The days of suiting up – in an actual suit – for success are long dead, so how should one be adorning themselves for greatness? We ask Colette Werden, a personal brand image expert “so obsessed” with the link between clothes and self-confidence (arguably the shoe horn to success’s snug boot) that she’s made a career of it – and has since outfitted a sizable troupe of high-flyers. “Style to me means a physical reflection of someone’s inner identity, using pieces of fabric. So it’s individual, it’s well thought-out and it’s a stamp of identity,” says Colette. And considering “potential clients, stories and opportunities are everywhere”, according to Colette, it’s important to look the part every time you step outside the door. Here she outlines the golden rules of wearing your personal style for confidence.
Colette is not a fan of ‘faking it til you make it’. “I hate that saying with a passion… it’s the quickest way to come across like a try-hard and a fraud. So rather than faking it ‘til you make it, truly ‘be it til you become it.’ Put on a piece of fabric that you believe is you and only you,” she says, adding that as you change, so will your style. “One question I ask myself at the beginning of every year is, ‘How have I evolved as a person and how can I display that through the way that I show up?’ So my style evolves each year… it must, to stay authentic.”
“A lack of consistency equals lack of trust,” says Colette, point blank. “We think of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, and we think of jeans and turtlenecks. I’m not necessarily saying that this is the way you need to be dressing, but they have been so consistent with that look that they’ve been known for that look. So if Mark or Steve was to step up on stage wearing a suit, everyone would be like, ‘what the f**k, who is he?’ And that’s what the mind’s doing.”
Find a signature
“You’ll spot someone sitting across the room, and it might be their glasses, their socks or shoes, or some interesting detail in their blazer that really captures your visual attention.” For Colette, it’s red lipstick. “Whenever you see red lipstick your mind will then go to that person. You’ll remember their occupation or what they did, and that’s a really powerful thing – especially in the world of personal branding – using visual clues to represent your identity and own a piece of real estate in someone’s mind.”
Wear your values
Consider your place of work and ask: is this an environment where you can express your authentic self? “People who’ve gone through an image makeover with us have realised that being in a corporate environment isn’t for them,” says Colette, noting that forward-thinking companies, such as business management firm PwC, have done away with their dress code. “There’s this big move of large corporate organisations doing that, where it’s ‘drop the suit, be you’ and do that in the most professional way that you know.”
Ready to find your style? “The very first step would be creating a vision board,” says Colette, who advises using Pinterest. “Collect just 10 images of styles you are attracted to – not necessarily what you’re aware suits you or not – just create a vision or a feel of what styles you think are the best representation of who you are. Because we need to see it before we can create it.”