Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Because... getting dressed should be fun!

Category: Self-Image

Why I Chose My Grey Hair

Why I Chose My Grey Hair

Hello, fabulous readers!

I was preparing a talk for a group of women, and in it I ask each to think about her style signature. What is her constant? Some way she is visibly recognizable and different from others. Which made me think about mine… I have a couple of things that could be considered my signature, but the one that most people comment on is my grey hair, so it’s time to share how I came to own and love my grey.

I come from Irish roots, and we have two strains of grey-ers in our family tree. Those who never grey and keep their dark hair until they die, and the others who grey very early. I remember finding my first grey hair at 16 and thinking, “Cool! If they keep coming it will make it easier to get into the bars!” (Okay, so my priorities were different back then. Weren’t yours?) Clearly, I come from the early greying genes. In my teens and twenties, I did sometimes color my hair, but for a fun change of color, not to disguise the grey.  I wasn’t bothered by my grey hair. It wasn’t until my 40’s when we were living in England that the grey began to bug me. Our two youngest sons were born when I was 30 and 32, and our social set of enlisted military families was much younger than we were. (Late bloomers, us.) We were a good 10 or more years older than the rest of the couples with children our age, and all my grey had me feeling like the old lady in the room. I think that, combined with long grey winters, and little sunshine gave me the push to start hiding my grey.

So, foils it was, and lots of shades of color, and I loved it. I felt a little hip, even if the color (I know now) wasn’t the most flattering to my complexion. I kept it up when we returned home to the U.S., but was gobsmacked at the price, and would string out as long as I could between coloring sessions. The hit on our expenses was beginning to bother me, as was the time spent in the chair. I had started a new job teaching full-time, and was in graduate school. An hour and a half every six weeks was more time than I could spare; sleep and time with my family were already at a premium.

When I sat down to calculate the annual cost of coloring my hair, I cringed. We could go for a long weekend away on that money! So I opted for home hair color instead. The highlights I had and the grey created a tonal effect even with the box, so it wasn’t so bad… but then came a nudge from the Lord. I know, that sounds a little woo-woo to some, but I had been praying that easiest and hardest of prayers “Thy will be done.” when a poke in the ribs replied “So why are you coloring your hair? That’s not the hair I gave you.”

Okay. Crazy as it sounds, that was it. Too vain for the skunk stripe method of growing out grey, (and not interested in the nickname from students), I chose to use temporary color and keep that up until the permanent color could be cut off. The grey was camouflaged well enough for the transition by a quick temp color at home about once every four or five weeks. After about six months, the perfect storm of no-more-coloring came. My childhood best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was younger than me. I decided that when she started chemo, I would cut off my hair, and that was that. It was really short, the rest of the temp color washed out, and I was free!

When I say “free,” I really mean it. It felt fantastic, like I wasn’t hiding any more. No pretending to be someone I was not. Funnily, I didn’t even realize that I was… coloring had just become such a part of me I thought it was me, too. The irony is that I get far more compliments on my hair now that is it grey than I ever did when it was (very expensively) colored. Along with that freedom came a self-confidence that I certainly never expected. (I thought I was confident enough already!)

Confirmation of the rightness of my choice came one day when I was sitting on the floor with a class of Kindergarten students. We were practicing our colors when one young lady asked me why my hair was grey. Her teacher’s hair was blonde (and she was a good 10 years older than I). I explained that all of us, if we are fortunate to live long enough, eventually go grey. “Some people go grey younger and some go grey when they are very old, but mine came early.” She told me she hoped she never went grey because grey isn’t a pretty (girl) color. “Oh honey, I don’t think of my hair as grey, I prefer pewter with silver highlights.” We went on with our lesson, and I thought the topic was exhausted. After five minutes of uncharacteristic silence, the young man next to me tugged on my sleeve and piped up “But it shines like silver!” I was smitten.

How do you feel about grey hair? Is it different for women and men? Do you like your natural hair color? Why or why not? Let’s start a conversation in the comments below!

Stay stylish,

What’s Your Style Signature?

What’s Your Style Signature?

My apologies for the squinty shot…

The fifth definition of signature on Dictionary.com is any unique, distinguishing aspect, feature, or mark.

We identify ourselves on legal documents by our written signature, and others identify us by our style signature, or signatures. Even a “flaw” can be a signature. Think about Cindy Crawford and her beauty mark. Iris Apfel’s enormous round glasses are her signature. Elton John’s specs were his signature for years, they changed constantly, but their over-the-top designs were part of him. Julia Robert’s smile is certainly a signature. Jill Chivers always wears leopard. Dolly wouldn’t be Parton without the hair. People’s signatures become so closely associated with them, that it can be hard to recognize them without their signatures. Anna Wintour equals bob haircut and sheath dresses; to imagine her in a ball cap and old Levi’s is close ti impossible.  The Queen of England is recognized the world around by her hats (and classic handbags). What might happen if she stepped out for a pint of milk in stretch pants and a hoodie?

A style signature is not defined in the negative. I never wear a skirt or dress isn’t a signature. I only wear Levi’s or a tuxedo could be. There is an always factor to a signature, which is one reason glasses or physical features are great ones. My mother’s signature is her bright red glasses. She has one pair for reading, and another for driving. I know a woman whose only shoes are Converse low-tops, AKA: Chucks. She has a variety, and they are the only shoes she wears, even under a gown. Another friend wears pearls, every day, even to the beach. Me, I love scarves. Some might consider them my signature. I certainly wear them frequently, but a better way to name my signature might be accessorized. I could choose a scarf, a pile of bracelets, or a statement necklace. I even wear jewelry or a bandanna camping or hiking. Another possible signature could be my grey hair (Pewter and pearl, please!) I can’t imagine ever coloring it again, so that qualifies. “I feel naked without X” is a good indicator of a signature.

My written signature at 55 doesn’t look anything like it did at 22. Our style signatures can evolve, too. Do you have a signature? What is it? How do you sign your style? What makes an outfit you? Please share in the comments below… I love to hear from you!

And I must add a thank you to Catherine at Not Dressed as Lamb for the Link Up!

 

5 Tips to Look More Stylish

5 Tips to Look More Stylish

Back in December, a reporter from our local paper asked me for three tips to look more stylish without leaving the house. After some digging, I discovered he meant without spending any money, although I can do that without leaving home! Thank you, Internet…  As that article was going into the business section of the paper, I gave him three suitable to both men and women. Today want to share 5 clothing-oriented tips, some geared more towards those of us of the female persuasion, to help you feel just a bit more stylish as you head out the door.

Fit (and Alterations)

I have to regularly remind my clients (and myself!) about fit One of the easiest ways to up your style quotient is to wear clothes that fit. By fit, I do not mean clothes that you can get into, or that don’t fall off. I mean that fit YOU properly. I could sing all day long about this, but what it comes down to is: if you are not employed as a fit model, then you should expect to have almost all your clothing altered. Some brands will be better for you than others, but in general, expect to add the cost of alterations to anything you buy. If you don’t like it enough to pay for the alterations, you probably don’t love it enough to add it to your wardrobe!

Petite Special: Our clothing should have less ease than that of a tall girl. Extra fabric can make us look like we are in borrowed clothing!

Oversized vs. Skinny

When you wear an oversized top, pair it with a narrower bottom, and vice versa. A wider or more relaxed bottom pairs better with a more fitted top. Unless you are 6 foot tall and svelte, the oversized over oversized silhouette is overwhelming. (Like all the “overs” in that last sentence!) And skinny over skinny can look like you are going clubbing.  Think about which body zone is best for you to oversize. If you are generously endowed through the hips and thighs and narrow through the torso, oversizing the torso is going to make you look bulky all over. Show off your narrower half (most women have one) by keeping that the more fitted piece. If you are balanced top and bottom, remember to relax only one.

Third Piece

Adding a third piece to a simple top and bottom creates more interest. Humans are drawn to odd numbers. Even babies will stare at odd numbered groupings of objects longer than even numbered groupings. If your top and bottom are jeans and a tee, add a third piece with a topper: a vest, cardigan, jacket, or even a scarf, hat, or statement necklace.

Love Your Leather

Take care of your leather goods. Clean and polish your shoes. Take them to be reheeled and resoled. Care for your bag. Clean it gently, empty it and vaccuum out the inside. I don’t advocate emptying it each night a la Marie Kondo, but please don’t use your bag as a shopping cart. Even small bags can be an eyesore. A bulging wristlet gives the same impression as trousers two sizes too small! If it is bulging, you need a purse clean out, or a larger bag. If you absolutely must carry the kitchen sink, make sure to set the bag on a flat surface rather than hanging it. Give the handles a break. A large, heavy tote is often better hand carried, rather than over the shoulder. Your back, shoulder, and MD will thank you.

Accessorize

No, accessorize is not just the name of a shop in the UK! Accessorizing is one of the fastest ways to get your style on, and usually takes less than 30 seconds! Pop on an accessory or two, or even better, three (You already know how I feel about odd numbers.) on your way out the door. There are times in our lives when certain accessory choices may not make any sense. One of our sons was an incorrigible earring grabber. I switched to clip-ons for more than a year; other children will tug any necklace they see. Maybe this will be your life season of scarves, or outrageous sunglasses. One of the most common questions I get from women is about creating the Effortless Chic look. You don’t need to pile on the bling! If that is your personality, go for it! But if it is not, too much flash will feel and look uncomfortable. Choose one necklace, or a great bracelet, or stand-out earrings. Even a scarf can be the touch that makes the difference between rolled-out-of-bed-and-put-on-the-clothes-on-the-chair and intentional dressing. That one touch makes the difference that says “I meant to do this.”

Corollary: If you have noticeable holes in your ears, wear earrings, especially if you have short hair. Empty holes look like unbuttoned buttons, or unsnapped snaps. If you don’t want to be bothered, find a small stud or hoop that you leave in all the time.

Which of these 5 tips is a no-brainer for you? And which is more of a challenge? Please share in the comments below… I love to hear from you!

 

Style Resolutions

Style Resolutions

I’m not much of a resolution maker… I love the fresh start of a new year as much as anyone, but sticking to resolutions is not my strong suit. I prefer to take each day or hour new as it comes and start fresh where I am rather than wait for someone else’s marker. Since the end of the year is a good time for reflection, on the holiday break, I took a look back at my style in 2017 (Thank you, Camera Roll.) and made choices about some tweaks I’d like to make to my style in 2018. Together, these three resolutions are geared to help me spend less and embrace my style.

Mix It Up

This year, I want to be more creative in how I combine pieces in my wardrobe. I tend to shy away from patterns, and pattern mixing. (That would be the Classic in me!) I want to add some patterned pieces to my wardrobe, and mix them together instead of relying on my standard solids. Another part of this mix-it-up resolution is to be more intentional, and really work on keeping my seasonal capsules tight, and not letting extra pieces creep in. I am more creative with boundaries than a closet rod full of clothing, so to encourage my creative genie, I need to keep my art box in order. (Looks like I may need to re-evaluate my winter capsule, and adjust it to support this resolution.)

Play More

I hope to combine the Mix-it-Up with more playful dressing. I find it easy (I think we all do) to default to my uniform, and I want to make at least one day a week a Play Day where I make sure to step out of my comfort zone with color, or pattern, or maybe silhouette. I know that lots of these Play Days will break the “rules” of proportion, color, line and design, and/or composition, and keep me from looking my best, but I’m okay with that, because messing about is how we learn, as long as we are doing it consciously! The most important rule is to stay true to my personality.

Dress Weekly

When I had a go-to (work in an office) career, I wore dresses/skirts far more than I do now. I used to wear one every other day, so I had quite a few day dresses and a couple of versatile skirts. Since leaving my “real job” for Image Coaching (Which is a real job, btw!) I have gotten into a jean and trouser rut. It’s time to get out! My goal is to make sure I wear a dress or skirt at least once a week (and not just to church on Sunday…). Since I prefer dresses to skirts (one and done) and find the fit easier as well, it looks like new additions to my wardrobe need to stay dress focused.  That should be a real challenge! (I am easily distracted by sparkly shiny baubles…)

Do you have any style resolutions for 2018? If you do, please share them in the comments below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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!

Observations on Dress

Observations on Dress

I dress the way I do because it makes me happy. Some days are “dressier” than others.

Observation:

On Facebook and Instagram, most of the positive feedback comes from the “dressier” outfit posts, the outfits that people say they “like but would never wear.” My question is: Why not? People like to see others dressed up, but don’t want to do the same themselves? What’s that all about? Is it:

Fear of Standing Out or “Who Does She Think She Is?”

Unless you are naked, or wearing a meat dress, (Thank you, Lady Gaga.), most people do not notice what you are wearing unless it is dramatically inappropriate for the circumstances: think tuxedo on the soccer pitch, gym gear at a wedding, or cleavage in the office. The average person is far more concerned about what is going on in their own heads, hearts, and phones, than they are about what others are wearing. Some women (and men) feel that if they stand out, others will comment, and those comments make them uncomfortable. Outfit comments are often variations on the What-Are-You-Dressed-Up-For? theme. My favorite response is to smile mysteriously and leave them guessing, or simply reply “This just felt right today, thanks!” It’s really not their business, is it? If you ignore them, others will stop asking.

I Don’t Feel Good about Myself

A more common outfit comment is the compliment. Maybe it’s as simple as “Love your shoes!” Or “You look great today!” These are easy to handle. There is one correct way to answer: “Thank you!” You don’t need to apologize, or “What! This old thing…” A simple thank you is the perfect answer. If receiving a genuine compliment makes you uncomfortable, practice just saying “Thank you!” It can be a challenge, but refusing a compliment is insulting to the giver. Sarcastic or backhanded compliments are not your problem, they are the givers’, and nothing you do will fix that. They will simply find another way to pick on you, so don’t apologize for looking good. A simple thank you to these will usually defuse and confuse the insincere compliment-giver.

If you are waiting to feel better about yourself before you dress better, take note! It works both ways. More than one study shows that paying attention to your appearance, and putting a little effort into dressing makes you feel better about yourself. Not only do we dress better when we feel better, we can make ourselves feel better by dressing better. Simply trying new things challenges us and also improves our mood and attitude.  I’m not suggesting a ballgown on Monday morning for work, but something as simple as wearing two necklaces instead of your usual one can be a positive stimulation. Keep changing things up, and trying new combinations. It’s good for you!

I Don’t Feel Beautiful

What is your definition of beautiful? Most women I work with and talk to don’t define beauty by what someone looks like on the outside. Usually their answers regarding beauty reflect a person’s character, personality, and being true to oneself. Why then do we judge our own beauty by the exterior standards that the media bombards us with daily, rather than by the same definition we apply to others? This is craziness! I hear women obsess about their perceived flaws every day, whilst overlooking their own outer and inner beauty. Let it shine out! You are beautiful!

Thank you for allowing me to sort that out. You are beautiful, you should feel good (at a minimum!) about yourself, and to blue blazes with standing out being wrong! You were created in the image and likeness of God. Rock that!

(Climbing down off soapbox now.)