#MotivationMonday: “D” is for Dress The Part

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“Image is everything.”

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

“Dress shabbily and they remember the dress. Dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”

We’ve all heard these quotes many times before, but who’d have thought that Andre Agassi; Will Rogers; and CoCo Chanel (respectively) would all subscribe to the same belief that what we wear matters? I, for one, agree wholeheartedly, but I also realize that in this day and age Andre, Will, Coco, and I are quite likely in the minority.

Baby, Baby…Where Did Our Love {of creative style} Go?

It seems that chic, expressive, stylish attire is just no longer valued. People are now wearing pajamas pants on airplanes; showing up for interviews in flip flops {yes, this really happened}; and most people’s idea of being “fashionable” and “unique” is wearing the exact same thing that everyone else is. In fact, an article published recently on BecomingMinimalist.com entitled “8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day” highlighted several benefits to dressing with a capsule wardrobe such as less stress; fewer decisions to make; and less time wasted.

Capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that will withstand the times and trends of fashion. This style of dressing was originally created in London and adopted by the French in the 70’s. Although it was brought into the mainstream by Donna Karan back in the 80’s, it’s regained a lot of traction recently as quite a few really popular bloggers have joined the movement. Even the Huffington Post has weighed in on the idea.

An example of a capsule wardrobe. What? No caftans? {image courtesy of Polyvore.com}

An example of a capsule wardrobe. What? No caftans? {image courtesy of Polyvore.com}

I’m not saying the capsule wardrobe philosophy is without merit. In fact, it actually works quite well for some people. After all, it makes it easier and less taxing to get out of the door every day when you don’t really have to think about what to wear. I mean, that sounds pretty good, right?

Yeah. Sorry. Not interested.

Useful strategy or not, capsule dressing is just not for me. I like having numerous options, even if it takes more effort to put an outfit together, and even if it can be frustrating at times. I like having that crazy, colorful vintage {possibly thrifted} jacket that can only go with 1 or 2 things in my closet. I like being expressive and unique with my clothing. I like not looking like everyone else and not blending in.

There’s no room for caftans and turbans in a capsule wardrobe. No jewel encrusted tunics. No room for a whole gaggle of witty graphic tees. Why? Because capsule wardrobes don’t leave much, if any, room for frivolity and whimsy. For me, a wardrobe is less about fashion and more about expressiveness.

And then, at the exact moment the capsule wardrobe movement is gaining ground, who emerges onto the fashion scene other than the very antithesis of minimalism: Iris Apfel.

Don’t Call It Comeback, She’s Been Here for Years

The word “icon” is thrown about quite capriciously these days, especially to describe women who most assuredly have NOT earned the title. Iris Apfel, though–she is truly a legendary style icon in the truest sense of the word.

Don’t know who Iris Apfel is? Well you should!  Known for her stylishly coifed, yet ever-so-chic & slightly toussled, white hair; round, supersized black glasses; and a huge, enviable cache of audacious statement jewelry, Mrs. Apfel, 93, is a woman who has long operated by her own style rules. One of the {many} interesting tidbits about her life is early on she was actually told by the founder of Loehmann’s  that she wasn’t pretty, but that she did have innate style and that, in the final analysis, was what really mattered. Not only did she embrace that thought with zeal, but she actually became famous for it.

Iris 7

Prior to 2005, Iris had attained some modest notoriety as an interior designer and the owner of a textiles company that she founded with her husband Carl, who today is 101. As an interior designer she was even hired by 9 Presidential administrations to work on White House restorations. Then in 2005 the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art asked if she would be willing contribute pieces from her incredible collection of jewelry and clothing for a show at the museum. The show was in instant–and huge–success, and so was Iris.

New York Magazine summed it up perfectly: “Apfel…has come to stand for something larger: unencumbered individuality, a sense of adventure in fashion and life, a fearlessness about getting dressed.” Still wondering if she’s worth all the fuss? She had a documentary made about her that was just released at the end of April of this year that is solely about her and her inimitable style. And let’s face it, you have to some kind of an amazing style maven if a movie is made about how fabulously fly you are.

So What’s The Moral of the Stylish Story

So what’s the message of the post? That it’s time to actually start to “dress the part” for the life you crave, not the one you’ve already got, and to did with creativity and originality. If you’re not yet in your dream career, then don’t dress for your current job, dress for the next one–the one you aspire to have. Ashlina Kaposta, also famously known as The Decorista, said  it perfectly when she said that one “must always exhibit the level of presentation in [their] dress according to the level of [their] business goals.”

In need of tips on how to build that confident kind of style? What better person to get tips from than Iris herself. There’s been a ton of articles written about Iris Apfel, especially in the last 6 or 7 months, and from those various articles I’ve gleaned some of my favorite tidbits of her witty style advice and observations. Here are some “Style Edicts According to Iris:”

Iris Apfel dressing quote meme

  • “[E]verybody looks the same. In a way, it’s rather sad, because…I think the worst faux pas in fashion is to look in a mirror and see somebody else—which so many people do.”
  • On gaining confidence: “I experiment. I’m trying to get to know myself. I’m starting to know what I can handle and what I can’t, and it’s not 100 percent, but it’s working. But the best thing is, now that I’ve learned that I don’t have to look like everybody else, I’ve also learned I do not have to think like everybody else.” {New York Magazine article}
  • On dressing with creative individuality: “Creativity is down the tube…I know they all appreciate it, but they all say they would like to do it but they don’t want to work at it…”
  • On whether she has any style influences: “Nobody is original anymore. Nobody has any original style.” {People Sytle Watch}
  • “You have to work at [developing style], find out who you are and what you can handle…” {The Daily Beast}

Style is important, and it’s time for those of us with big aspirations to ensure that we’re paying enough attention to it. When it comes to your wardrobe, and how you express yourself to the world, do it in a way that is uniquely, authentically you. We should dress for the ultimate destination, not the current pit stop.

As costume designer Edith Head so perfectly articulated:

Edith Head quote you can have

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