Today’s article is written by guest writer Marian Rothschild, AICI FLC. Enjoy!
You see some women and you just know they’ve got it.
They have it all: drive, passion, intelligence, leadership qualities, and a polished, put-together look.
How? How do they manage that, and what is it that makes it all come together so stunningly? After years of helping hundreds of women discover and develop their own unique head-to-toe personal styles, I have some constructive suggestions.
Here’s my list of 15 fashion and beauty must-haves to transform your image into a confident expression of full potential for stellar success.
1. A dynamite dress, appropriate for business, with classic styling, in a flattering color with impeccable fit. This dress will be knee-length, made of comfortable fabric with slenderizing vertical lines and either short or three-quarter length sleeves.
2. Pencil skirts (at least two) and tapered (cigarette, not skinny) slacks (at least three pair.) Skirts and slacks should be in dark colors, but not necessarily black, especially if you are blond. Colors to consider: navy, French blue, olive green, burgundy, brown, rust, and camel.
3. Jackets or blazers (at least three) that give you a polished presence and air of intention. Blazers always have a collar and buttons, jackets don’t necessarily have either. For a lean look, the jacket should be buttoned up or zipped at least half way up. This pulls your waist in and creates less bulk.
4. Nude classic pumps (they go with everything), about 2 ½” or 3” heels. These will sharpen any outfit and elongate your legs. Wear them as often as you can, with skirts and slacks for smart, savvy style. You’ll also need another pair of all-day comfort 2 ½” – 3” heels.
5. A stand-out necklace and a few other good quality accessories. Kate Spade makes a fabulous 18” fashion pearl choker ($128.00) that I’ve advised many of my clients to buy. The beads are larger than the classic pearl, about ½” in diameter and the strand gives a casual elegance to any outfit.
Less is more when it comes to adding bling for business. Keep it clean and simple rather than adding adornments that distract from your impeccable image. No jingle jangle, no matchy-matchy.
6. Silk-looking, washable blouses in solids and prints (at least five). Pick colors that are in your skin tone and eyes, like peach, coral, salmon, soft pink, aqua, teal, and green. Subtle prints are lovely, like a small geometric, sophisticated floral, or understated animal print. Go with silk if you don’t mind the dry-cleaning bill and you want the real deal.
7. High-performing skincare will repay you with a youthful glow and smooth face and neck. Pick an all-natural facial cleanser to start. Use an anti-aging serum, moisturizer and eye cream daily (my favorite is Prevage by Elizabeth Arden), under your usual sunscreen.
If your neck is in a losing battle with gravity, try what I use: Perricone MD Cold Plasma Sub-D, day and night. After forty, ask your dermatologist for a prescription of Retin-A (note from Sylvia, I use Skinceuticals Retinol which you can buy online) and maybe a bleaching cream. Otherwise, use an exfoliate scrub or mask once a week to remove dead skin cells which can leave your skin dull and dreary.
8. Makeup essentials and application know-how. Here are the essentials: eyebrow pencil; eyelash curler; dark, light, and medium shades of eye shadow; eye liner; mascara; concealer; foundation; blush; lip liner and lip color. Bronzer is a bonus; it gives an added glow and touch of summer sun.
You probably have all of these products in a drawer. The trick is to use them often and strategically. The point of cosmetics is to put back the natural beauty that we had in our prime, when we were twelve or thirteen years old. Therefore, you want a smooth and even skin tone, some accent around the eyes, and color on the cheeks and lips. That’s a polished day face for professional presence.
If you’re not wearing any other makeup, at the very least wear bright lip color with some gloss over it. If you’ve got rosy or pink skin tone, wear a pinkish-red. If you’ve got yellow or golden skin tone, your red will be a little orangey. Go bold, like our stylish sisters before us did in the 1950’s.
9. Mirrors let you see what the rest of us see. But you can only do that with a full-length mirror. Place one in or near your closet and use it every day to try on new combinations of separates to create outfits that express your personal style.
Shoes can make or break a look, so be sure and try on different pairs, to get the effect you’re going for. And be sure to turn around and check out your back side; there could be a whole other world going on back there.
Hang a retractable-arm magnifying mirror on your bathroom wall for easy makeup application and eyebrow touch-ups.
10. A current hairstyle sends the message that you are up-to-date and engaged with current culture. Go through magazines to see what length and shape suits your lifestyle. (note from Sylvia: or get ideas from my extensive Pinterest Boards, hairstyles for women over 40.) Bring pictures into your stylist and ask her if that cut will work for your type of hair and flatter your face shape. If you think your stylist is in a slump, go to someone else at another salon. Ask around for someone who does chic cuts really well.
11. Hair products that are right for your type of hair will make styling easy. Know what look you’re after: full, flat, beach waves, an up do, or a sleek pull back. Ask your stylist what products will give you what you desire, and ask her to show you how to accomplish that. Practice blow drying and rolling your hair with curlers so when you want it, you’ll know how to get it.
12. Every professional businesswoman needs a trench coat at some time. Even if you live in a warm climate, it rains occasionally, or you might have to travel to cooler cities. Choose a trench with slimming vertical lines, single breasted rather than double, and maybe a sash that ties in the front. Don’t get black, unless you are an upscale designer in mid-town Manhattan. For the rest of us mere mortals, choose a luscious color like mossy green, plumb, russet, or even a polka dot for a little whimsical flair.
13. Leather bound notebook, bag and tote. Leather says solid, serious, I’m here to stay. You don’t need to spend half your paycheck on a bag, but it does need to be dashing because it will be noticed.
14. A gym membership to a club or yoga studio that is easily accessible to your location, and offers the equipment and services you will use to work out on a regular basis, will help you stay in great shape. But you have to use it – regularly. I’m talking at least three times a week to look and feel healthy and have the figure and dress size you want.
There’s no substitute for putting in hours of diligent exercise that you enjoy and will keep you coming back for more. Result: energy, vitality, and a great shape.
15. You can’t buy this last item: it’s absolutely free! Even if you are wearing a $3,000 designer suit, poor posture can age any woman instantly. Check out your posture – when sitting, standing and walking. Be aware of it all the time, even when you are alone.
Our muscles form around our bones, and if we get in the habit of sitting at our desk with shoulders hiked up or rounded forward, and chest caved in, we’re going to keep that shape when we stand. Don’t let that happen. Make a point to straighten up every time you change an app while you’re working, or walk under a doorway. Shoulders down, back straight. Yes! Now you look comfortable, confident, and empowered.
These things all take some time and effort. Some of them cost money. But what is there that’s worth having that doesn’t take time and effort? In some cases, it’s just a matter of making use of what’s already there. Know what’s right for you, do what you can to live the life you want. Be sincere, be selective, and be savvy.
Are you a business woman? What do you consider your essentials?
Marian Rothschild is a certified personal image consultant, speaker and best-selling author of Look Good Now and Always: a do-it-yourself style makeover for busy women. A former actress, dancer and model, Marian has a knack for helping men and women look sensational for work, weekends, special events and all-around feeling fabulous. So she trained, got certified, and built a thriving business, Look Good Now. With her help, men and women all over the Denver area have transformed their outer appearance into a confident, genuine expression of full potential for stellar success. There are lots of ways Marian can help you, even for free. www.marianrothschild.com
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Somebody said, “Confidence, where it like make-up.” 🙂
Oh I agree with the woman who said good underwear but especially a good well fitting bra.
I work in business and am in my early 50’s and all around I see women who need to have a good bra fitting.
Unfortunately Carol, that is very true. Many times women think they will be more comfortable in an inexpensive bra and they don’t understand the benefits of a more expensive, well-made one. Actually, the difference is huge! And if it is well-made, it will be comfortable, too!
“Silk-looking” blouses. How sad. And, this is for women of 40 and over? Spare me. To be fair, you do say that this is for women in business. Lawyers, Enron, financial, presumably. Definitely not creative fields.
I would add polished and well cared for shoes. Nothing ruins a look, IMO, like a pair of old worn out dress shoes with the heel torn up, and I see it every day.
Yes that is a good point too.
I love these wonderful, well-thought out comments!
I think one very important point was overlooked. PROPER UNDERGARMENTS! Shape wear, foundation wear, Spanks, whatever fits you best. Because panty lines, muffin tops, bulges and rolls will make the most put together look, look horrible! 🙂
I agree. Very important!
WOW! I really like all of them! especially last item but I have to add a point. Smile! to me is basic and essential!
Especially point 15 is one that I take to heart. Business woman, mother, friend, lover… that doesn’t matter. Everybody: mind your posture.
Greetje, Yes, thank you for spreading the word! I was fortunate to take many, many years of classical ballet. So for me, good posture is innate. Not so for many folks; they know they slump but don’t adjust. They aren’t doing themselves any favors. Sad to see, when it can be fixed so easily. Thanks for your comment.
I agree that it is a very important point. But it’s the point I personally struggle with the most. I don’t agree with you that it’s easy to change. I wrote about it earlier here https://40plusstyle.com/how-to-improve-your-posture-a-personal-journey/ and I’d like to say that I’ve overcome the issue but unfortunately, I have not.
I wanted to add that I don’t feel it’s a confidence issue now either. More so that the body just does not have the strength from a lifetime of bad posture and tends to forget whenever I don’t think about it…..
I know you are super busy, but for posture, try adding an adult beginning ballet class into your weekly schedule. If you are reminded regularly, it becomes habit.
I have been trying to improve my posture too. Fortunately it is not that bad, but I can improve on it. However, it is amazing to experience how unwillingly the mind is.
I really want to do something about it, but my mind hasn’t got the time to think about it, there is no routine. As soon as I go to fitness class, I stretch my body and I train upright. As soon as I am behind my desk… I slough.
You are right that a classic ballet schooling provides the best posture. You can always tell. (I am green with envy LOL)
I really struggle with the posture issue. I have a hereditary buffalo hump which causes my neck to jut forward a bit anyway, and as I’ve gotten older, it seems worse. I’m never comfortable wearing a collarless top and it seems to make my posture worse. As a desk worker, I tend to be round-shouldered, and am now in a fitness routine with weight-training to help build strength in that area. But, the posture issue truly is a problem for me, and I hate it – I know it makes me look older and dumpy. Hopefully, losing my last 15 pounds, toning up, and holding my stomach in better will all help – my doctor says there’s nothing for the hump, tho…
Wishing you lots of strength Leslie. I know how difficult it is to solve it…
It’s really frustrating with clothing, particularly in the summer when I want to be wearing collarless items. Same for necklaces – my neck just can’t take much weight. That’s where, in the winter at least, I do love a scarf to dress things up a bit – they’re like a lightweight necklace to me!
Wow! How to succeed in business without really trying! Now could someone post the same list for men? Probably couldn’t get past five, tops.
I bet you would be surprised Denton.
My current book, Look Good Now and Always is just for women. But Denton, my next book will be for men and I’ll post those suggestions sometime, too.
My favorite item is the mirror! This makes me giggle. But, yes… a mirror is VERY important. I have asked myself the question “do they own a mirror” many a time when I see someone wearing something very questionable. 🙂
haha you are so right Ashley. Sometimes I wonder too…..
Ashley, Unfortunately, many women don’t own a full-length mirror! To me, that’s mind-blowing. Thanks to my mother, I was raised with a full length mirror in my bedroom.
LOL…no full length mirror in my house, so who knows what my bottom half looks like when I leave the house.
Really Rita? No mirror where you can see yourself from head to toe? I don’t know how you can live without one….
I do enjoy when I have one available in a restroom at work, or in a hotel while travelling. I guess I figure someone will tell me if I am a disaster. 🙂
These things are always noticed, but seldom commented on.
A full length mirror is the only way to know if your shoes or the length of your skirt or dress gives the look of fantastic or frumpy.
Try to hang one on the wall with a window right next to the mirror, if possible. Do not hang a full length mirror on a wall that is opposite to a window; the light will be most unflattering.
I check in the public toilets when I’m out – they often have great full length mirrors, but it’s a little embarrassing checking yourself out with other people walking past, so you need to be super quick 😉