The first time I realized I needed to develop my “personal brand” I was watching the movie Working Girl (yup, dating myself). Melanie Griffith plays a true underdog; the secretary who went to college at night, graduated with honors and now wants to be the boss. The challenge, her colleagues (and bosses) see her as a secretary. Mostly because she doesn’t dress the part. (I know, not fair but it's true). It's when Sigourney Weaver’s character shares the famous quote by Coco Chanel, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman” that the lightbulb goes off for Griffith’s character. She must dress for the job she wants, not the one she has. There is a similar exchange in a more recent film, The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep’s character is a master at pointing out to Anne Hathaway’s character how important a dress code is, not to mention how important the fashion industry is everyone. My point, you must dress for the job. "Dressing the part” has changed since the 1980’s (yes, when Working Girl was released) but that doesn’t mean it is acceptable to wear just anything to work. (Get your FREE Essential Tee Style Guide here)
Dress to what suits you and your brand while sticking to what is appropriate for your job. Makes sense to me. I have read numerous articles that claim we are now in an era where we can dress as we want. We claim we don’t want to follow dress code rules, but deep down, we do want the person we are working with to be presentable, show confidence and “dress the part”. Would you find confidence in your surgeon if she walked in wearing shorts and sunglasses? Would you want your 5-year-old being taught by a teacher who wears a see through top? I know, extreme examples, but true.
There are many examples in pop culture illustrating how a uniform or dress code is effective. Diane Von Furstenberg and the wrap dress, Vera Wang wears a white tee, jeans and black blazer to work, Jennifer Anniston and her trademark hairstyle. Having a consistent look doesn’t mean you are boring or lack the ability to be innovative. It reflects someone who is confident and isn’t afraid to show it. It might also mean, you are really focused on efficiency. By having the standard uniform or easy hairstyle you have a lot of freedom. The freedom to focus on what needs to be accomplished that day. You aren’t busy worrying about your outfit choice, you are focused on getting stuff done.
The first step in developing your brand is to develop a capsule wardrobe and there are numerous articles about how to do just that. In fact, there seems to be a capsule wardrobe for every part of our life. One for work, one for weekends, one for date night, etc. It kind of goes against what the capsule wardrobe is all about, but that is a topic for another article. Focusing on the work wardrobe and how to develop your brand for work seems to be a great place to start. Work is where we spend most of our time and making any aspect of work easier is always a bonus.
Let’s Get Started
Building the capsule wardrobe starts with picking the color palette. Mine, black. I have spent a ton of time in NYC, as well as traveling the world and find black is my color of choice. It is the perfect backdrop for my personal style (we will get into how to add personal style in a bit), my clothes always appear crisp, clean and on-trend. Now, if you are someone who loves color (think Reese Witherspoon), that is great. Pick one staple color, say pink, and add on with foundational colors; white, cream, navy and black. Once you have your palette it is time to find the staples for your wardrobe.
One final tip on the capsule wardrobe. This isn’t the place to pinch pennies. Find garments that are well-constructed, are made with premium fabrics and fit well (or have them altered). These garments should be an investment (no fast-fashion here) and will last you 3 or more seasons. If you do the math you will find you are saving money in the long run.
Adding Your Personal Style
I have a love for unique jewelry. Adding that unique piece of jewelry to my daily uniform, for me, means my look is different from others. I also have short, red hair, something that also sets my personal style apart from others. Adopting jewelry as my “signature” came over time. If jewelry isn’t your thing, a unique pair of eye glasses (Jennifer Aniston and Jamie Lee Curtis come to mind), amazing shoes (Sarah Jessica Parker), or a great handbag all help set a look apart. My tip, think about what you really love and use those accessories to differentiate your personal brand from others.
Keeping it All Straight
I personally like to keep my closet super organized. Shirts in one section, pants in another and shoes have their own special place. I can easily see what is hanging and what can be mixed and matched. I know some of my friends capture their outfits on their smartphone. Super-efficient, in my opinion. They just go to your favorites and pick the uniform of the day. If you are super techie, Stylebook might be an app you will love. This app, created by a fashion insider (who got her start as an intern at the Vogue fashion closet), developed this expert wardrobe organization and closet management tool. Although I haven’t used Stylebook I am keen on the technology. The ability to mix and match outfits (you can take pics and delete the background) and add them to the calendar. This ultimate organization tool seems efficient and really easy to use.
Developing your personal brand can take time and you may find your brand evolving in years to come. Mine did, thank goodness, I ditched that hot red lipstick! Stick to what works for you. Trends are for weekends and nights out with the girls. When it comes to your work wardrobe you want to make the right impression: you are confident, get the job done and ready for that promotion.
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For the past 25 years, Robin has devoted herself to almost every facet of the fashion industry. Working from the ground up, she has worked for and with some of the most prominent names in the fashion industry (Victoria's Secret, Tory Burch, Chico's Brands, J. Crew - to name a few). She started in store operations and progressed to buyer before switching to the other side, selling apparel for vendors. At the beginning of the tech craze, she went behind the scenes, consulting with retail companies on eCommerce, Omni-channel and Supply Chain. She’s even designed and developed her own products. It was in 2015, that Robin turned her dedication, expertise, and passion to a new venture: robin b.
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