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Confidence tip: simplicity stands out

As you walk down the street, look around and ask yourself who stands out.  Not the clothes, but the person.

I find it’s people who are very simply, but stylishly dressed.  Not funky, bling, or teetering on six inch heels.

Simplicity Sfera coat

You won’t stand out if you look like everybody else. And everybody else is wearing whatever the magazines dictate – things that look good on models’ bodies on the catwalk.  Things that are decidedly not simple – simplicity doesn’t sell magazines.

It can be difficult to get simplicity right. Simplicity has to fit; simplicity has to be well designed; simplicity has to be made in good fabrics.  You can’t do simple cheaply. 

It can also be hard to find: try to find a simple bag that’s beautifully made and elegant that hasn’t got all kinds of handbag ‘furniture’ on it.  It’s almost impossible.  If it’s expensive these days it seems to have to be unnecessarily elaborate. 

Simplicity Sfera dress

But it’s worth the effort to find it. Simplicity is the best way to camouflage the bits that need it – well-cut it will enhance your body shape.  In previous times, that’s why women would have clothes made to measure.  In those days, tailors were also designers – today that is rarely the case, so made to measure tends to be a boring option.

And simplicity is the best way to let your individuality shine through.

So next time you are looking for something that feels a bit glamorous, think about whether you want to be invisibly trendy or simply individual.


Black tie: mode opera and I

I went to Glyndebourne this week and, while the performance was fabulous, I have to admit that while looking at the audience milling around I said to my husband: “I feel a blog coming on.”

Glyndebourne: Black tie. Milling around outdoors in the British summer evening and more than efficient air conditioning indoors, so it’s not exactly going to be warm.

People had clearly put in a lot of “effort” – in fact you could hardly hear the singing for all the noisily coloured fabric and the chattering teeth coming from the bare shouldered members of the audience.

I’ve recently written about dressing for black tie – and I know people find it difficult. But really it shouldn’t be.

Here’s what you need to be well dressed for an indoor/outdoor black tie event:

  • little black/green/blue/red/etc. dress – keep it short if you’re under 30; just below the knee if you’re over – long dresses should be kept for events where there is dancing or red carpet as otherwise they can look a bit mumsy.  If you want to cover your legs, evening trousers are more glamourous than a long dress 
  • simple lightweight pale coloured cashmere or wool summer coat, preferably with no buttons (this sort of coat can be worn for dressy occasions – think Ascot and Henley – and also over a pair of jeans);
  • dressy shoes and bag; and  jewellery to add a sparkle.

That way you can be elegant and leave the costumes to the performers on stage.


Style dilemma: no need for a pregnant pause in your working wardrobe

A question was posted on the Fashion Forum page this week about finding clothes to wear during pregnancy that are suitable for wearing in the boardroom.  The writer says…


“I currently alternate wearing Mothercare maternity (fine for the beach, not the boardroom) or pre-pregnancy clothes (can’t breathe).”


… and she was interested in companies or styles for pregnancy.


This is something of which I have direct recent experience as Wardrobe has been a bit of a baby factory over the past couple of years, with three of our stylists and our tailor’s wife all having had babies.


None of the stylists bought maternity clothes.  Instead our tailor modified regular clothes from the shop.  Typically, they needed to go up one or two sizes; but by inserting elastic into trousers in strategic places and tapering skirts, the parts of their bodies that hadn’t enlarged still looked trim. 


With jackets we were able to adjust the shoulder area of the larger sizes and leave the bottom half of the jacket to absorb the bump.  And often loose tops that aren’t made for pregnant women can work well and you may not need to go up a size.


We also recently put a pregnant customer into a lovely double-breasted dress which we altered to become single-breasted during the pregnancy.  When she’d had the baby and was about to return to work, it was re-altered into the original double-breasted version.


Some fabrics work better than others during pregnancy.  For example linen and cotton are cool in the hotter summer months; and in winter wools with stretch content are better than fabrics that don’t stretch.


But other than that, with a little effort you shouldn’t need to change your style too much.


In my opinion, the most important thing to do is to find a shop with a really good tailor who can adapt normal clothes.  Like everything else, those growing bumps come in different shapes and sizes, so with the same individual attention you can maintain your style confidently – and comfortably – through your pregnancy.


If anyone has other thoughts or tips on this, please do comment below or, even better, on the Fashion Forum page.



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Confidence Tricks in your email

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Interview in The Daily Mail

The Daily Mail interviewed me last week.  Their angle was that in the recession, looking your best at work is essential. I hope you find it useful.

Click here to read it.


Why am I writing a blog?

It’s all about confidence
One constant theme that has run through all of my work over more than three decades of running Wardrobe is helping women build confidence.

I set up Wardrobe in 1973 after working in recruitment because I saw the way people dressed for interviews and realised that it was contributing to women not getting the jobs they deserved.  It was (and still is) easier for men to look the part for senior level job interviews – a suit and tie pretty much does it. 

For women it was and is much more complicated because there are so many more components that have to work together to create a personal, comfortable identity – accessories, hair and make-up for example. There was (and, I believe, still is)  little advice available in shops or magazines to help women dress in a way that would help them fulfil their potential in a business environment without taking away their personal identity.

35 years on, the world has changed; but the question – how can women create a personal style that helps them look and feel confident in whatever situation they find themselves? – is if anything even more pertinent:

  • Women have moved up the corporate ladder; but, without having developed a simple solution to dressing for the coprorate world
  • The big labels are putting an increasing proportion of their spend on promotion at the expense of fabrics and hand-finishing. Which is fine if you want people to know that you’ve bought the latest trendy outfit; but not so good if you want to develop your own personal style and choose clothes that really suit and fit you
  • And the media, bombarded with PR and ever declining travel budgets, are in general finding it harder to do much more than write about the big names that their audiences already know about (Jil Sander had been in Wardrobe for 5 years before it was noticed)

As new clients come into the shop, they still tell us that we are unique in the way we help them put together their own style which gives them confidence in whatever siutaion they find themselves – whether business or social.

So this blog is a contribution to filling that gap for women everywhere.

Do come back soon.