It’s New York Fashion Week. Hollie would be disappointed in me if I didn’t write something for it—especially since I’ve neglected her lately—so here goes.
You may be wondering why power dressing matters for authors.
You may want to argue that it doesn’t.
But from the minute you write your first words to when you read your finished piece to your audience, your outfit matters.
When we dress scruffy, we feel scruffy.
When we power dress, we feel empowered. We feel in control.
This feeling of empowerment affects every step of our writing process.
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how she gets all dressed up when she gets stuck:
I put on some decent clothes. I brush my teeth, I wash my face. I put on lipstick—and I never wear lipstick. I clear my desk of its clutter, throw open a window, and maybe even light a scented candle.
She lures creativity to her, as if trying to seduce a partner.
And why not?
Much like a partner, creativity is attracted to confidence.#Creativity is attracted to confidence Click To Tweet
And you know what makes you feel confident?
A great outfit.
For me, a power outfit is a pretty dress with a leather jacket and killer shoes. That’s what I wore for the launch of What Happens in New York, and I felt awesome.
It’s finished! I’m so looking forward to wearing this at the launch of #WhatHappensinNewYork next month! Huge thank you to @rosanna.louise for making it 😊 Can’t wait to wear this gorgeous (work in progress) dress at the launch of #WhatHappensinNewYork next month! #dress #tartan #dressmaking #workinprogress #booklaunch #mannequin #fashion #design #fashiondesign #sweetheartneckline #skaterskirt
This isn’t an outfit I’d wear everyday.
And that’s what makes a power outfit: it’s still you, but with extra pizazz.
If you wear something everyday, it loses its powers.
That’s why brides only wear their wedding dresses once. If they wear a wedding dress for, say, a birthday party as well, it loses some of its power. It’s no longer special.
That’s also why anyone who’s gone through a divorce may feel the need to get rid of—or even destroy—their dress.
How to pick your power outfit
Wear what suits your frame
When you wear something that suits your body shape, you instantly feel more confident.
For me, that means not wearing anything with an empire waistline and avoiding baggy jeans. I need to wear bottoms that narrow my hips and make my top half look bigger in order to balance out my pear shape.
Knowing your body shape can also help you to work out what the best diet and exercise regime is for you.
However, that doesn’t mean that by losing or gaining weight you can change your body shape. Certain workouts can make minor adjustments, but for the most part, it’s not something that changes.
A rough guide to body shapes
Column or banana shape
Your body is straight up or down with little or no curves.
Choose clothes that: Create the illusion of curves.
High-waisted jeans or trousers with a blouse tucked in, for example, will make your waist appear narrower. Avoid skinny jeans as they don’t create curves, they just emphasise what’s already there…meaning for you, they’ll emphasise your lack of them. Go for a cut that’s got more shape to it, such as bootleg.
Your waist is much narrower than your bust and hips, forming an hourglass or figure-eight shape.
Choose clothes that: Balance out your shape and don’t emphasise one section over the other. Wrap dresses are a great way to flatter your curves.
Most of your weight is found on your top half.
Choose clothes that: Make your lower half look bigger and your bottom half look smaller.
Fitted tops and baggier or flared bottoms look good on you.
Shift dresses look like a sack on you, so avoid them.
You hold most of your weight around your top half, particularly your stomach.
Choose clothes that: Draw attention away from your stomach.
Empire waistlines, for example, draw attention away from your stomach and to your bust. Ditto v-necks.
Most of your weight is on your thighs and/or bum.
Choose clothes that: Balance out your proportions.
Skinny jeans look great on you, but be sure to wear them with a looser-fitting top or blouse, otherwise it will emphasise your waistline.
Avoid high-waisted trousers as they’re great at drawing attention to wider hips, and finding ones that fit right will be a nightmare anyway. High-waisted skirts can look cute and distract from your hips, though.
A word of caution
Every site or magazine you read will describe body shapes slightly differently. Try to read about them in as many different locations as you can. Avoid anything that mentions the ‘perfect’ body shape, as there’s no such thing.
It’s worth experimenting with different shapes and styles. You’ll never really know what suits you until you try something on. The more clothes you try, the more you’ll get an idea of what works and what doesn’t on your shape.
If you’re really not sure and can afford it, get a consultation with a personal stylist. They’ll be able to give you recommendations for cuts, colours, and styles that will flatter you.
And, most importantly, wear the right size. Don’t try to force yourself into an 8 if you’re actually a 10. Sizes are nonsensical anyway—I’ve been everything from a size 2 to a 10 in the last few years. And yet, if you were to get out the tape measure, I haven’t changed in shape or size in a nearly decade.
Wear what looks good on you and don’t try to squeeze into something just because of the number on a label. If the label bothers you that much, either don’t buy the outfit or cut the label out when you get home. It’s not worth buying a piece that doesn’t fit you now in the hopes that it will fit you when you lose or gain a few pounds. It. Never. Happens.Wear what looks good on you and don't try to squeeze into something just because of the number on a label. Click To Tweet
Don’t follow the trends
Fashion trends come and go. If you’re not into fashion now, it’s not worth forcing yourself to get into it.
Instead, opt for pieces that are timeliness. Think Audrey Hepburn. Her outfits still look gorgeous and glamorous today.
Items such as a pencil skirt, a fitted white blouse, and a little black dress may be simple, but they look good on everyone.
If in doubt, go for wardrobe staples. They’re staples for a reason.
Invest in quality
When you buy cheap, it won’t last.
Invest in quality pieces and you will notice the difference. The fabric is thicker, softer, and less likely to fray.
Yes, it will cost more, but it will last you much longer.
That being said, people often judge clothes by their labels.
While in some cases a higher price tag does mean that clothes are of a higher quality, this isn’t always the case. Clothes are not expensive to make. Especially not for big companies. There is a line when you start to pay for a brand name rather than an item’s quality.
You can usually tell the quality of an item from the thickness of the fabric and how well it’s stitched together. If the seams don’t move with the fabric, or you can see the ends of the cotton coming out, don’t buy it; it will only fray.
Another thing to note: just because one item from a shop is of a decent quality, that doesn’t mean that the rest will be. Most shops have several suppliers and they’ll all have different quality assurance processes. One item from a shop that cost you £10 may last you 5 years, and another with the same price tag from the same shop may last you 5 months.
Wear underwear that fits, and that matches
Underwear that fits you properly has a huge affect on your posture, your confidence, and the shape of your outfit.
If you wear a padded bra underneath a blouse, for example, your boobs will stick out a lot more than if you wear a sports bra.
And, if you haven’t been measured for ages, go get measured!
Wearing the wrong sized bra can cause all sorts of problems with your back, neck, shoulders, and of course, chest. Give them the support they need!
And, for an extra confidence boost, make sure your underwear matches. I’m not quite sure why, but every woman I’ve ever spoken to about this says that they feel better in matching underwear.
Wear colours that suit your skin tone
Most of us have skin tones with cool (pink) or warm (yellow) undertones. Like with everything, there are exceptions to the rule—those who have neither pink nor yellow undertones and look good in just about every colour. These people are aliens.*
The cool or warm undertones of your skin aren’t related to how light or dark your skin is. You’re just as likely to be pale with warm undertones as you are to be black with cool undertones.
To find out if your skin is cool or warm, look at the colour of your veins. If you have cool undertones, your veins will have a bluish tinge to them. If you have warm undertones, your veins will appear greener.
You can also work it out based on how your skin behaves in the sun. Do you burn easily? You have cool undertones. Do you tan easily? Then your skin has warmer undertones.
Sometimes, your skin can deceive you. Many people often think I have yellow undertones to my skin, but if you put a foundation on me with yellow undertones, I look ill.
Most decent makeup counters will offer you a skin consultation to help you to work out what undertone your skin has and what colours flatter you the most. This is well worth doing even if you’re not interested in makeup, as they can also offer you suggestions on what colours will flatter you the most.
If anyone tries to tell you what makeup to wear without first consulting you about how your skin reacts to things like the sun, run. They are not trained beauticians, they are sales people. They want your money and have no desire to share their knowledge (and may not have any). I once had a salesperson try to tell me that how much water you drink doesn’t affect how hydrated your skin is. Needless to say, I haven’t been back.
A rough guide to colours for your skin tone
Colours for cool undertones
Pink, purple, silver, blue, bluey greens.
Colours that will wash out cool undertones
Yellow, orange, yellowy greens.
Colours for warm undertones
Yellow, orange, red, gold, yellowy greens, peach.
Colours that will wash warm undertones
Colours for neutrals
Everything. I hate you.**
For every rule, there is an exception
Oh, and remember how I said there were exceptions to these rules?
I have cool, pale skin, but look great in golds and coppers as they bring out my green eyes and red hair. These rules aren’t set in stone. Everything from your hair colour to your eye colour to your environment can alter how you look in certain colours, but once you know the ones you look good in, you’re set for life. Or until you dye your hair again.
For more inspiration on what works with your skintone and how to work it out, this post from Stylecaster is a good place to start.
*Not really, just lucky. And I’m a little bit jealous.
**Not really, still jealous.
Don’t try to dress like someone else
By all means get inspiration from other people, but don’t try to become them. Be your own person.
That’s how you’ll stand out. That’s how you’ll grow in confidence.
The more you try to become someone else, the more your confidence will shrink.The more you try to become someone else, the more your confidence will shrink. Click To Tweet
Ask yourself how you’ll feel in five years when you look back on photos of yourself in your power outfit. Will you wonder what you were thinking? Will you think you looked awesome?
Don’t let other people’s judgements cloud your outfit decisions, but do let your own—past, present, and future—judgements influence it.
Some places to look for inspiration
Pinterest is a great source of inspiration for just about everything, and outfits are no exception. Type in your body shape and the style of clothing you’re after, and see what outfits other people have come up with.
Side note: Pinterest is also a great place to get inspiration for your characters’ dress senses. You can have different boards for each book or character, and when you need an outfit for a particular occasion, use it as a reference.
The show’s protagonist, Olivia Pope, is the queen of power dressing. Her wardrobe is amazing. Her mood is also reflected in her wardrobe—when she feels low, she favours baggy trousers and a hoody. When she’s feeling fierce, or shit is about to go down, she power dresses to the max.
Your favourite TV show
Some TV shows—such as Scandal, Gossip Girl, or Sex and the City—are almost defined by their fashions. If they’re around for long enough, they can even influence the latest designer and high street trends.
Look at what your favourite character(s) in your favourite TV show(s) wear. There’s a possibility it already influences your dress sense and you just haven’t realised it—I started wearing turtlenecks after seeing Beckett wear them in Castle!
There are loads of fashion bloggers that have built their platforms purely from posting on Instagram. Search for your favourite fashion style or your body shape and see what comes up.
Brand look books
Most brands have look books somewhere on their website. These suggest how to wear a particular item or style.
When you view items, some sites also suggest complementary items. Beware of this, though—you don’t want to fall into the dressing-like-someone-else trap.
Over to You
When we dress smart, we feel smart. When we feel smart, we put more effort into our work. We achieve more. And because of all of this, we’re more respected, too.
Pick an outfit that you feel good in, and you’ll be amazed how much better you feel.
What outfits make you feel good? Share your power dressing tips in the comments and let’s help each other feel awesome! ✊