Author: Noel Hemphill
Dita Von Teese once said that “heels and red lipstick will put the fear of God into people.” As a living fashion icon and burlesque performer, Von Teese knows plenty about making an impression on an audience, luring them in from the instant she steps into the spotlight. While part of the allure of Miss Von Teese is her scandalous burlesque dances, the lady does have a point: A woman’s clothing choices can be powerful.
Putting “the fear of God into people” may not be your objective, but making a good first impression is always a worthy pursuit. We live in a society obsessed with appearances, and we all fall victim to our own harsh assessment of our looks from time to time. Your resume may get you in the door, but making a statement gets you further: Start with your closet. As vapid as it may seem, a thought-out ensemble can make more of a difference than good manners or a strong handshake.
In my mind, clothing can be armor. We often fawn over beautiful and thin fashion models, yet they are only walking hangers for the clothing you can turn into an asset. You don’t have to wear steel toed boots or leather to make yourself armed for a day. You don’t even have to wear garments adorned with studs. Modern day armor is taking the outfits that make you feel powerful and transforming them into something more, something that can give you the courage to conquer anything.
There are many good examples of this practice. Barney Stinson, Neil Patrick Harris’ macho womanizer character on “How I Met Your Mother” preaches the words “suit up!” on any occasion his cowardly friends Ted Mosby and Marshall Eriksen need a confidence boost. Why? Because a well-cut suit is a man’s best offensive strategy; it is attractive, seductive and powerful. There is a reason it’s called “dressing sharp” – you can cut through crowds and slay any fear you may have.
Ladies, if Dita Von Teese isn’t quite your idol, look no further than Hillary Clinton. Clinton takes a page out of Stinson’s bro-bible and dons tailored pantsuits in every color of the rainbow. She may be fodder for criticism for her predictable and, at times, unflattering attire, but she is a force to be reckoned with. You know when the pantsuit is on, she is ready to take down her competitors.
However, wearing armor doesn’t mean you have to reach for a suit. Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis reached for gigantic sunglasses to shield anyone from seeing any weakness in her eyes. “Sex and the City” protagonist Carrie Bradshaw slid into a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s to knock ’em dead – the higher the heel, the better. My personal favorite, Blair Waldorf, tucked her mahogany locks behind a preppy headband and ruled over the Upper East Side.
Each of these people picked a weapon from the closet, made it their own, and let it empower them to be their best self. That’s what clothing can be, if you let it. You find what makes you feel powerful and you own what you do. It is often said we are defined by our choices, and I see no reason that shouldn’t include your clothing as well. Do you be bold or be bland? Own your appearance, come in guns blaring and make people notice you, or fall to the wayside?
Put your best foot forward and make sure it is one encased in a stylish shoe. Dress appropriately, but be daring. Be iconic from head to toe, and make people notice you with just a simple entrance. When you back up your appearance with ingenuity, intelligence, and integrity, you can change the world.
Still don’t believe me? Watch “The Devil Wears Prada.” Meryl Streep’s portrayal of a viper woman with a killer wardrobe was nominated for an Oscar. As was the costume designer, Pat Field.
N.B. Armor, here, does not mean you can wear camouflage. Camouflage is never an acceptable form of attire for mundane civilians. Ever. Don’t even try with that colored camouflage. It is tacky. There will never be a time when it is not tacky. Burn it.
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