry may work better with clothing in a similar shade, or with neutrals for balance.

A second color aspect to consider is the colors already in your wardrobe. Do you have a defined color palette? Do you own more neutrals or colors? Are most of your tops colored? If so, you may want to focus on finding metallic and/or neutral toned jewelry. On the other hand, if most of your tops are neutral, colored jewelry is a fabulous way to bring attention to your face where it belongs! I find that I wear more neutral colored tops in the summer because neutrals “feel” cool to me, so I try to remember to bring out my colored jewelry for summer. Other people wear more neutrals in the winter, so should look for those colored pieces to bring some brightness to grey winter days.

Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry? Are you a jewelry lover, or does it never make it onto your body? Please share in the comments below; I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Dressing

Holiday Dressing

What makes a great holiday outfit? Ugly Christmas sweaters aside, what feels festive to you? It should really depend on the event. Caroling on a chilly night requires a different  ensemble than the office holiday ‘do. (Speaking of the holiday office ‘do… It’s still office, and NOT the place for cleavage, bra or booty!)

Some Sparkle

Sparkle doesn’t have to be diamonds. Choose the metallic shade that looks best on you. Statement earrings are a great way to keep attention on you (your face), and avoids the jangle of bracelets and the swinging and catching of necklaces that many find annoying. An inexpensive pair can be your holiday go-to. A metallic clutch to go along is another easy and inexpensive touch. Jeans, a tee and your earrings and clutch change the whole vibe from van driving to festive! Metallic “clutches” are everywhere this year. Look beyond the handbags to cosmetic bags and electronics gear organizers. Also look in the office supplies at supply pouches… These tend to be less expensive than the ones you find in the handbag department, and you can use them next year to keep your tote organized!

Some Cozy

What’s cozy? Please don’t  wear puppies or kittens! Think corduroy, cut or uncut, velvet, velveteen, velour, faux fur, fuzzy or marled knits. I have seen some great velvety cosmetic bags at my local big box store (red circles on the front…) with a tassel zipper pull that would make a great clutch. Cozy isn’t only for tops, though. Try corduroy or velvet jeans, or a faux fur scarf, in whatever color makes you look radiant. The point of faux is to be faux, so don’t worry about picking a “realistic” color!

Some Elegance

The soft sheen of pearls or pewter brings light to the darkness of winter. Imagine the glow of of white mistletoe berries contrasted with the green leaves. The draping of a waterfall cardigan can bring an elegant feel, or the luxurious hand of cashmere warms and regulates temperature like a dream. Lace, anyone? An oversized statement necklace, bracelet or ring that isn’t blingy feels elegant as well. Yours might be a wide silver cuff bracelet. Antique pieces and family heirlooms (grandma’s brooch or locket, or your aunt’s wedding ring that she wore on the boat over from the old country) all speak of tradition and connection. Don’t save them for “good”! If a holiday celebration isn’t good, what is? (I drink box wine from crystal, so any day is good for me!)

Some Color

The traditional reds and greens of the season feel festive, but avoid pairing them together. Even in their grown up version (burgundy and hunter) they can feel cliché, and look childish rather than youthful. The easy mix is with black, and since that can be too harsh for many complexions, why not try your favorite shade of red/pink or green with winter white, grey, taupe, or blue? Light blue and white are a great holiday combo, too, evoking clear skies and a snowy landscape. If you must wear all black, please at least add colored jewelry and a pashmina to soften and cheer your look.

Comfort!

Comfortable is a must for me! If the dress requires 2 Spanx and a pliers to pull up the zipper, you aren’t going to have very much fun. Unless you are a starlet whose job is to be stunning and you can act well enough to be happy even when boa-constricted, please try on your outfit before it’s time to head out the door, and determine if you are garbed in something you can spend the night nibbling, dancing, and socializing in. If sitting and entertaining small children are in the plan, take that into account, as well. Too tight trousers to the holiday concert will make you wish you the sugar-plum fairy would just drop dead so you can get home and into your jammies. Uncomfortable clothes = Bah, humbug!

What is your favorite holiday outfit? What item do you wear that always makes you feel special? Share in the comments below!

And many thanks to Katherine at #notlamb for the LinkUp!

What’s Your Wardrobe Budget?

What’s Your Wardrobe Budget?

Many people with whom I speak are under a false impression. They think that I want them to spend lots of money on their wardrobes. Nothing can be further from the truth! I am all about a budget, and being responsible with your finances. More years ago than I would like to admit, I heard a finance guru say “If you don’t manage your money, it will manage you.” Having had many beans and rice days, I appreciated how my money had been managing me and my emotions. It has taken a long time, but I am getting better at money management.

You Gotta Know Where It’s Goin’

Every finance and budgeting resource begins with the basic of tracking your expenses. I sat down last weekend and updated my wardrobe expense tracking to find that I still have some money left in my annual budget. Woo hoo! Now when you hear wardrobe expense tracking, please don’t be impressed. My wardrobe expense tracking system is a brown 6X9 envelope with “Wardrobe Expenses 2017” written on the top. My initials are on one side, and hubby’s are on the other. There are 2 paper clips inside one for my receipts, and one for his. (Yes, the paper clips are color coded. I’m like that.) On the outside I keep a running total on each side of the envelope. High tech? No. Functional? Very.  When I started doing this, I was afraid to find out how much I was spending. I quickly learned I was dropping $10-$20 frequently, resulting in lots of spending and lots of waste. After a year or two, I found myself spending less often, and making better choices that were longer lasting, and yes, more expensive. A budget made shopping less stressful and I was loving my wardrobe more.

How Much Should You Spend?

Even if you don’t yet have a system, let’s think about a budget for next year! Most sources say you should be spending between 3%-10% of your household budget on clothing annually. The percentage you choose will vary depending on the number of people in your family, and your wardrobe requirements. Before you panic at those percentages, some historical perspective might be helpful. Americans spend less of their budget on clothing now than they have at any point in the past (excepting war rationing years). Clothing is cheaper than ever, but people make up for that by buying lots. The average woman has more clothes that she doesn’t wear than clothes she does. A woman’s wardrobe in the 1950’s could fit into one good sized suitcase, maybe excepting a heavy winter coat. Most of us today couldn’t imagine fitting our clothing into three suitcases! Working with a client, I find 5% a good place to start an experiment. For our family, I divided our 5% between the two of us, and that has worked for us so far. If you make all your purchases on the fantastic plastic, you should be able to access analytics from your card company at the end of the year that may help you get a handle on how much you spent.

Conscious Spending Methods

Knowing where your money goes is important, but knowing HOW it goes matters, too! Are you a piddly spender who makes lots of little purchases frequently? Or are you a big bash spender who shops once or twice a year and gets everything you need at once? The latter used to be more common, the former seems to be more the rule nowadays. Some surveys record that many Americans buy a new clothing item weekly. That’s 52 pieces a year! I know women who break down their annual budget quarterly, and buy for a season, and others who ration out their money monthly and save for larger purchases. Any and all of these can work. It depends on you and your habits. I find I am somewhere between the twice a year shopper, and the monthly purchaser. I plan to buy 5 new specialty items (non-basics) twice yearly, and replace basics as needed and found throughout the year. (PS: Replace means that the old piece the new one is replacing goes away. This should be self-evident, but I have worked in closets holding 10 pair of black pants, 8 of which never are worn.)

Do you have a clothing budget? How do you parcel out your spending? If you don’t, why don’t you? Please share in the comments below!

Many thanks to Katherine at #notlamb for the LinkUp!

Jeans Everyday?

Jeans Everyday?

Good day. Whew, it’s been a wild ride. Please pardon my neglect! My mother returned home after a long hospital stay, and then we were hosting visitors for Thanksgiving. What a couple of weeks! So much so that I wore jeans every day week before last. For many people, that would be a “Yeah, duh.” moment. Why wouldn’t you wear jeans 7 days in a row when you can? Others would answer “Why would you?” Because a week of jeans doesn’t suit my personality.

Let’s Talk Personality!

I have talked previously about how your personality drives, (or should drive) what you choose to wear. (So much so that every post I have published thus far has been labeled in the category Personality. It may be time to revisit those…) Now, I realize that many people don’t wear what they would like to for work. Maybe they have a uniform, or a dress code that is the antithesis of their personal style. More about that another day… Often clients hire me when they discover that they don’t like their clothes. Frequently, they discover that their clothes are no longer “them.”

Maybe You Have Changed

Having a baby. Entering or leaving the job market. Receiving a serious diagnosis. A lifestyle shift, or a big life event. Any of these may change who we are, or how we feel about ourselves. The wardrobe of the young professional and party girl you were in your 20’s and early 30’s is dramatically different from the one you find yourself needing as a happily married young woman and new mom. The professional businesswoman has left the workplace to start her own business, and doesn’t need the suit dresses and heels that her former life required. These life changes can seem to happen overnight. You may look into your closet with nostalgia for the life you led, or frustration at the lack of options for the life you have now. If you feel like the inside of your closet doesn’t reflect (and fit!) who you are right now, it’s time for a little wardrobe therapy. You have evolved, and your wardrobe needs to as well!

Who Are You Now?

Taking some time to figure out who you are right now is a must. It may seem indulgent, or a waste of time to spend time learning who the new you is. Productivity specialists will tell you that time spent planning or strategizing saves time and money in the long run. It’s the same with your wardrobe! Start with what you have and love. Even if you don’t actually wear these pieces, they give a glimpse into your personality. If you have a closet full of yoga pants and logo tees, but your favorite pieces are a strand of your grandmother’s pearls and a pair of riding boots, you might have a personality disconnect.  Neither the yogi nor the country gentry is you, but details from both! The devil is in respecting and integrating the different parts of your personality so that when you dress, you create a balance that feels authentic.

(And Where Do You Want to Go?)

Are you are a stay-at-home mom, and plan to go back to work once the youngest is in school? That may seem like years away, but if you are a person with a low wardrobe turn-over rate (you keep items for a very long time) you should be thinking about that return to work as you buy items now. If you are buying something that won’t keep, do you want to spend on it, or would it be better to spend on a piece that will work now AND later?

How Do You Spend Your Time?

Another important inventory to take is to look at how you spend your time. How you really spend your time. Not what it looks like on Instagram or Facebook! Take a look at your calendar. A fitness coach will have a very different wardrobe than a preschool teacher. The bank teller and hospital volunteer will not have the same wardrobe needs. Take an honest look at your lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with a wardrobe full of Converses and jeans if that is what works for your lifestyle and personality. Just make sure you have something in your closet appropriate to wear to a funeral, or meeting with a lawyer or accountant!

What Drives You?

We all have different values, and these shift in priority throughout our lives. It is important to make sure what we own still reflects the values we hold now. If comfort and modesty are your main drivers, you are not likely to be happy in a sheer tulle skirt with bare legs and booties. But that same outfit might be perfect for someone who puts comfort and modesty at the bottom of their values list.

My definition of modesty might be completely different than someone else’s. Values have both personal and cultural aspects to take into account. I remember gazing in wonder at a young woman in London. She wore a long sleeved tee, jeans, sneakers, and a headscarf. Sounds modest, right? It would have been had her clothing not been so snug that it left absolutely nothing to the imagination. She may as well have been naked, but she was covered from head to toe in fabric. That qualified as modest for her, or I expect for her parents!

For many, economics is a main driver. These shoppers should beware the false economy of the markdown. A cheap item you never wear is money wasted, no matter how low the price. Others see clothing as nothing more than a necessity to keep warm and prevent arrest. These concept driven folks are unlikely to call an Image and Wardrobe Coach, but may well have one called for them by an employer unhappy with their lack of concern!

My father used to call it navel-gazing, but time spent reflecting before shopping equals time well spent, and, frequently, money saved!

Have you been through any style changes this year? Please share in the comments below!

What Makes an Outfit Work (Part 2)

So how does one put What Makes an Outfit Work (Part 1) into practice? Lots of trial and error, until it becomes second nature. Here’s an example…

Style Blogger in Ubiquitous Striped Top Snap!

Personality

I have a pretty out-there personality. I am friendly, mostly direct, and not afraid to speak my mind. My style recipe is Mischievous Femi-Modern. I don’t do girly feminine. I’m into bling, but not ruffles or florals. The bracelet stack is hiding in this casual shot, but that and earrings were my bling for the day. I have a lot of Classic in my personality, so Levi’s 501’s and the (ubiquitous) striped top. The Classic in me also tends toward the darker colors in my palette, rather than the lighter shades. The Feminine comes out in the silk scarf, the narrow suede shoes, and the bow on the toe.

Personal Coloring

My coloring is Sublime in the Absolute Color System. I am Sublime! (That is such fun to say!) The Absolute Color System has 18 different and very nuanced palettes. It’s the color system I have been trained in and I think it’s the best out there. I never fit very well into the Color Me Beautiful/Four Seasons system, and appreciate how this one works so well for me and my clients. My personal coloring is light rather than dark. The outfit on the right is tending too dark for me; you can see how much more harmonious the coloring of lighter outfit on the left is.

Color Contrast and Value Contrast

My personal coloring is 2 Neutrals plus 1 Color, which is (almost) reflected here. I have a lot of neutrals going on in the stripey shot. Denim, Dark Green, and the White in my top all behave as neutrals. My color is the plum in my shoes and scarf. The bright shoes could distract from the communication center (face), but repeating the color from the shoes with the scarf draws your attention back up where it belongs. To the left, the softer neutrals are more in line with my personal coloring; there are fewer neutrals, and they more closely mimic my hair color. The teal blouse keeps color (and attention) near my face. My Value Contrast is Medium High. The casual outfit contrast is higher than the more suited look on the left. The dark trim on the suit jacket gives the pop needed to create a higher value contrast. Without it, the look would be too low contrast.

Body Shape

I am a petite 8 Shape. The dark neutral jacket and jeans create a column of color to create a longer vertical line. That same column contains the stripes preventing the dreaded widening effect. Ideally, I should wear a trouser that is long, but I prefer a crop and fun shoe, so the column helps there, too. If I was not wearing the jacket, a full length skinny jean would look better here!  On the left, the grey trousers and tweed create a column as well, but it is chopped by the black trim at the jacket hem. Ideally, the waist detail is balanced by the verticals on the jacket front, and the heeled grey shoe carries the color to a longer line, as well.

Hope this helps you see how just a few of the pieces fit together to create an outfit that is you! (Or me, as the case may be…) What outfit feels most “you” and why? Please share in the comments below!

What Makes an Outfit Work? (Part 1)

What Makes an Outfit Work? (Part 1)

Have you ever seen someone dressed and think That’s amazing on her, but I could never wear that. So, what makes an outfit work? (Or NOT work?!) When I pull together an outfit for a client, my goal is for it to:

Reflect Your Personality

This is one reason an outfit may be perfect for one woman and feel like a costume on another. I was working with a client a few weeks ago who loves a Relaxed Feminine Creative “boho” look, but feels like a clown dressed so. It didn’t take much digging to discover that she is also an organized and responsible woman with a need for structure and routine. The “boho” outfits she was trying to create were leaving out all the Classic in her personality. When we added a little structure to the flowy, or a touch of “boho” to a more Classic look, she felt like herself, or at home in the outfits. It is important to encompass ALL the pieces of your personality when you dress.

Work with Your Personal Coloring

We have all been given a set of colors that flatter us and make us look our healthiest. You may be saying, I’ve never had my colors “done” so I don’t have colors. You have colors, whether you recognize them or not. They are the colors given you by God, or if you prefer, determined by your DNA. You have been gifted the perfect colors for you, and these change throughout our lives as our natural coloring changes. Our skin and hair softens and lightens in color as we get older (often starting in our 30’s), so the colors that looked amazing on us at 25 are probably not the same colors we look best in at 50, and those are different than the ones that will best suit us at 75! More about color terminology, here.

Harmonize with Your Color and Value Contrasts

Is your personal coloring neutral (hair, skin, and eyes) or colored? Maybe you are a combination of both. A man or woman whose personal coloring is very neutral (e.g. blonde hair, brown eyes, and neutral skin), will be most flattered by outfits composed of neutrals, or outfits that are monochromatic (one color), or made from colors closer on the color wheel. Often the bloggers who look amazing in their all neutral capsule wardrobes are those neutrals women. Maybe you are highly colored, with red hair and green eyes. Then make sure your outfits are comprised of two colors along with any neutral you are wearing. The goal is to have you wear your clothes, not to have your clothes wear you!

Value contrast is determined by the lightest and darkest colors of your person. Snow White, with her very dark hair and fair skin is a classic example of high value contrast. Cinderella is a lower value contrast princess, with her blond hair and fair complexion. Think about their signature outfits. The high contrast of Snow White’s dark bodice and bright skirt. reflects the high contrast of her natural coloring. Cinderella’s varying shades of light blue reflect the much lower value contrast of her personal coloring. Getting our value contrast right can make all the difference, and can “cover a multitude of (style) sins”!

Flatter Your Body Shape

One of the biggest struggles for women is that our bodies change throughout our lifetimes, sometimes repeatedly! Pregnancy and nursing, and at the other end, menopause, create a state of flux that can be frustrating. We may have known how to dress our pre-babies body, but now, extra weight from pregnancy, car-pooling or desk-sitting makes dressing a new challenge that we simply don’t have time or mental energy to research. Menopause can take a stylish woman by surprise when body parts start shifting along with the hormones. Our body shape is based on our skeleton, and how our weight is distributed on our bones. Knowing your shape doesn’t tell you what to buy (That’s your personality’s job!), but it does tell you where you want (and don’t want) horizontal and vertical lines, and details to draw attention to assets and away from your less loved characteristics.

When you take some time to get to know yourself inside and out, pulling together a great outfit becomes easier every day. (And dressing can become fun again!)

What outfit do you feel most confident and yourself in? I’d love to know! Please share in the comments below!

 

Did I Say That Out Loud?

Did I Say That Out Loud?

One of the most frequent questions I am asked when people find out that I am an Image and Wardrobe Coach is “Well, how’d I do?” accompanied by a head to toe waving gesture of the hands pointing out their sartorial selection. My answer is usually “That depends… What did you want to say?” A quizzical look usually follows my reply. I find myself explaining that dress is communication; what you put on in the morning speaks volumes before you ever open your mouth. What you wear does matter, whether you are working, or not.

People often tell me that what they wear doesn’t matter because they work at home, or no one sees them at work because they are not “client-facing.” In contrast, data shows that even if when only dressing for yourself, it does matter what you wear. Not only does how we dress affect those around us, and how we are perceived, it affects our own mood, and perception of ourselves. This effect is called enclothed-cognition.

In a study done at Northwestern University, subjects were tested while wearing a “doctor’s coat,” a “painter’s coat,” (identical to the M.D.’s coat) and no coat at all. Subjects performed better at a test of observation skill when wearing what they thought to be a doctor’s coat, versus the painter’s coat, or no coat at all. The had to be wearing the coat. Hanging it over the chair, or looking at it did not produce the same effect.

“Dressing up” is not only good for us, but it is good for business, too! People perceive women dressed more (business) formally and conservatively as more intelligent, and these same women are more likely to be hired, promoted, and paid more. We hold ourselves differently in dress clothes than in casual wear, and we behave differently, too. In fact, correlations have been found between relaxing dress codes and rising rates of harassment. More casual dress = more casual (read: less appropriate) behavior.

The biggest complaint people have about “dressing up” for business is that they are uncomfortable. For some this is a physical discomfort, trousers are too tight, or heels make feet hurt, but those are all problems with the clothing purchased. There is no reason to buy uncomfortable clothes. If you have an issue with comfort (often the case with people who rate themselves as highly kinesthetic) then you need to be extra careful when selecting items for work. It takes careful research and effort, but will pay for itself (literally!) in the end.

For others the discomfort is mental. They never have dressed in traditional office wear, or they are uncomfortable in their required corporate dress, and feel like a fraud. For new entries into the corporate world who have spent their lives in jeans and athletic shoes, the discomfort can feel overwhelming. This is a real concern to address and requires a little more mental exploration than the physical discomfort issue. Unless you wear a proscribed uniform with no customization options, there are ways to make your workwear more mentally comfortable.

If you work in a very traditional environment that requires a suit and tie five days a week, but have a more relaxed personality, there are ways to bridge the disconnect that may cause your mental discomfort. One option could be as simple as keeping a sweater on the back of your chair to wear with your shirt, (loosened tie if male,) and trousers when you are not in meetings. (Yes, this may smack of Mr. Rogers!) Often, purchasing business wear in colors that better suit your personality and personal coloring can bring your business dress in sync with your physical self, and reduce discomfort.

What we wear creates a feedback loop that we can use to our advantage. Say what you mean with your words, your actions, and your clothing.

Does your workwear reflect your business environment and personality, or do you feel out of sync? Please share your experience in the comments below!

Thanks to Katherine of Not Dressed as Lamb for the link-up!