Archive for the 'Confidence Tips' Category

Confidence tip: summer’s here. Legs are white. Don’t panic

Regular readers will know that I’m always on the lookout for a good self-tanner – after all, looking tanned (or at least healthy) when more of our flesh is on show in the summer heat is a great way to boost that confident feeling.

One of the best I’ve come across (and used) is Clarins’ Delectable Self-tanning Mousse with Mirabelle Oil. It has a factor 15 SPF for protection in case you’re out in the sun; it doesn’t contain parabens; it has a natural colour; it doesn’t have a bad smell like many others on the market; and I’ve found it quite long lasting.  It also, in the Mirabelle Oil has a very good moisturising agent, so you don’t need to use another product before you apply it (although it is important to use a scrub first to remove dead skin cells before using any self-tanner).  All in all, it’s an all-round good way to boost your look while protecting your skin from the effects of heat and sun.


Confidence tip: polish up your style for summer and beyond

There are a lot of navy and other shades of blue in this summer’s collections and this will continue into winter and next summer.  With these colours, the bright red nail polish that was very popular last summer looks a bit dated now – apart from when you’re on vacation.

A lot of people seem to be wearing grey and browny-grey shades of nail polish, but to me these look a bit too flat.

My favourite to go with this season’s colours is Merino Cool by Essie as it has a bit of life to it and still a modern tone. It is also a nice alternative to red when you’re wearing black.


How to be confident whatever the conditions

There was an interesting lesson in sartorial planning last week as the Obama’s came to our windswept shores.

The First Lady, who is usually very well advised – and mostly looked very stylish throughout the trip – suffered some clearly uncomfortable moments when the wind simultaneously caught the short, but full skirt of her dress and whipped her hair into a Jedward-style frenzy.  With one hand on her head and the other on her crotch, it was every woman’s nightmare scenario.  And it was in front of the world’s press.

Knowing that she would be climbing down the steps of a plane, there was always going to be a high probability of getting caught in the wind. A dress with a straighter skirt (which if well cut would do her more favours than the style she is currently wearing) or even a trouser suit, and a hairstyle that was less likely to get windswept would have prevented the difficulty.

Getting good advice for important occasions is not just about how you look, it’s also about anticipating the conditions.  When you are buying an outfit, you should expect to be asked questions by the stylist about the occasion and the location. For example, for quite a while I dressed an MP who used to sit right behind the Prime Minister.  We noticed that when the camera was on the PM, her knees were on show.  So we made sure she was dressed appropriately.

With weddings and the season upon us, it’s a good time to be thinking about the weather conditions and how to dress so that we don’t get caught out.  There’s a high probability in the UK that the temperature will drop like a stone in the evening. For some reason we never seem to anticipate this when dressing for big summer occasions. I am lucky enough to go to Glyndebourne most years, and for many years I turned up looking good but feeling frozen.  It took a while to realise that I should be choosing an outfit that would work with a summer coat.  Not exactly rocket science, but it makes the occasion so much more enjoyable.




Confidence tips: defying gravity

The top half

I was watching TV while travelling recently and, as often happens, was wondering whether women presenters are given any advice or help with their choice of clothes.  It must be hard being on TV most days and needing to think about what to wear each time when they presumably haven’t had any advice on how to put together a look.

On this occasion, I couldn’t help noticing that the bust darts of the jacket this particular presenter was wearing were not in the same place as her bust.  I find this to be a very common problem: women generally don’t pay enough attention to the way that their garments fit across the bust area.

This is a combination of the individual’s bust (which will only go one way as we go older), the cut of the garment and the bra that they wear.

Here’s the gravity defying tip: the best way to avoid the apparent sag to an otherwise well fitting garment is to check that your bra straps haven’t become loosened during washing (they often do). It is very important that, each time you put a bra on, you check that both straps are equal; and you should be aware that after several months of washing the straps may become stretched and need to be adjusted.

The fit of a garment be it a jacket or dress or blouse, in particular whether or not the garment gapes is largely due to the positioning of the bust, and the effect of the apparent droop is if it doesn’t fit is magnified; so it’s worth keeping an eye on your bra. 

Even if you’re not on TV every day.

The bottom half

If you’re finding as the majority of women do, that as you get older, your bum is getting flatter and spoiling the look of your favourite garments, there is something you can do.  With the help of a good tailor the back of the trouser can be lifted into the waistband which gives a much better shape to the bottom and legs.  This also can apply to dresses and skirts with waistbands if you want a more tapered look.


Doing your colours? Makes me see red!

In a comment to a previous post, I’ve been asked for advice on “prescribed” personal ideal colours for clothes and makeup and the use of specific colour swatches used by a number of style consultants.

I thought this worth its own post as I’m asked about this at pretty much every workshop I do. And I have to say it’s a particular bête noire for me. I believe the approach is simplistic and most often taught by people who do not have enough experience working with women and fabrics.

Telling people on the basis of holding up a single piece of blue cotton next to a person’s face that blue either suits them or doesn’t is just silly. A blue in velvet, a blue in silk, a blue in cotton, wool or any number of modern fabrics will look different. Is it a yellow-based blue or a pink-based blue – the base hues have a massive effect.

To my mind there is only one way that the appropriateness of a colour can be judged for a human being: and that is when the actual person is presented with a specific garment in a specific colour.

Every time someone comes into Wardrobe with their colours done, we have to ask them to forget it and work with us because every single one has been wrong or at least far too limiting.

I remember one time a woman came into the shop dressed head to toe in aquamarine – I mean literally every garment and accessory was aquamarine. Her colourist had told her that it was her best colour. It took me more than a year to persuade her to throw away her book of colours.

It is true that there is a basic link (for Caucasian skins at least) between skin colouring and the colour of clothes you should choose. Pretty much everyone has either a pink tone or a yellow/golden tone – and these are the only two you need to consider. I have a yellow base to my skin and look terrible in any fabric with a base tone of pink.

But it’s hard to tell ‘as a rule’ whether particular colours will work for you as different tints can work at subtly different levels.  In my opinion, you are more likely to make mistakes approaching your choices by following hard and fast rules, rather than looking at each garment’s colour/cloth combination with the advice of an experienced salesperson or stylist.


Confident Personal Style – part 6 – posture

This week’s post will both help you to buy clothes that enhance your Confident Personal Style and, in the meantime, improve how others view you.

Over the years we’ve noticed that posture is a very strong indicator of confidence. When new clients come in for a consultation we ask them to look at themselves (still in their clothes) in a mirror.  Even very successful women tend to hunch over a bit – we pretty much always have to ask them to stand up straight.

When we put them in the right clothes for them, they automatically stand up straight without being asked. Their body hasn’t changed; their looks haven’t changed; their personality hasn’t changed; but the feeling of looking the best they can has changed the way they feel about themselves and that manifests itself physically for all, including themselves, to see.

It’s one of the most exciting moments in my job when this natural blossoming starts to happen.

Part of it is the relaxed, friendly and safe environment we try to provide, but more than that is because all of us, when we worry about how we look, naturally want to hide.  When we know we look good we can’t help but communicate it.

So here’s how to use your posture to your advantage by noticing how you hold yourself. First, when you’re buying clothes notice how you hold yourself when you look in the mirror.  When a stylist or salesperson persuades you to try something on be aware of how your body reacts. If you naturally open up and stand tall, then you’re probably getting good advice. But if you feel the urge to curl up, then you might want to try something – or somewhere – else.

Second, right now, without buying another piece of clothing you can make an improved impression by actively managing your posture. There has been lots written about this and about how to do it – just type ‘posture for confidence’ into Google and you’ll plenty of good advice from people who are more expert than me in this area.

However, I believe this is only a short term solution.  Deep down you know you’re actively managing your posture and that, in itself saps energy and confidence, so you have to work harder to convince others.

The great thing about developing your Confident Personal Style and feeling your confident best is that you won’t need to actively manage your posture – or even to think about it.

It’s so much better to exude confidence than to have to fake it.


Confidence tips: how to look after your winter wardrobe

Now it’s cold enough to wear your winter wardrobe, here are a few tips for looking after it:

  • Leather garments – if you’ve just purchased your new boots, shoes and bag, don’t forget before you go out the first time to spray them with a water repellent spray. This is very important if the leather is not top quality as it may not recover from water marking, but I would suggest that you spray all leather just to be on the safe side.
  • Don’t wear your new outfit for the first time to a very important meeting. If you have to do so, try the outfit on with the shoes and the tights that you plan to wear, just to make sure the proportions and colour really work. Quite often, you’ll have a different idea about accessories when you get your garments home.
  • Make sure that your jackets are on hangers that don’t mark and make points in the shoulders. Often shops will offer you the hanger that the garment arrived with. Take it.
  • I think it’s worth investing in a high quality washing liquid if you intend to wash cashmere sweaters either by hand or in the machine. There are some very good ones on the market. They are expensive, but since you only need a very little amount, it is really worth it and will save on dry cleaning bills, while increasing the longevity of the garment. However it is worth bearing in mind that moths don’t like the smell of dry cleaning fluid and it’s sometimes advisable if you’ve had a moth problem to get the garment dry-cleaned before you pack it away for the summer.
  • Always remember to read the care instructions on your clothes very carefully and inform your dry cleaner of it as well because they don’t always pay full attention to the instructions. For example, P with a line underneath it shows that it should be cleaned in the most gentle way and, as I’ve said in the past, please use the most expensive dry cleaners you can afford – or an owner-operated one – I have heard many horror stories about dry cleaners.
  • Also regarding dry cleaning – I always enclose my own instructions and point out any stains in case they miss them. It’s worth noting the type of stain too, as different substances require different chemicals to remove them. Also I note on the same piece of paper, the make of the garment just in case it goes astray.

Moments of truth – extended version of my article in BA Business Life

I wrote a piece for BA BusinessLife this month with a series of 12 confidence tips for business and travel.  In case you didn’t see it, here are the tips.  And even if you did, this is an extended version with a lucky 13th tip.

  1. Dress for your next job
    Always dress for a job that is one position higher than the one you currently hold if that’s your ambition. How we dress has a profound effect not only on the people who will make decisions about our future, but also on how we feel about ourselves. Knowing that you look the part will help you confidently grow into that next job. It will also give your bosses the message that you’re serious about it.
  2. No logo
    Don’t wear obvious brands or logos – this shows a sense of insecurity in your choices; it can also be unnecessarily expensive. Make sure that you are paying for quality fabric and a fabulous, modern, edgy cut that really fits you, not for brand marketing budgets
  3. Less is more – use my Capsule Wardrobe approach
    Quality over quantity – use my Capsule Wardrobe approach to get the best out of your budget. Buy fewer, better quality clothes you’ll wear more often – you’ll spend less in the end. A well constructed capsule wardrobe will give you endless combinations, a great base from which to accessorize different looks, easy packing for business travel and the luxury of a consistent, confident personal style.
  4.  The hand-luggage Capsule
    We all like to avoid having to check in baggage on short trips if we can. Here’s how to pack a mini-capsule into a small space. Choose an outfit that can be split up, like a trouser suit with a jacket that can be put with a skirt or a dress the next day. Scarves can also alter the look from one day to the next. And keep to one or two colours so that you can manage with one pair of shoes or boots. Use a dark coloured make up bag as an evening bag if you’re going out for a business dinner and don’t want to use a big work bag. Take a more dressy top and extra jewellery for evening to dress up your day outfit. If you have long hair, tie it back to also give a different look. If it’s short, add some interesting earrings. Always make sure you have t-shirts that can be rolled into small spaces and can double up as a top under the jacket. For women one of the biggest problems is packing a cosmetic bag. My solution is to use the small samples given with cosmetic purchases and to decant personal favourites into small containers.
  5. Jackets are a must
    To my mind, the jacket has to be the basis of every busy woman’s wardrobe. Research has shown that women are taken far more seriously when they’re working if they wear jackets. Cardigans are all very well, but they don’t have the same gravitas. So always wear a jacket unless you’re wearing a dress with sleeves. As this is, in my opinion, the most important garment, it must fit well and be able to be done up. If you are bigger on your bottom half, you must buy to that size and have the top adjusted. It is always obvious when a jacket doesn’t fit and that makes you appear bigger.
  6. Pain in the feet shows in the face
    Always bear in mind comfort as well as chic when choosing shoes – bad posture or teetering on high heels doesn’t help credibility. However, there are many wedge heeled shoes in the shops now that give height with comfort and still look very smart – and of course in winter we can dive into our boots and feel comfortable and smart too
  7. Wear natural make up
    Always wear a natural looking make up, but never go without any. These days, mineral powders look natural, and give good coverage without being too heavy. As with everything, err on the less is more and at the very least make sure you’re wearing lipstick.
  8. Wear tights even in the summer
    Always wear tights if wearing dresses or skirts (even in summer – there are very sheer ones) after all, men don’t go sockless.
  9. Groom yourself for success
    Good hairstyling and grooming are very important – don’t forget your nails, they’re always on view – and well-cut hair is your best accessory. Remember that your hair gets exposed to as much pollution as your face and has very little protection. Contrary to popular belief, washing your hair every day with a good shampoo is very important for maintaining healthy hair.
  10. Don’t overload on jewellery
    Don’t wear too much jewellery – a good watch and earrings are important but they shouldn’t be too dangly. Think about your jewellery as part of your outfit, it should complement it. Proportions are very important here. Larger jewellery needs very simple clothing; and small jewellery looks out of proportion with heavier fabrics
  11. Look right on the outside
    Don’t forget that when you arrive somewhere an immediate decision is made about you, so buy a good outdoor coat or raincoat depending on your budget and spend as much as you can on your bag and shoes. Stick to neutral colours if you are on a tight budget or travel a lot.
  12. Don’t crease up
    Polythene is your friend. Use polythene packaging such as from laundry and dry cleaning when you fold clothes for packing to stop them creasing. For example if packing a pair of trousers, lay them out, put the polythene on top and then fold, so the polythene is inside the fold. Stuffing polythene up jacket sleeves avoids creasing too. No matter how well you pack there will be a certain amount of creasing which if you are lucky will fall out if you hang it in the bathroom as you take a shower. I also find that a hairdryer held not too near the garment will often do the job of a steam iron.
  13. Don’t blindly follow tips
    Tips like these can be useful, but you should not blindly follow published advice. You should develop your own individual, confident style. That will need to take account of your personality, your professional role and the culture of your organisation and industry. Your style, like your clothes needs to be tailored to you. Finding a experienced professional friend/stylist in a shop you admire is very important.

Confidence tips: The lengths you’ll want to go to this season

Each season I am regularly asked for advice on the lengths of three things: skirts, trousers and hair.  Obviously, it depends a lot on the individual and how you are developing your own confident style; but it’s good to be aware of the impact of the general trends as you invest in your wardrobe.

Here’s how I’m answering this season. 


Skirt lengths are going a little lower – just below the knee – and are a slim shape which should be tapered.  How tapered it should be depends on your body shape.  There are no hard and fast rules on this; in general, you wouldn’t taper on big hips as much as on slimmer hips, although if you are tall, you might want to taper it a lot.  Much is dependent on the shape of your thighs, too. My preference is for straight skirts as they are generally more flattering for most women.

If you’re not sure about investing in longer skirts, let me assure you that I’m already working on plans for next winter’s collection and it’s clear that the trend towards longer skirts will continue, so my advice is that you should go with the flow to remain up-to-the-minute – this season’s longer skirts won’t look that long next year…  


Trousers have gone slimmer this season and the lengths can vary from a full normal length trouser to a cropped trouser which finishes at the ankle – often with a small turn up. Quite often the more fashionable shapes have pleats. Tip: shoe heights with a cropped trouser will vary from woman to women but they do look good with a short boot and small chunky heel.


The more fashionable styles this season are shorter – generally chin length or slightly longer.  This is because shirts have become a real staple and roll neck sweaters are very prominent. Shorter hair looks less heavy with these.  The trick is to leave it just long enough that you can tie it back on days when you’re short of time.

The big thing with shorter hair is that it must be cut by a really good hairdresser because the quality of the cut is so much more visible.


What to look for in expensive clothes

A reader emailed me this week with an interesting question: “If I’m buying expensive clothes, what should I be looking for that tells me that they’re good value.  How can I tell?”

This is exactly the right question to ask.  The word ‘expensive’ often carries connotations of bad value for money.  But if you buy knowledgeably, the extra cost is a good investment.

Really the only two things that should mean a garment costs more are the cut (interesting design, of course) – and the cloth (and trimmings).

The right fabric

Cloth first: the performance of the fabric – the main raw material – is typically reflected in the cost.  More expensive fabrics most importantly feel good, dry clean better and therefore last and look better for longer.

I was recently asked why a cashmere coat can be bought for £800 in one designer shop and £3000 in another.  This is largely due to the sort of cashmere that has been used.  There many different qualities of cashmere but while the actual feel of the cheaper garment can be OK, the combination of the feel, the warmth and the longevity of the better fabric is very obvious when you put the two next to each other.


I am always surprised when companies use expensive fabrics and then economise on the buttons which are often made of plastic.  Although sometimes it can be quite difficult to tell a natural button which is usually made of horn, it is an economy which a true artisan would not contemplate. 

The way the garment is finished inside is also an interesting tell. Many clients can’t understand why an unlined garment would cost more than a similar lined one.  In fact, lining is often used to disguise cheap finishing on the seams; when each seam has to be individually bound because there is no lining to cover them, it is much more costly to produce.  In summer there are some fabrics that hang better and feel more comfortable unlined or half lined; and in winter some of the modern fabrics are too thick to line and would be spoiled by a lining.

Another thing to look for when buying modern stretch fabrics is that the lining corresponds with the properties of the fabric.  Some companies don’t use stretch lining, which makes the garment less comfortable to wear.

The right fit

As for cut, the actual cutting or making cost is one of the most significant elements of the total cost of a garment.  The number of pieces in a good jacket can be more than 30 to create an interesting shape and fit.  By contrast a jacket with very few darts and seams can be manufactured more cheaply but will not give such a good shape or fit.


You will be able to see the difference if you look closely at the garment.  But you will really know if the cut is worth paying for when you try the garment on.  If the fabric and the fit is right for you, you will feel fabulous.  Don’t accept anything less.

In short: fit + fabric = fabulous.

The right salesperson

There is another way to ensure that the clothes you are buying are good value and not just expensive, and that is to know that the people who are selling it you are genuinely knowledgeable about why it costs what it costs. Get them to talk about the fabric, the cut and the craft that has gone into the garment – if they know the answers you can be confident in the value of your purchase.