The Challenge of Style

“You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.” – Zig Ziglar

I have been meaning to write about my fashion obsession for quite awhile. No better time than now, right? Plus, I have recently learned from my interesting new boss that the wisdom of office politics is to position yourself as someone who belongs in the circle you aim to get into.

New job also makes managing perceptions seem to be more important than ever. Managing perceptions is part of your personal brand, which is a huge topic all on its own, encompassing everything from first impressions to office politics. One of the major part of managing perceptions is your appearance. In turn, when it comes to your appearance, the clothes you are wearing is the first thing people notice.

I believe clothing to be a part of our “identity claims“, along with body art and other visual declarations of who we are. Actually, to me it is not just the clothes – it is more about the style. My fashion obsession has resulted in more than enough articles in my closets, which – let’s be realistic – is more of a curse than a blessing, when it comes to deciding what I want to wear in the morning. Since at times it takes more mental energy than reasonably appropriate to spend on this task, I have set out on a quest to come up with an acceptable solution that would simplify my life, save time in the morning, but still keep me presentable AND fashionable.

True to my INTJ personality, I considered several options before making my final decision.

Option #1. Selection of an outfit the night before.

Although great in theory, rarely does it work in real life. Most of the time it is the way I feel in the morning that influences my choices of colors, lengths and shapes. For me this option works well only when I have a specific event to dress for.

Option #2. Work uniform.

Many fashion designers follow this approach. Mornings surely do become more streamlined, when you wear the same exact outfit everyday. Just make sure you buy your key pieces in multiples. Unfortunately, wearing a “uniform” would probably cause me to kill myself or simply bore me to death. I like to have fun with my attire. I like to keep people guessing. The highest compliment to me is that I don’t wear the same outfit twice.

Option #3. Capsule wardrobe

This concept limits your choices of items to pre-selected ones that go perfectly with any other item in your collection. The number of suggested items ranges anywhere from 14 to 50 and could vary with seasons. This concept definitely feels suffocatingly too boxed in for me. I do not consider myself to be the most creative person, but when it comes to clothes and accessories my imagination considers all possibilities. Plus, a typical capsule wardrobe consists primarily of neutrals and classics, and I am anything, but neutral or cliché.

Final solution: A set of basic looks.

Just when I was about to give up, I came across this article in InStyle magazine. It suggests five outfit formulas to rotate. Although closely related to both office uniform and capsule wardrobe concepts, it still allows you enough freedom to account for mood and creativity as well as the person of the day to impress.

To me it makes perfect sense. Google image search for “what to wear to work” results in a pictures of outfits that look pretty much the same. Pinterest is full of the exact same types of suggestions. All that varies is small details – colors, placement of ruffles, lengths, or accessories.

Here is how I am going to use this new dressing concept.

Step 1. Define a number of looks that I like and that suit my personality and style.

For example, I am not going to adopt look #1 from the InStyle article, but look #2 is something I already wear at least once a week. Or I do not wear mules, but “when in doubt, wear pumps” rule is golden.

Step 2. Come up with a rotation plan.

For example, on Mondays I am going to wear look #1, on Tuesday – look #2, and so forth.

Step 3. Create combinations that fit the look.

Since each look is defined very loosely and is very general turns, it allows room for creativity. For example, last week I wore gray skinny pants on Wednesday, so on Wednesday of this week I am going to wear white skinny pants. If I worn the red dress with the long burgundy jacket last Thursday, I will wear a blue dress with a short navy jacket this Thursday. You get the idea.

We have all heard the wisdom of “dress not for the job you have, but for the job you want”. However, at times it is amazingly hard to decide what to wear AND balance it with office appropriateness. Please share your solutions to the “office wear” conundrum.



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