Essential Tips So You Can Dress For Success
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
– Charles Darwin –
Charles Darwin knew it. Evolution results from natural selection. The more you are able to adapt yourself to Life circumstances the more chances you have to succeed. This is also true when it comes to creating your Personal Style. As my Grandma would say, “every outfit should fit your body like a glove and allow you to sinuously move through life. You must be able to walk with the grace and the ease of a cat”.
There’s an appropriate outfit for every place and every occasion. Would you dress like a gypsy on your first job interview? Would you wear short pants and sneakers to a gala dinner? Unless you’re an eclectic rockstar walking the red carpet at the MTV music awards, the answer is most likely No.
Without limiting your freedom of expression and your uniqueness, you have to be aware of the context you are in. Look around you: Where are you? Who are the people around you? How can you connect with them? How are you going to knock them out with a killer first impression?
Let’s create a personal Style that will make you flow into any context effortlessly. Let’s pull out the resources that will allow you to create a wardrobe that communicates all of your best qualities. It takes a little work and practice in the beginning but once you’ve created the habit, everything becomes easier and faster. After all, loving and cherishing yourself must be a daily good habit!
I’ve worked in the fashion industry for almost 17 years and I have witnessed how a powerful wardrobe can deeply change the way people behave, relate to others and obtain wealth. When I was 19 I started working as a sales assistant in one of Gucci’s stores in Milan. In that era Gucci was one of the most successful luxury brands in the fashion world. Tom Ford was the creative director, his collections were revolutionary, spectacular and they were selling out of the stores worldwide. Every day I met new and interesting people, most of them were incredibly rich and would spend a fortune on clothing. I loved taking care of them, listening to their stories and I would style them in a way that would make them feel beautiful and special. I felt adored by my clients and they would come back over and over to be pampered and styled. In my pocket, I carried a small sketchbook where I’d take notes and draw ideas. I’ve always believed that Fashion has to start from a dialogue with people. In my small book, I’d write what people liked, how they felt, what they were looking for and I’d sketch things that would match these desires, as if I were Cinderella’s fairy God Mother inventing for them that perfect outfit that could give them Love, Power and Success. Seventeen years of sketchbooks and notes later, I am sharing here my best kept secrets to dress for success.
#1: STEAL FROM YOUR ICONS
Pablo Picasso said: “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. I couldn’t agree more with him. All great artists and leaders have emulated someone else. Emulating means taking inspiration from something, or someone, and then transforming it so it becomes a new thing. It’s a great idea to be curious about the life of successful people, researching them will help you to develop your own taste and create new trends to dress for success.
Who would you like to steal from?
Think of the icons that inspire you. Make a list of the people you have a passion for: leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, designers, actors; then read about them, look at their pictures, their lifestyle, the way they dress. If they are contemporary follow them on social media. Inspiration can come from anywhere: the web, movies, books, magazines, people you know, people you see in the street, a painting. You can have as many icons as you want to chose. Once you’ve figured them out, steal their precious secrets! Pick the style that resonates with what you want to communicate and reinvent it by adding your personal imprint.
The first thing I do every time I create a new idea is a Mood Board that gives me a vision for the story I want to tell. I search pictures on the web, I rip out pages of magazines, I take photos of the things that inspire me on the street or in an art museum. Then I print all of these pictures and I put them on my Board. That’s when the magic happens and a new story comes out. One of my favorite tools to create Boards online is on the Pinterest website. Try creating your Board there and look for my Board – where you can steal some ideas!!
Get creative, find your icons, create your own Board and define your Style.
#2: CLARITY IN YOUR CLOSET
Your wardrobe reflects your style and the cleaner and more organized that it is, the easier it’s going to be for you to create your outfits. It’s like cooking: when you have all the right ingredients well displayed on your kitchen table, it’s easier to have clarity on what you have and what you need to buy to prepare a great meal. Ideally you should edit and re-organize your closet at least a couple of times per year: before fall season and before spring season and keep it as tidy and organized as you can in between.
The first rule is to create space. Get rid of the stuff you don’t need anymore. Sort through your clothes and accessories and ask yourself:
Does this item flatter my body?
Do I feel good in it?
Have I worn it more than once since I bought it?
Is it stained or torn?
Do I really need it?
If the answer to one of these questions is ‘NO’, then why are you still keeping it in your wardrobe? Create space for something new! There are many things you can do with the clothes and accessories you are not using anymore. You can donate them; Goodwill is a great place where you can take your clothes and support a good cause. In every city there are local donation centers, thrift stores or other organizations that also accept clothes and support good causes. Otherwise, you can re-sell your clothes and put money back into your wardrobe budget. You can do a garage sale, sell the items online or take them to a buy/sell/trade store or a consignment store.
The second rule is organizing. This is how it works for me. I divide my clothing into categories; all pants with pants, shirts with shirts, dresses with dresses, You get the point! I hang jackets, dresses, skirts, pants, shirts and elegant tank tops on nice wooden hangers; whereas t-shirts, jumpers, sweaters, jerseys, denim and workout clothing are nicely folded on shelves. My accessories, such as sunglasses, scarves, jewelry or hats are stored into different drawers. Overall my philosophy is that my closet should look like the display of a high end shop. I make sure the clothes have their space without squeezing them on each other. I invite you to find a way to organize your closet that works for you. Whatever you choose, Feng Shui it. Create a space that gives you balance and inspiration when you have to put your look together, and that will take away the excuse “I have nothing to wear”.
Outfitting literally means creating outfits out of your wardrobe. Now that you have cleared and cleaned your closet, it’s time to give it a creative touch and make it inspiring.
One of my Mom’s favorite habits was to schedule time to create different outfit combinations for different occasions and then hang them in her wardrobe fully accessorized. She has never, not a single day in her life, just worn a random thing; not even when she was spending the day at home, not even when she was sick in a bed the last days of her life. She would always tell me “It’s not about pleasing others, it’s about taking care of yourself and always feeling great in your own skin”. I’ve followed her path and many of the people I’ve styled and taught these tips to have confessed it made a huge difference in their lifestyle as well. They have been able to create more sophisticated and complete looks, and having them “ready to go” saved them incredible time when last minute events would come up.
My secret formula to create a complete outfit is to answer these questions:
First and foremost: What mood am I creating. What do I want to communicate?
- Which underwear ? (Never underestimate that!).
- Which Top ?
- Which Bottom ?
- Do I need a Jacket ?
- Do I need a Coat?
- Which accessories will complete my look and make it more sophisticated? Belt? Hat? Scarf? Sunglasses? Gloves? Socks? Tights? Which jewelry will give my outfit a more precious look? Bracelets? Necklace? Rings? Earrings?
- Which Shoes to choose?
I love outfitting. Creating looks to tell a story is one of my favorite things and I have so much fun doing it. I promise, if you approach this as a game rather than a duty you will have a good time too.
#4: SMART SHOPPING
You have done your homework, good job! Your closet is clean and tidy, you have a few gorgeous looks hanging in it but you have realized that some pieces are missing. You love that skirt with that jacket, but you don’t have the right shirt that goes with it. You got rid of those old dirty t-shirts and now you are short on basics. What now? Time to go shopping! There is so much to say about shopping that I could go on for hours. As of now I’ll do my best to sum up the most important things you need to know.
Shopping Rule #1. NEVER go shopping before you have cleared and organized your closet. This will refrain you from buying things you don’t need or probably already have but have forgotten about. Before you hit the stores, make a list of what you need and a list of what you wish. It’s like when you go out to buy groceries. If you write down a list you’ll be sure you’ll get all the ingredients you need. This gives you clarity and focus and it will save you a lot of money.
Shopping Rule #2. Merchandisers are very smart, and they will create the best atmosphere ever to charm you into buying the most expensive clothes in the stores. They will light and display the outfits to make them look like mater pieces. Beware of the limit and be smarter than them. The Fashion Industry is all built around esthetics and the visual part is one of the major components so chose wisely. When you shop in stores TRY THINGS ON ALWAYS! And if they don’t match who you are, then they’re not worth your money (unless you want to end up collecting them in your closet or hanging them on a wall like a proper master piece).
Shopping Rule #3. Buying expensive clothing isn’t a shortcut for a great style. As the saying goes “You can buy fashion but you can’t buy style”. If you have good taste you can pull up an outfit made of non-designer clothes and still look better than someone wearing an outfit five times the price but with bad taste. When you are confident enough, logos and brands don’t really mean anything. There’s no interest in spending randomly and buying labels just for the sake of showing them around. People who have style are much more sophisticated than that, they seek for elegance and they demand quality and good taste rather than a name and a price tag.
Shopping Rule #4. Mix it up. My personal motto is Cheap and very Chic. I love mixing designer brands with vintage and inexpensive clothing. You can mix a $10 t-shirt with a Vintage jacket and Prada shoes and create an amazing outfit. Some brands have incredible pieces, I know. I have been designing for the best international labels and I can’t even count the times I’ve fallen in love with a dress or a pair shoes. However, after I learned how much labels mark up their prices I stopped shopping in retail stores. The truth is that almost anything you buy in a designer’s store has a mark-up of 6 to 8 times, or more, on the production price which means that if you buy something for $100 it usually costs $12-16 to produce it (packaging included). Most of the money you spend goes to the brand’s marketing and the middlemen, and not on the product itself. Again, be smarter! Choose to shop at Sample sales, local markets, vintage stores, outlets, consignment stores, second hand stores, online B2C brands. That’s where I do my shopping and I’ve always been able to get the most unique pieces at the cheapest prices. Those are my treasure chests especially when I am doing stylings on films and photo shoots.
#5: THINGS WORTH INVESTING IN
There are two main categories worth investing in: Basics and Accessories.
Basics are the foundation of your wardrobe and the most versatile pieces as you can wear them with many different things. They’re like a master key that opens all doors. The main characteristic basics must have is simple cuts and neutral colors such as black, white, dark blue, shades of grey or shades of earthy colors. Here’s a list of basics that I personally think every woman should have in her wardrobe:
- A tailored blazer jacket, black or blue.
- A little black dress.
- A classic leather jacket.
- A pair or two of denim jeans with a good cut that flatters your curves.
- A white blouse.
- A set of t-shirts with short and long sleeves.
- A turtleneck.
- A pencil skirt.
- Black dressy pants.
- A fancy pair of sunglasses.
- A pair of classic high-heeled black pumps (preferably pointy).
- A pair of elegant sandals.
With just these items you can create different looks for different occasions.
As for accessories, they add character to your Style. They are season-less, they’re for everyone, they have no rules and you can match them with as many different outfits as you want. You can play and communicate with them as if they were an extension of your person. With the right accessories half of your look is done. Seriously, you can wear jeans and a t-shirt and just stand out with great shoes and a fancy bag. Our eyes catch a lot of details which is what makes accessories important to your style. As a matter of fact we are always more intrigued by people who pay attention to details, so why not add them to your outfits? Find accessories that have value according to your story. You grandfather’s pocket watch for example or a ring that has been in your family for generations is magnetic. Those accessories will carry your story and people will be intrigued by them. They start conversations!
#6: KEEP IT CLEAN AND COMFORTABLE
This is a universal law of attraction: Beauty breeds beauty and we are always more attracted to people that present a fresh look than a sloppy one. Make sure your clothes are always clean and well steamed. Invest in a portable steamer to carry with you during your business trips. It takes only 5 minutes to refresh your outfit from dust and wrinkles.
Always choose comfort over appearance. Don’t fall into the temptation that you have to “dress to impress”. Comfort is the secret ingredient for confidence. The right size is one that flatters your body and makes you feel the ‘Best’ in your own skin. Size is irrelevant. Fit is everything. Wearing a dress that squeezes you and makes your face turn purple because you can’t breathe in it will just limit your moves, make you feel uneasy and look unnatural and ridiculous. This said, you shouldn’t be drowned in your clothes either. Don’t believe that oversized garments will cover your extra pounds, most of the time the opposite is true: they will enhance your body shape even more adding pounds to your look. Loose-fitting clothing actually makes you appear larger, not smaller, because it deprives you of a shape. Don’t have in your mind that going up a size is bad, or that it means something negative because It doesn’t. It means you’re going up to that perfect fit and flare for your one of a kind body.
I believe that ‘tailor-made’ is the best luxury one can have. If you can, then befriend a good tailor and have your clothes adjusted around your shapes. My grandmother used to make all of her dresses tailor-made and she moved through life with Elegance, Class and Allure until she was 103 years old.
Creating your own Style is like creating your own masterpiece on your body, a Unique Artwork that is the expression of who You are. If you long to be wealthy and create long and lasting relationships in all areas of your life, make a conscious choice to have a great relationship with yourself in the first place. Choose to love, respect and dignify your person.
“Love of Beauty is Taste. The Creation of Beauty is Art”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson –