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October 18, 2021

Finding Your Fashion Voice & The Case for Self-Awareness in Style

Post By:
Stacey Kovalsky
In-House Contributor
Senior Director, Global Communications
USPA Global Licensing Inc.
Guest Contributor:

Do you still have nightmares from when your mom used to dress you back in grade school with what she thought was appropriate? I do. Sometimes my mom made me wear penny loafers! With pennies in them, I might add. Now, I appreciate that she wanted me to wear “good shoes” back then, which likely contributed to my strong arch and no bunions, but did I really have to look like a mini banker in 6th grade? Of course, my mom had the very best intentions (and still does) but penny loafers just weren’t me. 

How about in high school, when if you didn’t have the latest brand of jeans or sneakers you felt left out, even ashamed? We did just fine but weren’t the wealthiest family in the neighborhood, as I recall. Oftentimes my friends had things that I wanted. When I whined “…but Lisa has five pairs of Guess Jeans…” and I had only one, my mom responded by telling me, “You’re not Lisa. You are you. Don’t compare what you have to others, or you will always be unhappy, no matter how much you have.”  She was right. And today, I don’t. Even then, I was learning how to be my authentic self; I just didn’t know it yet. 

In and around 2005-2006, I read the book Love, Loss and What I Wore. This book, by Ilene Beckerman, really resonated with me. I could tell you what I wore to school as a child, what jeans I first felt sexy in (as an adolescent), what I wore to my sweet 16, what I wore when I met my husband, and what I wore to my dad’s funeral. I recall these things with vivid accuracy which may seem strange to some. It’s not because these items defined me, it’s because I have defined them. They are part of my authentic self, mainly because I recall the emotions I had in them, whether happy or sad, lonely or vibrant, awkward or the life of the party. 

In business, I write about authenticity as it pertains to the company I work for, our competitors and others. I write about how consumers often know which are the authentic brands and which aren’t. I offer guidance as to how to tell your own brand’s authentic story. It’s relatively easy to spot a brand that is trying too hard, not trying at all, doesn’t care about the environment or doesn’t stand behind its product: a brand that’s not comfortable with itself. It’s the same with people. 

If you are uncomfortable in your own skin, it’s obvious to others, no matter what you’re wearing or how fabulous your accessories are. You won’t be able to exude the confidence you need to make yourself shine, or make a lasting impact. It will be tough for you to earn trust, gain buy-in, or inspire others. So how can you find (or strengthen) your confidence? And how can you use your style and fashion voice to express it?

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Confidence is born from authenticity. Being authentic means having an acute awareness of who you are and what you stand for, and you can express yourself to the world in ways that are genuine and transparent. You might describe yourself as authentic if you:

  • Speak your opinions honestly and confidently
  • Pursue your passions
  • Make decisions that align with your own values and beliefs, not others
  • Listen to that inner voice, or your gut instincts, in guiding you forward
  • Set boundaries and walk away from toxic situations, both personal and professional, wherever possible
  • Have the courage to be vulnerable 

At the deepest level, your authenticity clears a path for you to live the life you want. When you have clarity on what’s important to you and what makes you tick, you are able to make better decisions, particularly ones that align with your identity and values. You begin to build a life that brings you meaning and pleasure. And in doing so, you will ultimately inspire those around you to do the same.

Despite the many challenges we have all been dealing with regarding the global coronavirus pandemic, we have all learned a valuable lesson in what matters most. So, as we head into the fall season, take this time to work on shedding those insecurities. Go ahead, shed them like the leaves on those fall trees. Focus on what makes YOU happy, not your friends, your neighbors, your parents or your kids. 2021 is THE year to express yourself in a truly authentic way. Who are you, really? 

Do you like to be the center of attention in a room with brights and florals or body skimming dresses and jaw dropping accessories? Or, are you comfy in earth tones, with a great looking watch and a functional crossbody that holds just what’s most important? Be your authentic self and pick what feels best to you (and your personal budget). Now, I’m not saying you should never step outside of your own box, but when you do, step out with something unique and personal to you. And don’t be afraid to evolve your fashion, just like you evolve in your life. It is self-knowledge and self-confidence expressed through what you choose to wear, that is a life-affirming expression of your character and spirit.

Be Fabulous

Today, my absolute favorite shoe is not, in fact, the penny loafer. It’s the Saint Laurent Tribute Sandal, which comes in every color of the rainbow and two heel heights (80mm and 105mm), and both are sexy and shockingly comfortable. It’s no coincidence that I’d describe myself similarly to that shoe – smart, confident, sexy but structured. Don’t ask… Anyway, the iconic Saint Laurent shoe, which has been relaunched from Saint Laurent’s 2000’s vault, has become part of my authentic self. The self that didn’t become a banker. You can wear these beauties, depending on whether they are leather, patent, croc embossed, suede or metallic, to the office, to happy hour, with jeans to brunch, out to a romantic dinner, and even to a cocktail party or wedding. They are as versatile as they are classic, and consistently fabulous. When I wear the Tribute, I feel like myself and own who I am. 

Be Comfy 

Wait. You say you don’t like to wear heels? That’s okay, because virtually everyone is wearing sneakers, and sneakers are perfect for fall. Check out the latest photos of Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lopez, Kendall Jenner, and Kris Jenner. They are in sneakers! We are wearing sneakers with jeans and dresses and everything in between. And oh yeah, to work out… There are so many sneaker options that you can surely find a pair that suits your personality and your mood on any given day. Are you a Nike or are you a Balmain sneakerhead? That’s for you to decide. Then, own it like the badass that you are.

Over the past year and a half, many of us have been offered more flexibility with comfort in the office, or the option to work remotely. Office attire was already moving in a more casual direction when the pandemic took hold. Now workers are used to being at home and being comfy, so offices seem to be relaxing the dress code requirements. Whereas jeans used to only be for Fridays, it’s a lot more common to see jeans all week in even some of the most professional office settings. Why not take a moment to do some research and find your best fitting jeans, you know, those that make your butt look great, hit the right spot across your midsection and don’t pinch the life out of you either? Add a beautiful blouse and belt, some ballet flats and you are ready to hit the office, and the town after for happy hour!

Be You

If you’re still not comfortable in your own skin or with your own fashion choices, why not get a close and trusted friend to go through your closet with you. Weed out what’s not true to yourself and your personal style. Then, start shopping for what is. Take your friend along and ask her or him to be completely honest and not let you buy something that will sit in your closet for years like all the stuff you two already tossed out. Make that commitment to each other. 

Don’t ever be afraid to be who you are and be proud to be that person. Take that next step. Whether it’s through what you wear, who you surround yourself with, where you work or how you give back to the community – it’s never too late to make a change for the better and be your authentic self. It may be an evolution rather than a revolution – or a revelation – but I promise, you will never regret it.