Clothing coalition develops style scale to take the stress out of corporate dress
Dear Sharon: I am a 21-year old actor/student who has no idea about what a the big picture for a basic clothing inventory should be. My clothes now have an “easygoing geek chic” look that my friends say well suits my personality. However, I really don’t want to wear such ordinary garb.
I need to have the ability to go from “boy-wonder” to “jet set urban-god” to get the part… but I just don’t know how. I’m not the “boy next door” character… average is about the best way to describe myself. Except, when it comes time for auditions, I never get the part because I don’t have “the look” they want for the project. Go figure!
Guess I need a complete fashion overhaul and the tips to get my look in top gear.
P.S. I read Faceoff’s question and can concur on his feelings… all of my friends are so beautiful… oh well. —Cama Cama Cama Chameleon Makeover (Augusta, GA)
Dear Cama Chameleon: If you’re after an interesting wardrobe, whether you are a thespian or Average Joe, you need to have a bit of an actor in you. Everyday, you cast the stage and then dress the appropriate way for the situation. Only as an actor, the purpose is intensely more dramatic and intentional.
A guy who looks like a corporate honcho by day can appear like a bookworm cuddlepuppy by night, and then miraculously morph into looking like a boarder dude on weekends. It’s all about the way you interpret your attire in relation to your environment. Clothes do cast a certain image, simply be sure that it’s the right image at the right time.
Narrow down your main look and find the well-fitting essentials, like pants, shirts, jackets, and shoes (they speak volumes) as your core wardrobe. Be sure they all coordinate so you’re not left with a ton of loose ends and nothing to wear and, particularly when it comes to business dress, purchase the best clothing that you can afford to create a more powerful persona.
Most important, feel confident in your choices… no matter how decked out some salesperson makes you appear, if you are not confident in what you’re wearing, it shows-big time!
If you want to convey a specific image, the best way is to notice what someone else in that same situation is effectively wearing and finesse the nuances into your wardrobe. Look at an actor like Russell Crowe who never ceases to amaze in his breathe of characters and you’ll know Madonna is not the only fashion chameleon around.
The same goes for everyday business dress. Men have a tendency to be tripped up about what to wear to create a credible professional image. The Men’s Apparel Alliance (MAA), a non-profit men’s clothing industry association has published, “Dressing for Business and Beyond,” a guide* that offers a Style Scale and fashion strategies to specific messages or images that one may wish to portray in and out of the workplace.
The MAA Style Scale is broken down into four categories of formalness:
Tailored– Sends the style message of authoritative, confident, official, credible, persuasive, and stable. The key elements are a more formal, dark colored, structured, matched suit and tie with a contrasting light shirt.
Business Casual– The softly tailored combination of tailored and untailored pieces creates a style message of accessible, receptive, influential, and dependable. Choose a less formal unmatched sportcoat and pant, with or without a tie.
Casual Tailored– If you want to appear approachable, conscientious, less authoritative, flexible, and relaxed, a shirt collar is the key style element! In this predominantly untailored look, you can try layering a sweater over a collared shirt, be bold with a leather jacket and knit shirt, and don relaxed pants in softer fabrics like corduroy or microfiber-it’s the mix of design elements from different levels that hallmarks this category.
Untailored– Eighty-six the shirt collar when you want to appear available, agreeable, responsive, easy-going, and unofficial. Go after less of a light/dark color contrast in untailored and unmatched styles. Choose rounder shapes, in softer fabrics, and even try a larger pattern!
Keep in mind that there is also more to winning a part than just your outfit. Be the best that you can be and stop yearning for what you are not. In her effort to avoid being typecast, Joan Crawford once quipped, “If you want the girl next door, go next door.” -touché!
–April 8, 2002