For most people, a first “real” professional outfit wasn’t unique. Men chose from a black, gray or navy suit, paired with a white dress shirt. Shoes? Black. Tie? Red or navy.
Women had a wider range of bland options, including a black or gray suit, with a knee-length skirt … or perhaps slacks, all tied together with a white blouse. Accessories were understated and the purse—black or brown.
While these are great places to start, your style and fashion choices shouldn’t end here. But, for many, they do. In spite of the abundant wonderful options, professionals often express a high level of pride in not buying clothes. This pride of not spending money is often combined with the expectation that others should accept the “real you.” “I do good work. Why should people care what I wear? Why do I need to dress up?”
Listen, I know where you’re coming from. We all know good people raised by good parents who worked hard to provide “good clothes” … for church, synagogue, school, and an occasional wedding or family reunion. But fashion doesn’t mean wearing a costume that disguises you. When fashion works, it allows the real you to be expressed in all your evolving glory. Why let yourself be hidden by the non-expressive clothes, fashions and style you’ve simply outgrown?
Fashion is a means of self-expression—like music or cooking. Don’t tell me who you are; show me. Use fashion to let the world see who you are inside.
Here’s my challenge to you: Pick two trends and begin to incorporate them subtly into your wardrobe.
Start with these fall fashion trends and show the world your uniqueness:
1. Shades of green. The deeper the green, the more it exudes warmth and compassion. Think evergreen which, like navy, also exudes stability. Consider a patterned dress shirt, blouse, sports coat or jacket with dominant shades of deep green.
2. Prints with a modern twist. Men: This will be easy—it’s all in the tie. Ladies: Consider the unusual-patterned shirts, with unexpected twists on traditional prints like chevron, paisley, plaid, checks or florals. A simple addition can exude sophistication and create intrigue. Pair your print with a solid skirt or vice versa.
3. Smart jackets. A tweed jacket might remind you of a college professor, which is why they convey intelligence and approachability. Next to your formal solid-colored suit, a complimentary tweed jacket will be your next-best buy ever. No matter where you work, there’s a time you’ll need to look smart and friendly.
4. Leather accents. Leather often implies the tough guy or bad girl—it’s edgy. But edgy can appear refined and modern, too. Consider a jacket with a leather trim on the pockets, lapel or buttons. A touch of leather adds polish, communicates strength, and appears creative.
Look at fashion trends as another tool in your professional toolkit that allows others to see you are evolving and growing. Like any other tool, there’s a right time and right place for their use.
If you’re in doubt, I’d love to hear from you.•
Adelowo is the founder of ImageCube LLC (www.imagecubellc.com), and a certified image consultant of the Association of Image Consultants International. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.