It's no secret that people make judgments about us based on what we are wearing and how we look. It's also no secret that nonverbal communication (aka body language) is one way that we send messages to those around us. Something that is often overlooked is what we are saying to OURSELVES through our body language and the way we adorn ourselves.
An enthusiastic and thoughtful client of mine sent over this video of a TED Talk by Amy Cuddy. (You may or may not know that I am obsessed with TED Talks. I digress.) If you haven't seen it already, you certainly should. It's about how powerful we become when we use power poses — when our nonverbal language communicates that we are powerful. It got my client thinking about how this relates to what we wear and how we feel in those pieces.
This is something I think about quite a bit.
What Your Clothes are Saying to YOU and How That Affects Your Behavior.
1. The First Step is You.
As a personal stylist for women, I ask each client to identify three or more words that she'd like people to use to describe her style. This is an aspirational exercise. It's not how she describes herself now, but rather how she will describe herself once she is truly embracing who she is and communicating that through her look. This is a revealing exercise for the client and of course, for me. It can also be terrifying to admit that we secretly want to be edgy, sexy, tailored and, my personal favorite as of late, "a badass." We use these words as guides when choosing pieces. A common reaction to a style upgrade is, "I could never pull that off." Oh, my dear, if you think you can't pull it off. You are right. But, if you know you can, you will. If you believe it, you can achieve it, as they say.
2. It Needs to be Authentic.
Sure, I think J. Lo looks amazing in a form fitted dress clinging to her hips with sequins. But, that doesn't mean I would feel equally amazing in that look. Why? Because that isn't my style. It isn't authentic to me and doesn't communicate what I want to say. This can be a tricky balance for some women because we may struggle with body image issues or a lack of confidence to take the plunge. Be sure when you identify your style words that you are fearless and admit what you really want to look like. Simultaneously, be sure that it resonates with who you really are.
3. If You Are Doing it Right, You Are Thinking About Something Besides Your Clothes.
If your clothes are a distraction in a stressful situation, they aren't the right clothes. A bright, reserved and ambitious client said it best,
Also I wanted to thank you for a success I had recently - a few months ago I was running a meeting and it was terrible because I didn't feel good in what I was wearing so I was too self conscious when I was supposed to be in charge. Fast forward to the other day, same people in a similar meeting and it went great. I was wearing one of the great outfits you put together on my profile and I felt confident and in charge. I wasn't busy worrying about how I looked compared to others there, I was just a confident version of me who could focus in the tasks at hand. Anyway, it has made a huge difference for me.
4. When You've Found it, You Know it.
At our Vince event earlier this month, I was lucky to see a very busy client of mine. I helped her several months ago after she moved to Seattle from the east coast. She's a busy doctor, petite, beautiful and stumped by what to wear in her new home. Seattle's pressure to wear fleece and not "dress up" made her question what she once wore, and she lacked confidence in her new, uninspiring clothes. We threw caution to the wind, determined that she really wanted to be edgy and still professional and created a strategy for her look. When I saw her, she said this:1 "Now I'm known as the fashionista at the hospital and I'm embracing it. That's who I am and it feels great."
Three things I want to leave you with, Dear Reader:
1. Using the Wonder Woman power pose before walking into a stressful situation can change how powerful you actually are. Not sure what I mean? Check out that TED video!
2. Starting with what you wear to bed can have a measurable impact on how you feel when you start the day. Find something stylish, functional and authentic. Then, listen to what you are saying to yourself each morning when you look in the mirror.
3. A few years ago, Esquire (the greatest mens magazine ever, by the way) said something like this,
A man should think very carefully about what he puts on in the morning, and then promptly forget about it as soon as he walks out the door.
The same is true for a woman. If your clothes are distracting you during the day, they simply aren't the right clothes.