It was the senior year of high school – SAT season, to be precise. After months and months of studying my heart, the big day has finally arrived. But there was still one thing under my control that would skyrocket my SAT score to its highest potential: wearing a “power outfit” on the day of the 3-hour exam.
For this occasion, I translated “power outfit” into a chic preparation à la Blair Waldorf of Gossip Girl. So while everyone showed up at the testing center early Saturday morning wearing a comfy hoodie and a pair of comfy sweatpants, I took the SATs looking like a part-time super-achiever/socialite who has attended an elite private school on the east coast. Placebo effect or not, it worked! I received a score that I was proud of. Sure, I had studied obsessively for the SATs, but I’d like to believe that using Blair Waldorf’s school uniform as style inspiration also had something to do with the intellectual high I felt taking the SATs.
Since then, I’ve been a strong believer in Dressing for Success by creating powerful outfits inspired by the people in fiction and reality that I admire, not just for their clothes, but for their personality and success. Clothes really have a super power. The ones you wear in the morning dictate how you feel and behave throughout the day. Sometimes all it takes to turn an ordinary day into a fabulous one is as simple as slipping on a pair of pink, Elle Woods-style pumps.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of a successful dress code:
Ask yourself a simple question.
When you open your wardrobe in the morning or go shopping, think of someone who motivates you and ask yourself what they would wear for the occasion you are dressing for.
If you want to feel stylish and classy, you can ask yourself, “What would Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, choose if she had to shop at H&M?”
If you’re in the mood to activate your inner badass for a girls’ night out, you may be wondering, “Which Rosa Diaz boots from Brooklyn nine-nine wear?”
If you’re hosting a big presentation in a room full of intimidating peers, you may be wondering “What lipstick would Alexandria Ocasio Cortez wear today?”
It works for any type of occasion, with anyone you see as a style icon, just fill in the blank to make it fit what you need. Whether you need an extra boost of confidence, strength, or patience, ask yourself, “What would ___ wear?” Some days, you’ll even be your own style icon.
Just one question is all it takes and you’ll be well on your way to outfit perfection.
Remember that the goal is not just look fashionable.
It’s not just about how clothes, makeup, or shoes fit you, it’s also about how they make you feel. For example, if you decide to wear Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso (aka Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s must-have lipstick), you’ll obviously look perfect, but the main idea is that It’s empowering to wear the exact same lipstick shade as a congressman. Not only can you steal his signature red lip, but you can also channel his signature leadership qualities, the ones you strive to emanate.
By choosing different style icons like AOC, you give yourself the opportunity to establish a sense of ambition. By dressing for success, you develop your own hybrid style, not only in the way you dress, but also in the way you approach your day-to-day life.
Use a power outfit whenever you need it, for any occasion, big or small.
I once memorably practiced dressing for success on the first day of my internship at a major magazine publisher in Milan. Being a fresh-faced American in a different country, immersed in a different language, and in a different work environment, I needed more than just a cup of cappuccino to untie the knots in my stomach. So I channeled Andrea “Andy” Sachs from The devil wears Prada. If Andy, fresh out of journalism school and a stranger to the fashion industry, could take on “the job a million girls would kill for” by assisting the editor of Track magazine, then I could definitely kill it on the first day of my internship in Milan. And I did. The outfit I wore made all the difference in my attitude, my confidence and the first impression I made.
If you feel like you’re wearing a suit, you’re wrong.
When I dressed like Andy from The devil wears Prada, I wasn’t pretending to be her, I was still me, but with a touch of Andy’s confidence. Taking inspiration from other people’s style isn’t about dressing up as someone you’re not, it’s about cultivating the best version of yourself and expressing different sides of your personality. Even though Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn nine-nine wears black leather jackets and carries a secret axe, he’s also the same person whose heart turned to mush for a puppy named Arlo and was a ballerina. You don’t have to adopt the persona of a Forever 21 model, you can channel someone like Rosa Diaz, or your favorite book character, or an actual model, and it’s such a game-changer.
But if you feel like you’re wearing a suit, you’re wrong, because it doesn’t matter if anyone recognizes that you’re trying to be like Rosa de Brooklyn nine-nineor as Elle de Revenge of a Blonde. Dressing for success is as much an inner experience as it is an outer one.
No matter what you tackle every day, the clothes you wear can help you do it. If you’re spending your Saturday night babysitting your neighbor’s kids and feel like tying your hair up in an Ariana Grande ponytail to boost your excitement, then do it! Dressing well and especially dressing for yourself is a form of self-care. When you look good, you feel good, and ultimately that’s the most important thing.