What’s the best way to dress well consistently?
Stop trying to follow all the trends, stop buying clothes that require special care.
Instead, create a simple wardrobe that allows you to get out the door looking great with the greatest of ease – even if you stayed up all night watching Netflix or walking the floors with a sick child.
That’s the suggestion of a top productivity coach I was listening to recently.
Except he didn’t talk about clothes – at least not at first.
He suggested that you pick the two or three things that are going to have the biggest impact on your day – writing that email, completing that project, getting that vacant position filled and properly trained – and focus on getting them done. Period.
He said to STOP jumping from task to task trying to work your way through an endless “to do” list every day. Instead, focus on getting two or three things done and marked off the list. Then, do the same thing tomorrow. Then the next day. Then the next. Before you know it, you’ve accomplish more every week than you used to get done all month.
He then applied this to other areas of life, like:
Food – get your budget and mealtimes under control by only keeping the two or three types of food in your house that you enjoy and that will help you live a healthy life, like fruit, vegetables, and proteins. If you don’t buy junk, you won’t eat it.
Finances – get your finances under control by collecting all your bills and receipts in one place during the week, then sitting down at a designated time each week to deal with them. Record your purchases, pay your bills, and balance your checkbook. If you stay on top of it, you can avoid late fees, overdrafts, and the chaos that usually comes with tax time.
Internet – to avoid the time suck that usually happens any time you go online, only check your email and social media at specific times of day. Unsubscribe from any newsletters you no longer read. Limit social media sites to one or two of your favorites. Stop following people, pages, or channels that no longer interest or support you.
The idea being that you identify areas of your life that are sucking your time and energy and find two or three strategies to get them under control. Then, having done that, you create an environment that supports those strategies and allows them to become routine – kind of like brushing your teeth. Simple, easy shifts in behavior can result in huge productivity gains.
So what does this have to do with your wardrobe?
Here’s what he said about clothes:
Wardrobe – limit your wardrobe to only three or four colors. That way, you can mix and match your clothes more easily and packing for travel becomes a snap.
Now I’ve been preaching this for years, but I never put it in the productivity context.
Perhaps I should have.
Because the single biggest obstacle most women face in dressing well consistently is options. They either have so many clothes that they’re overwhelmed and can’t choose, or they have so few poorly chosen pieces that they can’t mix and match them easily. So, they follow the Pareto Principle and wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time, with that 20% typically being the most comfortable, easiest to wear pieces…that typically lack the elements needed to garner the credibility and respect they deserve.
So let’s break this down a little better so you know exactly what you need to do:
*Start with the best styles for your body shape.
*Determine what types of clothes you need for business.
*Opt for three or four colors that suit you best and are appropriate for your industry.
*Chose two or three accessory colors to go with those business colors.
*Build a wardrobe around these styles and colors.
*Wear them every day.
So you make the decision once, build a wardrobe that follows these guidelines, and you can literally roll out of bed half asleep and get dressed. Because the hard work is already done. Your wardrobe is ready and waiting to support your image goals.
Let me give you some examples of people who have done this:
Carolina Herrera is the master of black and white. She’s worn this combination for decades because it’s crisp, professional, and easy. It also allows the focus to stay on her clients. Since they pay the bills, she doesn’t compete with them in her salon. She saves the dressing up for after hours. The bonus? She can get dressed in less than 10 minutes to go run her billion dollar company. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1980, the same year she started her company.
Here’s how she incorporates this streamlined philosophy into her collections:
Fall 2015 largely consists of only five colors: black, white, red, gray, and blue. This allows the pieces to be worn with each other and for several years, because there’s nothing overly trendy or “of the moment” that will be out of style in five minutes. That’s why she has so many fans.
One of whom is actress Renée Zellweger.
Renée hated all the hoopla surrounding red carpet appearances, so she took a page from Audrey Hepburn’s style book and settled on just one designer to help her dress for all those big events: Carolina Herrera. They’ve had a great working relationship for more than a decade, and a phone call is all it takes to get the ball rolling on one outfit or a dozen. The plus side? Renée doesn’t need a stylist, because she knows what works for her. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 2009.
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge stepped into the spotlight with her romance to Prince William and was just expected to be as stylish as the late Diana, Princess of Wales. She did not disappoint and has been a boon to the British economy ever since. Whatever she wears sells out instantly (“the Kate Effect”), so she has to pick and choose with care – which she does. She mixes and matches from all prices points, including mass market brands like TopShop and Hobbs, mid priced brands like Reiss and LK Bennett, bridge lines like Mulberry and Temperley London, and designer brands like Alexander McQueen and Jenny Packham.
So how is that streamlining?
The duchess may be one of the most photographed women in the world, but her clothing needs are simple: classic and British. She does wear non-British brands from time to time, but the bulk of her wardrobe comes from British companies at prices her followers can afford. Hence, her impact on the British economy. She was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 2014.
So why do I keep mentioning the Best Dressed Hall of Fame?
To impress upon you how effective streamlining your wardrobe can be. Because when how you dress sets you apart enough to be internationally recognized, you can use the attention to propel your career or favorite cause to unprecedented heights.
Now yes, these women all have lots of money, and yes, they’re famous and frequently photographed.
But most of them didn’t start out that way.
Go ahead and scan that best dressed list. Sophia Loren? Coco Chanel? Estée Lauder? All born into poverty. Mary Martin, Renée Zellweger, and Kate Middleton? All products of the middle class. They started with a big dream, and they didn’t stop until they got what they wanted.
If you take a lesson from their how-to-dress playbook, you could end of following in their footsteps.
So what’s the lesson?
Create a signature style and wear it regularly. Not only will it help you get out the door easily looking fabulous, it will set you apart from the crowd.
What’s a signature style?
The clothing silhouettes that look best on you with the accessories you love the most.
You know how you have certain clothing styles that make you look and feel awesome? You should wear more of them. And those accessories you can’t seem to stop buying, even though you already have a ton of them at home, like shoes, necklaces, or handbags? Make them your signature element. It’s simple once you know what to do.
Think Jacqueline Kennedy and her sleeveless sheathes or Tina Turner with her show-off-her-legs short skirts. They figured out what worked for them early on and wore it often. So should you.
So simplify your wardrobe. Pick the handful of silhouettes that suit you best in a handful of colors that make you look fabulous. Then, accessorize with your favorite pieces. Then do it again tomorrow. And the next day. Then the day after that.
Before you know it, you can walk out the door looking amazing every day without even thinking about it – it will be like brushing your teeth. Simplifying with not only allow you to put your energy elsewhere, it will show you how setting limits with your wardrobe means the sky’s the limit when it comes to how well you’re treated.
Try it yourself and see!
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is an image consultant and author of Signature Style Blueprint. Need some help streamlining your wardrobe and creating a signature style that turns heads and opens doors? Signature Style Blueprint can help.