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AT_beige_suitMost people argue with me when I tell them should have at least one suit in their closet. I am not talking about the polyester suits you find at Younkers (although they have their purpose). I am talking about two-piece suits where you buy the jacket and pants separately (and in different sizes if you need to). Clients have expressed hesitation because a suit feels too structured, too stuffy or too boring. I can see where they get that feelings, especially when suits are presented in catalogs and in stores like the one pictured here from Ann Taylor.  You could fall asleep looking at this plain outfit. Thankfully the model is wearing a bright lip color.

But let’s take another look at this neutral suit. (Neutral colors are black, white, beige, navy, gray and brown.) It amazes me how many people coordinate their suit with only the top it came with or the one they bought at the same time. Stretch your imagination. Imagine how that suit will look with a simple change of top:

Clockwise from the upper left side we have:


Ann Taylor Diamond Shibori Top. The lines create the hour-glass shape so will be very flattering.

Loft Shirred Top. This top has a lot of texture (see last post) so it will add interest to the “boring” suit.

Ann Taylor Crepe Shell. Simplicity at its finest. Nothing more need be said. Well, okay, I’d probably put a statement necklace with it!

Land’s End Ruffle Collar Blouse. If you like a bit of femininity to contrast the masculine pant suit, this is your ticket. Don’t both trying to get the ruffles to go over the suit lapels. Just let them lay down flat under the jacket. They will still look frilly.

Notice that all the tops have either bright colors, patterns or texturizing–anything to add interest.

Now that you’ve experimented a bit with different tops, think of all the possibilities you can do if you just use the jacket with a floral or denim skirt. Pair the jacket with a sundress and you will be comfortable in all the air conditioning. The pants will look great in the early fall with a gorgeous sweater or long-sleeve blouse. 

Go find your suit!

mirrorINPUT FROM READER: “reading a romance novel and a sentence caught my eye and thought Wow, that makes sense When trying on clothes, do not look in the mirror until the outfit is fully on.  Take a breath, count to 3 and than turn and look. That way you get the pow! Can’t wait to try it.” K2

Thanks “K2” for your suggestion because it is really a good one. Often when we see only one piece of the outfit we make a decision that would be different if we tried on the entire outfit. To go along with that suggestion, here are some other tips:

  1. If you are looking for something to go with a specific piece of clothing, take the piece of clothing with you to the store. Then try the entire outfit on (using K2’s suggestion above).
    • Try to do this without a sales associate nearby. You need to see what your personal thoughts are. Do not let a sales associate talk you into something. If you don’t love it without their help, you probably won’t love it when you get home!
    • Move around in the outfit to see what would happen in real life: sit down, bend over, lift your arms, twist at the waist. If the item lands “funny” then you will probably be worrying about it all day long and that just isn’t worth it.
  2. If you spot something and don’t happen to have the specific item with you, see if the store has something similar. Almost every store has black pants, white blouses, black jackets, etc. Strive for something as close as possible to what you have at home. Remember that you don’t buy what you are using as a substitute!
  3. If neither option above possible, make sure you try on the complete outfit as soon as you get home. That way you won’t accidentally miss the “return by” date if the outfit doesn’t work. Keep your receipts and don’t take the tag off anything until you are 100% sure.

Any other tidbits of advice you’ve picked up that you can share with others?

Yes, getting in shape and eating healthy are great resolutions. But, let’s take a look at a few that you can do today that will start helping immediately:

  1. lipcolorsWear a lip color every day. I say this over and over again, but lip color is really the most important makeup tool you have. It brightens your smile, your eyes and lights up your face. If you don’t normally wear lip color, try L’Oreal’s Peony Pink, Burt’s Bees Rhubarb or Avon’s Mad for Mauve. These colors are soft and a good starting point. If you are already wearing lip color, think about kicking it up a notch with L’Oreal’s Blushing Berry, Maybelline’s Madison Avenue Mauve or Avon’s Divine Wine. Check out your local Walgreens for the L’Oreal and Maybelline products. Contact me if you are interested in the Avon colors.
  2. Stop chewing gum. I used to be an avid gum chewer. I once had a contest with another woman (both of us over age 40) to see who could snap their gum the loudest. I am ashamed to admit I won. But I’ve seen people chewing gum at work, in church and even as part of a bridal party! If people kept their mouth closed while chewing, it might not look so bad. However, once they get going, the mouth starts opening and the sound effects start! (Think about opening your mouth when you chew food. Same thing.) Don’t believe how bad it looks? Try looking at some on YouTube. I could only watch a minute of this video before I had to turn it off. If you have dry mouth, try a Tic Tac.
  3. barretteDo something with you hair. I don’t mean it has to be cut in the latest style or needs to be permed or straightened or even color treated. I mean do more than just wash and air dry. Dry using a blow dryer and a brush for a bit of lift at the crown or a bit of body on the ends. It may not be much, but it communicates to people that you are willing to put some effort into your looks. Even pulling it back with a barrette can look sophisticated if your barrette has any sort of style to it.
  4. Smile more. As we age, the effects of gravity start to show. Not only do we have wrinkles and sagging skin, but the ends of our mouth start to droop. Eventually you can look like you have an eternal frown on your face. Not a very good image. You don’t have to paste a fake smile on your face. Just stop, right this minute, and do a little smile. Just enough to get the lip line straight or the beginning of a smile. Keep practicing, it will become a habit.
  5. Leave your name and number. I know we have a lot of technology out there, but really, not everyone has the same phone options you have. Do not assume anyone has your number automatically. Some people don’t have cell phones (gasp!) and don’t have caller id (another gasp!) and would like to call you back but don’t have the info. Make it easy for people to reach you. Always, always, always leave your name and number.

What are your do-it-right-now resolutions for 2013?

When I attended advanced training for my certification, I was with a group of women who I had never met before. I didn’t have any preconceived notions of who they were, what their style was or how they wore their hair and/or makeup. When each of us were directed to try a brighter lip color—each one of us balked! I thought the color was too much for me. Red! RED! Every time I looked in the mirror, all I saw were these bright lips. I couldn’t see my eyes; couldn’t see my hair; I couldn’t see anything but my lips. As I turned to my classmates, they were also wearing red. I thought they looked fabulous. Funny, but each one of them was balking at the bright color themselves.

This probably happens to you when you try a new look—hairstyle, fashion, makeup, etc. The first thing you say is, “Oh, this isn’t me.” This is a natural reaction. But if you truly want to do something different, you have to be willing to stretch the envelope. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable—at least for a little while.

How do you stretch the envelope? Try a new look three times before you give up. Whether it is a new color or a new style, your brain will immediately tell you that “something isn’t right.” If your brain rebels, put the look away for at least 24 hours. Then try it on again. Do it three times over the period of a week. If you don’t like it after the third try, then go ahead and return it.

Even if you return it, applaud yourself for trying. And keep trying. Do it until your brain no longer objects to trying new things.

Things are really looking up for one of my clients. After working together, she was quoted and pictured by the Waterloo Courier’s women’s magazine “b true” in an article about “Fashionistas.”

In her 40s, Barb Scoles of Elk Run Heights lost 100 pounds on Weight Watchers, transformed herself into a runner and finished college on what she jokingly calls “the 25-year plan.”

Now 53, Scoles wants to polish her look. “That’s important to me professionally. I don’t want to be the person in the office perceived as too old to do something new. I want to look like someone who can do the job.

“I don’t feel old, so I don’t want to present myself as old.”

So she hired an image consultant to dig into her closet a la TV’s “What Not To Wear” and weed out the “coulds, shoulds and giveaways” in her professional and casual wardrobes. She had her colors done, experimented with new makeup and listened to advice on how to pull together great looks.

“It was eye-opening,” Scoles said, “I had suits from size 16 to 8. I had long jackets that didn’t fit my body shape. She told me I needed short jackets. I had several tops in that warm coral color that’s so popular — I love the color but I can’t wear because it doesn’t flatter my skin tone,” she laughed.

Barb’s transformation from a “plain Jane” to her “15 minutes of fame” came after attending a Style Evolution Boot Camp–a full day of image consulting for up to 5 people: color analysis, body awareness, wardrobe review, office-appropriate makeup lesson, power of accessories and wardrobe basics. We even found time to head to mall for a brief shopping trip.

Style Evolution Boots Camps are scheduled throughout the year. Or, if you’ve got a group of friends who want to plan one for a specific date, let me know.

PS: Just have to share Barb’s “before” photo. I’m sure you’ll agree . . . A Start Is Born!

This is a great way to find out what’s in your closet. Basically we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time. Closet shopping helps to break through that routine. There are several steps to effective closet shopping:

  1. Do this alone. Well-meaning friends will direct you to their style and what they like. This is about YOU.
  2. Sort like items together–all your skirts in one area, pants in another, long sleeve blouses together, etc. Separate suit pieces and put their respective group.
    • While sorting ask yourself if you wore that item within the last week. If you did, then continue sorting. If you didn’t, challenge yourself as to why, i.e., doesn’t fit right, stained, too long/short, too much trouble to iron, feels funny or any other “excuse,” set the item aside.
  3. Put on a pair of neutral pants. Neutral colors are black, white, dark gray, dark brown, camel, ivory, and navy.
  4. Try on EVERY single top you have remaining in your closet. It is vital that you try on everything. Just because the top doesn’t have navy in it, doesn’t mean it can’t be worn with navy pants. You may “know” it won’t look good together, but put it on anyway; you might be surprised.
    • Look in the mirror at each outfit and do an HONEST review. Do you feel attractive? If not, you won’t wear it. Make a note of the fact that Top #1 doesn’t work with these pants. You will try this top on again with a different pair of pants.
    • If you do feel attractive, consider how you would complete the outfit. Would certain jewelry work well with it? Would adding a blazer give it more polish? Go ahead and put those on. Now, do you feel like a million bucks? If so, you’ve got a winner. If not, move on.
    • If a certain piece of jewelry, different shoes, different blazer would take your outfit from drab to fab, make a list of that item.
  5. Those outfits that make you feel like a million bucks are your “go-to” outfits. Keep track of them by taking a picture. This is not a modeling session. You can snap the picture by either standing in front of the mirror (yes, there will be flashback) or taking the entire outfit off, placing them together on the bed and snapping a picture.
    • It is not important that you see how the outfit looks on you. You’ve already decided you like it. The picture is for memory purposes only.
  6. Repeat with all your pieces of clothing.
  7. Print out the photos you took and post them somewhere near your closet. On those days that you “can’t find a thing to wear,” you have a ready-made, visual reminder of what you can wear.
  8. Take the list you prepared in Step 3.c. and keep it with you. When shopping Stick. To. The. List. This will keep you from impulse shopping. (See related post on how to shop.)

Try it and let me know how it goes!

WONDERING WOMAN: What do you think about Hillary Clinton’s recent chat about her makeup?

Answer: My first thought is, I think it’s sad that this becomes a topic for the press and talk shows for women but not for men. No one seems to be interviewing male politicians and asking them why they wear gray shirts when it makes them look tired and less powerful. No one suggests that they shouldn’t wear their glasses or remind them that a French blue shirt with a red tie looks more friendly. In my opinion, anyone who wants to be taken seriously needs to take their image seriously.

That being said, I think Hillary should wear her glasses when she needs to; I think she should pull her hair back when she needs to. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t need to care about her image. I was disappointed that Hillary didn’t take the opportunity to mention that her image is important because she represents our entire country every single minute of every single day. Same goes for every politician. That’s the job they chose.

It would have been nice if the Secretary of State could have stressed the difference between presenting a professional image and trying to look like a sexy celebrity. Politician are not about glamour or sex. Their job is to instill confidence in the people who elect them to office. Confidence that they can get the job done and then do just that!

What’s your take on the subject?

Do you believe it? According to a study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the clothing that people wear influences their psychological processes. It is important that the clothing people worn were associated with a symbolic meaning.

This may all sound confusing, but a friend of mine recently did something like this. During the Lenten season, his goal was to refrain from swearing. In today’s world, that’s not an easy goal. He chose (without any input from me) to wear a button-down shirt, along with a tie, every day. He even wore the shirt and tie with jeans on days when he wasn’t expecting to meet with a business associate. At the end of the Lenten season, he reported that he had been successful—he had not used any swear words during the 40 day season.

Based on the study, the clothing we wear has to already have a symbolic meaning in order for the wearer to be impacted by the clothing. Thus, I believe my friend made the correct choice—a collared, button-down shirt says “fine upstanding citizen.” The tie says “I am contained.” Most people would say that fine upstanding citizens do not use profanity throughout their everyday speech. And containing ourselves means that we are careful about what we are doing.

Many people, when they feel poorly, dress in comfortable, more casual clothes. If the clothing is more casual than usual, people notice this and spend the entire day asking you if you feel alright or telling you that you look tired. This external talk reinforces the negativity you are already feeling.

When I feel poorly, I usually grab a skirt from my closet, find the colors that look the best on me and make sure that I am wearing a bright lip color. I admit, I do have to push myself to do this. But if everything in my closet already is my best color and flattering to my body, it’s not a lot of work. The skirt requires me to pay attention to the way I am sitting, my best colors help me to look healthy (even when I don’t feel it) and the bright lip color encourages people to smile at me. Usually, I receive compliments or smiles all day long and before I know it, I am feeling more positive. My throat might still hurt, but at least my psychological attitude is more positive.

What is the symbolic meaning behind the clothing you are wearing? Do you find that it has any impact on your performance or how others treat you?

WONDERING WOMAN: I have been working in my current position for several years and I get rave reviews from my superiors and co-workers. Yet, time and time again, I have expressed my interest in a higher-level position, but nothing has happened. Do I stay in this job or jump ship? –Mary Kay M.

ANSWER: I’ve actually had this happen to me–several times. I was so good at making my boss look good that he didn’t want to promote me to a different position. The curse of being too good at what you do! After several experiences, I gathered my courage, tucked away my “entitlement” feelings and asked my superior exactly what I needed to do to move up to the position I wanted. When he gave me the answer, I did exactly what was requested of me–additional education, talked with those who currently held the position I wanted, dressed for the job I wanted and kept my attitude positive. I ultimately did get the position, but there are many people who do exactly what they are told to do and nothing happens. This is the time to take your skills (even the new ones you gained while trying to qualify for that desired position) and start knocking on some new doors. There is no such thing as wasted time, because every day you learned a bit more about who you were, what it took to get the job done and working in a professional environment.

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, Certified Total Image Consultant

Yes, it’s a new year and everyone is talking about change. Are you one of them? Do you have the courage to change? Which change are you most interested in? Check out the offer below!

  1. I am a twenty-something and I realize that my college clothing doesn’t really transfer well to the office. I don’t even know where to begin to try to present a professional image. I don’t want to wear a stuffy suit! Should I wear clothes like the people on TV? I’m confused!
  2. I have been working for quite a few years now and although I’ve been promoted in the past, I seem to be stalled. People who I trained are now taking management positions, and I am reporting to them! How do I “kick it up a notch” without going totally overboard? Can I still wear jeans and look professional?
  3. I’m tired of looking like a teenager. I can’t wear the clothes all those celebrities are wearing because I don’t want to project a sexy look. And I definitely don’t want to look like my grandmother. Where are the clothes for regular people?
  4. Last year I resolved to lose weight. The good news is, I did it! The bad news is now none of my clothes fit. I know I could have them tailored, but they no longer say who I am. I’m not trying to flaunt my new figure, but I do want to show that I have a shape! Where do I begin?
  5. I spend good money on my clothes and I try to look professional, but something just isn’t right. I can’t put my finger on it. Why do some people always look so pulled together and I always feel like I’m trying to compete?

If you’ve got the courage, I’ve got the deal! Click on the coupon to see the discounts.

May you always look great!

Pat Roland, Certified Total Image Consultant

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