Personal Style: Are You an Acceptably Dressed Nobody?

black suit white shirtOver the past ten years I’ve had the great honor of working with some amazing women and have watched their personal style transform.  I feel truly grateful for the work I get to do.

While each woman who has called to work with me has very unique and special in their own way, there has been one common thread that has run through each and every client that I’ve worked with:  Before working with me they were Acceptably Dressed Nobodies.

Contrary to what some may think, not one fashion nightmare has ever called me.  I always say that these fashion victims are way too clueless to know they need help, and I have a strict policy that I will never hunt down or badger a woman to call me until she is ready, no matter how poorly she is dressed.  So, while I’ve encountered many women who I have dreamt about getting my hands on, they’ve never become my clients.  You have to be self-aware enough and ready to change to pick up the phone and ask me for help, especially on your wardrobe choices.

What is an Acceptably Dressed Nobody?  Well, in a nutshell they aren’t memorable in their clothing.  Basically, I can pop the head off of an acceptably dressed nobody and put someone else’s head on and nobody would notice the difference.  While their style is innocuous, fine, acceptable and non-offensive, it is also usually bland,  safe, uninspired and predictable.  Acceptably Dressed Nobodies have learned how to just get by and dress safely.  No, nobody is taking a picture of her poorly dressed on the street or snickering, but nobody is remembering her either.

Because so few woman out there know how to get dressed and make their personality glow through their wardrobe, for the sake of not making a mistake, an Acceptably Dressed Nobody boils her wardrobe down to the most basic look—usually something like a pair of black pants and a top, a pair of jeans and a t-shirt or a little black dress with no flair, for example.  Better to be safe than sorry, thinks the Acceptably Dressed Nobody.  And, how can blame them? When you don’t know what you are doing, it’ll do.

Yet, at some point, an Acceptably Dressed Nobody will notice that not only does life start to feel as stagnant as their wardrobe, but they realize that this way of dressing is starting to feel monotonous.  This is when the acceptably dressed nobody takes a risk and goes out on a limb…which usually fails.  Like any situation in life where we feel dull or uninspired, to shake things up a bit, we often make grand sweeping changes that feel about as comfortable and unfamiliar as moving to the moon.   And, what does an Acceptably Dressed Nobody do in reaction to this discomfort?  They go running back to the safe way of dressing feeling that it was foolish to take a fashion risk.

This is usually when I get a phone call.   The first thing I notice when I go into an Acceptably Dressed Nobody’s closet is that amidst the sea of boring, safe and predictable pieces, peppered throughout are these strange, bizarre pieces that represent the times the Acceptably Dressed Nobody tried to step out.  Usually these pieces were worn once and then thrown into the back of the closet.  At the end of a closet edit, I’m left with a woman standing in her underwear feeling defeated that she will never figure out how to dress stylishly and she’ll just never be one of those women with style.

But, she is one of those women.  Every woman has personal style.  How can someone not?  Style is a reflection of one’s personality.  Therefore, unless you don’t have a personality, you have a style.  The problem is that most acceptably dressed nobodies, even if they know themselves to some degree, how no idea how to express who they are with their clothing choices.

The funny thing is that a dramatic change does not need to happen.  An Acceptably Dressed Nobody doesn’t have to purchase wacky wardrobe pieces to be stylish, and they certainly don’t have to abandon their entire wardrobe.   The fix is so simple that I often feel silly taking an Acceptably Dressed Nobody’s money because it is so easy.  Yet, I realize that, for them, it is hard.   Heck, I have problems with math…we all can’t be good at everything.

What an acceptably dressed nobody has is a good base of basic pieces.  While they often have too many of those pieces (just how many pairs of black pants do you need???), what an acceptably dressed nobody learns from working with me is that all they have to do is swap out the very basic accessories for something more exciting and interesting to get the ball rolling in a more positive direction.

Let’s take a look at some very simple fixes for some very acceptably dressed nobody outfits and now easy they are to fix.

Photos by Lori Berkowitz

How many of you have worn an outfit like this on the left.  This is the uniform of the Acceptably Dressed Nobody– a white button-down shirt (or any boring button-down shirt), a pair of black pants, a forgettable black handbag and a bland pair of black shoes.  Are you in a coma yet?  Often my clients tell me that stepping out would mean putting a pair of pears on.

If you look at the two outfits on the right, the base is the same.  She is still wearing the boring base, but the boring base now has some flavor and personality.  In both cases, we swapped out the black shoes (black shoes are highly overrated and totally unnecessary, by the way) for something more exciting, changed up the handbag (with such a basic base you can grab any handbag), threw on some accessories, that actually do something besides lie there, and added a topping piece.  How hard is that?

Personal Style Tip:

Instead of going out and buying yet another pair of black pants or a stale button-down, put your money towards something exciting that you can wear with these pieces.

Photos by Lori Berkowitz

Everyone loves a basic pair of jeans and a t-shirt.  But wear this look too much and we’re going to have to put a mirror under our noses to make sure we’re all still breathing.  Again, great base but we need to do something to it before we all fall asleep.

Here are three options you can consider.  Notice the base stayed the same but with the change of the coordinating pieces, the look can go from dress casual work to the weekend to out for dinner.

Personal Style Tip:

When wearing such a neutral base like jeans and a neutral colored t-shirt, go crazy and add some pop of color as an accent…somewhere…anywhere!