Often the hardest decision we make each morning is what to wear, and it’s not necessarily a matter of vanity. Instead, we’re grappling with the daily dilemma of how to present ourselves. According to stylist and author George Brescia, outfits matter—maybe even more than we realize.
“When people see you for the first time, they make unconscious decisions about your identity through the secret language of clothing,” Brescia explains. “Your clothes speak even before you do, and it’s my strong belief that they should always say exactly what you want them to, whether you’re going on that new job interview or a lunch date with a girlfriend you haven’t seen in a really long time.”
Brescia’s new book Change Your Clothes, Change Your Life: because you can’t go naked [Gallery Books], which hits shelves August 19, addresses the confusion that many people feel about putting together a successful wardrobe and then using it to its maximum benefit.
Here, the stylist breaks down some of his best advice.
In your book, you talk about dressing for the impression you want to make and not just the occasion. Can you explain your thinking behind that?
You always want to look appropriate for the right occasion, however you need to ask yourself what you want out of the experience of the event. If you’re going to a very chic cocktail party at a private club, you want to wear what you look good in within those parameters. If you have a great back and toned arms, you’re going want to show them off.
What advice do you have for someone who needs to purchase new items for their wardrobe but doesn’t know where to start?
Of course, my advice is to come to me! But seriously, I have three words: rent a George. A personal stylist and shopper guide you towards the right colors and silhouettes for your particular features. Stylists also know about great little boutiques and one-of-a-kind shops. After all, they’ve spent months hunting the by-ways and finding their own bag of fashion secret weapons. A good stylist will take into consideration your entire lifestyle, the ways you spend your free time and what your professional needs are. They are up-to-date on the fashion trends while still keeping in mind what is classic, timeless and fad-proof.
What would you say to a person who claims to have no personal style—they just follow trends that they observe in stores or copy looks they see on coworkers or friends? Is there a way to actually gain a sense of personal style?
Yes, there is! The most important question you want to ask yourself is: what do you want to say? Forget the fads. I suggest you put together an inspiration board or journal, a place where you post all the photos from your favorite magazines of clothing, hairstyles, jewelry, accessories and women whose sense of style you admire. Pay close attention to what you find attractive and appealing and what you feel their looks say to you. That’s a great beginning to really clarify the journey of your new dressing experience. Stay true to your inspirations and your inner voice, and your own style will begin to blossom.
There’s an entire chapter in Change Your Clothes devoted to colors. Are there shades that some people should just avoid completely or can everyone wear every color as long as they do it right?
There are certain colors that illuminate an individual more beautifully according to their eye and hair color and their skin tones—period! There are also colors that can make an individual look washed out and in need of oxygen. If there are colors that you absolutely love, but you know clash with your personal palette, always choose the shades of that color that are more flattering and use them in an accessory like a purse, a pair of shoes or a belt. Try to keep your best colors on bigger items like blouses, sweaters and jackets.
How often should people purge their wardrobes?
I never advocate throwing out stuff just for the sake of it. It’s as foolish as buying just anything for the sake of buying things. Think about what you want your clothes to say. If you notice that you haven’t worn a particular item in your closet in the last year, ask yourself why. Is it that you’re waiting for your diet to kick in? Are you saving it and the right occasion just never comes up? Or is it on some level that you know it was an impulse buy in an unflattering fabric or silhouette that you bought because your best girlfriend has one just like it? Use it or lose it. I want your closet to be full of perfect tens and nothing less, so every piece of clothing from casual to formal is a source of inspiration and joy, not dread or despair.