Why Not . . . Master the Art of Dressing?

May 07, 2014

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“A woman’s dress should be like a barbed-wire fence: serving its purpose without obstructing the view.” –Sophia Loren

To understand fashion and the purpose for clothing in our modern world is akin to understanding the rules that society abides by and then going about breaking them as you see necessary or fit in order to create the life you want. Granted by taking any risk, the potential for unexpected results may occur, but it is this knowledge hat is crucial to be successful in life. In other words, to any skeptic who believes that paying particular attention to one’s clothing is a frivolous hobby for unintellectual clothes’ fanatics is to entirely misunderstand what the power of the proper clothing for any situation can provide.

While being a slave to clothes and each season’s trends is not a savvy pursuit, being aware of accepted mores and cultural shifts is never a bad idea. Upon reaping this information and understanding the effects of particular clothing in any particular sub culture, one can break the “rules” as they like as they become clear about the life goals they wish to pursue.

In other words, depending upon the work environment, particular attire is necessary. Whether it be as a lawyer, a yoga instructor, a CEO or an artist, certain wardrobes are acceptable and certain styles are not. For example, most judges and courtrooms require all professionals involved in a case to wear collared shirts or suits before they can proceed as a sign of respect for the court. Knowing the requirements is crucial in order to successful do one’s job.

In Dr. Linda Przybyszewski’s new book, The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish, she explains that while the inferior treatment of women in the workplace is not something we should wish to return to, a respect for how women dress in the workplace in modern day society often leaves much to be desired. And while I will never cheerlead a manual for how men or women should dress, knowing there is power in our sartorial choices is valuable knowledge to possess as we pursue our professional goals and build our personal world.

After all, as Sophie Loren’s quote reminds us, the clothes we choose to adorn ourselves with should accentuate our most beautiful and talented selves. Clothing itself in the form of labels, sparkle or tottering high heels should not be the spectacle but rather the woman wearing the ensemble should be the one spotlighted with the proper clothing choices.

Incorporating a few of Dr. Przbyszewski’s prescriptions as well as my own, here are a few ways you too can master the art of dressing and dress appropriately, effective and comfortably for the life you have chosen to live:

1. Ignore Fads/Trends

Chasing the trends will leave your checkbook bare and give the impression of a woman whose only hobby just might be how she dresses. While looking well will always be a priority of mine, a woman who only wear trends projects a woman who doesn’t know who she is or is too afraid to reveal her authentic self.  Find your own signature style and revel in it. After all when you know what looks best on your body and for your lifestyle, you can have fun in your own way regardless of trends. Now that is a habit of a confident woman, and confidence to others in your vicinity is like honey to a bear.

2. Dress For Your Life

Depending your job, your lifestyle and your responsibilities, only you will know what shoes would be reasonable for your day-to-day duties and whether or not you can wear skirts and dresses or whether you have to wear pants. However, often women use their lifestyle as the excuse to not dress well. After all, wearing a dress is often the most comfortable and easiest option in the morning for a mother or busy businesswoman, and as we know, dresses can quickly elevate one’s style whether paired with flats, heels or boots. The key to whatever clothing you choose is to tailor it to your body – size, length, color and fabrics.

3. Beware of Black

Wearing black, while an easy option for nearly every skin tone can be tricky if not handled properly. Worn close to the face, Dr. Przybyszewski reminds us, black can deepen the appearance of wrinkles, lines and shadows. As a way to mitigate this effect, choose your accessories, those closest to your face, wisely – necklace, scarves, as well as the neckline detail.

4. Spotlight the Mind, Not the Body

A woman’s clothing should be worn to reveal the woman who is wearing the ensemble. If you want people to respect you for your thoughts, words and conversation, draw their attention to your face rather than you cleavage. While accentuating and tailoring clothing to fit your figure is a must, revealing too much skin or pulling a Jennifer-Lopez-in-green-Versace-moment is not going to leave your co-workers, boss or date cognizant of your mental and intellectual talents or your charming personality.

By simply paying attention to beautifully designed necklines, wearing hats or adorning our shoulders and/or neck with scarves and beautiful earrings or necklaces, we immediately spotlight where we would prefer an onlooker’s attention to go.

5. Invest in Quality Classics

Refrain from being a slave to clothing by gradually building your closet with quality staples. With the ability to mix and match from year to year with clothing that always looks its best and lets your best self shine, you are reducing stress and allowing yourself to focus on whatever task is at hand with your best efforts.

6. Better to Overdress

When in doubt, dress well. Even if you outshine the rest of the crowd, you will be noticed for being respectful of the moment, rather than the contrary. And if you know your body and how to dress yourself well, you will look stunning and create moments of conversation and curiosity that you can make the most of to reveal the gift that is you.

While how you interpret the prescriptions of how to master the art of dressing will be unique to your lifestyle, tastes, age, etc, keeping them in mind is never a bad idea. After all, clothing is merely a means to a desired result, and knowing how to achieve that result will always involve wearing clothes. Dress accordingly and the life you desire will certainly be within your grasp.


~How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget

~Why Not . . . Refuse to Underdress?

~Why Not . . . Create Your Own Signature Style?

Photo by Mark Solarski

14 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Master the Art of Dressing?

  1. Great post Shannon. I am a young lawyer (in Australia) and I find the comfort of knowing that I am dressed appropriately in turn gives me confidence and allows me to focus on my quality of work rather than being concerned about what I am wearing. I have always had a strong interest in fashion and while the base of my work wardrobe is always conservative (mostly simple well fitted knee-length dresses or pencil skirts and blouses), I indulge my interest in fashion by investing in good quality handbags, shoes and jewellery to complement the clothes. While it may be considered shallow to judge someone by the clothes that they wear (and I suppose on a moral level, it is shallow), the reality is that in the workplace the manner in which you present yourself can yield a lot of power (both in the perception others have of you and in your own confidence that emanates from being comfortable in what you’re wearing) and there is only a benefit to be gained by putting your best self forward. I was considering buying Dr. Linda Przybyszewski’s book and your post has now convinced me to buy a copy. Thanks again

  2. LOVE this post! It reflects me completely but it was fabulous to read it because so often here in Southern California we are surrounded by sweatpants and short jean cut offs and tank tops… and not the Club Monaco sweatpants. 🙂 Bless you! Love, love , love your blog!

  3. Great post, and very inspiring! It’s good to know that I’ve been doing a lot of these things without even noticing it! I began to realize early on in my life that being trendy can be both expensive and unnecessary. While it is important to have a modern look, basics and staple items should really be the backbone of your wardrobe, with everything else as the garnish that keeps your style fresh.

  4. What a great post! I always worry about overdressing as a stay at home mom/school volunteer. I think that people will think that I am taking myself too seriously. It is good to think that it is better to be over than under dressed 🙂

  5. I have recently been studying color analysis on 12blueprints.com and Kibbe style on a Yuku board to determine the best clothing styles based on body shape and line. I have found the knowledge of both colors and shapes to be invaluable in determining (and confirming) one’s signature style.

  6. Great post Shannon!! I have always had a strong interest in fashion and while the base of my work wardrobe is always conservative. I indulge my interest in fashion by investing in good quality handbags, shoes and jewelry to complement the clothes. Thanks for posting.

  7. Great post Shannon. I have always had a strong interest in fashion and while the base of my work wardrobe is always conservative. I treat my interest in fashion by investing in good quality handbags, shoes and jewelry to complement the clothes. Thanks for posting!

  8. My copy of The Lost Art of Dressing arrived yesterday, I was awake reading until far too late last night! This is a wonderful book, Ms P’s research is brilliant. At 58 I am old enough to remember learning some of the rules of style the Dress Doctors espoused, I’m loving the social history within the book too.

    Have a great weekend Shannon.

  9. As I write this, I am looking from a second floor apartment onto the streets of the Rive Gauche in Paris (Latin Quarter). My view contains 2 streets feeding to a Metro entrance. I am sad to say that young Parisian woman are now indistinguishable from young ladies anywhere else… jeans or leggings, sneakers, sloppy “military” jackets or puffy parkas. In the past 10 days, we seen this all over the city. The only well dressed young women were behind the counters of Printemps and galleries Lafayette.

    As an older couple, my husband I both have remarked on what we have observed. Apparently, this is the “globalization” of culture, or a marked downturn in personal pride. Sorry to burst your bubble. If anything, I would hope for a return to their former stylishness.

  10. Love this post Shannon! It’s a good reminder of how to dress for ourselves and always be respectful of who we are and remember Not to Overdress!


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