The culture of work is changing, and with it, our office dress codes. As companies encourage staffers to bring their whole selves to work — and people embrace style repeats and “personal uniforms” in an effort to de-stress workwear — Thrive decided to take a deeper look into how what we wear to work affects our mental well-being, creativity, productivity, and authenticity. We welcome you to take a spin through our special section: The Psychology of What We Wear to Work.
Feeling that you are well-dressed can have a powerful influence on your confidence and success. And having fun with style can be a joyful creative outlet. But dressing for work every morning can contribute to stress, too, especially for women, for whom the number of necessary outfit decisions can feel endless.
To figure out how best to manage that style-associated pressure, I spoke with Galadriel Masterson, a wardrobe stylist who has worked for Tom Ford at Gucci, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger and Ellen Tracy.
Masterson’s top method for choosing your outfit every day, and minimizing the stress of that process, requires focusing on two things: “Your mood, and how you want to be perceived,” she says. “The more women tap into that organic inner guide, the better they look. After 24 years in the industry, I know that is the absolute truth.”
Her insight is poignant: by listening to ourselves, to those internal prompts and rhythms that tell us whether or not an outfit matches how we feel, who we are, and how we want others to see us, we find the outfit that will make us look amazing and tap into our confidence.
Sometimes, when faced with the ticking morning clock, our organic inner guide can be hard to hear. These tricks will help you pick up its words with a minimum of stress — but a maximum of style.
1) Be a style repeater
One simple way to create more time in your morning (and life in general) is by repeating outfits — to work, social events, or anywhere else you go. Arianna Huffington, Thrive Global’s Founder and CEO, has pioneered this approach through her style repeats movement, which encourages women to wear the same outfits (specifically outfits they love!) again and again.
Huffington talks about repeats as a way to close the style gap: the issue that men are able to repeat outfits all the time — just a few suits can easily get them through most of the formal events, and even many workdays, of their lives — while women are often expected to attend each formal event, and even each day of work, in a fresh outfit. This discrepancy puts extra pressure on women, adding the burden of constant shopping and outfit assembly to their mental and financial loads. It also takes away from the time women might otherwise put towards productivity, creativity and recharging.
Plenty of female celebrities are joining the repeat movement as well, Kate Middleton, Tiffany Haddish, Diane Von Furstenberg and Padma Lakshmi among them. As we move towards gender equality, fashion will play a role; repeating outfits is one way to make change and save yourself some time and stress, all while building confidence. “When an outfit makes you feel good, the energy you show the world is confidence, and we are all naturally drawn to and respect confident people,” Masterson adds. And quite honestly, it doesn’t matter if it’s skinny jeans and a concert tee or something more high-end that gives you this confidence. “All that matters is it doesn’t go on your body unless you like how the clothes make you feel.” There’s no one right outfit. The looks you love to wear again and again should be specific to you.
2) Adopt a work uniform à la Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs believed in simplicity and elegance of design. We see that in the products produced by Apple, but we see it, too, in the black turtleneck, blue jeans, and New Balance sneakers he wore every day. It’s not uncommon for men to repeat outfits (see above), but Jobs took that trend to another level. He created his own uniform.
For those of us who were forced to wear a uniform as school children, we may associate the practice with discipline, or a lack of originality. And it’s true, wearing the same outfit every day is not for everyone. But as a former uniform-wearer myself, I remember a feeling of freedom, too — a freedom to dash out the door, headlong, with my thoughts squarely focused on schoolwork and friends rather than on my appearance. So whether or not you want to wear exactly one outfit every day, consider cutting down on morning tasks and stress by defining a uniform for yourself. The restriction might actually free you.
Picking your clothes every day, Masterson reminds us, is like putting on a costume: “I started as an actress before my two decade long career as a commercial wardrobe stylist began. An aspect of acting I loved was that the audience understood who the character was before any dialogue was even delivered based on how they dressed and carried themselves….a young farm girl, an aging socialite. Picture that. The same applies for life,” she says. “We get to use clothes to create other people’s perceptions of us.” If every day you want to play the same role — a powerful, confident, effective achiever, perhaps — why not wear the same “costume” to play that up?
3) Pick your outfit in the evening
Pick your outfit for the next day the night before. This simple change will save you time in the morning, but more importantly, it will let you choose your look when you have the time and space to have fun with the process. Masterson reminds us, “when getting dressed in the morning your outfit should empower you; if not: change it.” To stay true to this insight, but also save time in the morning, do the trying on the night before.
4) Choose a style icon
If you struggle to identify your own sense of personal style, or feel stymied when you think about what to wear, try choosing someone else on whom you can model your look. It can be a celebrity, a prominent business leader, an Instagram style star — or even a fashion expert like Masterson herself. This way you get to outsource the thought that goes into putting together good, cohesive style. Whether you copy this person item by item or just according to their general aesthetic (like their preferred silhouettes and color palettes), choosing a style role model can decrease your stress.
5) Keep your closet edited
When you feel good about everything in your closet, know that you look good in all your clothes, and are confident that all the pieces reflect who you are, you can easily mix and match items into new combinations with abandon, because they all are solidly you.
As Masterson explains, “We all know that a biting waist band is not empowering. It’s like having a frenenemy with you all day telling you you packed on a few extra pounds.” Keep those uncomfortable pieces entirely out of your closet — however beautiful the article of clothing. If it doesn’t make you feel good, it needs to go.
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