Have you stopped to consider what your clothes say about you? Do you ever think about the messages you are sending to others simply by how you choose to dress?
Are you broadcasting to everyone you encounter that you a confident woman, happy with what is going on her life? Or is your look transmitting a completely different narrative? One perhaps – now that you think about it – you wouldn’t have necessarily chosen?
You see, the clothes we wear, the accessories we select and our personal grooming choices communicate with everyone we encounter. And while it is worth remembering that image is only one element of our messaging, it is a fairly important one, especially considering how visual most of us are.
Whether we like it or not, whether we’ve thought about or not, the way we show up in the world relays something about ourselves.
Yet so many of us wander through life seemingly implying that we don’t care. Or that we don’t have our act together. Or that our best years are behind us.
One of my mentors regularly reminds all those around her ‘that we teach people how to treat us’. Which, by extension, means that we also teach people how to think about us.
This is great news because it means we are in control of the stories we tell through the way we put ourselves together. But we need to be deliberate in our choices if we want to convey a confident and authentic message.
This point was reinforced for me when I attended Diana: Her Fashion Story while we were in London a little while back. Before I even got into the Kensington Palace exhibition, which featured some of Diana’s most iconic outfits, I was struck by a quote from fashion designer Jasper Conran which was displayed on the wall beside the entrance.
‘Whenever the Princess discussed her clothes with me, part of it was always, “What message will I be giving out if I wear this?” For her, that became the real language of clothes.’
Jasper Conran. Fashion Designer.
It seems to me that Princess Diana was very deliberate in managing her message, at least in terms of her image. She used her clothing to signal to the great many who analysed her every move where she was at in her life. This was especially true as she moved into her ‘post separation and divorce’ phase.
Like Diana, you too can become an expert in managing your message. It doesn’t have to be a difficult or expensive thing. But it does take little thought.
Are You Managing Your Message?
All of these approaches will have you dressing as the woman you want the world to see, rather than some lesser version of yourself.
Dress With Intention
One of the easiest ways to manage what you are communicating is to dress with intention.
There are many ways to add intent to your style.
One option is to create a list of words and phrases that represent how you would like to be perceived and tape it inside your wardrobe. Then, when you are getting dressed each day, you can choose an outfit that best demonstrates those words.
For example, the words ‘French chic’ might be on your list. This could see you building your outfit around a pair of ballet flats or perhaps a silk scarf. If you’ve listed ‘classic’ then an outfit featuring clean lines and a black and white colour scheme might be in order.
Alternatively, you might like to take a leaf out of Princess Diana’s book and simply ask yourself the ‘What message do I want to send?’ question each day. Or maybe you could ask yourself how you’d like to feel each day. Both these options can add a little fun and creativity to your morning, and are likely to see you reaching for different outfits rather than resorting to the same pieces time and time again.
Dress With Consistency (But Don’t Get Yourself In A Rut)
While variety can be playful, consistency is at the heart of building trust in every part of life. And it is super important when it comes to communicating an appropriate image in the minds of those around you.
People look for congruence to reinforce their perceptions. When you flip flop around on your style decisions sometimes others don’t know what to make of you.
But if you build some consistent elements into your look, the information you want to convey will become so much clearer. And this is where signature styles can come into their own.
Take care though. Sometimes consistent clothing choices can show up as the same old, comfortable thing every day. And before you know it, you’ve fallen into a style rut you can’t get out of.
You might choose to add consistent elements through a certain level of quality, a colour scheme or a commitment to a particular accessory (statement shoes or gorgeous scarves spring to mind). These are just a few ways you can send a clear message and still have fun with your choices.
Dress With Alignment
Dressing in alignment with the woman you currently are or who you are becoming is remarkably important. Not just for communicating your message but in determining how you feel every day.
When you are dressing out of alignment, it can leave you feeling less than confident with your look. And surprise, surprise, your message will come across in exactly the same way.
Think about the days where you get caught out looking something less than what you consider ideal. Maybe you just ducked into the store for one minute and ran into a friend. Out loud, you immediately start making excuses for the way you look. On the inside you start a damaging monologue about how hopeless you are.
Aligning your clothing choices to how you want to feel eliminates these sort of moments. And at the same time supports you in living a more confident life.
Sometimes women share with me that it feels like they are ‘faking it’ when they dress in line with how they would like to be perceived. That they feel inauthentic. Comments like these usually tell me that, deep down, these women feel like their current life is not exactly as they’d like it to be.
For these women, I recommend adding just one element that brings them a step closer to their desired life. They don’t have to completely change their look. Just upgrade it a bit. And little-by-little they will start sending a whole new message – both internally and externally.
Have you been deliberate in managing your message lately? Or is this something you could work on a little more? Either way, I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.
6 thoughts on “Are You Managing Your Message?”
You always have such great advice. The point about not being comfortable in the desired clothes because maybe one’s life isn’t what one wants–brilliant and insightful.
I read a great interview with Rosita Missoni (founder of the knit label), and she was dressed in the wildest outfit, and had her gray hair nearly buzzed except for a long tail. Then I saw a woman at the market, dressed as she has been every Saturday this summer, in a flowing, short white dress with athletic shoes. The dress is always different, and so are the shoes (this week they were gold). She has a theme but isn’t in a rut. It’s inspiring to see how different women interpret their style.
For the moment, the weather is dictating my fashion choices. Any wild nods toward Missoni are limited to earrings and maybe, maybe necklaces or bracelets; certainly not scarves and above all no layers. Simple, loose dresses are what I’m gravitating toward, even though we’ve escaped the worst of the summer heat wave.
Thanks – as always – for such a thoughtful comment Catherine. Hot weather dressing is always a challenge – and like you, I tend to find dresses provide the ideal option. I’m also fascinated to see how women interpret style – I love the image of the woman at the market. It sounds like she has nailed consistency, without falling into complacency…Something we could all aspire to perhaps.
You are so right! When you dress with intent I think you are more confident and it carries through to your voice and the way you carry yourself. Another thing I found that is also critical is color. I’ve had my colors done and know what shades look best on me. In addition, red is a romantic color so you probably wouldn’t wear that to an executive meeting. Wearing your eye color makes others comfortable with you. You get the idea. It doesn’t mean you have to wear your colors all the time, but when you do you are even more outstanding in that outfit that matches your message.
Thank you for your thoughts Gail. I agree entirely with your thoughts on colours. When you know what looks good on you, you do carry yourself differently and it definitely makes a difference to your attitude.
I absolutely loved this post, Janelle.
Isn’t this exactly what you have been encouraging all along, with your French style posts? Here in France (mostly Paris, plus two smaller places) I have been trying to observe through your style-trained eyes, and suddenly I see less of the French “costume” (we all know it: slim pants, ballerinas, scarf…) and more quite adventurous clothing but worn with the same attitude: “Here I am, world! Yes, this is me!”
Here are some things I saw in the 6th yesterday:
1. A beautifully cut and draped red silk jumpsuit with a Goyard silk scarf tied as a sash.
2. Bright yellow gaucho-style pants, mid-calf; very fitted from the high waist to the hips, worn with ballerinas and a plain white shirt.
3. Skinny jeans, a VERY flowing soft eyelet-lace fabric button-front shirt with fringed suède sandals.
None of these are what we imagine for a classic French style, but every woman was unmistakably well-to-do French. Each woman went to her closet that morning with a plan to present herself to the world in a certain way, and either pulled it off perfectly or gave a very good impression of it!
When I get home I am going to print out your post and tape it inside my closet door. 😘
Oh Alisa, I’m so touched by your comment – thank you. Yes, I agree that see a lot of intentional dressing in France – and some of it is quite unique. Without the intention though, I don’t think they would be able to appear so confident – self consciousness and confidence rarely play well together. Thanks too for another great update on what you are seeing on the streets over in Paris…sandals seem to be quite the thing at the moment. Continue to travel safe – and of course have a fabulous time.