Tuesday, January 24, 2012

overcoming short-comings

all photos via vanessa jackman
For someone who has been obsessed with fashion from a young age, I've always felt like I was in a sort of perpetual sartorial-life crisis. I'm a person blessed/cursed with Olsen stature--5'2", petite against all odds, and age-defying (I still get asked if I'm old enough to sit in the exit row on planes....you have to be 14!). I also always wanted to be a writer and would rather act like Harriet the Spy observing from the sidelines then a circus performer doing cartwheels on stage. So, my relationship with clothing is complicated. The odds of finding something to fit my preteen boy frame are already slim-to-none, but pair that with the desire to appear simultaneously fashionable, mature, and strong, yet not in-your-face ...well, that's hard.

I find it even more troublesome as a woman in her early stages in the workforce. Perception is reality, after all, and first impressions last a lifetime. Our wardrobes and our stature communicate so much to those around us, particularly those we want to impress the most and those with whom we interact the least. So I constantly wonder--what do I need to do to send the message I really want to send? These are a few rules I've learned in the past couple years.

1. Good shoes are deafening--in the best possible way

A great shoe is like the perfect punctuation to a precarious sentence. Nothing showcases your intention, nor attitude, like the shoes you choose. If nothing else, they get noticed--and so will you. During a recent presentation I was nervous to give, someone rushed up to me afterwards to ask where I had gotten my perfect-for-any-occasion lace-up suede wedges and gushed for minutes (they were from Zara, if you must know!). Clearly, good shoes are essential to--just as important as?--a great presentation.

And, by the way, I was never a heel-wearer until I started working (I rebelled--I figured I just wasn't meant to be taller than Mary Kate!), so I truly believe a similar effect can be achieved with flats.... as long as they have some 'tude, like a pair made of leopard-printed pony hair.

2. Dress what you aren't, to be what you want


Apparently, I can come across as, someone told me once, "a meek little nothing." Basically, my worst nightmare in a nutshell. Yes, I'm small, I'm quiet(er), and have a super-young face--but that doesn't sum me up! So, ironically, I get the best responses when I dress completely opposite to the way one might expect. Even though I love girly looks, like circle skirts and polka dots, I look stronger and older when there's a bit of edge to an outfit. I'm working on choosing that short, flirty skirt in leather instead of lace (or pairing the lace with a vintage denim jacket and the aforementioned wedges). Or wearing a sweet, feminine blouse with a black bra. Sometimes it pays to scrape by with something that's almost too much, because... at least you were noticed.

3. Never underestimate the power of time and fit


If all else fails, you can't go wrong with classics. Nothing has become more apparent to me in the past year than the importance of fit, always, and the relevance of your looks. Wearing something that fits your body is the best way to make it look different. I actually look like I have a body when my clothes are close-fitting and it makes me feel better, so I stand straighter, too. (That's why I save my perfectly-fitting Helmut Lang dress for very important days.) Plus, wearing something that isn't the least bit trendy is somehow the easiest way to get noticed and stay remembered--in the day of fast fashion, it's refreshing.

What are your biggest style struggles and secrets? I'd love to know!

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