The Girl On Top Commandments of Style
An excerpt from the book Girl on Top by Nicole Williams.
When it comes to style, some people just have piss poor taste. But there are some tried and true rules everyone should follow that will seriously reduce the frump running rampant in workplaces worldwide. Hang these up on your mirror, take them with you when shopping if you must, but never leave for work without having consulted the Girl on Top Ten.
1. Know your body. We're living in a society that encourages women to accept their bodies the way they are--which would be fabulous if we were all spawns of Victoria Beckham. Unfortunately, women take "embracing curves" to mean "wear whatever the hell you want" even if you've got rolls spilling over the sides of your jeans. When in doubt, go a size up. Even when you err on the side of too big, the clothing will still be flattering, whereas going a size too tight leaves no hope for those mornings after you've gorged on free wine and hors d'oeuvres at a client dinner. And remember, no one's too skinny for Spanx. If you haven't invested in quality shape wear yet, please do so NOW. Time is of the essence.
2. Choose classic over trendy. The same spellbound society that tells us our bodies are fine just the way they are also supports us in freely expressing our personal style--which again, would be great, if some of us didn't leave the house looking like a poor man's Pamela Anderson. Adding your own flare is great when we're talking about a necklace or a punchy-colored heel, but (especially if you work in a conservative atmosphere), save your trend experiments for the weekends. If you haven't studied fashion and you don't have a personal stylist, chances are your "risks" are actually mistakes--and therefore, not appreciated at the office.
3. Fit trumps quality. The rule has always been quality over quantity, but that's not completely true. The secret is that fit tops them both, always. Yes--it's entirely possible to look God-awful in Gucci. And, as I said before, you can make an inexpensive outfit look like a million bucks if it's snug (and forgiving) in all the right places. Plus, now that we have designers teaming with chain stores like Target and Kohl's, you can find good stuff on the cheap. The point is, where you get it should be second to how it looks on your body, which brings me to my next tip: If it ain't tailored, it ain't flattering. If you've never had a suit jacket or a pair of pants tailored, I cry a silent tear for what I fear you look like every morning when you get to work. Muffin tops, peekaboo bra straps, butt cleavage, camel toe...I take that back--it's a full on ugly cry. Not only might a tailor be the secret to all of your dating problems, but he has the power to catapult you to the corner office.
4. Splurge when necessary (or keep the tags on!). You're not likely to hear this advice from your financial advisor, but I've changed many a power suit to the credit card because I knew it would be just the look (and the confidence boost) I'd need to land a deal or ace an interview. There are certain times (and you'll recognize them when they happen) when looking your "usual best" just won't cut it. When you're presented with opportunities of a lifetime and you've got one chance to do it right, no price is too high to look the part. (And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise has never landed a major deal.)
5. Mind your lines. I never thought I'd say this, but Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears have got something right--sort of. I'm not suggesting that you spare visible panty lines at any price, but you can --and should--find your way around them. With all the different kinds of undies available, there's just no excuse.
6. Black is always back. And so is gray or navy blue, which can be less harsh with some skin tones and hair color, but is still equally clean, sleek and slimming. When it comes to colors you want to wear your clothes, not have them wear you. A punch of color is one thing; a canary yellow ensemble for a first interview is another. At the end of the day you want them to remember you and your presentation, not, "You know...what's her name...big yellow."
7. Good shoes can transform an outfit. Although you may be able to fake expensive with clothing, with shoes, you get what you pay for. No seriously--wear Payless, and you can actually expect to be paid less. On the other hand, you could be sporting an entire outfit from Forever 21 and still look spectacular if your feet are in a pair of Manolos. And while I don't recommend shopping for clothing online (for fear of fit being sacrificed), shoes are a much safer bet. Shopbob.com, bluefly.com, zappos.com--all great for designer shoes at the click of a mouse. So now that I've given you the permission you've been waiting for...start saving!
8. Accessorize in moderation. Jewelry can be your outfit's best friend or its worst enemy. A few guidelines to follow: If you're going with a statement piece (a striking necklace or a bold cocktail ring), go bare to minimal elsewhere. And unless you've been lent a Swarovski set to go with your red carpet gown, there should be no matching of the earrings, bracelets and necklaces--to much of one thing screams "I shop at Claire's." As far as other accessories go--the bag draped over your arm, the scarf tied around the neck, the belt cinching your waist--you can go cheap on all but the bag. Clients, co-workers, interviewers--whether you believe it or not, they're all sizing up your game by what you're packing.
9. Learn how to layer. Layering gone wrong turns even the slimmest of women into lumpy, disproportioned mishaps. If there's one combination that's essential to master, it's the meeting-to-work-to-I-need-a-drink-ASAP arrangement. The trick is to start with the thinnest and tightest layer underneath (like a dress, a sexy cami or fitted tee), add a slightly chunkier layer (a cardigan or a knit sweater), and then throw a blazer on top of it all. Get it right and you'll transition seamlessly from early morning to late night without ever having to fear the walk of shame. Some more hints on layering: Swap in pieces from different seasons underneath to get more out of your wardrobe, and stick to one pattern per combo.
10. Turn to the experts. People think style is a gene you're either born with it or not. But even the fashionistas of the world have been caught looking like shit at one point or another. The fact of the matter is that they practice looking good, and they get better at it as they become more attuned to what accommodates their tastes and flatters their figures. I get that so many women don't have the time or the energy to invest in learning to look their best. But for the sake of your career--and the rest of us who subconsciously judge you--seek help. Ask a fashionable friend to raid your closet or hire a stylist for a single consultation. Sign up for my "WORKS style" newsletter for weekly work wardrobe recommendations. And finally, take advantage of stores with free shopping services such as Bloomingdales, Saks, J. Crew, and Club Monaco. It's a small investment of time and the payoff--a newfound sense of confidence--is worth it.
Okay so after all that, the truth is if you come across an ass who doesn't like you...promote you...hire you, because they don't dig your looks--it's their problem, not yours.
To learn how to turn dating rules into career success, read more interesting observations and details in her tell-it-like-it-is book, Girl on Top by Nicole Williams.
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