Dressing in alignment with your personal brand is a hot topic in my world lately. Here’s how I incorporate my prior experience with personal branding in public relations with the styling work I do today with my clients.
Personal branding is the process of developing a distinct image that, over time and with consistency, delivers a message to other people about who you are. It’s a shorthand message that you alone are in charge of drafting, creating, and living every single day to position yourself as a memorable expert at what you do.
Why Personal Branding Matters
The world we live in moves fast, flooding us with information, and (for better or for worse) causing us to form impressions of one another quickly. The best way to leverage this is to make a clear and precise statement before you even get to the substance of your interaction. Thinking of yourself as a brand is an extremely effective tool for fast-tracking your professional ambitions.
Not only is using your wardrobe a useful tool method of standing out to others, it’s an incredibly effective way for us to remind ourselves where we want to go professionally and how we want to feel getting there.
Applying Principles Of Personal Branding To Your Wardrobe
Building a personal brand is a process that unfolds over time, but in order to do it well there are three pieces of the personal branding puzzle you will need to have in place: style clarity, alignment, and context.
Style clarity is having a personal style that is so well defined it becomes a recognizable signature that people remember you by. It means that you have a specific set of personal style rules that define what you will and won’t wear. Developing these guidelines gives you a structure to build your personal style around. Other people don’t have to know about them, and they can (and should) change over time. Style clarity only develops through trial and error so it’s important to remember this is an interactive process.
The power of style clarity is that your style sends the message that you are self-confident and at ease with yourself because it’s internally defined and unique to you. Feeling at ease with yourself signals to others they can feel at ease with you, and it’s one of the primary reasons that so many executives and others in leadership roles seek out a stylist as they rise in their visibility.
Here are some examples of style clarity in action and how this clarity has created iconic personal brands:
Anna Wintour’s signature bob and sunglasses have been a constant throughout her career.
Michelle Obama’s became recognized as a style icon for her bare arms and well tailored sheath dress.
Linda Rodin’s silver hair and classic style with a twist make her image more recognizable than the beauty brand she founded.
Alignment in your wardrobe is when what you wear supports you feeling how you want to feel on your best days. Whatever feelings you have when you are excelling at what you do best are exactly the feelings you want to elicit when you get dressed in the morning. Clothing can be used to prime these emotions and feelings – and since you have to get dressed anyway, why not also use getting dressed to feel an emotional boost. (Not to get too nerdy here, but this effect is known as “enclothed cognition” and it’s a real thing).
A lot of clients who work from home tell me that wearing yoga pants makes them feel their best, so all pants they buy should feel like yoga pants. Comfort should be a priority but the confusion here is in thinking that feeling comfortable means feeling our best. It can take a little time for our brains and bodies to catch up to our reflections in the mirror when you’re used to dressing solely for comfort. Reminding ourselves (or having someone else to remind you) that you may be sacrificing short-term comfort for longer term connection with yourself and others can go a long way when you’re building a wardrobe that reflects your personal brand.
Context is the most important but least discussed aspect of creating a strong personal style and brand. Most people put their effort in one area of their life and neglect other areas when getting dressed. Most of my clients think about what they want to wear in their professional life when they are public facing but spend little time thinking about what they’re wearing in their personal lives. The consequence of this is that there is a big disconnect between how we show up across the many contexts that make up our lives. Understanding how different contexts interact with and shape your personal brand starts with answering three key questions:
- In what contexts do you regularly show up in? (work, social gatherings, speaking engagements, time with your family, etc)
- Who are you in each of those spaces and with all of those people? (Example: I’m a leader, I’m a partner, I’m an expert, I’m a trusted resource, etc.)
- How do you want to feel and how do you want other people to feel in those contexts when they interact with you?
There are core aspects of who you and how you dress that will remain constant across all contexts. Building a strong, dynamic visual brand is about knowing which aspects of our style need to shift to remain sensitive to a different context, and which aspects need to remain constant for the core essence of our style and brand to come through clearly.
Using your style to enhance and express your personal brand is an incredibly effective way to remind ourselves where we want to go professionally and how we want to feel getting there.
Want to see how we can use personal styling through the lens of branding to make you feel more confident and ready for anything? Contact me here.