Today I’m delighted to have the very Stylish Thoughts of Sunshine Coast based (Australia) Jill Chivers, a reformed shopaholic, who is an advocate for conscious shopping. After spending a year without clothes shopping she created a membership program to help other shopaholics slay their shopping dragons. You can find out more at www.shopyourwardrobe.com
What is the secret to great style?
Beauty that radiates from within, and is expressed authentically on the outside. When you finally get that no-one but you can BE you, you stop comparing and criticizing yourself. Measuring yourself against someone else’s standards (of beauty, of style, of anything) is one sure way to feel terrible about yourself on a consistent basis and to systematically lower your self esteem. Criticizing yourself for falling short (in the beauty stakes, in terms of style, or in any other area) is another outstanding way to feel miserable every day! Once you accept that you are who you are for a reason, and that one of your most important tasks in life is to become yourself fully, you tap into and connect with your own beauty.
The second part to this is to have that inner beauty and authenticity show on the outside. This is where it becomes a lot of fun! What do you want to express today? Which aspect of yourself do you want to show to the world today? How can you use clothes to inform and express something significant about who you are? These are all liberating and playful questions that can unlock a world of style that you never knew existed!
The one piece of advice most women need but don’t get?
Don’t follow fashion. It can lead you down the garden path. Truly stylish women dress in a way that suits them – their beauty radiates from within, and is expressed in their choice of style items. But they don’t slavishly follow fashion. You can’t win when you follow fashion – fashion cycles move so quickly (what one fashion insider calls “speed chic”), it’s almost impossible to keep up with it anyway!
Dress for who you are – I believe this is the best style advice anyone can receive.
What’s the best piece of style wisdom you’ve ever received?
When I first stopped working in big corporate (I was a change leadership consultant with Deloitte for many years), an image adviser in Sydney gave me some tough love advice. She told me that I was still dressing for the corporate world – I was buttoned down, stitched up and my look was rather dull, especially for the new phase of my life I was embarking on. Wow, did that jolt me! I really had no idea that I was dressing “in the past” – that was the first level of awareness. The second was what to do about it. I didn’t know how to dress for the “new me”, the me that was embarking on an entrepreneurial journey.
So that was an important style message that I have never forgotten. And that’s what I suggest for other women: when you go through important transitions in your life (change of job, of geography, of partner, of a phase in life) – review your style. What needs to change? What can you now let go of? What do you now need to embrace? Who is this “new you” that is starting this new chapter in your life? How can you best express that “new you” with the way you present and dress yourself? These are important external markers, indicating the change that is happening in your life as well as the internal shifts that are taking place.
It’s important to recognise, acknowledge and honour important transitions in our life – and adjusting our style during those times is one meaningful and impactful way to do that.
What’s the worst current trend?
Following fashion slavishly is the most insidious trend I notice. We all want to feel, and look, our best, sure. And it’s important to recognise that there is an endless feedback loop between how we look and how we feel; most of us have experienced that, and we understand it. But here’s the thing: following fashion and looking/feeling great are not the same thing. In fact, following fashion too closely can mean that you never look and feel your best!
This is where knowing what suits you – your body, your personality, your lifestyle – comes into the equation. Dress for who you are – not to follow fashion. Often, what is “in fashion” will not suit you on any level – so why buy it? You’ll feel terrible in it; or the item/s will hang unworn and unloved in your wardrobe, making you feel bad every time you look at them; and you’ll waste the money you spent on them and the time you spent buying them. It is truly lose, lose lose.
What are your top tips for looking stylish when travelling?
This is a great question because I travel a lot. The best tip I would give about looking stylish (and reducing the hassle) when you travel is preparation. Pack smart. On my latest trip, to California in August, I chose my suitcase first and then my clothes. If things didn’t fit into the suitcase, they didn’t get packed. And I didn’t do it the Mr Bean way, where he chopped his trousers in half and his toothbrush in half, either! I chose a core capsule of 4 “bottoms” – I wore one (denim jeans) on the plane, and packed the other 3 (white jeans, white capris and a skirt). Then I had a series of top items – long sleeve T’s, shirts (which can double as jacket-items) and camis. All coordinated, so I had maximum mix and match capability.
Don’t pack too many shoes – it’s a waste! This latest trip, I wore one pair and packed 2. Add underwear, nightwear, a few accessories, toiletry and make-up – and I was done. All packed into a small carry-on bag. Wow – did that save me lots of backache and general luggage fatigue! And you know what? I had more outfits than I had days. There were some combinations that I didn’t get a chance to wear.
And don’t pack for “just in case”. Unless you are going to the deepest South American jungle where there are no stores, you will almost always be able to pick up that “just in case” item, should you find that you really need it.
What’s your favourite short cut to style?
Have a signature look. This may be a colour you love and want to surround yourself with – I know quite a few women who have done this very successfully. One has chosen purple as her signature colour – she uses it in everything from her clothes to her accessories to her office accoutrements. Other women I know have signature colours like red or pink.
Imogen, you’ve shared with the members of our Shop Your Wardrobe program (and your own readers) that your signature item is necklaces – beautiful, unique, larger-scale pieces. People know you for this – they look for it and they associate your style with this.
For me, it’s animal print. It’s my signature style item. I wear it every day (even if you can’t see it – I’m wearing it!), and I surround myself with it in office items, and other home wares. I just recently found a stapler in leopard print!
Why is this a shortcut to style? Because it saves time and effort in shopping, and in getting dressed every day. You save time when shopping – there’s so much I don’t even need to explore, examine and decide on – because I know what my signature is. I don’t buy other prints (plaids, spots, stripes, paisley, checks) – if it’s not animal print, I leave it behind. And it is an orienting factor when I am getting dressed every day – my outfits are grounded by a piece of animal print clothing, so it gives me an easy starting point – what a time saver!
There are some pitfalls with having a signature item. I don’t buy all the animal print I see, and that’s an important thing to recognise – just because something is your signature item, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. You still need to exercise good judgement when it comes to the pieces you bring home. And you also have to be aware of overdoing it. Signature style items can be your “heroes” and you need supporting acts to make them work. Too much animal print and you can end up looking like Peg Bundy from the 1990s TV show Married With Children! So – don’t overdo your signature item.
How would you describe your personal style?
It’s a combination of things. It’s confident – I know (most days!) who I am and how my clothing choices inform and express that. It’s emerging – it isn’t stuck in stone, it’s dynamic and alive and I’m constantly learning new things about my style. Which is to say I’m constantly learning new things about myself! It’s playful – anytime you see animal print, there’s sure to be an element of experimentation and flirtatiousness! It’s developed – I’ve been learning about style for over 10 years now (I became an image consultant in 2000, although I don’t work directly in that field anymore) and I use that knowledge to create something that works for me. It’s colourful – I love and wear a lot of colour (I have warm/light colouring, or in the system Imogen uses, I’m a Zesty) and it impacts my mood as well as my appearance.
No woman can be defined by her personal style. But she can be informed by it, and she can use it to express something meaningful to the world (and herself) about who she is.