fashion

The Missing Piece in Many Corporate Training Programs

Each of us has probably experienced a moment when a leader enters a room and she instantly attracts the attention of everyone present. Heads turn, conversations halt and everyone just gravitates toward her. Perhaps you can recall a time listening to a CEO address the company or simply chatting with a successful team leader at a holiday party - you just want to listen and engage. You feel motivated and inspired, and led. These people have what some might call a wow factor, and in business it's usually referred to as Executive Presence. There’s quite a bit of research that’s been done on executive presence, and most of them come back to some version of what’s laid out below:

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Most people will agree that to be successful in many career paths, certainly those that involve high-level leadership and management, a certain level of executive presence is crucial.

Most people would also agree that companies should provide training to their employees to help guide them along in their career development and provide growth opportunities. In fact, 68% of workers said that training and development is the most important workplace policy for them. It’s particularly important to millennials, 87% say professional development opportunities are very important. (per a State of the Industry Report from ClearCompany).

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training. These companies also enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who spend less on training. It would seem that continuing to invest in training and development, even when there are economic downturns, is the smart play.”

So what does all this have to do with executive presence, you might ask?  Well, we’ve seen our share of really robust training programs and we’ve talked to many professionals who have been on the receiving end of these programs.  Between the three of us, we've spent decades at companies where they have truly invested in their learning & development programs; offering Presentation Skills, Conflict Management, Leadership Training, Writing & Business Communication Workshops, Negotiation Skills and Effective Brainstorming, just to name a few.  These courses are phenomenal. They help develop character, form behavior and they ensure there is substance and clear communication.  That said, we’ve yet to see any courses that focus specifically on those other key elements of executive presence - style and appearance.

That’s one of the reasons we founded FirstSeven!

According to a study done by LinkedIn, 27 percent of North American businesses are going to spend more on internal learning programs in 2018. Hopefully, some of this increased investment will fund programs to allow employees to explore the power that image has on improving their executive presence and enhancing their career!

Today we’re busy putting some final touches on a program for a top global law firm that has recognized the value of personal branding and executive presence.  We’re so excited to share it with a room full of very successful professionals. Check in next week and we'll tell you all about it!

What's Your Thanksgiving Style?

Thanksgiving, and the official kick off of the holiday season, is right around the corner. That begs the question...what are you going to wear? Thanksgiving style is very personal and very dependent on your destination, and how you're planning on celebrating the big day. Your style could range from super comfortable (maybe just a step of from PJs), if you’re staying home with your immediate family, or you could get dressed up if you're heading to a gathering with extended family who you only see once a year. Your destination and mode of transportation could play a deciding factor between choosing your OTK boots or glittery fashion sneakers. Maybe your family likes to head outside after the big meal and play a game of touch football or maybe the party continues inside with an extended cocktail hour. Whatever your destination and family traditions are, we’ve got you covered. 

Take this quiz to determine your perfect Thanksgiving style! And don’t forget to shop all the amazing pieces - there’s still time for delivery before the big day.

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Maybe you’re Classic & Traditional. You always look elegant, but simple. Your holiday table embodies this style too, with fine china and traditional dishes that are served every year. A beautiful neutral dress, straight leg trouser and a silk blouse or a soft cashmere twin set and pearls are your go-to pieces for this holiday.

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On the other end of the spectrum, you could be Trendy & Fashion Forward. You’re always the most stylish one at the party and you want to make sure all your cousins notice your outfit. In fact, you know all your friends and family look forward to seeing what you’ll be wearing!  This year you might be debating between a ruffle sleeve dress, a velvet jumpsuit and a deconstructed top. Are those glitter booties too much? Never!

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You’re looking forward to catching up with good friends and family. You want to be able to get down on the floor and play with your nieces and nephews, but you also want to look nice for the family photo! You’ll be Casual, but Refined. Denim and a cashmere sweater or booties and a midi dress is what you’ll be dining in this year.

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You’re spending the holiday with people you see pretty much every day, no need to dress to impress.  Today is all about staying comfortable and relaxed. Your style is definitely Comfortable & Casual; think cozy cardigans, sweatshirts and leggings.

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Whatever style you choose, be comfortable, be happy and most importantly take a minute and just be Thankful.

Introducing #MondayMuse!

What’s a Monday Muse you might ask? #MondayMuse is a term we use to refer to all the successful, accomplished women we look up to. They are the women who inspire us to get out of bed every Monday and start the week full of energy and optimism. Some of our Monday Muses have overcome enormous set backs, but came out the other side stronger than ever. And, because we’re stylists at heart, all of our Muses are polished, professional and exude their very own enviable, personal style.

Today we’re going to highlight a couple of our favorite Monday Muses. The best part is, you can shop their style right from the blog! Another fun twist is our #MondayMuse quiz. Take the quiz below and find out which Monday Muse you’re most like (and of course, shop her style).

Jenna Lyons

While Jenna might not be a household name, she should be. Jenna’s story is a modern day fairy tale, with a real life heroine. If you’re not familiar with Jenna, she was (until very recently) the president and creative director of J.Crew, where she became the face of the brand. She spent her entire career at J.Crew, moving up the ranks after starting as an assistant designer straight out of Parsons School of Design.

She has been pretty open in various interviews about her tough childhood. She suffered from a genetic disorder which affected her skin, caused her hair to fall out in patches and impacted the look and functionality of her teeth. A disorder like this is hard on anyone, but it must have been particularly heartbreaking for a little girl. She reports being bullied and as a result, became shy and introverted. Her childhood experiences led her to fashion. She told Sarah Harris from The Guardian, "it was the reason I loved fashion, because it can change who you are and how you feel, and that can be magical." 

At J.Crew, Jenna was a key player in turning the company around in the early 2000s. From 2003-2011, J.Crew tripled its revenues from under $700MM to almost $2B. Now that’s impressive!  

Jenna is also known for her personal style, which has been described as geek-chic. It’s a playful mix of high and low. She loves a great print or two (or three), and her signature red lip and black frame glasses typically complete her look

Jenna left J.Crew earlier this year, and we can’t wait to see what she does next!

 

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Amal Clooney

Amal Clooney is another notable Monday Muse. And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that she married one of the world’s most eligible bachelors. It has everything to do with how accomplished she is in both her professional and personal life; and her style is simply swoon worthy.

She’s a practicing international law and human rights lawyer. She’s an active philanthropist; acting as president and co-founder of the Clooney Foundation for Justice and partnering with the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative to award the Amal Clooney Scholarship each year. She’s also an activist, author, and new mother.

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We’d love to hear from you?  Who are some of your #MondayMuses?

Don’t forget to take the quiz and share your results on your social.

4 Things to Consider When Investing in a New Work Bag

You’ll notice the word ‘investing’ in the title of this post. . . that’s not by accident. A great work bag is an investment. We’re not saying you have to spend thousands of dollars, but this is an item where we encourage you to choose the highest quality you can afford. You’ll be glad you did!

If you’ve decided you’re in the market for a new work bag, here are the four key things you should consider before you take the plunge:

Size:

Think about what you need your work bag to hold. Do you commute via public transportation or do you drive? Do you carry your laptop back and forth? What about your lunch and gym clothes? Answers to these questions will help you decide how big to go. We'll always recommend to size up. One large bag will always look more put together than carrying multiple small bags. Ever hear of the term bag lady? It's not a compliment!

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Organization/Functionality:  

After you’ve determined what you’ll carry in your work bag, think about how you like it organized. Do you like to have a pocket for everything, or do you feel more organized when you have items separated into a few groups? We had a client who was hyper organized and wanted to invest in a new work bag that had a specific space designated for basically everything she would ever carry. We found her a fabulous bag with more pockets (both interior and exterior) than we had ever imagined. She loved it and started using it right away. After about a week she called and said the bag just wasn’t working for her because there were too many pockets. She kept forgetting where she put things and the result was she couldn’t find anything. So, think this through and decide what would work best for you!

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Carrying Options:  

Think about what kind of straps and carrying options you want or need. Do you like to wear your bags crossbody? This is a good option if you have a walking commute and tend to carry a lot - it distributes the weight making it more comfortable to carry. Or maybe you you prefer to carry it in your hand or over your forearm? These are all great options, but we recommend looking for a bag that allows you to carry it different ways. Look for a bag with convertible handles and straps for increased versatility (and comfort!), your chiropractor will thank you!  

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  • Color:

If you’re investing a significant amount of money into what will be your primary work bag, we recommend going with a neutral color. A good place to start is by taking a look at your current work wardrobe, including shoes and outerwear. Do you find you wear mostly black or do you gravitate more towards tans and beiges? This should determine the direction you go. If you already have a great black or tan work bag, choose one in a fabulous color, such as plum, bright red or a deep navy.

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Your work bag says a lot about you. It will also help keep you organized and functional. There are so many gorgeous options out there.  We can’t wait to see what you choose!

4 Office Friendly Fall Trends

A couple weeks ago we were going crazy over wearing the color red this fall. We’re still excited about this trend, but realize most people will have to incorporate it sparingly. So, we decided to scour the runways and bring you a few more amazing trends that are totally wearable, in most offices (you won’t see a write up of head-to-toe feathers - were looking at you Balenciaga - in this post!).

Before we get into our favorites, just a thought about how to approach your fall wardrobe updates. Read through these highlights, look at the photos and identify a couple that really excite you. Take a look at your wardrobe and determine your missing pieces, then start shopping! Approach this strategically and you’ll end up with modern pieces that work seamlessly with your existing wardrobe.  

Florals

Florals are in again for fall (are they ever out?). This season's florals have a vintage vibe, they're darker and bit moodier. A light-weight, even sheer, floral blouse would look great this time of year with a cami and pencil skirt for the office (or a pleated leather or faux leather skirt). Wear it later with the same pencil skirt, but with a blazer layered on top.  

We’re also loving floral dresses for the office. Again, choose a darker floral in a classic silhouette. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with an all-over florally number, put a sweater or jacket on top to tone it down a bit.

We love this trend so much we couldn't limit it to just one photo. Reminder to shop the blog for a great selection of all these trends.

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Plaids

This summer, gingham made its mark. This playful, preppy print was everywhere. Now it’s officially time to give your gingham a rest and pick up some plaid. This season's versions of plaid work for literally everybody. Choose a blazer or a whole suit in a conservative, but modern gray plaid. Or, if you like to push the envelope a bit, have fun with a bold color scheme.  

We’re really excited about the plaid suits were seeing everywhere. We have clients who don’t own a suit, and don’t really need one for their office, but they’ve expressed interest in owning one. We’re steering them toward a plaid suit in a modern, flattering cut.  

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Boxier Silhouettes

The wide-leg pant you've been wearing all summer will transition nicely into fall. Keep them around, and maybe pick up another pair to add to your rotation. A jacket in a boxier cut is also a smart investment for fall. Wear it now over a sundress (with booties) and wear it later over, well, pretty much everything!

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Slouchy Boot

The slouchy boot was ubiquitous on fall runways. It's an easy-to-wear, versatile style. Wear it now with a skirt or floral dress (and bare legs), then in cooler temps with a skirt and tights or slim pants and a blazer. It's perfect this time of year for a casual, weekend brunch when paired with leggings and a cozy knit.

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Picking up a few of these fabulous pieces will go along way in getting your wardrobe ready for the change of seasons. The good news is, you don't have to wait for the first frost to bust out these new purchases. Feel free to start wearing them ASAP!

What’s on your Fall shopping list?

Tips to Help You Master Business Travel

Business travel...some people embrace it; a  new city every week, people to meet and restaurants to try, not to mention having someone to make your bed every day.  Other people prefer to put their kids to bed and eat home cooked meals. Most of the clients we work with have some amount travel that’s required as part of their job. Whichever camp you fall into, simplifying your packing list should make for a more enjoyable experience!

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The number one thing that every seasoned business traveler will tell you is to only pack a carry on - never check a bag.  The reasons for this are twofold, first retrieving your checked luggage takes valuable time, which could leave you rushing to make it to that important meeting. Secondly, any time you check a bag, there’s a chance it may not make it to it's intended destination.  We’ve all been there. There’s nothing worse than having your power suit and heels end up in LA when you’re in London.  Sticking to a carry on is the way to go.  

When packing give some thought to each piece you choose; think about versatility (can I wear it more than once? Does it fill different roles?), bulk (how much space will it take up?) and feel (how does it make you feel?).

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  • Versatility: Try to avoid bringing too many items that only serve one purpose.  For example, a black wrap dress in jersey, not only travels well but can work well during the day when worn with a cami underneath and opaque tights.  Wear that same dress at night without a cami, bare legs and a statement necklace.   

Similarly, for men, a suit jacket can do double duty as a sport coat with denim for a more casual meeting.  

A fashion sneaker that you may wear to commute could also serve you in the hotel gym (assuming you’re going for a lighter workout, not 20 miles on the treadmill!).

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  • Bulk:  If you need to bring some bulkier, hard to pack items like a winter coat or a tall boot, incorporate those pieces into the outfit you wear on the plane, so you don’t have to struggle to stuff them into your carry on.  If you need a blazer or a suit jacket for your meeting, wear it on the plane and have the flight attendants hang it for you. That way you avoid packing it and it stays fresh and wrinkle free!
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  • Feel:  Business travel is not the time to experiment and try out new pieces.  We recommend choosing appropriate, modern outfits that you know make you feel comfortable and confident. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worn that outfit 3 times this season already, chances are people you’re traveling to meet with haven’t seen you in it yet!  

Also think about comfort.  Make sure you do have a comfortable pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off at security.  A cozy cashmere wrap is also a great piece to have handy in your carry on.

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These tips should make traveling for business a bit easier!  So, pack up, get out there and kill it at your meetings.  Oh, one other tip...definitely reward yourself with a post meeting/pre-flight drink in the airport bar, you’ve earned it!

What are some of your favorite tips for business travel?

First Day At a New Job? Make sure you dress to impress

This week we've seen our fill of social media posts showcasing kids in their adorable first day of shcool outfits.  All this talk about the first day of school got us thinking about the  first day at a new job - the importance of that first day outfit doesn’t lessen as you get older! Day one of a new job is critical for so many reasons. You're going to be meeting colleagues and clients for the first time and the impression you make on them will last, so you better make sure it's a good one. What you wear and how you present yourself are key components of that first impression.

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If you've been through a couple rounds of interviews at your new company, you have a distinct advantage because you've been exposed to the company and their culture. You've also observed what other people have been wearing. Take this knowledge and let it influence your wardrobe choice. If your interview has been virtual, then you should do a bit of research and see if you can get a sense of what would be appropriate.  

These general tips are relevant for all office environments, from super casual to business formal:

  1. Make sure you're physically comfortable and confident in whatever you choose. If you're uncomfortable with your outfit choice, for whatever reason, that will show. If you're not confident in what you're wearing, that will come across too, and you won't be presenting your best self.

  2. It should go without saying that each piece must be in impeccable shape (no pulls, scuffs, stains, etc) and that everything must fit properly.  

  3. Keep your day one outfit relatively simple. You'll have time to push the envelope and showcase more of your personal style later.  

In a business casual office, lean more towards the 'business' end of the spectrum than the 'causal' end, for day one. Avoid denim and anything overly trendy (again, there's time for that later). For women, you can't go wrong with a well fitting sheath dress in a solid neutral (gray, navy, black) and a classic heel. If you're not a dress person, opt for a straight leg trouser and a well fitting blazer. Gentleman, a sport coat and button down is always a good choice (just pay attention to  rule #2, especially fit!)

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If your office is casual, then denim is probably OK. Avoid distressed styles, and again, you can't go wrong with a great blazer and heel.

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In all cases, avoid anything distracting; jangling jewelry and anything that's ill-fitting. You want your new colleagues to focus on and remember you, not your outfit.  

A new job is a great excuse to go shopping, but do it purposefully. Assess what you already have in your wardrobe, and eliminate any pieces that are dated, in poor shape, or just don’t make you happy. Start with a clean slate and build up from there. Think about the company you're joining, the image you want to project, and your personal brand. Ask about our Private Coaching services to help you with all of this!

Day one is the first of many to come. The interactions you have and the impressions you make on this first day will set the stage for what's to come. Dress purposefully, appropriately and knock 'em dead!

 

Back to School Shopping, It's Not Just for the Kids!

Ahh, the excitement and anticipation of the back to school season... We absolutely love summer and all the fabulous dresses and breezy fabrics, not to mention the plethora of gorgeous sandals to be had, but there's no denying this time of year always feels like an opportunity for a fresh start. It's that back to school feeling. It's real, and it's not just for the kids!  

There is something about the change of season, especially the summer/fall transition, that triggers the desire for a  visit to the hair salon, a new outfit and a never-been-written-in notebook. Celebrate your fresh start by treating yourself to an investment piece (or two) that you’ll love all season long, and beyond.

 

Bag

All the kids are getting new backpacks, don’t you deserve a new work bag too? We think the answer is a definite yes. A bag is such an important part of any professional look. It must be functional, meaning large enough to comfortably carry your laptop, a couple folders and maybe even a change of shoes and your lunch. Function is key, but the look is also important. A fabulous work bag is something that you’ll use pretty much every day, so invest in the highest quality you can afford. For women, we love a classic tote or a large satchel. For men, depending on how formal the rest of your look is, you can choose a sleek backpack, a canvas messenger bag or a leather briefcase.

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Outerwear

While it's not quite time to start thinking about winter coats (thankfully!), it is a great time to consider a lightweight topper, one that’s perfect for the shoulder seasons. Before we know it, the mornings are going to start to feel crisp, and having a new trench coat, soft leather jacket, or tailored blazer (or sportcoat for you gentlemen out there) to reach for will make the season change something to look forward to.

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Shoes

Do you remember going shopping for new ‘school shoes’ every year? We do, and it’s one of our favorite childhood traditions! In our opinion, any time is a great time to buy new shoes. Why not relive those back to school shopping memories and refresh your shoe wardrobe for the upcoming season? Ladies, now is the perfect time to think about a new pair of boots or booties - we love a chunkier heel version in suede. A classic pump or flat will always come in handy too. Men, start thinking about a chelsea boot, wingtip brogue or simple plain-toe derby.

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Don’t let the kids have all the fun, make sure you do your back to school shopping too, and get ready to enjoy your fresh start!

Real Life Client Stories: Emily

In earlier posts we’ve talked a bit about why we do what do. We’ve shared statistics and studies and discussed the importance of helping professionals improve their image and performance in the workplace, and why that is so important. We thought it might be a good idea to bring these concepts to life and share some true stories, and outcomes, from real clients we've worked with throughout our careers.   

Let’s start with Emily. Emily was a young professional, straight out of an ivy league school. She worked in a fairly creative, business casual work place in New York City. Emily was smart and ambitious and stylish. She started working the summer after graduation and didn’t give too much thought to building a work wardrobe. She attended some workshops at her university's career center. They touched on what new employees should wear to work, but she didn’t feel it was geared towards her (she was never going to wear a navy pant suit). She had a couple rounds of interviews at her new company so she was pretty confident she had a good grasp of the office culture.

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She told us that the first week she wore denim and flats and a button down pretty much every day. She felt fine, but kind of boring. As she got more comfortable in the office, her clothes became much more casual and trendy. In fact, she even told us that if she had a big date or happy hour scheduled for after work, she would plan her outfit around that event, rather than what was going on at the office. She admitted, that after a couple of months on the job, there was really no distinction between what she was wearing to work and what she would wear out at night or on the weekends.

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One particularly hot summer day, she decided to wear a pair of shorts and a crop top. She didn’t think twice about it, until she walked past her boss’s office and was called in. Emily told us her boss took one look at her and sent her home to change. She told her it was completely inappropriate and unacceptable. She mentioned she had been meaning to talk to her for awhile about how she was dressing for work, but never felt completely comfortable doing it - but this outfit was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Emily told us that at first she was angry, then embarrassed, then slowly she accepted that her boss was right and she needed some help. That was when she reached out to us, and we’re so glad she did!


Emily gave us the full rundown of the situation and we asked lots of questions to get a better idea of who she was and what elements of her personal style should come through in her work style. We researched the company to learn what would be appropriate. We put together several custom looks for her, and she was thrilled. We knew she was on a budget so we pulled fairly inexpensive pieces that were really versatile, but we also showed her some investment items that she could save up for, or request as gifts (she told us she had a birthday coming up).

She ending up purchasing much of what we recommended. We checked back a couple weeks later and Emily was ecstatic. She told us that her boss and colleagues had noticed a change in her, but more importantly she had noticed a change in herself. Emily said she was more focused at work. She was confident and more likely to speak up in meetings. She called us a week later and said her boss had actually invited her to a client meeting.  That typically didn’t happen for employees at her level.  She said she knew for a fact if she was dressed like ‘the old Emily’, her boss never would have considered it.

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We kept in touch and she requested new looks and pieces from time to time. About six months after we started working with her she was excited to report that she’d been promoted. Years later she's very successful (and still stylish) working in the digital department of a major fashion brand.

Now, we don’t want to take all the credit for her success. Clearly Emily had everything it took to succeed; she was smart, dedicated, passionate and driven. That said, even Emily will agree that how she originally dressed definitely would have held her back.  Her ‘revised’ work style gave her the confidence to speak up and get noticed (in all the right ways) and it absolutely opened doors for her!

We have several stories like this one, and they all spoke to us and stuck with us. We love guiding and training people on an individual level, but what if we could do it on a larger scale? What if we could work with companies and be the outside expert that helps guide employees in this really important (and often overlooked) area?  So that’s what we did, and we’re so happy we did it!  More real life client stores to come in future posts!