By Colleen Bayus, Personal Stylist | Professional Organizer| Speaker
It’s back to school time! And no matter how many years have passed since we spent our days sitting in a classroom, this time of year always seems like a chance to start fresh, and put your best foot forward.
I remember devoting so much thought and effort into putting together the “perfect” outfit for the first day of school—not so much because I wanted to impress other people, but because the first day was a special day, and I wanted to feel equally special when I showed up for my new teacher and classes. With my shiny new sneakers and my flawless outfit—I was always ready to own the new grade.
The conference room may have replaced the classroom, but either way, what you wear has a very real psychological impact on you. During the summer Olympics, I read a great article in The New York Times about the Final Five and their sparkly leotards, which featured an unprecedented 5,000 Swarovski crystals. While it seems like this might be somewhat frivolous or just fun, all that sparkle actually served a much more serious function—helping the gymnasts stand out in the arena.
They know that on the world’s biggest stage, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, and every little bit helps to keep the attention of the judges. A gymnast from the 2008 Olympic team explains it like this, “…It’s part of the look good, feel good, do good aspect… It may sound trivial, but what you wear really matters.”
As a personal stylist, I try to instill this same mentality in my clients. While it would be really bizarre for you to show up at a client meeting in a leotard, you can think of it like this: Your office—that’s your arena. And the conference room? It’s your balance beam. The presentation you’re giving is your routine. Your boss, colleagues, stakeholders, clients, etc. –those are your judges. You should want to do whatever you can to give yourself an edge, and come across as the best and most confident version of yourself.
When you feel good about how you’re dressed, it shows. Your body language changes entirely—you sit taller, appear more open and approachable, and exude charisma you wouldn’t if you’re self conscious about the message you’re sending with what you’re wearing.
As PR practitioners, you know all too well the importance of image—you can’t afford to let your personal brand suffer because your capabilities on the inside don’t match what you’re presenting on the outside. Here are some easy ways you can easily dress your best and boost your overall confidence:
- Tailor Your Clothes – Having clothes fit properly makes a huge difference in the overall impact of your look. Unfortunately, very few people fit clothes correctly straight off the rack. Accept that you’ll need to take most things to a tailor for some minor tweaks that will go a long way to making your look more sophisticated and polished.
- Know Your Strengths – Dressing great has nothing to do with having a “perfect” body or features, but has everything to do with knowing what works for your body type. Don’t force yourself to wear something just because it’s on trend –if it’s not right for your frame, it’s not going to give you the look you’re hoping for. Work with colors and fabrics that speak to you and compliment your skin tone and features.
- Recruit Help – Are you unsure of exactly what “body type” you have? Or, are you unable to honestly assess yourself and determine what flatters you? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Few people can evaluate their own appearance accurately – we truly are our own harshest critics. You can get help from a friend whose personal style you admire, but most friends won’t be fully comfortable telling you what you might not want to hear. Invest in hiring a stylist—even if it’s just for a one-session evaluation. They can help you determine your style goals, evaluate your current wardrobe, and show you which pieces and combinations work best for you. They can also provide advice on garments you should add to your rotation, and shop for clothes you may never have considered wearing in the past, but make you feel great.
The most important decision you make every morning may very well be what you choose to wear. It sets the tone for your entire day— it can make you FEEL either fantastic or mediocre. Use your wardrobe as an empowerment tool to make each day seem like the first day of school—a special fresh start, where anything is possible. You may have traded in shiny new sneakers for a suit, but you’re still ready to take on the world.
To learn more about the psychological impact of what you choose to wear and how you dress read “Mind What You Wear: The Psychology of Fashion” by Karen J. Pine, and sign up for my newsletter on my website.