Being in the fashion industry you would think that all the men and woman I meet have an amazing sense of style. Well you would be wrong. You should see some of the get ups that come into my building. Yes, you can take more risks when you dress in my business, but, some people look like they have lost their minds. Sometimes it is not just that they look odd, but they are just clueless. From one extreme to another I have seen it all.
The first thing I am going to talk about sounds like a no brain-er. But, many of us have made these faux pas'. You must always be well-groomed. That means clean and styled hair (no roots). Make up that does not overpower and refresh your lipstick (if you are a woman) through the day. Make sure you have manicured nails and toes, no chipped polish and no art on your nails. Leave the rhinestones for the weekends. Clothes should be clean and in good repair. Hem skirts and pants so that they do not drag. No flip-flops to work (this is a personal peeve of mine). Perfume must be subtle. You do not want anyone distracted by poor grooming. One of the things I suggest investing in is a good haircut.
Another aspect of dressing well is focusing on fit and proportion. When buying clothing it is important to buy clothes for the size we are and not the size we want to be. A basic blazer can add a lot of punch to an outfit if it fits right. Find a good tailor to help you with this. Everyone's body is unique. There is no way for a fashion line to make their fit perfect for each body. That is why a good tailor will make a difference by shortening sleeve lengths, hemming skirts, nipping in waists. Well-fitting clothes really look expensive. This is what can make mediocre – special !. When buying a piece of clothing, always buy it to fit the largest part of your body and then the seamstress can adjust accordingly. Also bring the shoes you intend to wear with the piece if it is a skirt or pant. Proportion is also crucial. You do not want to wear a long blazer with a long skirt, all over tight clothing, or all baggy styles. Fashion magazines, catalogs, and the internet can show you what shapes work best together. How clothing fits and works together is as important as the pieces you buy. So always remember fit and proportion when putting together an outfit.
It is now time to build the foundation of your wardrobe. These are the key pieces that you will build around. Make sure that these items are the best quality you can afford. They should be modern silhouettes, but not so trendy that they will be out of style in a season
1. Classic blazer in a neutral color
2. Black pants
3. White button front shirt
4. Black dress
5. Trench coat
6. Pencil skirt
Build your clothing around the core pieces you have bought. Read magazines such as Lucky and In Style which show you practical ways to put outfits together. Go on-line to web sites such as Ann Taylor and J Crew which also show outfits. Download, or tear out photos of looks that you like. You can take them to the store as inspiration for how to put your outfit together. Also when you get to the store there will be displays that will give you further inspiration. Take a friend that you trust who will give you unbiased advice as you try on different items. Then choose the pieces you want to try on. Be adventurous. Try on lots of things and experiment. Try on pieces you may not normally consider. I take my 18-year-old daughter shopping all the time. She likes my taste and I am her wing-man of choice. I always have her try on things that are different from her traditional wardrobe and many times she likes it and puts together something new. My latest look for her is shorts with tights and boots. Love the look for college students. You should be looking to flesh out your wardrobe. Do not feel you have to do this all in one day. It is a work in progress and you will always be shopping. Once a month should do it. You will need more skirts and pants, probably 5 -10 tops / jackets / cardigans and an extra dress or two. When putting together an outfit, use one basic, one wow piece, and a jacket or cardigan to complete your outfit. Also remember that one item can be worked in different ways. You can buy a pant that you use to go with a cardigan set, blouse and jacket, or a sweater. Go shopping and have fun.
My favorite part of the outfit: is shoes !! I love shoes: boots, flats, platforms, pumps, all of it. Shoes can really make a statement about you. This is where I like to splurge. I buy good shoes mostly, but I do throw in some inexpensive flats from Payless for walking in the street. Working in Manhattan the sidewalks can really trash your good shoes not to mention your feet and back. Payless has really cute flats and it beats walking to work in sneakers (hate that!). I am really careful with my shoes, having the bottom tips and heal lifts replaced often and consistently polished. I have a pair of Dolce & Gabbana sling back black pumps that I bought on sale for $ 350. Sounds expensive? Not really when you consider that I have them for several years, wear them all the time, and they make the outfit. If you amortize the cost over wearings it probably has cost me 25 cents a wearing. Good value right? So get some good pairs that you can add to your assortment. You need to own a black pump, a great pair of dressy knee-high boots, a ballet flat, and a pop color shoe (maybe red) as your basic assortment. Of course you can add to that and have some fun. I have a leopard print pump and platform booties that I love.
As I have been writing this, I realize that this is a lot of clothing to purchase all at once. So my recommendation is to start with 10 easy pieces and build your wardrobe from that. Start with the core foundation pieces and a pair of pumps with some cool t-shirts and it is a good beginning. Then you can build around them.
I want to mention undergarments. Sometimes an outfit can be lost due to poorly fitting bras and underwear. If you have not been professionally fitted for a bra in the past 6 months go to a department store and have someone do that for you. Our bodies' change so what might have worked last year could not work this year. Also, many women do not know how to fit themselves. You could be wearing a 38C but really need a 36D. A professional is trained on how a bra should fit. Get a nude color to wear under white tops. Not a white bra which will show. Of course you will also need black. I am kind of basic myself and do not buy colorful bras. I would rather spend my wardard dollars elsewhere. Your undergarments should be smooth; you do not want to see any bumps or seams through your clothes. The best invention for women is spax and their knock offs. This will smooth out your body so you do not have a muffin top or a bulging tummy. No more girdles, this the new shapewear.
My mother has tons of handbags. She has all sorts of styles and colors. When she dresses, she changes her bag to match her outfit. I, on the other hand, do not have the time or the desire to do that. Here is where I cut corners in my wardrobe. I buy the best neutral handbag I can afford for the season. I make sure I buy it on sale or at an outlet store. Then I wear it every day. I like to buy good quality handbags as I like what they say about me. Also I never seek to match my bag to my shoes (unless they are both black). It is a very dated look.
Accessories – the frosting on the cake. Accessory designers are doing such good work that sometimes the fakes look like the real thing. I buy accessories that are inexpensive but add punch to an outfit. You can take the most basic of envelopes and add a great neck piece with earrings and wow! When wearing, at the very least you should put on earrings. You can then add a bunch of bracelets or maybe a group of chains around your neck. A great silver or gold cuff is terrific with a dress. It is the rare person who can pull off earrings, rings, and bracelets all at once, so try not to overdo. Also not every piece should be big and bold. One big bold piece in an outfit is enough.
It is time to pull it all together. Try to plan your envelopes over the weekend for the coming week. Check out the weather so you can plan your clothing accordingly. Start with the basic pieces of your look, the dress, skirt, pant or suit. Add a top to go with it. Then you put on the top piece which is a cardigan or jacket (if your outfit is not a suit). Do a basic with a wow piece. They can not all be wow and if they are all basic make sure the accessory pieces are the wow. Always try new combinations for all your pieces to keep the looks fresh.
Good luck in Dressing for Success!