I spoke to a woman last week, her business was picking up, [she was taking on a new job from a casual work environment to one where she was in front of clients]. She was working her butt off, taking care of her family, and with no time to shop. Her wardrobe was not appropriate for her new executive position, she lacked confidence, AND her body was changing, [sound familiar]?
As we get older, unfortunately our figures shift. You know what I am talking about; extra pounds, bigger waistline, ashy skin and, (dare I say), a wider backside. It's not fun, and body changes can take a toll on our self-confidence, and could lead to uncertainty on how to dress.
So, how do we as women stay confident, empowered, and on trend with our wardrobe, in this ever changing day-to-day?
There are many body variations, however, the styling rules always start with the basics. These important elements (that sometimes go unnoticed) determine which clothes look best for your skeletal frame. When you understand these elements, you will gain clarity about your figure, you will have more confidence dressing for it and, you will be able to find clothes that are more flattering and work appropriate.
The all important body equation: A+B+C= Body Type
A = Body Shape: which includes your body measurements (bust, waist etc) & your height measurement, (petite, average height, tall.)
B = Body Proportions: Torso/Leg ration, Neck length.
C = Body Incidental: Bust size, thicker arms, wide shoulders, bum size, narrow calves, plus a few other features.
Let's Dive Into the Concept a Bit More
A = Body shape defined by the dictionary: The human body shape is a complex phenomenon with sophisticated detail and function. The general shape or figure of a person is defined mainly by the molding of skeletal structures, as well as the distribution of muscles and fat. What??? In a nut shell, body shape is the silhouette from your front view, or the outline of your figure.
B = Body proportions as defined by the dictionary: how lines and shapes divide the space, garment, or outfit into parts. It involves the relationship of one part or space compared to another part or space, compared to the whole garment, and to the body. Basically, we are talking about longer or shorter legs, a longer or shorter waist, rise, décolletage and your neck length. This measurement will tell you where to end your hems – tops, skirts, sleeves, trousers. Also where you may want to add verticals to elongate and highlight body parts.[One important note regarding proportions.The eye subconsciously sees clothing lines as lines of your body. So, wearing clothes with lines that are incorrect for your body proportion tends to create blunt-lines...essentially cutting your body at the wrong place. But when we correctly place those clothing lines and proportions, the lines have a pleasing curve to them, and the eye is drawn to all of our best features.]
C = Body incidentals/Deviations are everything else that determines your overall body type. The other bits and pieces of your frame; a bigger bottom, large busts, fuller upper arms, wide shoulders, saddlebags, wide calves, etc.
Some of us will have a shorter torso and longer leg line and be tall. One may be petite, and wear a size 16, but have a small bust. These factors influence our style decisions, as well as which pieces of clothing look the best on our body. Sound confusing? It's important to understand that this can feel daunting, be patient! I promise you, once you experiment with these concepts, and test out fabrics and silhouettes, you will get it.
I want to talk briefly about my other secret to confidently boost your wardrobe: maintain classic, tailored pieces and add in trendy items carefully.
You may ask yourself: "How do I blend all of these measurement ideals together so I understand how to find clothes?" and "If I am part of several body types, which one takes precedence?" Author Jonathan Alpert, Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days, about 7 simple ways to begin your morning for a healthy productive day. His strategy is simplistic, yet many of us don't pay attention, are to frazzled or don't recognize the benefit. Not only does he talk about visualizing your day, drink water and wake up earlier. He mentions my favorite strategy: maintain a manageable wardrobe.
Start building your closet with essential pieces like: a pencil skirt, flesh color pumps, black pumps, blazers, a leather coat. These are just part of the core essentials that are the base of your wardrobe. Once you have added all necessary items, then add in trendy, sophisticated, perhaps edgy style elements. This will not only save you money, it will give you styling ease and faster morning exits to work.
I love to see the transformations in women! I see changes from trepidation to exhilaration.…their joy as they step in front of the mirror and say, "Wow, I look really good, I never thought I could wear this!"
It all starts with knowing your body, the shape, the proportions, and having the essential pieces in your wardrobe. Now is the time for your breakthrough style moment! Your ease of getting dressed in the morning, true confidence in front of your clients, and say goodbye to your fashion frustrations! It's as easy as ABC...
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Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."