When you look good, you feel good and perform better. Use the New Year to trigger a wardrobe audit, weeding out clothes that don’t show you in your best light and replacing them with clothes that do.
A cluttered wardrobe is more than a physical problem – it’s a source of stress that can impact your performance. “Not being able to see what’s in your wardrobe, having difficulty finding what you do have and being overwhelmed by too much choice can leave you feeling confused, stressed and flustered before you even start your day,” says Sally Mackinnon, Melbourne stylist and owner of Styled by Sally.
Once you arrive at work, your clothes can keep you from performing at your best. Mackinnon says: “Feeling uncomfortable or self-conscious in your clothing affects your confidence and therefore how you interact with others – not making eye contact, not initiating conversation or not speaking up and being assertive in a meeting.”
Phase 1: Wardrobe detox
Reduce the clutter and make it easy to find the right clothes by first pulling out anything you secretly know is too daggy. “Clothing that is obviously old and therefore dated in style, not only makes a woman look older but may lead others to take her as being behind the times, stuck in a rut or lacking in confidence,” says Mackinnon.
Also toss out anything that’s faded, stretched, doesn’t fit (even if you hope that will change) or that you haven’t worn for months. There will be a good reason why you haven’t. If you’re really not sure about letting something go, pack it away for another 12 months. You won’t miss it.
Phase 2: Wardrobe update
To make sure you can always put a polished outfit together, check you’ve got the basics. Mackinnon’s top five essentials are a cream silk shirt, black pumps, a wrap dress, trench coat and blazer. Then, you can add some colourful on-trend tops, scarves and jewellery.
Know what colours best suit your skin, hair and eye colour and scan the shop for clothes in these colours as soon as you enter. In general, lighter colours are great for warmer months and darker colours for winter.
When updating your wardrobe think about the cost per wear rather than overall cost. Australian women spend an average of $834 a year on clothes. Try to invest it in high-rotation items, like quality black pants you’ll wear every week rather than an expensive cocktail dress you’ll only wear once.
Any piece of clothing looks better when it fits well, so try clothes on carefully before you buy them. Pay particular attention to how they fit your shoulders. “Think of the shoulders as your coat hanger. When clothing fits your shoulders it will give you better posture and don’t forget the shoulders are the closest to your eyes. When you draw the eyes to the shoulders others are more likely to pay attention to you and what you have to say.”
To know what’s in fashion before you hit the shops, Mackinnon recommends keeping an eye on social media. “Instagram and Pinterest are particularly good because it’s just pictures and you can access them easily and quickly. Create your own inspiration board in Pinterest and reference it when you go shopping so you know exactly what you’re looking for.”
If you still feel overwhelmed by options when you walk into a clothing store, take a fashion-savvy friend or hire a stylist. A personal stylist can instantly find clothes that suit your body shape and colouring. Under their guidance you’ll find yourself trying on flattering clothes you would have overlooked by yourself. You won’t be wasting time and money on things that aren’t made for you and they won’t hesitate to tell you what works and what doesn’t.
To look even better in your new clothes, avoid the bad habit of not tucking tops into skirts and trousers. “This is a very common habit of women who lack confidence and want to cover up. What they don’t realise is that tucking into a tailored skirt or trouser – that is, one with a neat, flat waistband – not only looks more professional, but it can make you look taller and slimmer,” says Mackinnon.
If you want to look competent, it also helps to wear makeup. Research suggests that we instantly and unconsciously judge women with make-up as more competent. Unfair as it may seem, going bare-faced could harm your reputation. As a guide for how much to wear, check out the more senior women in your workplace.
When you’ve finished updating your wardrobe, all you’ll have to decide is how to use your increased confidence and influence.