My “Wear Your Happy” theory:
Success starts with happiness, therefore “dressing for success”
starts with wearing what makes you happier.
What you wear impacts your behavior, and if you want to be happy, you have to feel happy. As we get ready to move into autumn, with tall boots and blanket scarves, let’s take a minute to strategically curate a capsule wardrobe that makes you happier. Limiting wardrobe decisions each morning means there is more bandwidth for more critical decisions throughout the day. It also decreases clutter and streamlines shopping. And makes it more likely you’ll be able to find your own style and signature ‘uniform’.
Early in my conservative and corporate career, a professional image consultant was brought in to help our team make sure appearance didn’t distract from message. The gist was that we should each blend in so our work would stand out. Our ‘packaging’ was part of our professional brand. We each received tailored advice based on what we wore to the workshop (a typical workday outfit) as well as a suit we each brought along. The first thing I was told? My hair wasn’t professional enough, and I was going to need to cut it short, since curly hair wasn’t really polished enough.
Well, I wasn’t going to do that. How ridiculous! I wasn’t going to cut my hair. And, I threw out most of that advice with a little eye rolling. I decided I was a rebel who’s work was going to be my message, and that caring how I looked was shallow. Until I got some painful, but honest and well-intentioned coaching that I wasn’t being seen as competent as I am. The decisions I made about how to dress were signaling that I wasn’t someone to make great decisions in general. Ouch. So how to step it up without cutting my hair? I did what I always do, and started reading.
George Brescia’s Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life asks that you imagine your favorite clothes. The things you’ve carried through various life stages: a certain pair of jeans, a summer dress, shoes you may only wear once or twice a year. You know, your favorites. These are the pieces you feel great in every time you wear them. You walk a little taller, feel a little more confident. It’s that confidence which is translating to your successes. George proposes that all the clothes in your closet should make you feel that good. We don’t need to only have one power suit – we need a closet full of them. And they don’t have to be literal suits.
Easier said than done. Most of the people I know aren’t in a position to overhaul and purchase an entire new and happier wardrobe. The one time I’ve had the need, the permission and a reasonable budget to do this was when I was pregnant. I looked at needing a maternity wardrobe as a challenge: limited budget, spanning more than one season, and a desire to feel good about being pregnant. Oh, and I still had to look professional. After reading about capsule wardrobes and getting sucked down the Pinterest rathole of The French Woman’s Closet, I combined two of my favorite minimalist wardrobe projects into my own “Wear Your Happy” planning template.
Wear Your Happy: Print the template and follow along…
First Things First: Start with the Vivienne Files’ 4×4 brilliant “Core Four” approach:
- Pick two neutrals, and four core pieces in each neutral that can be mixed and matched. For each neutral, you need two tops and two bottoms in solid colors.
- Then add in accent color number 1 (the Expansion Four) to coordinate with both neutrals. You do this with four tops, ideally with patterns or some interesting detail.
- Accent color number two (the Milage Four) is mixed in through two more tops and two bottoms, or a dress and skirt. All of these should, as Marie Kondo says, “spark joy”.
You now have 16 pieces, many options and the ability to pack light. Janice, the mastermind between this strategy, writes an amazing blog full of example photos, color palettes and inspiration from art and nature.
Maintain Your Momentum: Getting to Project 333
The 4×4 is made more powerful by then overlaying another 17 pieces to round out a Project 333 wardrobe: 33 pieces to get through a whole season: 3 months of the year. This does not include gym clothes, or pajamas, but should include EVERYTHING else. I break down the remaining 17 pieces into:
- (4) pieces of jewelry – two necklaces, two pairs of earrings
- (4) pairs of shoes
- (1) hand bag
- my sunglasses
- And (1) pair of pants, (1) additional dress or skirt, a cardigan and blazer.
- Which leaves (3) wildcard options
Each season, I shop my closet to refresh my Wear Your Happy wardrobe. Not only does it set me up for success in finding choices I want to wear, it’s also helped me have a bit of a signature look (I think). It makes shopping a lot easier as well – I just don’t buy things that don’t fit into the color schemes or that don’t fill a gap. Which is how I ended up with a lot of polka dots and red shoes.
A NOTE: In curating your wardrobe, playing within the rules of your chosen field is critical. Know what game you’re playing, and as Carla Harris writes, wear the proper uniform. If you’re in sales, client ready-blazers may be a better choice over cardigans. If you’re a full-time mom, it may be harder to chase toddlers around in skirts. Basically, if you’re playing basketball, don’t show up in football cleats. And, you really only need one or two lounge outfits – so while they don’t hit the Wear Your Happy list, be vicious in cutting out the extra comfy clothes.
You can have anything in life if you dress for it. ~Edith Head