Personal Presence, Professional Presence

Clothes Do Speak My Truth

This wild Gucci jacket, featuring outstanding embroidery work, just wowed me. I wasn’t really sure that I dragon motif was really “me” until I had the jacket on my body. In fact, I expected to have a big laugh about this jacket. But, the joke was on me when I saw myself in the jacket. As an example of how clothes do speak my truth, this jacket makes a bold statement about my personality and attitude.

I’m an introvert. You might not think I am. In my blogs, I’m communicative, demonstrative, and opinionated. In person, you’d swear that I’m extroverted, an entertainer in front of crowds. But, really, I love retreating to my lair to recover from the attention. As demonstrative and bold as people say I am, I shy away from garnering attention. Years ago, a spiritual adviser forewarned me to be humble, maybe because I’m a proud Leo. As a self-employed, self-made person, I’ve taken this advice seriously. The complication is that no one conveys my abilities better than me. So, if I have to tread carefully and humbly speak my truth, then how do I communicate effectively? The answer is that clothes do speak my truth.

Even after 30 years working as a professional personal stylist, daily situations remind me that clothes do speak my truth. I ensure that they do by selecting clothing items that tell others things about me that I wouldn’t typically say. My look matches the words I speak in conversation with others, and the way I sound when I speak them. It has to match, because my look, demeanor, sounds, and words are my calling cards. My look represents my credibility.

When I open my closet to choose an outfit to wear, I think about the message I want to send. Life is unscripted. I never know in advance what words I’ll say to people on a given day. But, I do know who I’m meeting. I do know where I’ll be working.

If I’m with a client for a day, I’ll be either in my studio or at the client’s home. Either I need to dress comfortably for physical activity, or more appropriately for a strategic meeting. When I know that I’ll be in a public place, like a store, I choose from a range of looks. I may want to be incognito so I can focus and work uninterrupted. Or, maybe I want store employees to approach me, or for customers to ask me where the bathroom is located. Yes, that happens to me all the time!

During these interactions, even the incognito ones, my clothes do speak my truth so that I don’t have to. So, while I may take a quiet, humble approach touting my professionalism and fashion sense, my clothes speak for me. I love that clothes have this ability. But, because they do have this power, there’s a potential downside. When we don’t look our best, others sense it, know it, and make critical judgments about us. A little bit of effort makes all the difference, and we feel good about our personal presentation, too.

While it’s true that clothes do speak my truth, the same is true of your clothes and your truth. It is far better that you control the message of your truth, rather than others deciding your truth. Your truth is THE truth, whereas someone’s assessment is their version of your truth. Showing up purposefully and intentionally takes away others’ chances to assess your genuineness. I love seeing clients up-level their professional roles by using clothing as a communication strategy.