Earlier this week I happened to catch a snippet of a segment about career advice on the Today show. I was planning on writing a post on how to create a polished wardrobe for work so considered it might have some helpful angles for my article. Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary gave a very important piece of workplace advice. When you go in for a job review asking for a raise, don’t tell your employer how great you are, tell them how great you are to the business. He suggested going in with a few questions in mind:
I found this interesting since this is how I approach my own clientele. How do I help them do their job better…and how do I save them money? I feel as though with every client I face a job review. I want to make sure I save them time, make getting dressed easier, and save them money by value engineering their wardrobe.
Late last summer I was in The Hive looking for pieces for one of my clients. Lacey, who has probably helped many of you as a sales associate at The Hive, was in the process of interviewing for jobs. Having graduated with her masters degree, she was at the cusp of a major life event: going from student to professional. This next generation is quite savvy. Lacey nonchalantly proposed the idea of hiring me once she landed that first job in order to help build her work wardrobe. I remember thinking what a great idea this was. Clearly she had seen me working at The Hive with clients and also had a comprehensive understanding of my aesthetic. She was also aware of how much thought goes into what I know about the clients and editing out things I feel won’t work for any number of reasons. Having worked with every age client from my daughter to women in their 70s, Lacey’s request was immediately accepted.
During our first snow of the season, I made my way over to Lacey’s home to begin the process of building a professional wardrobe. The first thing I asked her was what her goals were upon completion of our time. She expressed wanting to have a capsule work wardrobe. Her work environment is pretty casual so I jumped to presenting her with the idea of building a wardrobe with pieces that are clean, simple, and modern that could be used both for work and her lifestyle outside of work. I had hit the nail on the head and the fun was about to begin.
Closets are filled not only with clothing but also an incredible amount of reasons behind purchasing. For this task, I wanted to stick solely to making sure we identified what Lacey was using for work. Knowing our time constraints, we didn’t go through her entire closet. I knew that once we had built her work wardrobe, she would be able to identify the clothing she no longer had a need for and get rid of it.
Here are a few of the takeaways from our two hours together.
I suggested Lacey look at her work wardrobe not only in seasons but in actual days. I typically utilize quarters and then do the math. By knowing exactly how many days you have to get dressed for work, a wardrobe starts to feel attainable even with the piece you already own. This exercise will also keep you from over-purchasing. Having worked as a buyer, I had to curate an entire sales floor that offered answers to every question that hung on the racks. Seven years of this equates to attaining your masters in “creating outfits.” It only takes a few seasons of having some notable outliers hanging around to keep your style eye astute to leaving no man behind.
Once you have your quarterly outfits or maybe just a month’s worth (approximately 15 outfits with some overlap), you can strategically pack away the pieces that are timing out due to weather changes and introduce more seasonally appropriate pieces. This will keep your wardrobe fluid with fresh changes that will keep you engaged. What I am really proposing is asset management. Keeping your wardrobe healthy with periodic culling of seasonal dead weight will keep you engaged and excited to wear your clothing in new ways.
Often clients don’t have outfits in their closet because they are not utilizing color stories. I urge my clients to commit to three to five colors each season. Not only will you have a much better time looking for clothing but you will now have outfits because there will be a color relationship. Lacey’s colors for late winter into early spring are light blue, burgundy, mustard yellow, cadmium red, and olive. She has many other colors currently in her closet but going forward, she will be able to limit the items she shops for by holding them to a color criteria.
This is another great tip from my days as a buyer. I really came to understand prints while viewing the Trina Turk collections. Not every designer utilizes this technique but those that do have greater client loyalty since the code has already been cracked. Veronica Beard is a good example of a collection that bonds their separates with seasonal prints. When reps present collections to the buyers, they will show you the prints that ties the collection together.
So the print will be offered as a dress, in two or three styles of tops, and sometimes it will show up in the lining of jackets. Once you understand this concept you can become the designer of your own wardrobe. For instance, Lacey should look for prints that have her color story in them. How often do you just purchase a top simply because you like it. If you take a look at your closet today, do you see a color story in action?
If you’ve worked with a stylist, you probably have heard the term “uniform.” I sometimes use “recipe,” too. These are the outfit formulas that make up your wardrobe. Having two or three uniforms will keep you in an interesting rotation. If your job gives you very little time to dabble with all the elements, a single uniform also works. Think Anna Wintour. She wears print dresses, a focal necklace, heels, and her shades. She also keeps her hair a constant. Great branding and efficient in weeding through all the collections.
She can also start mixing her elements around such as adding the blazer to the trouser uniform or the long sweater to the tunic and boots.
Below, Lacey gave me a job performance review! It seems I scored high Kevin O’Leary’s list of guidelines. I was able to make her job easier, help her achieve her goals by saving her time and I’m confident I brought profit to the table! Lacey has a thoughtful list of items to start adding to her wardrobe with guidelines to color stories and uniforms that will blend seamlessly into both her professional life and her casual lifestyle.
If you think this would be a beneficial exercise for you with your own wardrobe, let’s put a date on the February calendar. In the meantime, please head over to my website and sign up for my weekly emails.