Elysha emailed me because she felt her approach to personal style as a form of self expression was akin to the work I do. We discussed various topics and agreed to focus on how acceptance and intention can help create a successful appearance. You can find more info about Elysha at the end of this post, along with a free gift. Visit last week’s post, Take Back The Closet, to read more from Elysha.
by Elysha Lenkin
If you ever need convincing on the power of intention, look at Oprah. After reading The Seat of the Soul, by Gary Zukav, she made this the guiding principle for everything in her life – including her business.
She told her producers, “do not bring me a show or an idea unless you have a clear intention about why we’re doing it.” She wanted them to know exactly what the show would say, and what they wanted for the outcome.
We all know how this turned out….
And not only for television.
You can use this principle to shape your everyday appearance.
Dress With Intention
Your clothing is a tool. And like any tool, you need clear intention on why you’re using it, and what results you want it to help you achieve.
Like the curling iron.
This is a handy tool that you may have in your arsenal of beauty supplies. When you went to purchase it, you most likely knew the type you wanted to buy. If you prefer a looser, beachy wave, you went with a bigger barrel. Or if you prefer a tighter, kinky curly, you went with a narrow wand.
You may have even elaborated on your intention for your curling iron with a vision. Perhaps you saved pictures of “best curly hair styles” on your Pinterest board. Or you had celebrity references like Sarah Jessica Parker cut out of magazines for styling guidance.
Being intentional with your curling iron meant you knew what you wanted the tool to do for you – make your hair curly!
To dress with intention is to be clear on what you want your clothes to project, along with how you want to feel while wearing the clothes.
Say It Like You Mean It
Your outfit is your personal broadcast to the world. What you wear speaks volumes about who you are and what you believe to be true. The people who are keen to this influence have mastered their style communication. They understand how their clothing can effectively relay their message.
When former President Obama spoke to working class citizens, he’d wear a button down with his sleeves rolled up to let them know he’s with them. He’s a hard worker who’s ready to get the job done.
He was dressing with intention. He used the tool of his clothing to be more relatable to those he spoke to.
When you’re not intentional with your clothing choices, you’re communicating from your subconscious. And this may not be your most attractive message.
If you tend to dress in oversize clothing, it may communicate that you’re hiding. Or that you’re uncomfortable in your body. Or if you find yourself always wearing styles from your past, it may say that you’re caught up in your younger years, and not accepting of who you are today.
When you dress with intention, you’re clear about what you want your clothing to communicate. And this puts you in the power seat of other people’s perceptions.
You Are What You Believe To Be True
A few years ago, there was a study at Northwestern University called Enclothed Cognition. It looked at the impact of clothing on performance.
Two groups received a white lab coat.
The first group was told it was a doctor’s coat.
The second group was told it was a painter’s smock.
Both groups were given the same task to perform.
The results were that the first group who believed they were wearing a doctor’s coat performed better. They were more meticulous and attentive.
The white coat enhanced performance to those who felt more doctor-like.
This study gives scientific proof to the idea that you should dress not how you feel, but how you WANT to feel. Because what you wear will impact how you behave.
And this rides parallel to the costume of an actor who needs to get into character. While it’s usually a costume department who dresses the actor, the intention is still there. They’re clear about what they want the clothing to say. It must convey the character that’s portrayed. And to the actor, the costume helps him or her feel like the character.
So while the actor is literally dressing the part, you can do this too when you dress with intention. Except instead of dressing for a character, you dress as the person you want to be.
Bringing Intention Into Your Everyday Appearance
To dress yourself with intention isn’t some complicated thing that requires hours of research – like they must do in the costume department for an actor. Or in a scientific experiment. You can start being more intentional with your clothing choices right away.
All it requires is some self awareness so you’re clear about how to use the tool of your clothing. What do you want your outfit to communicate? And how do you want it to make you feel?
The easiest way to gain this clarity is to come up with a few words that encapsulate your aspirations.
Ask yourself, who do I need to be today? What qualities do I want to have? How do I want to feel?
Then think of the attributes that address these questions.
When I’m styling a commercial shoot, and I’m getting dressed in the morning, I’d respond as such:
I need to be professional and organized to get the job done well. And because they’ve hired me to put together outfits, I want to be stylish. I want to feel competent so I’m in charge of whatever comes my way. And creative because that’s how I deliver my best work. So I’ve distilled my aspirations to:
These would be my north star words for the day. They would guide me in getting dressed and help shape my appearance. The more you can distill these words, the easier it’ll be choosing your clothes.
I could further distill my aspirations to these three:
And then when getting dressed, I’d hold up my outfit options next to those three words. I’d ask myself, does this garment convey professionalism? Does it communicate competence? Does it say creativity? Will I feel professional when wearing it? Will I feel competent? Will I feel creative?
I’d go through my closet, pick out the potential pieces, and align them to my north star words. Once I find the right garments, I put them together into an outfit. And when dressed, I’m able to embody the attributes which propel me into the rest of the day as the woman I need to be.
Dressing with intention definitely takes more time than the usual throw your clothes on and go. But the effort is worth it.
When you’re intentional with your clothing, it allows you to project your most inspired self and do something great in your day.
So I ask you, who do you need to be, and how do you want to feel? Once you clarify this intention, you’re on your way to elevating your everyday appearance.
Elysha Lenkin helps women express themselves through fashion so they look current, feel confident and stay true to who they are. As a commercial stylist for more than 20 years, she’s styled women of all shapes and sizes including Tina Fey, Carrie Underwood and Serena Williams. Grab her free style guide, 7 Steps To An Incredible Outfit to be more intentional with what you wear so you feel energized and inspired by your everyday appearance. https://elyshalenkin.com/styliststepschecklist/