Category Archives: Outfit ideas

How to stand out elegantly and confidently

Just over two weeks ago I was packing my bag for a short weekend break in Lviv, Ukraine. It was late, I was tired and the weather forecast wasn’t inspiring, so I just picked some random pieces, making sure they are warm enough for cold nights I was going to spend outdoors at international jazz festival Alfa Jazz Fest, and zipped my suitcase. I didn’t think more of it. I was going to a music festival, not some glamorous party. Only I forgot that in Eastern Europe any social occasion is a glamorous party. Feeling somewhat unglamorous in my smart casual outfits, I was ready to go into my judgement mode, which happens very often when I travel to my home country. And by that I mean make comments about how tasteless the society is with their love of extreme glamour and desire to show off everything they have in one outfit. Only this time, something was different: I didn’t feel like judging. I simply wanted to observe with an open mind. Women of all shapes and sizes chose very different outfits – from dresses to jeans with blouses and stilettos – and wore them confidently. It would be very difficult to stand out in that crowd – almost everybody stood out in their own way. I quickly realised that, with some exceptions, I was among a tastefully stylish crowd. Still, it would have been easy to find women dressed in a stereotypical over the top manner – you always find what you are tuned in to see. This time, instead of focussing on the few women that stood out for wrong reasons, I decided to learn from being among all these beautiful and very visible women, all judgements against the way the society operates and chauvinism aside.

At the after party
At the after party

What I took away from my weekend in Lviv is something I would like to invite women across many countries to consider.

1. Eastern European women are not afraid to be visible

They wear brighter colours, trendy outfits, fitted clothes. They are not afraid of being feminine and being noticed by others. They accept their beauty and show it off instead of hiding it. But looking your best is not so much about attention seeking (contrary to what some may think), it is a mindset.

When we change our mindset, we are able to see that there is nothing wrong with allowing ourselves to be noticed for the right reasons.

2. Looking stylish and feminine does not mean you are not intelligent 

At the jazz festival, I met female bankers, economists and high profile advisers, all of whom wore gorgeous feminine outfits. They didn’t seem to worry people would not take them seriously or perceive them as less intelligent if they show off their femininity and beauty in a stylish way.

How often are we muting ourselves or dimming our beauty just because we are afraid we won’t be taken seriously? It is possible to be both – beautiful and intelligent.

A beautiful friend of family in Ulyana Sergeyenko dress
Beautiful Lyudmila (a bank manager) in Ulyana Sergeyenko dress

3. They receive compliments gracefully

These women attract many compliments because they own their beauty and don’t shy away when someone notices it. They accept compliments with ease and grace, projecting natural confidence. This confidence and relaxed attitude helps conversations flow more easily and deepens connections.

4. Looking after yourself is a non-negotiable

Having lived for the past 14 years in Western Europe, I forgot that making a lot (by European standards) of effort is seen as entirely normal in Eastern Europe. A woman there would’t think twice about booking her weekly beauty appointment, nor would she show up anywhere with unmanicured nails or messy hair. My mother books my manicure and pedicure appointments even before I arrive in the country.

When we as women make self-care a non-negotiable, we show to ourselves (and to others) that we value ourselves.

Upon my return I decided to apply these lessons in my every day life. Last weekend, I had a lot of fun dressing up more than I would normally and felt amazing. Getting ready for a women’s networking meeting I felt inspired to wear some old pieces in an entirely new way and wore my “dressy” shoes instead of trying to blend in. I met incredible women who wanted to talk to me simply because they liked my outfit. This week instead of wearing a casual outfit, I wore my vintage dress to have dinner with girlfriends, inviting compliments comparing me to Audrey Hepburn. I accepted with grace. For my bank meeting this week I dressed on brand (stay tuned for my new brand and website reveal soon!) in a stylish dress and blazer and made a real effort with my hair and make up. The meeting went really well, I felt confident and in the flow at all times even when a bank manager asked me difficult (very masculine) questions about my new business.

These experiences helped me to realise that making an effort and looking stylish on whatever occasion I feel called to is not shallow or self-indulgent. It gives me energy, creates new exciting opportunities, enables me to feel confident in a relaxed way and shows that I am worthy, worthy of making an effort for, worthy of being seen and being listened to.

 

Ready to embody confidence, be seen and be heard as a woman in business? I invite you to book a complimentary discovery session with me here.

 

 

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Style during transitional season

I have been enjoying warmer temperatures in London during the past couple of weeks. The only downside is I never know what to wear when I leave my house in the morning because one minute it is sunny and warm and the next minute it is cold and windy. The art of layering is essential: carrying a scarf or a cardigan to wear when it gets colder. This is one of the first things one learns after moving to London. But what are other ways to be stylish during the time when we have several seasons in one day?

I am getting a lot of style inspiration in the streets of London. I hope these photographs give you stylish ideas too.

A very well put together outfit: simple with one statement piece (skirt), great colours. Blazer and boots is an interesting idea...
A well put together outfit: simple with one statement piece (skirt), great colours. Blazer and boots is an interesting idea…
Classic style will always be in fashion. Trench is an essential item for any woman's wardrobe, which reminds me I need to go shopping for one.
Classic style will always be in fashion. Trench is an essential item for any woman’s wardrobe, which reminds me I need to go shopping for one.
I love the combination of different textures in this all back outfit. A leather jacket is an essential item for the transition season - easy way to be stylish
I love the combination of different textures in this all back outfit. A leather jacket for me is the item to have for the transition season – easy way to be stylish
Maxi skirts and dresses are not only for the summer season
Maxi skirts and dresses are not only for the summer season
Bold colours and smart layering. I am inspired by the combination of open shoe-boot and bright-coloured tights...
Bold colours and smart layering. I am inspired by the combination of open shoe-boot and bright-coloured tights…

Dalston in East London – an unlikely shopping destination

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Channelling Jackie O in my new vintage dress. Who said you can’t wear vintage to work?

If you read my previous post, you will know that I really enjoy shopping, but I can be easily put off by the crowds in shopping streets in central London, especially during weekends. When I go shopping I want to enjoy the process not only get the result. My favourite way to shop is to go to small independent boutiques in quieter parts of the city and buy lesser known designers and brands while chatting to friendly shop owners and assistants about style without having to wait for 30 minutes in queues for changing rooms.

Recently, I felt I needed more than just a fun shopping experience, I needed a style inspiration, having realised I have been going for the same safe “weekend look” for many weeks.

There are many ways to get a style inspiration: buy fashion magazines, look at fashion blogs, go window shopping. But sometimes to get a style inspiration one must go to a place where fashion trends are created and where style is not an option, it is a way of life. In London these places are Hackney and Dalston.

What to wear to this trendy part of the city was my main concern. I don’t have a fear of standing out, but I did not want to stand out for wrong reasons (i.e. lacking style imagination) in my smart casual weekend outfit consisting of jeans, blazer and ballerina flats. Plus, pushing style boundaries and trying new looks can be fun and very liberating.

After a quick look in my wardrobe I found something I thought could work. A skirt I would normally wear on a warm day was replaced by bright animal print shorts (previously worn only once and on holiday) and paired with a t-shirt in a “clashing” pattern (but complementing colour – the aim was not to dress up as a clown). I swapped my favourite footwear – elegant ballerina pumps for slightly edgier black sandals, decorated with metal chain. Finishing my look with a bright red lipstick and a big brooch, I felt ready to meet the hipsters. Don’t worry, I was not self-delusional to think this outfit made me a Dalston hipster or a trendsetter, but I felt more comfortable in my “adventurous” outfit.20130819-223057.jpg

The shopping event I went to was called the Stylist’s Rail. It hosted a number of independent sellers and designers, many selling vintage clothes and accessories.

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There, not only did I get my style inspiration, but I also found some unique pieces, some of which I can wear to work, at very affordable prices – always a win in my opinion. The quality of merchandise was very good. I found many designer vintage pieces at much lower prices than in more established vintage shops. Of course I could not resist buying a beautiful 1950s style vintage dress from Tuk Vintage, a recently established vintage online shop selling hand-picked pieces from France and the UK .

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Wearing vintage dress from Tuk Vintage to work this week. Dressing up for work can be fun!
Finishing the look with vintage-style sun glasses and simple accessories
Finishing the look with vintage-style sun glasses and simple accessories

And, very importantly, my weekend style dilemma has been resolved thanks to a unique piece from Ingo Kraftchenko, an upcycled vintage designer. Her beautiful sheer silk maxi skirt will help me feel at home among trendy East Londoners next time I decide to go there.

Designer Ingo Craftchenko
Designer Ingo Kraftchenko

The Stylists Rail holds monthly sale events in East London. I highly recommend it, if you want to have a relaxed and fun shopping experience and an opportunity to buy good quality vintage pieces. The next sale event is held on 1 September.

stylistsrail

Un-learning bad shopping habits

Yesterday, after reading that Issa, a British designer, famous for its versatile elegant dresses, designed a collection for Banana Republic and realising it was nearly sold out after its launch last week, I rushed to one of the branches near my office (one of the advantages of working in the West End). Unsurprisingly, most items from the 40-piece limited edition collection were sold out. Trying to make up for being late, I was grabbing everything I could find in my size. Ridiculous, I know! But my love for designer bargains sometimes clouds my ability to think.

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Although I usually prefer to buy lesser known brands that I am less likely to see on someone else the next day, somehow a combination of designer name on a label that reads “limited edition” and affordable price tag made it ok in my mind to buy clothes that I will probably see other women wearing. Issa is elegant, not trendy, which means I can wear the pieces I buy for years, I told myself, as I carried 6 items to the changing room.

It was only in the changing room that I was able to pause and think. I did not want to repeat my past shopping mistakes, which included impulsive shopping, buying clothes only because they were on sale, original or recommended by a magazine I like. As a result, many times I ended up with a wardrobe full of pieces that don’t work together, don’t fit properly or don’t make me feel good, leaving me frustrated in the morning because I had nothing to wear to work.

So how did I walk out of the shop with two, not five, dresses (one of them now returned) when the temptation was strong and the money argument did not work?

In my changing room
In my changing room

The first step is to recognise when I am going back to “old ways”. It usually helps me to stop for a second and think about all those piles of clothes I have taken home over the years to give to my family and friends, many of them never worn.

Then, in my head I go through these basic shopping rules

  1. Don’t buy when under time pressure. Going to shop in my lunch break was a mistake and I did buy a dress that was not a perfect fit, which I have now returned. Lesson learnt (again)!
  2. This takes me to rule number two: the fit has to be perfect. This may seem like an obvious one, but I have failed to follow it on a number of occasions and I know others who have too. But what to do if the piece you really, really want is not available in your size or doesn’t fit perfectly? Paula Reed, Grazia’s style director, in her book “Style Clinic” advises: “If a jacket doesn’t fit in the shoulders or lie flat when buttoned, get over it.” “Don’t buy anything badly finished.” “If a garment needs shortening or needs the waist nipped in, fine. But if it needs more, forget it.”
  3. The same goes for colour. I now buy clothes in colours that flatter my complexion and complement or match other items in my wardrobe.
  4. Versatility is important. Paula Reed does not recommend buying an item if you can’t see yourself in more than five completely different situations in it, unless it is eveningwear or sportswear. However, when I am buying something I intend to wear to work, I apply the versatility rule in a slightly different way. I think how easy it will be to combine what I plan to buy with different accessories, jackets and cardigans to create different ‘looks’ for the office. For me, there have to be at least 4 different looks I can create with a piece. Potential to wear a garment day to night is important for me as a woman working in an office who does not have time to go home and change before going out after work.
  5. How does an item make me feel? This is probably the most important factor. Style for me is not so much about the clothes I wear, it is really about how I feel when I wear them. Do I feel great about myself when I see myself in the mirror? Do I feel beautiful? Do I want to smile and begin to daydream about wearing the item I am trying on? If the answer is yes, then it is a sign that I need to buy it, even if it does not seem “sensible” or necessary. Similarly, if a dress or a top is recommended as a must have by a fashion editor I admire, but does not make me feel amazing, there is no reason to buy it. I trust my intuition in this situation.

The temptation to buy on impulse may be very strong at times, but as with any temptation, if we take several deep breaths and pause for a couple of minutes, it becomes less powerful or sometimes goes away entirely.

So what did I buy at the end? A flowy blue-green dress I can wear now and when the weather gets cooler in multiple ways and dress up or down.

This is one way of wearing it.
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green dress and necklace
green dress2

How do you deal with your bad shopping habits?

Outfit idea

anglomania dress7
Anglomania jersey dress: effortless style with minimal accessories

As it gets cooler in London after several weeks of unusually warm summer weather with temperatures dropping below twenty degrees mark in the morning and only reaching lower twenties during the day, my summer dresses will be getting a bit of a rest (not for too long I hope!). The good news for me is this is a perfect weather for my recent investment: a new Anglomania dress, bought when I “accidentally” popped into a Vivienne Westwood boutique during a trip to Manchester. Investing in yourself feels really good, especially when it is an unplanned “investment”, which makes it a treat rather than yet another item on a busy to-do list.

This stylish jersey dress was a great investment because it is versatile and has an “effortless chic” effect. And its asymmetric cut helps to add a more feminine shape to my straight-up-and-down figure. The dress makes an elegant office look option and requires minimal accessories, making getting ready for work an easy and enjoyable process in the morning. For me dressing elegantly and stylishly for work is really important because looking good helps to put me in a good mood and to engage with colleagues and clients with more confidence, it empowers me. The dress can be paired with a blazer for a more formal look if needed. It also works well as an evening outfit, if combined with jewellery and accessories, making it a very sensible investment for a woman in a corporate job.

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anglomania dress9bag closeup

Dress, Anglomania (available in different colours)

Shoes, Kurt Geiger (last year’s collection)

Bag, Bought during my holiday in Hong Kong 2 years ago

Earrings, a recent addition to my collection from a small jewellery boutique called Ivoire in Provence, South of France