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The girl’s guide to dressing for success

At some point, everybody finds themselves in a situation where they're nervous -- whether it's a job interview, a first date or attending a party. So what can you do to take the edge off, give yourself the advantage and shake off a bad case of stage fright? The simple answer may lie in dressing the part.

The job interview

In her book "Excuse Me, Your Job is Waiting" Laura George explores the unspoken rules of interview dress and what you should wear – and avoid – to get a leg up on the competition.

When it comes to job interviews for upper-management positions, the dark power suit is essential for both men and women on the initial interview, she says. If you're not sure what this looks like, there are plenty of books written about dressing for these positions. Middle managers and recent college grads should also wear suits. Plain and simple: Invest in a good suit.

And while the suit conveys power, women have always had to choose between a variety of images for the first impression. We also have had to work harder at relaying their intended message, because their roles in the workplace have changed over the decades, and their wardrobes contain more options. There was a time, when women were just entering the boardrooms, that women's clothing needed to make a power statement. Now clothing needs to make a dual, somewhat conflicting statement: power/position and approachability.

The first date

And a first date is definitely a time when you want to convey "approachable." But again, dressing well and looking good can help alleviate some of the pressure.

New York psychologist Bonnie Jacobson, author of The Shy Single: A Bold Guide to Dating for the Less-Than-Bold Dater, offers this advice.

Consider wearing a "signature" pair of earrings, hairstyle, or shade of lipstick -- or pocket square, bow tie, or watch -- that can trigger conversation about how you got it, where you found it, or who gave it to you.

Choose clothes that make you feel beautiful, handsome, sexy, and free, Jacobson advises. This might seem like an obvious bit of advice, but your appearance can provide you with 'props' that aid the conversational flow and bolster your confidence from the outside in.

It's party time!

The same advice extends to attending a party, another situation where people tend to develop a case of butterflies.

Olivia Fox Cabane, who coaches people on how to work a room gives the same advice: Wear something that people can talk about; anything that will draw attention and inspire people to approach you. What do you have that would be a good conversation starter?

Festive and fearless

In addition to dressing well, here are nine tried-and-true tips to help keep you feeling confident when you're out and about this holiday season.

1.    Find out everything you can about those who will be attending: Where are they from? What do they do? What are their interests? This is what you can talk to them about.

2.    Read a couple of mainstream newspapers just before the event so that you can use the headlines as icebreakers. The more conversation fuel you have, the easier it will be to get a conversation going.

3.    Get there early: This gives you the opportunity to warm up slowly as the other guests gradually arrive.

4.    Remembering the detail of the accomplishment you're most proud of just before entering the room. The memory will flood your system with endorphins, which is an instant confidence booster.

5.    Breathe! When feeling self-conscious, people often draw short, shallow breaths, which only make things worse. Focus on taking deep breaths, which have an instant calming and grounding effect.

6.    Pretend that you're the host of the party: it boosts your self-confidence because it makes the event your event. Better yet, volunteer to be on the greeting committee if you can.

7.    Position yourself around the desert buffet: it makes for easy conversations, and when people eat, their endorphin levels rise, which puts them in a better mood.

8.    Approach people standing alone: they're probably feeling awkward and lonely and will be grateful to you for saving them from anonymity.

9.    Compliment them on something they're wearing, and then ask an open-ended question about it. It's one of the most effective icebreakers around.

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