Author and style expert Andrea Pflaumer wrote today’s post on how to build the perfect wardrobe for you! Enjoy, darlings!
Have you ever walked into a room of people you’ve never met and felt, “I’ve got this, I feel great”. Or maybe you’ve had one of those awkward, “Oh-my-God-I’m-underdressed” (or over-dressed, or inappropriately dressed) deflating experiences?
For the record, I’ve had two of the latter and I still cringe when those memories pop up. The most memorable happened in my early twenties, dressed as though I had just come from Woodstock. I ended up backstage, being introduced to a very formally dressed Burt Bacharach and his then-wife, the beautiful Angie Dickinson. (Btw, they were both very lovely and extremely kind).
For most women, how we feel about how we look has a profound effect on our self-confidence. Throw out the notion that it shouldn’t matter – it does! That’s because the image we project to the world says a lot about who we are and how much value ourselves. This can’t help but influence how others see us.
Different Kinds of Confidence
Confidence comes in different forms, of course. Some women feel confident when their attire is sophisticated, understated, and elegant. But there are those, like the fabulous 101-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel whose motto is, “more is more and less is a bore.” Iris’ signature look incorporates her life-long love for pattern mixing, colorful textiles, and gobs of accessories. That’s just a reflection of who she is and she does it beautifully.
But it brings up an important point: if you don’t have a similarly dramatic and colorful personality, a cut-and-paste version of that look will come off as fake. The aim of creating a wardrobe that builds confidence is to make it tell the best story about you in the best possible way. And you want to make it look as though you put almost no effort into it at all!
What Clothes Make You Feel Confident?
For starters, any item or combination of items that:
- Fit perfectly
- Flatter your coloring
- Are of high quality
These will always make you feel confident.
So, look to those items or combinations of items that earn you frequent compliments. These can be the clues to your personal confidence-building staples. They could include things like a beautiful satin blouse or fine worsted pleated pants. Perhaps beautifully made shoes, or a colorful hand-embroidered midi coat. Or maybe it’s just a simple perfect LBD worn with a fabulous rope of pearls.
Regardless of how simple or elaborate they are, these are your signature pieces. Wear them on repeat! Rather than looking like you have little to wear, you will look like you only wear beautiful things.
Your Signature Uniform
Speaking of your signature, an excellent way to build a confidence-boosting wardrobe is to create a few “uniforms” that speak to your style.
These are like go-to, no-fail recipes you whip up when company is coming or when you just don’t want to think too hard about what to cook. Keep a record of them on your phone for reference at those times when you stare at the closet and think “I have nothing to wear.” If you want to be obsessive, you could even hang them together as one entire outfit.
It’s a good idea to have at least 2-3 of these uniforms for each of the different occasions and events that are a regular part of your life. For example, if you are still in the professional working world, interchangeable higher-end basics (slacks, skirts, jackets, or blazers) are your fundamental uniform. You can create variety by swapping out the pieces, wearing different tops, and dressing them up or down with different accessories.
If you entertain or schedule dates with your significant other, your uniform might include blouses and jackets. Or it could include skirts in luxe textiles like satin, silk, or velvet. However, wear these pieces sparingly so you won’t feel overdone or overdressed. One show-stopping piece can make you feel more confident than wearing multiple at a time.
If you attend afternoon functions or go out to lunch with friends frequently, create a couple of outfits that incorporate your highest-quality casual basics with something more colorful, like a gorgeous print blouse or scarf. Or if you have a lovely print dress, keep the accessories and coat or jacket in a matching color to one of the primary colors in the print. And here is where you can add on some fun accessories like a charm bracelet or bright gold hoop earrings in a scale that complements your size and height.
Fashion After 50 — The Rule of Three
Speaking of colors, unless you are wearing a pattern, keep your color combinations simple. That means avoiding wearing more than three distinct colors in any outfit! In fact, a lot of very confident women wear a lot of neutrals punctuated by only one eye-catching color. So, if you are wearing matching color tops and bottoms, add in a different color belt or shoes.
This includes monochrome or “tonal” (same color in different shades) neutral outfits. Note: monochrome does not mean monotonous. You can make a monochrome outfit very interesting by varying the textiles of the pieces.
Now, if you do have the kind of dramatic or high-spirited style as the great Iris Apfel, you still need to be careful in your color choices.
You can combine prints if you keep the patterns in the same color value or family. But excess in any area of fashion – whether in the volume of a garment, the pattern, or the way it is accessorized – takes a very thoughtful eye. Unless you are an artist yourself or you get professional help from a stylist, tread carefully.
Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative
Confidence in how you dress requires clarity and honesty. That includes recognizing your physical assets and knowing how to visually deflect away from what you don’t want to emphasize.
Get a full-length mirror! Before you step out the door, turn your back to your full-length mirror and take a selfie over your shoulder so you can see how you look from the back. Many a great outfit – and your self-confidence – can be been ruined because you forgot to pay attention to how you look from other angles. Love handles or flabbiness in your back can distort the outline of your dress or top.
If you need shapewear, there are a lot of new items that are targeted to address specific body concerns from upper arm flab, to belly fat, or bumpy thighs. These are not the god-awful girdles of yore. A lot of them are quite comfortable! But if you just hate the idea, wear items that are intentionally oversized, like a lovely cardigan or straight-line blazer. If you have great legs, wear that pencil skirt! If you have lovely hands and arms, add some bracelets or ring bling.
Preparing a Confidence-Building Outfit for an Occasion
Don’t undermine yourself! Find out ahead of time what the venue is like, what is the expected dress code, and any temperature and weather concerns, both indoor and outdoor. If it’s outdoors, will it be on grass or similar that your heels will sink into?
Then set your game plan by asking yourself a list of questions:
- What will make me feel most comfortable?
- What will make me feel most confident? (Two VERY different but related questions. You want to be able to feel both comfortable and confident.)
- Would I feel confident wearing this if the dress code was slightly more formal?
- Would I feel comfortable wearing this if the dress code was slightly more informal?
- How do I want to be seen? Does this outfit project that?
Then, wear your highest quality jewelry that complements the outfit you are wearing. That means keeping them in an appropriate scale to your outfit and proportions.
Make sure your shoes are impeccable! If you can wear heels because frankly, they just make almost any outfit look snappy, do so. That’s because they give you some height. Like it or not, the illusion of height will make you look more confident. If you hate heels or can’t wear them, keep your shoes the same color as your bottoms and/or stockings, or wear an entirely monochrome or tonal outfit. Also, choose almond-toed or pointed rather than rounded or squared-off shoes because these have the power to elongate your image.
Alas, if you forget all this detail, just apply these ideas to your wardrobe:
- Go simple.
- Go high-end.
- Add some bling.
You can’t go wrong with these as your guiding principles. It is the essence of a confidence-building wardrobe!
About the author:
Andrea Pflaumer is the author of two books: the Amazon best-seller Shopping for the Real You: Ten Essential Steps to a Perfect Wardrobe for Every Woman: Fashionistas, Fashion-phobes, and the Over 50 and She’s Got Good Jeans – a guide for how to shop for and where to find the perfect jeans for your body and budget.
She does in-person and online wardrobe and shopping consultations for women worldwide and blogs at Shopping for the Real You. Her free course, Lazy Person’s Guide to a Perfect Wardrobe is available on GoHighbrow. Andrea hosts two video series: Vital, Vivacious, and Visible after 50 and Shopping for the Real You: Expert Edition. She interviews women in the areas of fashion, beauty, and wellness on her Shopping for the Real You YouTube channel. She is a regular contributor to several national and international publications for women over 50.
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