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Making the Right Clothing Choices that Affect and Reflect Self-Image

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Clothing has its way of defining who we are and as such a conscious effort must be put into consideration. Ponder on these statements that reveal the work input in clothing to reflect your self-image.

“It’s not about the guy you used to be, but the gentleman you become” – Being Caballero

“Pretty is an accident of nature. Elegant is a self-created work of art” – Being Caballero

We all take a little extra effort to look nice for special occasions. But for the most, people remain conflicted between wanting to dress up and feeling guilty about taking the time to focus on clothes. Science now suggests that how we dress may just be the difference between giving ourselves the extra edge in our professional and personal lives. And yes, that applies to all. Your style and the clothes you choose reflect and affect your mood, health, and overall confidence.

Scientists call this phenomenon “enclothed cognition”. This simply “involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors— the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them.”

SUITED UP = POWER UP

What kind of symbolic meaning does each article of clothing in your closet hold for you? Do your loafers remind you of a logical, erudite lawyer? Do your 4-inch high heels make you think of a confident woman walking down the corporate aisle? Does your leather bomber jacket make you think of a rebel? It is important we mind what we wear because the psychology behind fashion has its own implications.

“When we put on a piece of clothing we cannot help but adopt some of the characteristics associated with it, even if we are unaware of it” – Professor Karen J. Pine. This point buttresses the fact that the kind of cloth we put on determine the way we walk and hold ourselves.

There’s a reason tailored jackets are associated with being ‘dressed for success’. It seems that wearing formal office wear and structured clothes puts us in the right frame of mind to conduct business. Wearing power clothing makes us feel more confident [possibly because we call it power clothing]; and even increases hormones needed for displaying dominance. This in turn helps us become better negotiators and abstract thinkers.

Therefore, it is so important to “Get up, get dressed, and never give up each day”– Stariha. To feel more beautiful, confident, and strong, you must change out of the normal and put on clothes that give you power.

HIDDEN SECRETS

How important and empowering the right clothes, and even the right under garments, can be is one of the things changing the Corporate Landscape: Rules for Cultivating Leadership Excellence. Amazingly even our underwear affects the way we feel about ourselves.

Hidden clothes like our socks and underwear can exert a powerful influence on our self-perception and confidence levels. Wearing something we perceive as sexy can make us feel more self assured, more powerful and more confident.

Clothes don’t just affect confidence levels, they can affect your success, as “clothing significantly influences how others perceive you and how they respond to you”.

UPPERS AND DOWNERS

In 2014, car manufacturer Kia took a survey of what makes people feel confident, a few of the things included in the top 10 list for women included: high heels, a little black dress, and designer perfume.

For men, the list included: a freshly shaved face, a new suit, and a nice smelling aftershave.

IMAGE PERFUMES

Understanding the psychological dynamics of why the right-for-us clothing can contribute to our confidence, raise our self esteem, and help propel us in the workplace has become big business. Image, style, and branding consultants are hired by everyone from celebrities to the average person.

Here’s one way to go about it: Upon waking up in the morning, take a moment to checkin with yourself and ask, “What do I want to feel like today?” Once you are able to name the intended feeling or state (e.g., friendly, fierce, confident, sexy, composed, loving, and so on), you’re halfway though. Next, ask yourself, “What article(s) of clothing make me feel [fierce, confident, sexy, composed, loving …]? What colour(s) make me feel that way?” Once you’ve identified the article(s) of clothing that symbolizes the desired psychological state, march on over to your closet (no doubt, you’ll have a new pep to your step) and pull out those pieces.

As a lady, don’t stop with just your clothes. Go all out: do your makeup, hair, and adorn yourself with the accessories that accurately match– for you–the desired feeling or state that you chose. Men, maybe the tie you choose is the key article that will enhance your day? Or, perhaps it’s your cosy shoe? So the next time you reach for those comfortable dress or for that fiery red dress, ask yourself how will that clothing item make you feel and what is it saying to the world around you today?

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Vogue & Style

The rising trend of African wear in the corporate office

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African wear is gradually gaining roots in the corporate offices since the introduction of the National Friday wear program in Ghana. Most companies prefer styling up in their customized African print while others wear general African prints styled to their design. The result of this culture has been the exponential increment of both small and large scale enterprises like boosting the sale of African prints on the market, fashion designers making money and increasing the production of such textiles; not forgetting the unique identity it gives to companies who have customized their African prints.

In spite of the fact that only a day of the week has been allocated for this purpose, the trend of African wear for corporate offices is rising. Some people opine that, African prints are very comfortable to be in and very easy to accessorize and as such, one can always improvise to fit business occasions like meetings, presentations, summits and other business purposes. How then should a corporate worker spruce up in an African print for corporate environment?

Choosing the right Fabric:

  • Texture: One needs to be mindful of the kind of fabric one chooses for the corporate environment. Choose one that sits well on the skin and does not cause any form of irritations to the skin. Avoid very heavy fabrics which do not allow circulation of air to and from the skin, thus producing a lot of heat and sweat. If one also decides to choose a lighter fabric, be sure it is properly lined. And watch out for threads hanging out from any part of your dress or shirt; so it doesn’t look funny walking around.
  • Colour: The temptation of picking something colourful is exceptionally high when one wants to look stylish. Avoid looking like a flower pot by shunning prints with so many colours and broad patterns. It becomes a distraction, especially when interacting with clients. For a suave look, just aim for something beautiful but not so bright. For businesses with customized prints for work, if one could not wear theirs, they should get something similar to what is acceptable so they do not look like a visitor at their workplaces.

Style:

  • Men: Men do not have much to do with African prints except of course their shirts for work. Unless one works with a fashion, a creative or a media company, one needs to kindly avoid using bright African prints for jacket or suit. Stick with the well-fitted short or long sleeve shirt. Shirts should be crease-free and worn with neatly ironed black, grey, navy blue, brown or a dark shade of the most dominating colour of the print trousers, with neatly polished black or brown leather shoes, or a more casual loafer and a pair of socks that blends with the trousers. In a dark coloured suit, an African print vest is simply stunning.
    • Women: The challenges that come with picking a style appropriate for work increases when it has to do with African prints. If one finally decides to wear a blouse, avoid styles that cut low exposing the cleavage. The style should not be ‘wild’ and by all means, make sure the undies are well covered. The blouse should have enough space so that it is not too tight or restricting. One needs to look smart and comfortable at work.

What to wear with an African Print?

Depending on the style of the blouse, the usual pencil skirts, trousers or even flare skirts may fit well or not. For a blouse with no exaggerated additions or for a small top, wear a flared skirt or a trouser that is not too skimpy or smallish. For a broad or big blouse, a pencil skirt or a fitting trouser is advisable. But of course, it is subject to one’s stature which varies with every lady.

If one decides to go with a straight dress, shun from bright or loud colours. The style should be simple but classy. Nothing too loose or tight, just well-fitted. There should be absolutely no form of excessive skin exposure either around the chest or the thigh. To allow free and easy movements, there should be an open beside or behind the dress just enough for movement and not as much to expose too much skin.

If one decides to use African prints for the skirt, the same rules apply. A flared skirt will best fit a small top, whereas a print pencil skirt goes with a broad or big top. Do not use African prints for trousers to work unless to a creative, a fashion or a media company.  Wear African print skirt with a simple blouse; not too bright! Preferably the dark shade of the colour with no or small patterns. A nice blazer will switch the look up to another level of class and elegance.

Accessories:

The way one accessorizes can make the look spot-on or clumsy. The latter is not advisable.

Bags: Either as a handbag for ladies or a laptop bag for both genders, a dull colour will best fit when looking colourful or bright, the same way a colourful bag will do the trick when one is in a dull outfit. It’s all about complementing the total look. In case one wants to wear an African print bag even though he/ she is dressed in an African print skirt or top, one must make sure it is the same fabric as the dress or something similar that blends in with the dress. Let’s reduce the wearing of African print straight dress and accessorizing with fully covered African print bags. A black bag or a bag with the darker shade of one’s favourite colour will work perfectly.

Shoes: For a corporate environment, it is not advisable for men to wear a shoe fully covered in an African print. This draws too much attention to one’s feet. A strip of African print on a black or dark brown leather shoe can do the magic. For ladies, either the shoe is fully covered in an African print from the same fabric one is wearing or the bag one is holding or stick with the black or dark brown low heels.

The neck or the area around the neck: Accessorizing the neck for both men and women either with a necklace, a tie or a scarf also comes with its own dos and don’ts. Using an African print around the neck means the brighter the necklace, tie or scarf, the darker and plain (or smaller patterns) the shirt or top but the darker the accessories the brighter the tops or shirt. Let’s not forget African print earrings to be worn should be small but nice.

When we descend on the body, accessorizing the chest area with either an African print brooch or a piece of African print in the breast pocket of our suit, should strictly be on a plain or a smaller patterned shirt or blouse.

Now to accessorize the hands with either African print wrist watch, beads, bracelets or cufflinks, the smaller the better. It shouldn’t be too bright unless of course, the dressing demands otherwise.

Men who would want to use African prints for belts, the less colourful it is, the better. One does not need to draw attention to one’s waist area at work.

Dressing in an African Print for a presentation:

Whenever there is a presentation at work, the presenter aims at gaining some form of attention and cooperation from those listening to the presentation. Captivating the attention and holding the interest of listeners are essential. This is why one cannot compete with his/ her dress for attention during a business presentation. One needs to come off as confident and knowing what he/ she is about, not the other way round. This is why brightly coloured, large patterned and detailed design fabrics should definitely be avoided.

Day, season and weather cannot be overlooked when choosing an appropriate African print fabric or style. The day should inform one on the kind of fabric to choose. In a rainy season, a heavy African print sewn as a long sleeve shirt or blouse is advisable because of the cold weather. So, obviously a summer season will demand the opposite; a light fabric (not transparent) sewn as a short sleeve top. And when the weather is just right, dress right!

Another fact is that all these tips are susceptible to the stature or shape of the individual. Since we cannot go into styling up for all the body types, let’s simply say if one’s upper body is bigger than the lower part, wear a small looking top on a flared skirt or loose trousers rather than a pencil skirt or a tight trouser. Which is to say that if one has a small upper body and a broad down or hip, a broad top on a pencil skirt or a tight trouser will flatter the figure perfectly. It is all about comfort and confidence when styling up to a corporate world. Simply have the image of the company you represent at the back of your mind and dress accordingly.

Men should perform their tonsorial duties as they always do and ladies’ makeup and hairstyles for work should not be affected by the presence of the African print. Go simple, beautiful and neat just as always.

One will notice that most of the tips centres on colour, style and texture of the African print; this is to say that once these elements are not in the right proportion, the look slips into a church look not a corporate look. Walk the fine line with class, confidence and the concept of thin slicing at the back of your mind!

This rising trend of African wear in the corporate offices has gone a long way towards making Ghanaians embrace and accept their culture by creating some sort of positive conformity where they feel left out if they don’t wear made in Ghana fabric on a Friday. The question now remains, should African prints be relegated to just Fridays or should be worn in any day of the week like it is done in Nigeria?

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