I want to share an experience I had helping a blind man with his personal style. By the end, you’ll have great fashion takeaways you can apply for yourself!
One day, I got a referral from a client and friend. It was a unique referral. She wrote something like this: “Cyndy, I know you don’t typically work with men. But I have a client who is an international speaker, and he needs your help. He is blind and wants to upgrade his image. “
As a style and image consultant focused on professional women, I don’t typically get referrals for men. However, I am trained to work with men, and from time to time, I do.
The research tells us that only 4% of all women worldwide believe they are beautiful — and men are quite the opposite. It turns out men are actually hardwired to overestimate their physical attractiveness.
You’ve observed this difference, I’m sure. While a woman looks in the mirror and sees an unrealistic caricature of herself, a man looks in the mirror and he sees his alter ego. I’m not saying that all men or all women fit this profile, but I can say that women are more motivated to reinvent their style and, well, men are not.
But a blind man who wants to show up differently, someone who can’t see himself in the mirror: this was a project I was excited to take on.
His name is John and he not only wanted to upgrade his professional appearance, but he was also re-entering the dating world. As such, he wanted help with his sense of a personal style as well as the current fashion.
I was looking forward to the challenge. But, as you can tell, this was quite a unique situation. Sure, I could share my expertise, but I would have to explain style in a more nuanced way than was typically necessary. Plus, how was I going to help him maintain the wardrobe and the style that we would create together? Though I had been a personal branding stylist for a long time, this was going to require an expansion of my skills, so I couldn’t wait to get started.
John’s Process to Create a Personal Style
I worked with John for several months.
For anyone who attempts to build a powerful personal brand and a wardrobe that reflects it, the process takes time and introspection. I cannot accomplish a great result with anyone overnight. With John, it would take even more time and thought than with a sighted person.
Thankfully, he completely embraced the concept of a personal brand. Moreover, he was able to articulate how he wanted others to experience him. He could encapsulate that vision in five or fewer words, which is what I recommend to everyone. John chose words like funny, creative, modern, and hip to define himself. (I encourage you to spend some time on the words you would choose for yourself.)
The Personal Branding Process
Following my personal branding process, next we discussed John’s physical attributes. I reviewed with him the principles of design and art:
- Unity and Variety
As an intelligent, accomplished man, he took to this level of training immediately. And, again, he fully embraced the process.
When you can’t see for yourself, an in-depth understanding of the process is so much more important. But honestly, this is how I love to work. It is easy to hire someone to create a style for you. But when you don’t learn the principles of style, the “looks” you love are much harder to replicate. That is why you would want to master the psychology, art, and science behind style. For John, it was even more critical.
He shared with me that trust is an issue when he shops. I can completely understand that. We have all wondered if a sales clerk was just telling us what we wanted to hear. But if we cannot see for ourselves, that doubt gets magnified.
So, for John, the combination of learning the “why” behind his personal style – having an explanation of what will and won’t work for him was vital. Combined with an objective resource (me) who would be honest with him and had no motivation to sell him anything, our work together was exactly what he needed.
Starting In the Closet
After we defined John’s brand and style guidelines, it was time to go to his closet. His clothes were outdated, too large for him, and often stained. Think about it. How do you know the difference if you are sight-impaired? John expressed anger when I told him he had stains on all his shirts. He shared a story about a dance class where he regularly participated — and wore the same outfit often. Though he frequently dry-cleaned the shirt, it apparently had developed a permanent stain. Yet, no one told him about the blemish until the day he showed up in a different shirt.
Ladies, let’s not do this.
If you see someone with lipstick on her teeth or a stain on her lapel, please tell her. Isn’t that what you would want?
So we had lots of clothes to toss, some to donate, and some to alter.
Luckily, John already had a relationship with a tailor, walking distance from his home. But again, trust was an issue. The tailor also sold a line of menswear. Was the cost of tailoring worth it — or should he buy a shirt or jacket from this man? These were good questions, so I went with him.
Good Tailoring Strengthens Personal Style
Tailoring is an important step in everyone’s wardrobe. I tell all my clients this…
There are a billion sizes of women and only about 20 sizes of clothing. Therefore, you SHOULD NOT expect to find items off the rack that fit you perfectly. When that happens, you are lucky. What you SHOULD do is look for clothes that you love, that are of very good quality, and that almost fit.
Then, you should take them to a seamstress or a tailor and have them customized to you. Then, you will look like a million bucks, and like your clothes are made just for you — without paying the high price of custom-made clothing. That’s how you refine a personal style.
This is what we did for John. He now knows this is his process whenever he buys something new: if it doesn’t fit just right, he takes it to his tailor.
He has also learned what perfect fitting clothes feel like, and he loves that feeling.
What about you? Do you feel different in some clothing compared to others?
Filling In With Strategic Shopping
Next, it was time for shopping. Shopping is very efficient when you know your brand and your personal style rules.
We found shoes, socks, belts, pants, tops, jackets, and everything John needed very quickly. John could tell if the fit was right. When it was, he put on the garment and came to me for a second opinion.
As I always do, I shopped with an eye for things that could be easily mixed and matched. I teach my clients to calculate the price “per wear.” If something is expensive yet is of excellent quality and can be worn in many different ways, it is likely worth the cost. But if it is so unique that you will only wear it on rare occasions, you should think twice, no matter how much you love it. Everyone’s budget is individual, but try to consider the price per wear to help you decide if it is really worth the investment.
We found many great items at great prices for John, which could be mixed and matched to make lots of different looks.
Now the hard part…
How would he know how to mix and match the items in his closet? We all need a system, but especially if you can’t see with your eyes.
So what did I do?
Systems Make Personal Style Easy
I helped John create a system:
- We discussed braille tags but decided that, while that might be a good approach, it would also be a big-time investment.
- We considered buying multiples of everything — creating unique outfits — which we would hang individually. This strategy would work, but talk about price for wear – that price would skyrocket!
So we simplified. We bought certain hangers for certain types of clothing. Then, we separated clothing by type—dress pants vs. casual pants, dress shirts vs. casual shirts, etc. Finally, I hung things next to other items with which they could be paired.
John’s job was to always adhere to the system – make sure if he took something off a hanger, he put it back on the same hanger, in the same place in his closet.
John insisted he would implement a one-wear rule. He would wash everything after one wear. This was the only way he could, independent of help, ensure that he always wore clean clothes.
Systems are everything!
Do you mix and match your clothes enough? Or do you have “orphans” in your closet – items that have nothing to pair them with?
What are the issues you have with your wardrobe, and what systems can you put in place to correct them? Can you learn from John and get really disciplined in your closet?
After a few months of working with him, I can proudly say he’s revamped his style for the better and walks through the world more confidently.
So, let’s break down what you can learn from my work with John and some principles you can add to your styling routine.
Creating Systems To Easily Dress to Your Personal Style
Let’s face it — we don’t have all the time in the world to get ready for things like work or special events. And not all of us enjoy the process of dressing ourselves – we want to get the job done as efficiently as possible but still, look great. So, even for women over 40, establishing a system for getting dressed can be a game-changer that saves time, maximizes our appearance, and makes us feel amazing.
Here are some excellent ways to systemize, so you’re always rocking your personal style:
1. Culling Your Closet
This is a fantastic way to stay organized and save yourself time. Culling your closet means grouping articles of clothing by color or by fabric (texture). For example, keep your silk pieces in one part of the closet or group your favorite yellow pieces. I separate my clothes by type: pants, dresses, skirts, tops, jackets, and then by color from light to dark.
I also believe in only having clothes in my closet that I am currently wearing. That means if they temporarily don’t fit – they go in an aspirational pile, out of sight. If they are off-season – same deal – out of sight until the weather changes.
Get as creative as you’d like! With this system, you don’t even have to think when you’re getting ready.
2. Have Your Tailor On Speed Dial
Professional tailors are very knowledgeable about what fits you and how to alter clothes to fit you perfectly. Go to someone great, even if you just need your pants hemmed. Don’t cheap out on this: if someone blows it and hems your pants too short or unevenly, it won’t matter that you got a better deal on the alterations. A great tailor is worth every penny you pay them. Whether it’s a blazer, a jacket, or dress pants, take it from me — it’s one of the best investments you can make!
3. Think About Getting Closet Dividers
Closet dividers help you organize your clothing by their commonalities. Earlier I mentioned organizing clothes by color or by fabric. With your dividers, you can label your fabrics so that you can easily spot them in the morning or whenever you’re picking out what to wear.
Closet dividers come in many shapes and forms. Some are clip-ons that you can put on regular hangers, and others are shelf dividers for your folded clothes. Amazon is a great place to find these, so give them a go.
4. Plan Your Outfits for The Whole Week
Planning your outfit for the week is a great way of staying style-conscious while saving time. (Are you noticing a theme here, ladies and gentlemen?) If you’re the super-organized type, you can further calibrate your choices based on the weather forecast for each day or what you plan on doing.
For example, suppose you have an important work meeting on Thursday. In that case, that’s a day for your favorite professional attire and accessory combination. And if Fridays are “casual” days in the office, you can plan to wear your dark jeans, with a lovely pattern blouse. Both these looks can be projections of your personal style.
Style 101: 7 Fashion Basics for Personal Style
Understanding Compatible Colors
Wearing colors that complement one another is one of the best ways to make your outfit stand out. A great start is to understand what colors go well with your skin tone, what colors you enjoy, and what colors go well together.
To find colors that fit well together, look at a color wheel. Compatible colors can be complementary colors (colors opposite one another in the color wheel.) Even if they’re very different, pairing bold colors can be a great idea since it isn’t always done, refreshing your look in interesting ways.
You can also pair bright colors with more neutral colors like black, gray, or navy blue.
Mix-Match Fabrics And Textures
Exotic Eva is a great Avatar to check out if you relate to fabrics and textures that set you apart. If you like more soft and feminine fabrics, Feminine Fiona is your go-to woman.
Patterns and prints can bring out personality in otherwise traditional pieces. Some common patterns are popular today, but also try some hidden gems.
Here’s a list of pattern designs you can try out in your wardrobe:
- Animal patterns (Leopard, zebra, cheetah print, etc.
Creative Cleo and Dramatic Darla are great archetypes when it comes to putting together patterns in exciting ways that work!
Accessorize For Details
Details, details, details.
Some outfits are made or broken by adding the right accessories.
Having an array of rings, bracelets, and watches of different colors gives you more pairing options. But make sure not to overdo it, though. Typically 3-4 items are all you need at any one time.
With colors, think of having your handbag match the color of your shoes. The color match doesn’t have to be exact to make it work. It can be in the same color family – or on the opposite side of the color wheel. Experiment! You may be surprised.
Try incorporating bright color accessories to add some “pop” to an outfit if you’re wearing neutral colors.
And, as always, think of accessories as an extension of your “personal brand.” As an image consultant, this has been the approach that has helped my clients improve their style while remaining true to who they are, authentically.
We just spoke about accessories and the importance of not overdoing it.
Because you want your outfit to have balance. Too much of a good thing is usually bad, isn’t it? Balance comes down to the colors you wear, as well. How are they working together to make your outfit unique?
Achieving balance comes down to not overdoing too much of one thing.
The Right Fit
To look confident and feel amazing in your clothes, making them fit is just as important as the clothes themselves.
When I was working with John, the tailoring of his clothes made them not only look 10x better but feel 10x better as well. And as I mentioned earlier, creating styling “systems” gives. you routines that make dressing well something you don’t even have to think about.
So, tailoring your clothes helps you achieve not only that, but the style and the confidence you’ve always wanted.
What you Can Learn From John
John was a joy to work with. He didn’t let anything hold him back from making a change with his wardrobe. I hope you’ve taken some valuable lessons from his patience and open-mindedness from the beginning to the end of his personal style journey. Now he has a wonderful on-brand wardrobe, and systems for keeping it in good condition.
Being open-minded and persistent are two qualities that can have a domino effect from your style to your career as well.
I hope you enjoyed this story about John and took away some valuable fashion insights. Have any questions for me? Feel free to send me an email anytime!