How to be Unapologetically Stylish

Unapologetically Stylish

I was kicking this blog post topic around in my mind when one of my client’s emailed me this fantastic interview about entrepreneur Cindy Gallop’s bold, powerful and unapologetic style.  You can read it here.  I highly recommend you do.

Bold, powerful and unapologetic.  Well, these are certainly three words I’d like to have describe me.

How to be Unapologetically Stylish

Reading Cindy’s interview, I nodded my head enthusiastically because I have made the same mistakes as she has made, like choosing an outfit because it seemed like the right thing to do or ignoring my own inner signals that something didn’t feel quite right on me.  Reading Cindy’s article, I also realized how far women have strayed from dressing powerfully by just listening to their internal cues.  Instead, women seem to find their dressing cues outside of themselves.

Paradoxically, however, we also celebrate those who do take chances and color outside the lines with their style.  Inside we find ourselves wanting to be like them even if we don’t want to dress exactly like them.  What we admire is their ability to honor themselves through what they wear.

If you feel lost, unsure of your style or that your look has gotten too generic and homogenized, here are some thoughts to give you the push of confidence that might be missing.

Tap into your feelings

When I feel good in what I am wearing and how I look I am a completely different person.  This confidence doesn’t come from knowing that I pulled together the “right” outfit that society has deemed on trend or acceptable, but by getting a strong sense that what I want to express is coming through what I am wearing.  Rarely does my gut steer me wrong.

When I look at the inspirational style photos clients share with me, I look more at the energy that is coming from the image more than I look at the actual photo.  What I believe about why women gravitate towards a certain look or style isn’t as much about what the outfit looks like as much as it is the feeling they want to emulate when they are wearing it.  You can put two women in the same exact outfit that should flatter them both perfectly and notice a completely different energy coming off of each woman.  Great style is achieved when a woman is true to herself.

We don’t admire what someone wears as much as we admire how they are wearing it

I have admired many looks on other women.  I always say that Helena Bonham Carter is my spirit animal.  I have never wanted to look like Helena, but I have certainly found myself craving the confidence she has when she wears what is true to her.  The woman chose to wear two different colored shoes to an awards show, for goodness sake.  Even if it was a fashion disaster, you gotta admire any woman who is this unapologetically bold.  The goal is to not copy what someone else wears but to create the feeling that the person you are admiring is emitting.

It takes guts to be honest and bold in wearing what is truthful for you.  If guts weren’t required, more women would walk around feeling good about what they wore.  In many cases, it is simply easier to just blend and not make anyone else uncomfortable or take notice.  Just like in many other situations, women tend to prefer taking the backseat over shining authentically.  But who really loses in these cases?  So you have made other people uncomfortable or have made them question?  I know you have thicker skin than that.  Plus, underneath it all you know these women are just envious for that same level of authenticity in themselves.

If you don’t like it, why are you keeping it?

So often I work with women who pull something from their closet and I can tell immediately they hate it.  Waiting for me to give them permission to let go, they start questioning their choice, as if I am going to fight them to keep something they have no love for.  Oh my God, let it go!  Life is way too short to hold on to things that don’t light you up inside.  Money has been wasted, perhaps, but a lesson has also been learned.  You will know what to avoid in the future.

Don’t buy things that suck the life out of you and certainly don’t hang on to them.  There is nothing empowering about being a martyr about your wardrobe.  Let it go and move on.

You know more than you think you do?

This leads me to my next point: you know way more than you think you do about your style.  Look, some women don’t have the same abilities to throw a stunning outfit together, I get it.  For some it comes naturally and others it doesn’t.  Even clients of mine left to their own devices still throw things together on their own that I question.  However, a failure in execution does not mean you can’t figure out what you do or don’t like.  That would be like saying you can’t figure out what ice cream flavor you like or if you prefer mayo or mustard on your sandwiches.  You know this, you know what you are drawn to, know what lights you up, know what colors you like to wear, you know if you like wearing pants or dresses…you know this.  Trust yourself.

Be stylishly unapologetic doesn’t mean dressing like a clown

Lastly, authentic style does not have to mean looking like you dressed in the dark or taking such bold choices that you should be locked up in a padded room.  Being unapologetically stylish simply means to be honest and truthful, and for that there is no real manual or guide except to trust yourself and to honor it.

Feel your way to great style and when you are feeling shy about stepping out, remember all the women you know who do have the boldness to be authentic and remind yourself it’s what you admire most about them.

  • tgchi13

    I didn’t even make it a third through this before it totally resonated. Thanks B – needed the boost right now. xo

    • Glad I could be your rocket fuel!

      • tgchi13

        And today, I learned a lesson in listening to you: I decided to dress as me within the perimeter of what suits what I do; rather than make you guess I’ll just tell you what happened – the purple cowboy boots I’ve not worn in years split open from lack of wear (stiffness). Yep. I could have been enjoying them all this time and let them get worm away with love…I also got four sincere compliments on then in four hours so, right now, I feel like I just learned to not cheat myself of the joy of being authentic.

  • Patricia

    I love your phrase “Spirit Animal”. Iris Apfel is mine. I love her whole philosophy of dressing, accessorizing and shopping. She pattern mixes and piles chunky bracelets up her arms. I’m not sure how she even stands up sometimes with all the necklaces she mixes. I would never do any of this … but I do come out of my closet a bit more boldly, more vividly and with brighter lipstick as a result of her influence. Go Iris!

    • Iris is definitely on my list. I love her philosophy on style. I do agree. Sometimes I wonder if someone is behind her propping her up. I also love Sue Kreitzman. I linked to my blog about her in this post. Very sweetly, Sue shared that post and we became FB friends after that.

  • Sarah

    I am a casual person by nature. I feel awesome in jeans and a t-shirt. But I work in a business casual environment. I loathe dressing up. How can I remain true to my casual, low-key style when i have to dress up?!

    • I am you to a tee. I live in jeans and am grateful that I can call my own shots. However, this wasn’t always the case. I learned from many style mistakes what did and didn’t empower me. The key for you is finding a look that makes you feel good within the parameters of what is acceptable. Just like you wouldn’t wear leggings to a wedding and you would find a style that you like that is also appropriate for the event, the same is true for your work look. It might take some work to figure it out, but the best barometer is taking note of how you feel in what you put on. If your look is casual then sticking with pants looks is probably your best route. I hope that helps.

  • Opposite you and reader Sarah I am not a casual-dressing person. I work in a casual-dress environment and even though a few people still comment on me being “dressed-up” 2.5 years into my tenure here…I can only be me! So I make my business casual/professional wardrobe work. E.g. today I am wearing a black sheath toned down with a very lightweight, soft flowy cardigan, opaque tights and ankle boots. I use a denim jacket or bright cardigans a lot to make more formal pieces less-so.
    I think the opposite can totally be achieved as well! Ponte pants, stretch wovens, knit tops, cardigans can all feel more business than casual when done “right”.
    I like my job but I also wish I could dress like Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope or like FLOTUS Obama. Ahhhhh. I take a lot of style cues from Tea Leoni as Madame Secretary. I adore jackets with 3/4 length sleeves with long sleeved tops underneath because of her!!! 🙂

  • Kim Malkiewicz

    I hopped over and read the Cindy Gallop article after I read your post. I had to give some thought to whether I was trend-chasing or being true to myself. My conclusion would be I try to stay current while being genuine. My style could be described as dressed-up casual. It makes me feel fabulous. I’ll style jeans or other casual pants with gold, leopard, layers, multiple necklaces and bracelets, belts, “pop” handbags and have a ball doing it. I’m currently what I’ll call semi-retired, so it works well. My biggest concern at my age is hanging on to a trend too long b/c I like it so well and then looking dated–sometimes I’ll ask my daughters if I’m in doubt–for instance, I’m still loving the partial-tuck shirt (I don’t have a waist, so it gives the illusion that I do)… Thanks for making me do some soul/closet searching. :).