5 Simple Summer Swaps

In our last post we mentioned some easy ‘Summer Swaps’.  These are simple changes that you could make right now to immediately update your wardrobe for what’s left of summer.
 

Swap #1: Black Blazer for a White Blazer

99% of you probably have a black blazer in your closet that you love. You wear it to work layered over a dress and you wear it on the weekend with a tee and denim. That’s great, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a classic black blazer. We love them. However, for summer, why not lighten it up and choose a white blazer instead? It's crisp and fresh and just as versatile.

Swap #2: Sheath for a Shift

The terms sheath and shift are often used interchangeably, although they actually refer to two distinct styles and silhouettes.

A sheath dress is one that fits closer to the body. It’s not necessarily tight, but it does very closely follow the lines and form of the body. It has a very streamlined silhouette and typically hits at, or slightly above, the knee.

A shift dress hangs from the shoulders with a column effect that skims the body offering more room through the bust, waist and hips.

These are both flattering and work appropriate. I personally love a sheath dress, they're usually my ‘go to’ silhouette for the office. However, when the temps and humidity rise, I find myself swapping out some of my sheaths for a looser fitting shift that allows for more air circulation around the body. It also feels slightly more relaxed, aligning with a summer vibe.

Swap #3:  Skinny Pant for a Wide Leg Pant

For many of the same reasons why we recommend swapping your sheath for a shift, we recommend putting your skinny pant aside, and reaching for a wider leg silhouette. A skinny pant is a classic, it’s flattering, easy to wear and versatile.  The wide leg pant is breezy and flowy and has a modern feel to it.  

Swap #4:  White Button Down for a Chambray Button Down

Most people have a least one trusty white button down that they reach for pretty frequently. That’s smart, you should have one or two, however, consider switching it up this summer and  swapping your white button down for a soft chambray. A chambray comes in many different shades (light wash to very dark washes) and styles (clean lines, buttons, snaps). Find one that matches your office culture and personality. We love this swap because the chambray offers just as much versatility as the button-down classic. You can still wear it under blazers with your favorite skirt or with denim.

Swap #5:  Fashion Sneaker for a Mule or Slide

If you’re like most women, you’ve definitely embraced the fashion sneaker. It's a great option for a commuting shoe - comfortable and modern and there are so many different styles and colors to choose from. Definitely keep your fashion sneakers around, you'll want to pull them back out this fall. However, you might think about taking a break from them this summer.

A flat slide or mule is a great alternative - both styles seem to be having a moment. A slide is a backless shoe that is open toe. A mule is similar, but typically closed toe. These are functional - easy to take on and off - and comfortable. They’re perfect for all your summer commuting.

Make one or all of these swaps and you’ll be one step closer to updating your work wardrobe for the rest of the summer (it’s not over yet!).  We’d love to hear some of your favorite summer swaps!

An Evening of Style in Brooklyn Heights

Last week we were invited to speak at a women’s networking event for the fabulous ladies at Bernstein Partners. The event was held in a beautiful garden that’s juts up against the promenade in Brooklyn Heights, offering amazing downtown NYC views. The weather was hot and steamy, but at least the rain held off!

This event was slightly different from our usual corporate training sessions. It was held after hours and the rosé was flowing! We customized our content and delivery to the audience (a diverse group of professional women) and environment (no powerpoint slides here!).  

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The ladies at this Wall Street firm must dress professionally, but they’re also a stylish bunch. We worked with the event organizer and developed a presentation specifically for this group. We started by talking about five, easy ‘Summer Swaps’ that can instantly update your work wardrobe for the season. We made this interactive and relevant to everyone by incorporating a ‘splurge’ vs ‘steal’ element to the presentation. For each of our recommendations, we showcased an item that was a higher price point and one at a more budget friendly price, and had the attendees guess which was which. The group had a lot of fun and they often surprised us with their answers!

We then moved on to a discussion around trends. We highlighted some our favorites and discussed how to wear these them to work and then again on the weekend. This was great because it opened up dialogue around what individuals felt comfortable wearing in their specific office and role.

Please put one of the last 2 pics that Robyn sent (just not the one with the ugly background)

When the presentation was over, we were able to engage in one-on-one and smaller group conversations with these women.  We had a blast! Most of them came up to check out our rack of items and even try some on some pieces.  We introduced them to new brands and new ways to put things together. We actually heard that a day or two after the event one attendee showed up to work looking confident and professional in a crisp white blazer and silk joggers.

We wanted to write about this event a) because it was really fun b) it was a bit outside the box and c) to give you some more insight into what we do!

Results in a post-event survey indicated that all the respondents felt they learned something new and that the content was interesting, informative and relevant to them.  They also noted that it was delivered in a fun and engaging way.  We were thrilled with this type of feedback.  It's exactly what we strive to do with every presentation.  We want employees to leaving feeling empowered in their ability to create a professional, polished and stylish work wardrobe, just like these women did! 

It got us thinking of other venues and opportunities to deliver this content that we’re so passionate about. Going into companies and educating professionals is still at the forefront of what we do, but it's also nice to get out of the office, sip a glass of wine and talk styling in a less formal setting - and while we’re at it, let’s play some fashion games too!

All About Moms: More Style and Less Stress!

More style and less stress..that sounds pretty good, right? And if you’re a busy working mom it may sound almost impossible, but trust us, it isn’t.

At FirstSeven, we’ve developed training content specifically for professional moms.  Two-thirds of the company's co-founders are Moms. Faith has three adorable kiddos and I have a pretty cute (if I do say so myself) four year old.  

Faith with her 3 cutie pies (in coordinating looks, of course)

Faith with her 3 cutie pies (in coordinating looks, of course)

My daughter, she's all about sparkles and pink!

My daughter, she's all about sparkles and pink!

I clearly remember the day I went back to work, after being fortunate enough to stay home with my baby for four months. Yes, I remember the emotions that every new mom feels the day she finally has to (gets to?) walk out the door and leave for a whole day: guilt, sadness, excitement.  But even more that, I remember what I wore and the preparation that went into my first day back.  I also remember the stress that accompanied that morning, and pretty much every morning since.

Me and my daughter on my first day back at work after maternity leave.

Me and my daughter on my first day back at work after maternity leave.

I was still nursing, so I had to think about the functionality of my outfit.  I was also struggling to find something that fit the same way it used to! As the years go on and my daughter continues to grow and change, my morning routine also changes and evolves - but the one consistent piece is that I will never again have my mornings to myself (not complaining at all - I wouldn't have it any other way, I’m just stating a fact!).  My morning routine now centers around my daughter which means I have less time to focus on myself.  My mornings need to be streamlined.  My closet has to work for me.  I have to know that everything fits and is flattering (on my body as it is now, not how I hope it will be eventually).  

And I'm not alone:

Everyone performs better when they’re feeling confident - and moms are no exception. With this in mind, we have a few recommendations for professional moms that will get them out the door every morning stress free, and have them walking into the office full of confidence.

Streamline your closet:

Sometimes less really is more. We recommend doing a very thorough closet edit. You can do it yourself, invite a good friend over to help, or hire a professional.  FirstSeven offers Closet Edits as part of our Private Coaching.  A good closet edit leaves you feeling lighter & cleansed. It results in a closet consisting of pieces that are modern, flattering and that fit you really well. It also helps you identify any gaps, that when filled, result in a really functional wardrobe.  This means that you can literally go in your closet and grab pretty much anything and know it will work.  How’s that for stress free living?

Maximize Accessories:

Take an audit of your shoes and bags and make sure they’re all in good condition.  A bag or shoe is always something we recommend investing in, if you can. The cost per wear will always be good, and there’s something about a fabulous shoe or a great new bag that will put a spring in your step.

You can also use accessories like jewelry and scarves as a more budget friendly way to update your look and maximize the wearability of your staples. A neutral sheath would look classic and professional with a nude heel and delicate layered necklace. It would take on a very different (but still chic) look with a pointed toe flat and a statement necklace.

Another key benefit to accessories is (drumroll please…) they always fit!  Also necklaces, earrings and shoes can be used to draw the eye up, or down, and away from any problem areas.

Build a Capsule Wardrobe:

Start by identifying the dress silhouettes that work best for your body type, then start building your dress wardrobe.  Dresses are ‘insta outfits’ and we love them! Throw one on in seconds, add a shoe and accessory and you’re good to go.  Make sure you have a few dresses that you love and reach for them on your busiest mornings.

Next, think about your separates; start with blouses, trousers and skirts. Customize by going deeper in one category and lighter in another based on your personal preferences. That said, a good rule of thumb is five blouses/tops, three trousers and two skirts. If you chose these items strategically so that everything can be mixed and matched, you’ll have 25+ easy work outfits. Add on a couple blazers and denim (if your office allows denim) and your options will grow even more.

With all of these categories, focus on classic pieces, but always include at least one trendier piece to keep your look modern.

Moms are such a valuable part of the workforce.  Anything we can do to help support them is a win for everyone. The team at FirstSeven was so excited when we learned of ‘re-launch’ and ‘re-entry’ programs.  Many of these program support all people who have had to leave the workforce for an extended length of time, but many of them focus on moms who are coming back to paid work after taking time to raise their family.  It's wonderful that so many companies are recognizing and fostering the development of this segment!

I may be starting to sound like a broken record, but what you wear matters. Moms in particular may be struggling with their confidence, especially if they’re re-entering. We believe these strategies will go far in helping to ease their transition and building their confidence.

Please reach out to us if your company has a re-entry program, we’d love to talk about how our training could enhance the program.

I’d also love to hear from all you amazing working moms out there. What are your go-to strategies for getting out the door looking and feeling great?

Because we didn't want Lili to be left out..Lili and my daughter clearly making important phone calls.

Because we didn't want Lili to be left out..Lili and my daughter clearly making important phone calls.

Keeping it Casual: A Few 'Dos' and 'Don'ts' for Mastering Your Style in a Casual Work Environment

Business casual is a very common term, but when you think about it, it's actually a bit of an oxymoron, right? It can be a challenge for many people to master a polished and professional look in a work environment that leans more to the casual end of the spectrum. While it's fantastic that people are allowed more freedom these days in choosing what they want to wear, sometimes this freedom can be overwhelming and a bit daunting.  

What started out as a movement a decade or so ago, with the ever popular Casual Friday has really grown and evolved. Today whole industries and geographies are (ie Silicon Valley) becoming very casual, every day. Even typically conservative industries like finance and law are slowly loosening up their dress codes, and there’s a whole range in between. This can make it tough for anyone to figure out what to wear on a daily basis.   

Consider this interesting data from Euromonitor. In the last 10 years, the US market for women’s suits shrank by about 77%, while the market for leggings more than quadrupled. That’s a dramatic shift,  and pretty telling about trends and formality.

While every company has its own unique culture and vibe, there are a few universal dos and don'ts that will help you navigate the confusing world of business casual.  Don’t forget you can shop our favorite pieces related to each of these tips on our ‘Shop the Blog’ page.

Trends:

Trends are fun and fresh. Who doesn’t love trends? Our advice on trends is to go for it. Pick one or two each season that excite you and incorporate them into your work wardrobe, in small doses. A couple of our favorite trends this summer, ruffles and wider leg pants, can be great in the office. That said, don’t over do it. Avoid going head to toe trend, make sure to feature a couple classic pieces as well. 

Do incorporate a couple of your favorite season trends.

Don’t wear trend pieces head to toe.

 

Dresses:

A dress is a great option for a casual work environment, when done right. Some of our favorite casual dress styles are absolutely office appropriate: a shirt dress, wrap, chambray.  However, some casual dresses can cross that line and be too casual. Here’s a good rule of thumb, if you’d wear it to the beach or a pool, save it for the weekend. 

Do wear dresses to the office.

Don’t mistake a cover up for a dress.

Denim:

We love denim for a casual office. What’s not to love? It's easy to wear and care for and so comfy, not to mention there are so many amazing denim styles to choose from. When choosing denim for the office, remember darker denim is always a bit less casual than a lighter wash. Not to say you can’t wear a lighter wash, but just putting it in perspective. With denim at work, fit is key. Make sure your denim doesn’t have a low rise or gaps at the waist. A skinny style is fine, but too tight isn’t. We’d also avoid overly distressed denim at work. If you want to incorporate a trendier denim this season a high rise wide leg is a fabulous option!

Do wear denim to the office. Focus on fit and style.

Don’t wear ill fitting or overly distressed styles.

Accessories:

Accessories can be really fun and they’re a great way to show off your personal style, at work and on the weekend. In the office you can definitely go bold with statement jewelry, if that’s your thing. One piece of advice though is to avoid any jewelry that can be distracting to you or your colleagues; think jangly bracelets or necklaces that bounce when you walk.

Do use accessories to showcase your personal style.

Don’t let them be a distraction.

 

Shoes:

In a casual workplace, your shoe options are practically limitless, especially in the summer months. Anything from a fashion sneaker to a great pair of sandals can be appropriate. That said, one of our biggest no-nos are flip flops. Not only are they distracting - who wants to hear FLIP FLOP, FLIP FLOP all day long as you’re walking around the office? - they’re also one of the worst choices for foot health.  If you must wear a flip flop, please save them for the beach!

Do wear fashion sneakers and fun sandals that show off your summer pedi.

Don’t sport a flip flop (because a flip is always a flop).

Enjoy the freedom that comes with a casual workplace. Show off your personal style and have fun dressing each and every day. Be creative, be comfortable but never compromise your professionalism!

Beating the Heat: Five Tips on How to Stay Polished and Professional This Summer

Now that summer is in full swing, it’s time to give some serious thought to your summer work wardrobe.  As the days get longer (actually they’re getting shorter now, aren't they?)...and hotter...and more humid… and our thoughts drift to barbeques, beaches and bikinis, that’s no excuse to let your professional image suffer!

It can be such a challenge to to keep your look fresh and polished when all you want to do is stay cool and comfortable. Well, we’re here to help!   

We have five easy tips that will take you through Labor Day and beyond, stylishly! We’ve also added a shoppable page to our website. It will feature some of our favorites pieces and will be updated with each blog post!

  1. Fabrics:  Try to stick with natural breathable fibers when you can. Fabrics like cotton and linen are always great choices because they wick moisture away and are breathable. A blend of natural fibers with some man made fibers is also a good option. Look for garments with a blend of cotton or linen, combined with a small percentage of nylon, rayon & spandex. Garments made with a blend will also detract moisture, plus they’re so easy to maintain - they’re machine washable and wrinkle resistant. What’s not lot love about that?

Now that you know the fabrics to look for, here are some tips on how to incorporate them into your work wardrobe. 

Cotton is typically a more casual fabric, but you can wear a high quality cotton tee to the office under a lightweight blazer for a professional look, and you can’t go wrong with a cotton button down and a pencil skirt. If you’re choosing linen, the obvious concern is wrinkling. We recommend a structured linen in the form of a shift dress or a blazer. A blend is a great choice for a new, easy to wear summer work dress.

2.  Fit:  On the hottest of hot days, loose is best! Take your sheath dresses and set them aside in favor of a looser fitting shift dress (try one in linen, as mentioned above), or an a-line dress in a blend.  Give your slim fitting trousers a break and incorporate a flowy wide leg pant.  A midi skirt in a breezy fabrication is also an item to consider. Looser fitting garments allow for air to circulate and flow over your body giving moisture the opportunity dry up and provide you with a cooling sensation. 

3.  Color:  We all know that light colors reflect the sun, while darker colors absorb those warming rays. Use the summer as an opportunity to explore lighter colors and prints. If you don’t already have one, it's time to invest in a great white or off white blazer.  You’ll find yourself reaching for it all season long. The same goes for dresses; if you’re in a business formal environment and your black sheath dress is a go-to, consider purchasing one in white or a pale shade.  It makes for a super sophisticated and fresh look.

4.  Hair:  Don’t let your hair weigh you down and heat you up. Use a dab of styling gel and pull your locks into a sleek ponytail or chic chignon. Keeping your hair off your neck and away from your face will go a long way in helping you keep your cool this summer. 

5. Layers:  This last tip may seem counterintuitive. You alway hear people talk about layering up to keep warm, not cool. Layers actually work really well in the heat too. Consider the fact that there can be a 40 plus degree temperature shift from outside on the street to in your office or on the train. You can go from sweaty to freezing in a matter of minutes. Choose layers that are lightweight and easy to take on and off. Incorporate some of the earlier tips when you choose your layers:  breathable fabrics, lighter colors and a looser fit. We love taking the layer and simply draping over our shoulders for coverage with a bit of a cool factor sprinkled in.

Enjoy the summer and embrace the heat...we only have it for a few short months. Use the change of seasons as an opportunity to refresh your work style by incorporating a few of these tips.  Don’t forget to shop our curated selection of summer must haves! 

 

What You Wear Matters: The science behind dressing for success

In our last post, we introduced the idea of science to support our belief that what you wear matters.  While I don’t think anyone would dispute this claim, it's nice to have some research to back it up.   

Who out there hasn’t experienced that feeling of putting on something that makes you stand up a bit taller, walk more purposefully, and speak more confidently?

Enclothed Cognition is a term that was introduced in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2012 by a team of researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  They conducted a series of experiments that showcased the power of a lab coat.  This lab coat affected not only how others perceived the wearer, it actually increased the performance on attention related tasks for the group wearing the lab coat, compared to a group without a lab coat.   Now, I’m not suggesting that we all go around wearing lab coats, but this study does prove that what we choose to wear can impact our performance.

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Another interesting finding from this study involved the symbolic meaning of the item.  The team found that when subjects were told the white coat was a painter’s coat, there was no effect at all on the attention tests - the positive effect came only when subjects were told it was a doctor’s lab coat.  This may explain why a pair of Christian Louboutin heels make us feel powerful, while a similar looking pump from a less prestigious brand doesn’t have the same effect.  The researches concluded “Clothes can have a profound and systematic psychological and behavioural consequences for their wearers.”  

Although the saying goes that clothes do not make the man (or woman), our results suggest they do hold a strange power over their wearers.
— Hajo Adam & Adam Galinsky

Another paper published in Social Psychology and Personality Science “suggests that wearing relatively formal clothing is associated with increased abstract processing in everyday life, outside a laboratory context." Abstract processing is related to ‘big picture’ thinking - this is the kind of thinking necessary for executive and leadership roles. While I wouldn’t use this study to advocate eliminating casual fridays, it clearly supports ‘dressing up’ when you have some important work to do.  Even Michael Slepain, the first author of the paper referenced in this paragraph, has stepped up his own wardrobe a bit, ‘When I work at home, I maybe dress a little nicer now,’ he said.  (nymag.com, May 15 2015).  There you have it friends!

When you need to think creatively , about the bigger picture, that’s when dressing more formally will increase your productivity
— Michael L. Slepian

The last study I’ll reference, is perhaps the most concrete in terms of demonstrating an actual quantifiable benefit of dressing purposefully. This study came out of the Yale School of Management, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2014.  The study divided men into groups, one group wore business suits another  group wore very casual clothing, and the third group was neutral, remaining in the clothes they arrived in.  He then had the groups participate in mock negotiations where the neutral group acted as the sellers, selling a hypothetical factory to the other 2 groups. “In the end, the suits proved much less willing to concede ground during the negotiations, moving off their initial offer by an average of only $830,000, compared with $2.81 million for those in sweatpants “(Wall Street Journal, Why Dressing for Success Leads to Success)

If these studies haven’t convinced you of the power your wardrobe choices have, consider this: 

  • 41% of employers said that people who dress better or more professionally tend to be promoted more often than others in their organization (Careerbuilder)

  • You can earn up to 5% more annually by simply upgrading your wardrobe (Newsweek)

  • Over 50% of U.S. Corporate hiring managers suggest professionals spend as much time on their image as on their resume (Newsweek)

 

Paying a bit more attention to what you wear just makes sense.  We’d love to hear your stories about how you ‘stepped it up’ a bit and felt the positive effects!

Introducing FIRST|SEVEN, because every second counts!

Did you know that employees who dress well are viewed as more reliable, successful and driven by their colleagues, clients and business partners?  It’s true, and there’s plenty of scientific research to back that up. We’ll delve into some of these fascinating studies in future posts, but first we want to introduce ourselves. 

FirstSeven is a Corporate Training firm that works directly with companies, typically through their Learning & Development departments. We create content and deliver training seminars to educate professionals on how to improve their performance, by upgrading their image.

FirstSeven was founded by three fashion industry veterans who have worked for years styling thousands of clients across the country.  Do you know what the biggest ‘need state’ was for these clients?  Yes, you guessed it...there was a huge demand for assistance with workwear.  Women reached out when they were headed back to work after taking time to raise their family, when they changed careers or when their company’s dress code went from business formal to business casual

Working with these clients was so rewarding! After incorporating our styling suggestions we’d hear how they felt more confident, which helped them to nail a big presentation.  They told us that they started to feel more professional, they stood a little taller, spoke up a little clearer, and this translated directly to their productivity.  We heard stories of how they felt they were getting more respect and were being taken more seriously by their clients and business partners.  Since there was such a need for this type of education, we decided to evolve from working only one on one, to reaching more people through informative, interactive and fun group training sessions.

We’ve created content on a wide range of topics, all of which are relevant to the workplace. I’ll touch on a few of our favorites, to give you an idea of what we’re about:

Keeping it Casual:  So many companies and industries are moving to be more casual.  While this is a welcome evolution for many employees, it can be challenging to navigate. From an employer perspective, it can be awkward and difficult to enforce a more casual dress code, especially in a more creative environment.  In this session we will teach employees how they can continue to showcase their personal style while still being professional and client ready.

All About Moms:  This is a module we created specifically to assist moms.  Women make up 57% of the workforce and 70% of moms with kids 18 or younger are working outside the home.  Working moms face their own unique challenges, especially those who are reentering the workplace. This time can be a big adjustment for many women, whether they’ve been home with a newborn for a few short months, or if they stayed home for an extended time to raise their family.  In our All About Moms training session, we’ll help women look and feel confident by sharing tips and tactics to ease their morning routine while ensuring they’re looking and feeling their best.  We were so excited to learn about ‘Re-Entry’ programs in which many companies are investing, this module would be a great complement to those, it also works wonderfully as a stand alone session. 

Fit Matters:  Fit is one of the most important aspects of style. It doesn't matter how expensive your shirt was or who designed your blazer, if the fit is bad, it will look bad. With the right fit, you'll look and feel secure, confident and happy. But, in order to achieve the proper fit, you need to know your body type and how to dress for it. We will show you various styling techniques to flatter your figure while educating on fit.

These are just a few of the sessions we’ve developed.  There are several more, and we also welcome the opportunity to customize content specific to your company and its unique challenges.   

If you’re involved in Learning & Development,  HR or simply want to learn more about FirstSeven, please connect with us, go to our website and/or comment on this post and we’ll reach out to you!

If you’re a professional woman (established, or just starting out) please follow us for proven tips on how to build a great work wardrobe on a budget and some strategies to get you from desk to dinner, flawlessly (among other topics). We’ll post at least once a week in the beginning, and we’ll ramp up from there.  In addition to styling tips and suggestions, we’ll share more about each of the co-founders, as well as some inspirational client stories, and scientific research that validates the importance of focusing some of your attention on your outward appearance.  

Please let us know if there are any specific challenges you’re facing in regards to your work wardrobe and we’ll make sure to address them!