What’s Your Style?

We know, it’s easy to dismiss style as superfluous. Why should we be judged–professionally or personally–by what we wear, after all, when we’re so much more than our clothes? If we’re going to be judged, we’d like to think it will be by our actions and our words, not our accessories and our wardrobes.

Alas, it’s hard not to connect the two. How we appear is an extension of who we are. It’s also an opportunity to control–to some extent–how we’re perceived by those around us. You are not defined by the dress that you wear, but your dress can provide some insight into who you are (or who you want to be).

What Makes You You?

What Makes You You?

We know, it’s easy to dismiss style as superfluous. Why should we be judged–professionally or personally–by what we wear, after all, when we’re so much more than our clothes? If we’re going to be judged, we’d like to think it will be by our actions and our words, not our accessories and our wardrobes.

Alas, it’s hard not to connect the two. How we appear is an extension of who we are. You’re not defined by the dress that you wear, but your dress can provide some insight into who you are (or who you want to be).

Ultimately, our style is an opportunity to control–to some extent–how we’re perceived by those around us. Developing it isn’t about adhering to a standard of beauty or chasing seasonal trends, it’s about identifying the qualities that make you unique, playing up your favorite attributes, and saying something about who you are without having to say anything at all. 

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Defining our personal style takes time and effort and, often, trial and error. It can take years (decades even) to recognize what looks best on our bodies, what styles we feel most comfortable in, and how to reconcile the image we project with the person we are inside. And then there’s the added challenge of making it work in the workplace. 

We reached out to five women, in professions ranging from corporate to creative, to see how they did it. Here’s what they said.

Annie Dean, Corporate Lawyer

Annie Dean, Corporate Lawyer

DailyWorth: How would you define your style?

Annie Dean: I like to buy pieces that will keep for years. I’m not very interested in trends, and I try not to over accessorize. I think women are the most elegant when they look classic. My favorite ‘accessories’ tend to be exposed collarbones, a clean face and bold lipstick.

Tell us about your style evolution.

I’ve always had my own way of going about things and my own style of interacting with the world around me. At a certain point, that started coming through in my clothing too. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I was more willing to experiment with trends. Now, I’d rather experiment with colors and patterns in the silhouettes I know are the most flattering on my body, whether or not those silhouettes are in vogue at the moment.

How does your look play into your professional life?

I’m a lawyer by day, so it’s hard to walk the line of professionalism and style.  At work I wear a lot of all-black outfits that I spruce up with bold necklaces, earrings and lipstick. Although pregnancy has kept me in low heels and flats for the past nine months, a great pair of shoes is the perfect way to polish a look.

How does pregnancy affect your style?

It was surprisingly easy to get dressed throughout my pregnancy. So many of today’s styles are blousy and roomy on top, so most of my normal clothing fit me until my mid-third trimester. I invested in a few high-end pairs of maternity jeans early on, but I felt like my style never really changed. I bought some stretchy filler pieces for work from H&M in dark colors and made sure to pair any inexpensive items with a Spanx maternity power shaper to compensate for the fact that the pieces weren’t well lined. At work, all black with fun accents is an easy and slimming way to stay chic. My one recommendation for style-hungry mamas-to-be is to avoid maternity clothes at all costs, other than jeans. Maternity clothes tend to be expensive and unflattering and you’ll do better buying a few replacement pieces in larger sizes at style-conscious, inexpensive places like H&M and Zara.

What are your style signatures?

High waisted pants (something I’m looking forward to wearing again soon, now that I’m 9 months pregnant!). I love to wear the combo of cream and navy whenever possible. Red lipstick is a favorite, as well as short, square nails lacquered in a shade of red depending on the season. Scoop-neck t-shirts. And I’m always on the hunt for the perfect white button down shirt. Equipment makes a great one. 

What advice do you have for women trying to develop their own personal style?

At its core, style is about confidence. You are the brand, not your clothing. Find clothes that fit, a few quality accessories you can wear everyday, and make sure to introduce yourself with a firm handshake and a smile. 

Next: Managing editor of an online dating site.

Jeannie Assimos, Managing Editor, EHarmony

Jeannie Assimos, Managing Editor, EHarmony

DailyWorth: How would you define your style?

Jeannie Assimos: I am a blend of California casual, Boho chic and a little touch of rock n’ roll. I do love California-style, which is obviously way more relaxed–dressing up means wearing heels and a blouse with your jeans! I’m seeing a lot of gauzy fabrics and linens right now and I love the wild printed patterned pants that are so major this summer. 

Tell us about your style evolution.

The seventies have always been my inspiration, and I have always had a strong sense of what I like and feel good wearing. I have definitely gone through phases – surfer girl in the Gotcha surf shorts when I was 13 to vintage Levi’s and tank tops in my twenties. My thirties were a bit more flirty and colorful. In the summer it was bandeau tops, dresses and long skirts–I think this is where the bohemian vibe came into play. 

I am much more open to different styles these days: The skinny jean with a great button-down plaid shirt and ankle boots is a staple one day, the next I might wear silk, patterned bell bottoms with a simple black Michael Stars tee.

How does your look play into your professional life?

I am fortunate to work at a dot.com where jeans and a cute button down shirt are acceptable. It’s important for me to feel like me but also be taken seriously and as a professional, so I wear my bell bottoms but pair it with a blazer, blouse or scarf. 

What are your style signatures?

I have never met a platform wedge I didn’t like or some cool, worn boyfriend jeans (Current Elliott is my current obsession). My brown Frye boots are a staple, as are snugly-fitted blazers or faux-fur vests over t-shirts.

What advice do you have for women trying to develop their own personal style?

Learn what types of clothes flatter your body type–that is key. Don’t be a slave to trends. Follow your intuition and trust your gut when it comes to fashion. Wear what you feel happy in.  Accentuate your positives–I do not like flats because I feel sort of squatty in them. I love to feel tall so you will see me in platforms all day long. People joke with me about this but guess what? I don’t care!

Next: Public relations pro.

Celine Kaplan, Owner of Celine Kaplan Public Relations, New York

Celine Kaplan, Owner of Celine Kaplan Public Relations, New York

DailyWorth: How would you define your style?

Celine Kaplan: An eclectic mix of high and low with an infinite love of color.

Tell us about your style evolution.

I was always interested in fashion and style. I grew up watching my grandmother who was very Katharine Hepburn, wearing classic Hermes clothing, trousers and a Burberry trench. My mother looked and dressed like Twiggy, wearing Courreges as well as YSL, Kenzo with crazy Charles Jourdan shoes. I really admired both my mother and grandmother and aspired to great style like them, but that didn’t mean I had found my style yet. It is a process of elimination. 

In my twenties, I was more into hippie chic, wearing lots of vintage from London flea markets. My favorite designer at the time was Agnes B. My thirties were more experimental but I made more mistakes. My favorite designers then were Prada and Marni. Today, my style is more defined and refined. My absolute favorites are Celine, Chanel, Proenza Schouler, Eres and Balenciaga. (Admittedly, not cheap, but you can find them discounted on sites like Amazon.com and Bluefly.com). But I also love Isabel Marant and Carven. I keep things a long time so I can recycle my own closet. 

How does your look play into your professional life?

I work in fashion so it plays a big part in my life which helps justify larger purchases. I like to say it’s ‘for my job,’ but the truth is that I love fashion. I do make an effort to buy timeless pieces that are not too seasonal–they last longer that way. I’m also an equal opportunity shopper, mixing the high with the low. Good quality bags and shoes are non-negotiable, but I love mixing a vintage lace top with a summer sundress from H&M. 

What are your style signatures?

High heels, jewelry, a good bag and definitely color. In general, colors make you look more lively and happy. I’ll wear a beige top but accessorize it with neon accessories and jewelry. It wakes everything up. I also try to stay within a particular color palette, like neons, reds, blues or pastels. I currently love monochromatic bold color statements. I might not make it look right every time but I try, and that’s what matters. Trial and error…that is the fun of fashion. Also, if you have a classic, timeless piece in an unexpected color, that is a great starting point. 

What advice do you have for women trying to develop their own personal style?

My humble advice is to take fashion as a pleasure and a great form of self-expression. Make it your own. Check out the trends but don’t follow them too literally. Make them work for you. They are guidelines, not laws.

Next: An ophthalmologist.

Leila Rafla-Demetrious, Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology

Leila Rafla-Demetrious, Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology

DailyWorth: How would you define your style?

Leila Rafla-Demetrious: Eclectic, yet classic. I am fairly ladylike and feminine, certainly in a work setting. I usually have some extra detail thrown in, a piece of jewelry or some interesting footwear, so as not to look too conservative or commonplace. (I dread commonplace!) On my days off, I basically live in jeans and tees, or a fun skirt. When I go out at night, I jazz it up. 

Tell us about your style evolution.

I would say that I started to create my own style in college. I became friends with a variety of people with international backgrounds, from whom I gleaned some detail or nuance about the art of dressing well without looking like everyone else or spending a lot of money. In my twenties, I was in med school and my hair was newly short. As soon as I cut my hair (it had been down past my shoulders) my style instantly changed, and I wore military boots, mini skirts with tights, and lots of jeans. Interestingly, as my hair grew out, my style softened considerably. In my thirties, after residency, my style evolved to where it remains today, more or less.

How does your look play into your professional life?

I would say that being dressed sharply makes me feel more confident, which in turn hopefully inspires confidence in me from others. Some of my co-workers and patients have exclaimed about how I can walk in my heels and skirts all day long (rather than sensible flats, I guess). I tell them I literally have a much better day knowing I have a good pair of shoes on. Also, having high heels puts me at least at eye level with all but my tallest colleagues and patients, which always helps. Funnily enough, when patients go to make an appointment and can’t remember my very long last name, they ask for the doctor with the heels. Of course I’d like it if they asked for the doctor with the excellent hands and bedside manner, but I am hoping that’s understood!

What are your style signatures?

Well, shoes for sure. Because I have to wear a white lab coat everyday that obscures all the fine details of whatever I’m wearing, I’ve turned to shoes over the years to give me a fun pop of color and detail. I have many, many pairs of shoes and boots that I’ve collected, so much so that new patients who’ve been referred to me by friends and colleagues come in the door remarking first that they are supposed to report back on my footwear! I also tend to wear very high heels, even though I am already fairly tall. I don’t really spend a tremendous amount of money on shoes or clothes; I just wait for the right sale. Good shoes tend to find me (much to my husband’s chagrin). Other than shoes, I’m also very partial to beautiful blouses with good prints or details, like fine pleats or a cool cuff. Sadly, these are often hidden under my lab coat, but I am happy knowing I look good under there.

What advice do you have for women trying to develop their own personal style?

Be yourself! Get to know what works best for your body, and invest in pieces as you find them. Be patient and don’t spend a lot of money on trendy pieces. You don’t have to wear basic blue or black or look like a nun. Don’t be afraid to be a bit edgy and assertive in what you wear. Do avoid too-tight or too-short, even if you have the body to pull it off. It’s hard to be taken seriously. Even a lab coat won’t hide a bandage mini-skirt!

Next: Entrepreneur

Ellen Carey, Proprietress of fashion showroom SEED, New York

Ellen Carey, Proprietress of fashion showroom SEED, New York

Photo credit: Brian Boulos

DailyWorth: How would you define your style?

Ellen Carey: Eccentric! Eclectic! Ellen-Gance (Elegant)!

Tell us about your style evolution.

I knew early on (perhaps at age 6 or 7). I would chart my outfits I wore for school and would not repeat a look for an entire year. Apparently I would cry daily, according to my dear mother, under the stress and emotional pressure of dressing. I have always been a little unusual with my dressing, mixing vintage pieces in with new to be unique. I have also always appreciated the Japanese designers, like Comme des Garcons, since the early 80’s, and then fell in love with Junya Watanabe more recently, perhaps due to my small size. Traditional clothing bores me. I do like a little ‘lady’ and elegance so Chanel and Lanvin (when I can afford it) are great for me.

How does your look play into your professional life?

I am often invited to do trunk shows around the country relating particularly to the Carole Tanenbaum Vintage Collection (for which I am the Brand Ambassadrice). What I have found over the years is that many people want to meet an interesting and fashionable (or eccentric) New Yorker (think “Sex and the City”). If I dressed too ‘common’ no one would be entertained. Sometimes I am more subtle but with the hopes of adding an odd piece or two of jewelry to my outfits. 

What are your style signatures?

Always a little something off – as I am non-traditional! An odd color mix, an elaborate piece of vintage jewelry, a patterned tight or whimsical shoe and/or bag. 

What advice do you have for women trying to develop their own personal style?

Do not be afraid to try something unexpected, and accessorize! A pin put on a blazer pocket versus up near the shoulder; a scarf tied at the waist instead of a belt and fixed with a pin (bow, bug or geometric shaped brooch); an odd color or textured stocking versus traditional black; mixing three necklaces of different time periods together versus one necklace… or try wearing silver and gold accessories together. So often I see a lack of individuality. Be original!

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