How to dress smartly if you don’t suit the classic style
When you put on a ‘smart’ outfit for a ‘smart’ occasion, how do you feel?
Like a well-coordinated, sophisticated woman? Or like you have been bundled up into a constricting outfit that makes you feel like you’re pretending to be someone or something you are not?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, just an understanding that we are all beautifully different, which is why sometimes knowing what to wear for certain parts of your life can feel hard.
Which of these is your comfort zone?
- A weekend camping trip
- A summer wedding
- An important business meeting when you want to impress?
- A music festival
- A dinner date in a very cool restaurant
Your answer to this question says a lot about your true style.
But what do you do when your true style is very casual and you have to dress smartly for a work thing? Or when you like to be smart but you realise you can’t hang up your blazer in your tent.
When i saw the light about my true style
I had NO idea this was even a ‘thing’ before I booked my very first appointment with an image consultant back in 2008. I’d heard about colour analysis and dressing for your body shape but I had zero clue that there were solid reasons why certain styles, or ‘looks’ would make me feel great and others, absolutely dreadful.
My experience of working with the first image consultant I found was eye-opening but also somewhat disappointing. I won’t go into it all right now but when it came to the ‘style’ part, I was shown a booklet with lots of images of different women in different looks, and I had to tick the ones I liked.
For someone like me who LOVES clothes, this was an impossible task. I ticked almost all of them. This meant that my style came out as a mix of pretty much anything and everything I liked. Which wasn’t terribly helpful if I’m honest.
I wanted someone to look at me and advise me as to what would be best. I left in almost more of a muddle than when I started.
My second experience was with an independent image consultant. And this time it was TOTALLY different. By now, I’d decided to train to do this work myself. The more I’d learned about Image Consultancy, the more I felt drawn to helping women who wanted to feel more confident in their style and I knew there had to be a better way.
Part of my training was to learn all about my own style, using unique methods that made it a very different experience. This time I learned which style I could take from top to toe, which I could use as an element to my outfits but never too much because I wouldn’t feel good. And best of all, I found out which style was an absolute no-no. And even a little bit of this style in an outfit would ruin it for me.
For me, this was a HUGE confidence boost and helped me to realise how to adapt my style to different occasions without losing sight of who I am inside.
How to adapt your casual style to a smarter occasion
So, in answer to the question around how to dress smartly if you don’t suit the classic style, I have the following tips:
- Choose classic cuts and shapes in softer, less structured cuts
- Forget flat blocks of neutral colour and instead choose fabrics with texture or print (if you suit print – not everyone does…)
- Leave classic accessories for someone else and either go without, or choose pieces with a more earthy feel, such as wooden beads, brightly coloured tribal style pieces, or accessories made from shell.
- Never force yourself into court shoes. You’ll feel like you are playing dress-up. Instead, wear gorgeous flats, wedges or a small block heel.
- And finally, push up the sleeves of your unstructured jacket. This gives a lovely relaxed feel to your smart outfit.
I hope that helps and that you are feeing more tuned into what your true style might be. Leave me a comment and let me know what your style comfort zone is?
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Please let me know where i could find gorgeous yet comfortable flat, or small heeled shoes i could wear with a smart dress. As i only have either ankle boots or trainers. I live in sketchers,as they offer so much vomfort with their memory foam.
Hi Fiona, We reallly are spoilt for choice with flats these days. All high street stores have great options. The ones that are right for you will depend on your style, shape and scale. But to begin with just see what feels good to you when you try them on with one of your typical outfits.
Hooray! At last you have given us permission to dress how we feel comfortable yet still comply with dress codes. x
Indeed! Permission has been granted Sarah!
Cant wait to get your advice so I can throw out/ recycle/ sell about enough clothes to fill three wardrobes, currently in piles on the floor and boxes/bags. I have no idea how much or what I have any more but looking forward to the first step of a massive clear out
Not long to wait now Alison! And you’ll find it so much easier to sort through your boxes and bags when you have worked out your style!