Recently, I read with interest an article in Harpers Bazaar magazine, featuring an art director (Matilda), who has adopted a professional ‘uniform’ of her own. She was tired of making ‘what-to-wear’ decisions on a daily basis. She explained how, prior to this new way of dressing, she often regretted her choice of outfit once she arrived at a meeting, and how the worry of what to wear every day felt like a tremendous waste of time and too much stress.
The solution, she decided, was to purchase 15 white silk shirts, a few pairs of black trousers and to personalise the look, she added a black leather rosette around her neck in lieu of jewellery. This new way of dressing is apparently working well for her. She says “Today, I not only feel great about what I wear, I don’t think about what I wear.” She goes on to explain how dressing in this way makes her feel “in control”.
Is a strict uniform the answer?
And the fact is, she really does looks great. She feels good and she looks professional. And this is what I aim for in my work as an image consultant. I want my clients to look and feel great and to feel that their outfits are appropriate to their lifestyle.
If a woman is happy in her appearance – or at the very least, content. She behaves differently. Not being pre-occupied with how you look, frees you up to focus on the task in hand, whether that’s attending a board meeting, having a drink with a friend or running around the park after your kids.
For most women, wearing exactly the same outfit every-single-day would soon become boring. Or, perhaps they wouldn’t feel brave enough to stick it out, for fear of what people would think and say.
Wearing a variety of different outfits throughout the week, gives you an opportunity to express yourself. I know many women dress for their mood, or to change their mood, or to feel empowered in a difficult situation. I’ve long been fascinated by the way different clothes can make us feel and behave differently. Many of us enjoy experimenting with new fabrics, colours and trends and wouldn’t have it any other way. Some time spent focussing on working out the best kind of colours, cuts and styles for you pays dividends in the long run.
A Different Solution: Outfit Formulas.
I’m often found recommending a particular ‘uniform’ or ‘outfit formula’ to my clients. Admittedly they have more flexibility than Matilda’s system, but it’s the same concept.
Take my client Harriet for example. She wanted to create a look for her speaking career. Harriet is a women’s leadership coach and speaker. She wanted a look that made her feel confident and sassy, yet still approachable.
Harriet’s mission and message is around empowering women to know how to feel deeply, truly fabulous about themselves. With that in mind, and after her colour and image analysis, we decided that her ‘uniform’ or rather her ‘outfit formula’ would be leather leggings and floaty tops. This combination is totally on-brand for Harriet, works well for her body shape and personal style and it makes sense to her audience (allowing her to create that all-important connection). And just as importantly, it’s a look that makes Harriet feel confident, allowing her to focus on her message rather than spending time fussing about whether she has pitched the outfit right.
The idea of an outfit formula, is that it’s flexible enough to tweak, to try new colours and fabrics with confidence, to create different looks and to have fun with new pieces.
Harriet looks great, and she feels confident. Her style is memorable, she has become known as ‘the speaker in the leather leggings’. Job done. (If you’d like to check out her wonderful business, click here!).
This isn’t to say that Harriet won’t change up this look at some point, in fact we are already talking about a coloured suit, but like the woman in the article, she is in “control”.
So, if choosing what to wear each day takes too much time and causes you too much stress, think about adopting a uniform or an outfit formula. Whether its rigid like Matilda’s, or flexible like Harriet’s, knowing your style and sticking with it is a great thing.
If you’d like to create your own style uniform, or discover your best outfit formula, you’ll want to understand what works best for your colouring and your body shape. There will be certain styles that marry well with the way you are, and others that will never make you feel quite like you. Luckily, I have a fabulous free video series that explains how you would work this out. You can access it here.
Ideas and inspiration
Here are just a few examples of outfit formulas:
- Wrap dress and court shoes. Your flexibility comes in the colour, print and fabric of the dress as well as what you layer underneath or over the top.
- Pencil skirt and knit. You might go a step further and always make it a leather skirt, or a patterned or textured skirt and a of course different coloured and shaped knits bring variety and changes things up.
- Skinny jeans and an over-sized, longer length top. This formula is very popular with ‘top-heavy’ figure types.
- Wide leg trousers and a tucked in blouse. Again, this formula allows for expression through your tops.
- Midi dress and ‘tough’ boots. We are spoilt for choice right now when it comes to floral dresses. The contrast between a feminine dress and heavy boots works well for those with a girly/dramatic style.
Which takes your fancy? Or do you have one worked out already? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear about your favourite looks.