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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What to wear when you are working from home

Working from home has many advantages. Not having to get ready and leave the house in the morning, jumping out of bed and picking up your laptop without the commute are only a couple of them, right? Not for me… Don’t get me wrong, I love working from home. I enjoy being in a beautiful quiet environment, being in charge of my schedule, being able to burn my favourite scented candle or have fresh flowers on my desk. But for me, ditching style and hanging out in my pyjamas all day just because nobody sees me does not work.

This week, for example, I had to change my outfit before I could focus on work because it wasn’t right for me. It did not matter that nobody would see me, I didn’t feel good in my sweater dress and pink cardigan, something about that outfit wasn’t stylish, so I swapped the cardigan for a beautiful scarf, which made me feel more elegant. The following day, I felt called to put some jewellery and make up on before a call, audio, not video because I wanted to feel confident and beautiful. I know it made my call go better.

So why bother choosing an outfit and possibly even wearing make up or jewellery when you work from home?

1. It makes you feel good

Looking good helps us to feel good on the inside (yes, it goes both ways), and feeling good makes us more confident. Plus, feeling like you’ve made the effort to do your work puts you in the work mode right away.

2. It increases your self-worth

When a woman makes a conscious effort to look good, she shows to herself that she matters, that she values herself, that she is worth the effort. You are amazing and therefore deserve to be wearing your nice clothes and jewellery just for yourself. And we all know what happens when we value ourselves – others value us, and this translates into financial value too.

3. It awakens creativity

For me, putting together an outfit is a creative process and this always awakens my creativity for other activities. If I need a creativity boost, I wear bright clashing colours or bold accessories. In fact, I started writing this post in my pyjamas (I am the first one to admit I am not perfect), but it didn’t go anywhere until I changed into something more stylish.*

4. It shows integrity

If you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer working from home, helping others to create a stylish business or increase their visibility, confidence and value, walking your talk even when nobody sees you makes you and your brand more authentic and therefore more powerful.

5. You never know what opportunities might come up

Your ideal client may want to skype with you, you might feel inspired to go for a walk in your neighbourhood or have a spontaneous coffee break withy our friend. Be ready to be visible.

I realise I have not fully answered the question about what exactly to wear when working from home. There isn’t one formula fits all solution. For example, I love cashmere (as you may know by now) or silk dresses when it’s warm, colourful wraps or scarves, peg trousers, simple t-shirts with a chunky necklace because these clothes make me feel comfortable, stylish, elegant and ready to do my work. Without knowing you I cannot tell you what exactly to wear because style is a personal matter. What I can tell you is make sure your outfit makes you feel good, gorgeous, high value, confident and unique. If you need further guidance, think what outfit you wouldn’t mind being accidentally seen in by your ideal client.

*Apologies for a lack of photographs in this post, my personal photographer is away this and next week.

 

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Interested in discovering how to increase your confidence, visibility and value to attract stylish opportunities into your life? Book a discovery session here

 

How to declutter your life and create a stylish lifestyle

As I am writing this from 35 000 ft in the air on my way to Lisbon for a mini break, I am feeling relaxed and inspired. Catching up with a former colleague from my full-time corporate job days earlier today made me realise how used I have become to feeling relaxed, connected to my body and desires, inspired and simply happy. Last year, feeling this way on a daily basis was only a fantasy that I chose to believe was possible. Instead, I was feeling stressed, scattered, disconnected from inspiration and always busy. Yes, “busy” was my favourite word for a while. I almost took pride in being busy, as if it were an honorable way to live my life, always busy. Too busy to prioritise my self-care needs and sleep, too busy to reply to my friends’ messages on time, too busy to stop and think about what I actually feel or desire. Being always busy meant I was tired, overwhelmed and frequently experiencing burn outs. Sounds familiar?

Today, I know that there is no happiness in being busy. In fact, the minute I start using the word “busy” to describe my day to someone or to choose not to have the experience I desire or require – be it do Pilates, spend time with a dear friend or take my daily walk – I know I am off track and my schedule and how I prioritise things need to be reviewed.

Of course we all have responsibilities and activities that require our attention, families to look after, households to manage, jobs to do. We are not always going to have hours of free time to sit and do nothing, and perhaps life would be less exciting if we did. The kind of busyness I am describing is the one that gets in a way of enjoying on a daily basis, the one that prevents us from living an inspired stylish lifestyle (your own version of it) or is used an an excuse to not prioritise self-care or the experiences we desire.

Since eliminating a lot of busyness from my daily life, I am happier, more inspired and experience life in colour on a daily basis, I am finally loving my lifestyle. It is, however, a constant work in progress – I caught myself using  “busy” easier this week, but thankfully didn’t go down that road.

Enjoying the small things in life on a daily basis, such as beauty around us, adds colour to our lives
Enjoying the small things in life on a daily basis, such as beauty around us, adds colour to our lives

These are the ways I found effective to transform my life from busy to inspired.

1. Declutter your space and wardrobe

Ruthless decluttering of your home and your wardrobe is not only incredibly satisfying because it creates a new sense of freedom and space, but also it helps to simplify your daily life, therefore eliminating some of the busyness.

I love this quote by William Morris:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

The same works for your wardrobe. I have recently got rid of 40% of what used to be in my wardrobe by applying this rule: if it doesn’t make you feel beautiful, for whatever reason (it could be a wrong shape for you an unflattering colour or simply not the right style for your personality), it should go. It doesn’t matter how much money you paid for it or how bad you feel about giving away something that is practically new. If you don’t feel beautiful when you put it on, it has no place in your wardrobe. If you feel bad about throwing it away, you could sell it online to donate to charity.

2. Declutter your schedule and make space for what you require

This one is key to eliminating needless busyness in your life, but not so easy to do. One way of approaching this task, which I found to be very useful, is to not try to eliminate busyness to create free time, as this often failed, but to replace it with activities that serve me. Start by identifying your essential requirements, these include self-care, food, sleep, time with loved ones, alone time, activities that bring you pleasure and therefore significantly increase the quality of your daily life. These are typically different for each of us. My list, for example, includes morning meditation, drinking hot water with lemon while grounding myself for the day, making and enjoying healthy breakfast, slow lunch, preferably in a stylish surrounding, daily walk in a park or tree-lined streets, 8 hours of sleep, 10 minute of stretching, smelling flowers, time to connect on the phone or in person with loved ones. Once you have identified these for yourself, make sure these are prioritised in your daily schedule. Do keep in mind this is not about perfection. There will be days, where you are not able to do everything, but the important thing is to know what you require to be grounded and happy on a daily basis and give it to yourself. Neither it is about ticking boxes. How you do these and being fully present is the important part here.

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Eating healthy food in a stylish cafe is my idea of perfect lunch
Eating healthy food in a stylish cafe is my idea of perfect lunch

If you are still saying you have no time in your schedule (I was the queen of excuses when it came to busyness) for a 30 minute lunch away from your desk, a walk or 8 hour sleep, see where you can create more time: perhaps reduce time you spend browsing the Internet without a specific purpose, on social media channels or watching TV.

3. Remember, stylish inspired way of living is a choice

When I was always busy, I often found myself in a victim mode feeling there was nothing I could do about the way I lived my life. “Life is busy, that’s a given and there is nothing I can do about it,” I used to say. Let me tell you, this wasn’t a happy or an inspiring place to be in. Once I realised that I am in control of my life and stylish lifestyle is a matter of making certain choices and aligning my daily schedule with my requirements and desires, things started to shift. Whenever you find yourself giving yet another “I am too busy” excuse to yourself, remember that you are in control and you can life your life in a way that is inspiring to you. This small shift in perception will empower you.

Remember to wake up and smell the roses...
Life is to be enjoyed

4. Ask for help

This one is my favourite and required most effort from me for some reason: you don’t have to do it all by yourself, you have nothing to prove to anyone, so do ask for, hire or simply accept help. Too exhausted by your household chores? Hire a cleaner or ask your current cleaner to help with extra activities. Too much admin? Hire a virtual assistant either for a specific project or to help you on a weekly basis. Too busy at work? Learn too delegate to your team. Overwhelmed by the state of your wardrobe or shopping? Find a stylist, it will save you time and money. Feeling confused and lacking clarity on what you require or desire? Hire a coach.

Remember, help is always available if you are willing to accept it.

 

20140523-134656.jpgFeeling too busy to show up in a stylish and confident way in your daily life? Book a discovery session with me here to gain clarity on how to prioritise you and create the image that will attract the opportunities you desire in your life and career.

 

How to embrace your beauty

I have always been fascinated with beauty. I am attracted to beautiful people, I like to surround myself with beauty at home. I like to read, learn and talk about beauty. I admire beautiful women… (my friends happen to be gorgeous, by the way). To put it in simple terms: beauty is what I require in my life. But until relatively recently, I did not allow myself to be beautiful, I mean truly unapologetically beautiful.

Me surrounded by beautiful women
Me surrounded by beautiful women

It is the first time I share my views on beauty publicly. I have often felt that this is somewhat of a taboo subject, surrounded by many judgements and opinions. I myself had many judgements and fears around beauty. On many occasions, I witnessed how beauty was being mistaken it for vanity, lack of internal depth, arrogance, emptiness, unattainable standard gifted to a privileged few, especially when it comes to female beauty, and I allowed these opinions to influence me to treat beauty with caution. Who wants to be any of those things?

I tried to adjust to different society’s views on beauty as I changed countries. The more opinions I heard, the more confusing it got.

One thing I learned is that it makes little difference what people think about me, what I feel inside was so much more important. There were periods in my life when people considered me pretty and attractive, and surely that felt good for my ego, but I didn’t feel beautiful, so none of it mattered.

When I began to allow myself to be who I really am, regardless of the external opinion (good or bad), I began to feel more beautiful. And then came the guilt. Beautiful women are often said to be lucky, life is just so much easier for them. Who was I to allow myself to be lucky and allow things to be easy for me when other people have to work hard? But the biggest block of all was the fear of being seen as arrogant if I allowed myself to be and to feel beautiful, especially around other women.

I am sharing this because I know there are many women out there who experience at least some sort of struggle with beauty too. I learned that many of the beautiful women out there “dim their light” because they feel guilty that they haven’t done anything to deserve being “lucky” or “special” and because they don’t want to not be liked by others. I learned that a small percentage of women feel truly beautiful, regardless of what others see in them. I now truly believe that every woman can be beautiful if she only allows herself to be beautiful and truly loves herself. 

I decided to find out why something so amazing causes us so much pain. I decided to let go of all my pre-conceived notions and learn afresh about beauty. I went to art galleries, fashion talks, talked to a famous fashion illustrator, talked to women and men in my life, did research. I don’t yet know everything there is to know about beauty. What I do know is that true beauty is magnetic, deep, open, authentic, vulnerable, strong. True beauty is never only external. Beauty is an essential part of our existence, it is part of nature. The beauty I am talking about here is not some manufactured standards or a perfect fairy tale ending. It does not fade, it changes form. It does not stop existing when society and media adopt a new set of standards. Female beauty standards change every 10-20 years. Who would want to keep up?

Beauty does not equal perfection. True beauty is real, unique, a magnetic external expression of the internal.

Patrick Morgan, a renowned fashion illustrator who has worked with top fashion designer houses, such as Tom Ford and Chanel, told me at his solo show in March that he is much more interested in the real face of fashion – what happens backstage, behind the scenes, who the iconic designers and models are as real people. Being real is what makes them beautiful and attractive, not “the clinical end result”. What Patrick said really resonated with me

“Beauty is in reality, fairy tale ending is boring”

More recently, I heard the king of glamour, iconic designer Valentino Garavani, sharing at the Vogue Festival in London that an elegant beautiful woman is “down to earth” (I hear “real”). As a designer of some of the world’s most gorgeous dresses, he believes that “a woman has to lead, not her dress…”

Could we as women allow ourselves to release all judgements and fears and feel beautiful?

I have recently made a choice for myself to allow myself to be beautiful (understanding that saying this publicly may invite all kinds of judgement). My life already has more joy, pleasure and beauty in it, as a result. I encourage you too to consider allowing yourself to be beautiful and allowing yourself to be seen in your beauty, despite all fears and judgements.

1. Make a choice to be beautiful today, now.

Whether or not to be beautiful is a decision only you can make. Only you can choose how you feel inside. When we accept our (inner and outer) beauty, we can stop seeking external approval and begin to feel good.

2. Spend some time looking at your own reflection in the mirror and notice lovingly every curve, every feature. Tell them you they are beautiful and that you love them.

Natalia

3. Connect with your inner beauty by looking yourself in the eyes in the mirror.

You will be amazed how powerful this is. Have you noticed that when we look someone in the eyes, we don’t see anything else but their beauty. Why not gift the same experience with yourself to yourself?

4. Do something that brings you pleasure.

I like to buy myself flowers, dance to my favourite music or go for a walk in the park. What brings you pleasure? When was the last time you did it?

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5. Allow yourself to be visible.

Wear a dress that makes you feel beautiful, put on a bright scarf, wear new make up if it calls you or, if you want to really embrace visibility, consider booking a photoshoot, as I did recently in San Francisco. However you choose to be visible, remember visibility and beauty is a state of mind before anything else. You are leading, not your outfit to rephrase Valentino.

This is from my Californian photoshoot
This is from my Californian photoshoot

6. Tell someone they are beautiful, do it openly and sincerely.

Last week in California I told one very beautiful woman how gorgeous she was. It was an amazing experience that made me realise the more I can appreciate beauty in others, the more I am able to appreciate it in me.

Ready to allow yourself to own your real beauty and step into a new level of confidence and visibility? Join me on a free discovery session here.

10 ideas for looking stylish on long-haul flights

I am writing today from sunny San Francisco with a huge cup of coffee (it’s a bowl really) on my table, looking at stylish shops, cafes and people around me. All my worries, to-do lists, cold London weather seem so far away, 11 hours of flying time away to be precise.

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When I was on the plane yesterday I was thinking how much I actually enjoy flying. For me this is time to relax, catch up on my reading, movies, flick through fashion magazines without any guilt or distractions and simply daydream.

But, as you all know, flying long-haul is not without downsides. It can be very tiring, not to mention dehydrating, bad for posture and leaves us looking far from our best. What makes it less tiring and stressful for me is being comfortable (obviously) and stylish. Why stylish? Because coming out of a plane looking tired, scruffy, with bad skin stresses me out more than the flight itself. Looking stylish helps me to start experiencing my destination (be it holiday or business) immediately. This might seem an insignificant detail but it makes a big difference.

Here are my 10 tips on how to be comfortable during a long-haul flight and stay stylish when you leave the plane.

1. Cashmere. This is my absolute favourite fabric to wear on flights. It is warm, soft and so comfortable. It feels luxurious and looks elegant. It ticks all the boxes. I usually go for a cashmere sweater dress, soft tights and ballerina flats or flat boots,depending on a season.

2. Bring a beautiful warm scarf or pashmina to stay warm. It’s also the easiest way to dress up a plain outfit.

3. Easy to wear jewelry. I usually go for something chunky but light to add an instant elegant touch.

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4. Hydrating mist to spray on your face. I love Avene thermal spa water or Julrique hydrating rosewater.

5. I drink herbal tea on long flights and avoid caffeine. We are all told to avoid caffeine on fights. I like to bring my own herbal tea bags, my favourite is currently ginger and orange, in case the airline does not offer what I want.

6. Silk eye mask. It feels so much better against my skin than the masks given by airlines.

7. Essential oils mix to relax and get some sleep. I love lavender and camomile.

8. Journal or notebook to jot down ideas. I don’t know about you but I always get ideas on flights. It must have something to do with being with myself and having the space in my head away from daily worries. Feeling inspired light me up, relaxes my face and body and puts a smile on my face (the best accessory).

9. Dry shampoo to freshen up before stepping off the plane.

10. Is it only me or does dry air on planes ruin everyone else’s beautifully manicured nails? Cuticles become dry, nail polish chips… Neglected looking hands can easily ruin the entire appearance no matter how well dressed a woman is. I use coconut oil or Moa Green Balm to hydrate dry lips, keep cuticles looking neat and any other areas that need extra care.

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What do you do to look good after a long-haul flight? Please share your tips in the comment area below.