Do clothes make a (wo)man?

I’ll spare you the Mark Twain quote and cut right to the chase.

CLOTHES MAKE A DIFFERENCE!  Anyone who’s had to finesse confidence for a job interview, worked a stage or facilitated a training knows it’s true.  Even in politics, where fellow hacks and frenemies alike might joke about politics being the “showbiz for ugly people”, the humor lies in the fact that today’s world is a telegenic society – clothes and appearances make a difference.

I had no idea how true this was until I met Donna Ingram.  My dramatic style evolution starts (including embarassing “before” pics) after the jump.

For 32 years, I hated my body type.  You might call me “pear shaped”.  I hate that term.  Awesome magazines like Lucky call my small-chested, traditional hipped physique a”dew drop”, which I love.  Dew drops and pears are the same shape.  I think this illustrates the power of rebranding and shifting perspective.

So let’s first review how I used to dress.  I wasn’t going to win any fashion awards. My favorite combo – the ragged polo and jeans look.

Most of the time I was lucky to be wearing clean clothes without holes.  Most of the time, I didn’t look like I got dressed in the dark.  And most of the time, I was living out of a suitcase.

Fast forward 3 years.  In Texas and the South, women take personal grooming to a whole other level.  One Texas legislative session left me intimidated and shocked.  Women in politics wear makeup every day?  Forget figuring out when I could wear white or proper heel height (by the way, the higher the heel, the closer to God.)  I was in trouble.

I managed to replace my wardrobe with fabric that wouldn’t cause me to sweat to death.  I learned that hot pink and fuchsia were forms of protective camouflage.  And I learned that kitten heels were both the highest heel I could walk in without breaking an ankle, and could also serve to dress up even my shabbiest of dresses.

On a treadmill one day, a friend of a friend mentioned a woman who would come to your house and fix your closet.  I didn’t think about it until months later – and all I could remember was “Cotton and Cashmere”.  A few googled moments later, I found Donna and dropped her an email, and before I knew it, we were set up for a closet consult.  Donna came to my home and helped me rediscover clothes I loved but had buried in my closet.  She helped me construct outfit combinations I would have never come up with (even if Tim Gunn stuck a water pistol to my head.)  I even managed to pull together a Donna-inspired outfit that was crisp and paired hot pink with a sharp navy jacket for a training I did.  I hit a training home run!

But let’s get to the really dramatic part, the part you’ve been dying to get to.  While prepping for an important conference, I wanted to look my best.  So I called Donna and asked her to help me locate some outfits.  I even had some colors in mind (the most notable combo: electric blue and magenta.  I blamed the combo on watching rediscovered episodes of Jem on Netflix.)  Off we went to Donna’s favorite bargain store.  Two hours later, I had six new outfits for under $300.  Donna worked an efficient and amazing minor miracle.

Keep in mind, I’m 5’7″ and proud to be a healthy 155lbs.  I haven’t lost any weight, I haven’t changed my hair color, and even though not evident in these pics, the most I’ve changed is wearing my hair with bangs.  And when I went to the conference, people I’ve known for almost a decade didn’t recognize me at first.

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I never would have realized nor accidentally found the shapes Donna found for me.  She taught me the importance of balancing my frame with flattering cuts.  Also that hot pink silk shirt is a Trina Turk piece.  It was $50.  I nearly passed out from happiness. And I felt amazing in that outfit, protective Texan camouflage and all.  Compared to other pictures snapped of me, I look like I’ve dropped at least 10 pounds.  But the fact is, I’m the same weight.  The clothes just help me carry myself in a more confident way.  Donna even helped me find a dress that looked like it was made for me, that included shades of electric blue and magenta!

I’d like to think, too, that Donna helped me connect to a part of myself that was always there and simply dormant.  I found that with these clothes and a completely reclaimed sense of confidence and enthusiasm, I rocked the conference and am enthusiastic about going in to any new day (even if the day involves drudgery.)  Donna helped me remember that clothes are a part of what we communicate to the world.

I strongly recommend Donna’s help – whether you’re in Austin, Texas or near your iPhone or Skype for online consultations.  Donna brings an energy and perspective that will shift the way you think about dressing and how you present yourself to the world.

3 thoughts on “Do clothes make a (wo)man?

  1. Well I’ve ALWAYS thought you were gorgeous but I’m so happy for you that you have found someone who makes you FEEL gorgeous. That’s the real trick I think. I had a great dress for Dan’s wedding but had makeup done (at Saks) and a curly person come to the hotel and got a new manicure and so I felt great. Makes all the diff. And of course you are also beautiful on the inside (corny apology) so that makes it all worth the trouble….

  2. Pingback: Loving the Way You Look | Cotton & Cashmere Style

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