Mine Clutter

Often in our presentations we show this slide, weirdly, it’s my favorite which is why I’m always called upon to speak to its’ relevance. It resonates with me deeply. With it, I revisit every self-imposed style “rule” since childhood:

Redheads can’t wear yellow, orange or red.

In Elementary school I wore a red shirt and was called “Fire Face” (my hair was REALLY bright orange-red as a child). I didn’t wear any shade of a sunrise /sunset for the next 35 years.

Your big toe is too big.

I wore closed toe shoes until I was 40 because my big toe is REALLY big and was a source of amusement for friends all through school. I now wear sandals, but not peep-toed shoes and I always feel compelled to mention my big toe.

Too much makeup makes you look cheap.

I experimented with makeup as a pre-teen and was told I looked cheap by my older brothers. I probably did at 10, but that stuck with me and rather than learn how to properly apply it, I still feel overwhelmed with more than a slick of lipstick and brows filled in, fearing it’s too much.

Accessories must be “right” or appropriate.

My parents (per my mother’s directive), gave me mabe pearl earrings to wear on my wedding day. I wore them instead of the diamond and sapphire earrings my soon-to-be husband gave me as a wedding gift because they matched better. The mabe pearl earrings sit in my jewelry box unworn. The earrings from my husband are now part of my redesigned wedding ring as I rarely wear earrings to this day.

Men don’t like it when their partners are taller than them.

For years I wore flats instead of any kind of heel in deference to my height challenged husband. I had never asked him if he cares, I just assumed. It turns out he doesn’t care. I wear heels now; not too high, but that’ because they hurt after a while.

If your chest is larger, be demure, not overt.

I have always worn layers of clothing, from sweaters to jackets and dusters in order to minimize and draw attention away from my large bust. I still do this.

Upper arms must be toned if you’re going to show them off.

I once wore a bridesmaid dress as a toned and fit, probably size 4 or 6, 18-year-old. It was mock neck, slate grey/blue, taffeta and sleeveless; the bride had us pair it with over-the-elbow white gloves. It was August in upstate New York. I still won’t show my upper arms.

Clothes and accessories shouldn’t be “costume-y”.

Almost twenty years ago, I bought very on-trend, tall, black suede boots. I wore them for a Girl’s Night Out one weekend, later that night when Pete came to bed, he commented, “Hey is Gene Simmons and Kiss in town?” They were donated the next day.

The list goes on and on. Sometimes when I’m shopping or in my closet, it scrolls through it my head like a ticker in Times Square, spitting out censure instead of stock market updates. Working with Bruce, Bec and Pamela, I’ve learned tricks to erase the inner critic and elevate the reality that is in front of me when I look in a mirror. Working with clients and hearing their insecurities play out in their closets, on their shop or in their negative self-talk when we send them pictures, reminds me how damaging our baggage can be – internally and externally. I look at these women and envy their upper arms, smaller chests and ability with a makeup brush. Likely they look at me and think, “Wow, she’s confident in her style!” This constant tug-of-war further underscores my mission to create a new dialog for myself and for our clients. What makes Michael Bruce Image Consulting different is we don’t pretend to know it all; we don’t always remember to practice what we preach, but we do try every day to live authentically with style and grace.

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What is your Personal Style?

As professional Stylists/Image Consultants it’s our goal to help clients find the answer to this question. I have realized that it’s a question that most people haven’t given much thought. When we ask clients, we often get answers that relate to personal wardrobe choices, as in “I like to wear denim” or “I’m the most comfortable in sweaters.” One of my favorite answers is, “I only wear flats.” These are good answers to other questions, but they have nothing to do with determining your personal style. Your personal style has more to do with who you are and who you want to rest of the world to see, and maybe even what you want people to know about you.  So I’ll ask you again, What does your personal style say about you? Do you want them to see you as Confident? Sophisticated? Successful? Comfortable? Casual? Lackadaisical?

I posed this question to my niece on a recent trip back home.  She’s a College Professor at two prestigious universities in the Philadelphia area. At first, she began telling me about the clothing that she preferred to wear until she thought about my question more. Maybe it was the look on my face that caused her to rethink her answer. She came up with “Function and Fashion,” so I asked her why. As a thirty something single professor she says that above all she wants to look cute, and secondly her clothing needs to have a good range of motion and reflect her metaphorical and physical flexibility. As an adjunct Professor, the nature of the job is to be flexible, so she needs her clothing choices to be able to adapt accordingly. Instead of a blazer, she opts for cardigans, because she’s constantly moving when she teaches. Also, you never know where there’s going to be a tech issue that needs to be addressed – a la roll up sleeves and get it done. Also, when running between buildings and campuses, she needs her footwear choices to be functional. As a young, single professional she needs to look cute because you never know when the right person will appear! 

Your personal style can also evolve, and not always for the good. A few years back, my niece was walking by a mirror and noticed that function and fashion was being taken over by “Function and Frumpy.” She was wearing clothing that was shapeless with no style or personality. She realized that was not what she wanted to reflect to the world. She’s on a new personal style journey to find herself again and I couldn’t be more proud of her. Personal Style has nothing to do with your size or age, but more to do with making a decision to own who you are and reflect that to the rest of the world. My niece is a smart, beautiful, and accomplished young lady that’s finally embracing her true self. She’s my hero!

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