“A woman’s dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view.” –Sophia Loren
To understand fashion and the purpose for clothing in our modern world is akin to understanding the rules that society abides by and then going about breaking them as you see necessary or fit in order to create the life you want. Granted by taking any risk, the potential for unexpected results may occur, but it is this knowledge hat is crucial to be successful in life. In other words, to any skeptic who believes that paying particular attention to one’s clothing is a frivolous hobby for unintellectual clothes’ fanatics is to entirely misunderstand what the power of the proper clothing for any situation can provide.
While being a slave to clothes and each season’s trends is not a savvy pursuit, being aware of accepted mores and cultural shifts is never a bad idea. Upon reaping this information and understanding the effects of particular clothing in any particular sub culture, one can break the “rules” as they like as they become clear about the life goals they wish to pursue.
In other words, depending upon the work environment, particular attire is necessary. Whether it be as a lawyer, a yoga instructor, a CEO or an artist, certain wardrobes are acceptable and certain styles are not. For example, most judges and courtrooms require all professionals involved in a case to wear collared shirts or suits before they can proceed as a sign of respect for the court. Knowing the requirements is crucial in order to successful do one’s job.
In Dr. Linda Przybyszewski’s new book, The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish, she explains that while the inferior treatment of women in the workplace is not something we should wish to return to, a respect for how women dress in the workplace in modern day society often leaves much to be desired. And while I will never cheerlead a manual for how men or women should dress, knowing there is power in our sartorial choices is valuable knowledge to possess as we pursue our professional goals and build our personal world.
After all, as Sophie Loren’s quote reminds us, the clothes we choose to adorn ourselves with should accentuate our most beautiful and talented selves. Clothing itself in the form of labels, sparkle or tottering high heels should not be the spectacle but rather the woman wearing the ensemble should be the one spotlighted with the proper clothing choices.
Incorporating a few of Dr. Przbyszewski’s prescriptions as well as my own, here are a few ways you too can master the art of dressing and dress appropriately, effective and comfortably for the life you have chosen to live:
1. Ignore Fads/Trends
Chasing the trends will leave your checkbook bare and give the impression of a woman whose only hobby just might be how she dresses. While looking well will always be a priority of mine, a woman who only wear trends projects a woman who doesn’t know who she is or is too afraid to reveal her authentic self. Find your own signature style and revel in it. After all when you know what looks best on your body and for your lifestyle, you can have fun in your own way regardless of trends. Now that is a habit of a confident woman, and confidence to others in your vicinity is like honey to a bear.
2. Dress For Your Life
Depending your job, your lifestyle and your responsibilities, only you will know what shoes would be reasonable for your day-to-day duties and whether or not you can wear skirts and dresses or whether you have to wear pants. However, often women use their lifestyle as the excuse to not dress well. After all, wearing a dress is often the most comfortable and easiest option in the morning for a mother or busy businesswoman, and as we know, dresses can quickly elevate one’s style whether paired with flats, heels or boots. The key to whatever clothing you choose is to tailor it to your body – size, length, color and fabrics.
3. Beware of Black
Wearing black, while an easy option for nearly every skin tone can be tricky if not handled properly. Worn close to the face, Dr. Przybyszewski reminds us, black can deepen the appearance of wrinkles, lines and shadows. As a way to mitigate this effect, choose your accessories, those closest to your face, wisely – necklace, scarves, as well as the neckline detail.
4. Spotlight the Mind, Not the Body
A woman’s clothing should be worn to reveal the woman who is wearing the ensemble. If you want people to respect you for your thoughts, words and conversation, draw their attention to your face rather than you cleavage. While accentuating and tailoring clothing to fit your figure is a must, revealing too much skin or pulling a Jennifer-Lopez-in-green-Versace-moment is not going to leave your co-workers, boss or date cognizant of your mental and intellectual talents or your charming personality.
By simply paying attention to beautifully designed necklines, wearing hats or adorning our shoulders and/or neck with scarves and beautiful earrings or necklaces, we immediately spotlight where we would prefer an onlooker’s attention to go.
5. Invest in Quality Classics
Refrain from being a slave to clothing by gradually building your closet with quality staples. With the ability to mix and match from year to year with clothing that always looks its best and lets your best self shine, you are reducing stress and allowing yourself to focus on whatever task is at hand with your best efforts.
6. Better to Overdress
When in doubt, dress well. Even if you outshine the rest of the crowd, you will be noticed for being respectful of the moment, rather than the contrary. And if you know your body and how to dress yourself well, you will look stunning and create moments of conversation and curiosity that you can make the most of to reveal the gift that is you.
While how you interpret the prescriptions of how to master the art of dressing will be unique to your lifestyle, tastes, age, etc, keeping them in mind is never a bad idea. After all, clothing is merely a means to a desired result, and knowing how to achieve that result will always involve wearing clothes. Dress accordingly and the life you desire will certainly be within your grasp.
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Photo by Mark Solarski