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Who’s afraid of a Fashion Faux Pas? by #StylistWeLove Emma Slade

By Emma Slade on Nov 07 2013

Melanie, In House Recruiter – Leading Luxury Fashion House

"These days I ride the tube praying that my Primark top will travel under the radar. I enter the building silently willing no one to notice if I’m unwittingly making an Autumn/Winter 13 fashion faux pas and I dread the moment I need to head down the catwalk to the printer."

Last night a client and friend of mine – a recruiter of a globally renowned fashion brand confessed that the pressures of her new job were immense. These pressures were not as you might imagine - ensuring expectations were exceeded by recruiting exceptional candidates and putting ones best foot forward for example. Instead she felt a disproportionate amount of pressure to 'look the part'; to set an example to the hundreds of young hopefuls, quite literally, banging on the doors of fashion begging to be let in.

I realised that this is essentially what I hear from my clients on a daily basis, particularly those who are relatively senior in their organization. This is true whether they work in procurement, finance or marketing.

So, through some client examples, I want to explore where and why fashion becomes less about a fun expression of oneself (as it should be), and more about looking the part - or dressing for those that scrutinize you every day. And for those of you that feel a certain pressure, perhaps associated with your latest promotion or your senior role within your company to ‘power dress’. I want to talk about a few things we can all do to try to avoid the pitfalls of dressing for others. Things that as a stylist I always ask my clients to remind themselves of when they get ready in the morning to ensure they feel great because they are not just getting dressed, but dressing for themselves.

TIP: Dressing for work needn’t be stressful. Even, if you are senior, even if you do work for a prominent fashion house, and even if you do need to look like you are capable and brimming with authority 100% of the time. No, really, it doesn’t.

Anonymous (age not disclosed, Project Manager)

"I struggle to get excited about my work wardrobe at the beginning of the transition from summer to autumn winter, particularly after just having seen all the pretty SS catwalk wear. Sometimes it feels like getting into the AW wardrobe is a bit of an anti climax…"

TIP: It will be key to inject colour into your Autumn Winter transitional wardrobe to make sure you feel upbeat about moving into the new season. Color signals confidence, which implies power. Go for Brights or Winter Pastels. Don’t drown trying to keep up with the turn in the trend tide.

Anonymous (28, Senior Press Officer)

"I feel pressured to be ‘on trend’ at work, and this makes me feel like I am always playing catch up with my work wardrobe."

TIP: Check in on the seasonal trends broadly, but don’t get obsessive.

Often the people I consider to be most stylish make the grade because they are imaginative with what they have and don’t 'follow' fashion in a rigid way. Choose one item that you already own or that you have been coveting that simply nods to a trend and build your outfit around it. Recently, I helped a client get her Autumn Winter 13 work capsule outfits in order, we picked out a beautiful blue tartan skirt (a definite nod to the tartan theme that ran through Givenchy or Mulberry AW13 shows - and we teamed it with an unexpected bright yellow wide necked, Wide sleeved top.

TIP: Think about what YOU want to say to people and craft an outfit around it.

The top we chose gives the outfit a splash of winter sunshine, which helps lift her mood, and I’d bet, probably acts as a bit of a pick me up for those around her in meetings. We wanted the outfit to speak of strength tempered with a sense of her style of humour. My client is sure to make an impact, which is important for her line of work, but the outfit still remains professional – even demure when teamed with the right knit or an oversized jacket. And no shoulder pads in sight so far.

Debbie (Age not disclosed, Editor of recently launched ladies magazine)

"Running a new business is frantic and work clothes are the last thing on my mind. As it turns out, they're pretty important - they affect how I feel when I'm walking into a meeting, the success of a business deal or how other people perceive me as the face of the business. I don't think power dressing should be about painful skyscraper heels and shoulder pads; the outfit should make me feel powerful precisely because I don't notice it, and can get on with my job. Other people can notice it though - that would be nice."

TIP: This is a dilemma that I’ve coined ‘Power dressing’ versus ‘The power of being comfortable in your clothes,’ you can see why the one with the short pithy phrase caught on…

The truth is, being comfortable in your clothes IS powerful. Far more powerful than a pencil skirt that is just a little too tight for you to relax in, whilst employing anything other than an upright standing position.

Instead of reaching for sharp angles, dark hues and super tailored fits, go for layers of varying shades of cream – a colour that signals lux, or pair your figure hugging vintage suit dress with a jumper tossed over it to loosen the look up slightly.

TIP: Pre-loved shopping – cheap chic that won’t worry you or your wallet.

Shop designer the smart way – check pre-loved sites and events like BuyMyWardrobe, for reasonably priced investment pieces and work your wardrobe around them or of course your local charity shops – my preferred options being Oxfam Dalston for the hunters, or Oxfam Boutique Westbourne Grove for a lazier shopper seeking designer.

TIP: Take confidence from knowing your own body shape and knowing it well.

If shape is something you’re not sure about, if it is something that worries you when you shop, ditch one night on the tiles in favour of a Back of the Wardrobe ‘shape session’ with me. The knowledge you’ll acquire is something you’ll use everyday, certainly every time you shop going forward. Failing this, ask a shop assistant in a fashion outlet you trust and then study up on the dos and don’ts yourself. Choose an outlet that has some sort of tailoring service or assisted shopping experience. That’s what they are there for after all.

Feel free to give me a shout with any of your own fashion dilemmas or questions.

Email emma@backofthewardrobe.com.