In her recurring column, “Social in Security,” modern etiquette ambassador and Bell’INVITO founder Heather Wiese-Alexander walks us through a list of trusted tips you can rely on. Today’s topic: etiquette in fashion.
Hello, you. What are you wearing out this season? Are you loving your choice? Wondering if it’s right? Haven’t given it a thought? If you’re not ablaze with confidence about your look just yet, I hope to have you there by the end of this read. For reasons you might not realize, it’s important. Think of style and etiquette being interwoven much like food and wine. Concern about what to wear is in our DNA. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to accept that vulnerability and get on with the business of getting dressed.
To get us going, I pulled in a few fashion-forward friends. Meet stylist Reed Robertson, a handsome favorite go-to for patrons of Highland Park Village. He’s known for keeping socialites looking their best. Second, Stephanie Seay, a philanthropist and lifestyle influencer who makes day-to-day look effortless. Last, you likely know the beautiful Missy Rogers Peck, founder of events company, MissyRSVP, and always-glam mother of two. Their answers aim to keep you confident through all that is upcoming, from holiday parties to errand-packed outings.
Today, when it comes to style, personality is key. I asked Robertson what styles were over for 2022. I absolutely loved his answer: “ 1) Second guessing what makes you feel confident and good. 2) See Number 1.”
I also asked about current trends. All three independently said a great blazer and jeans.
Robertson’s tip on the jeans, “A ripped flare jean a la Britney circa 2002.” Peck and Seay both noted the Barbie pink trend. Which brings me to my next fashion etiquette tips.
Fashionable is decidedly not fashion-victim. Additionally, if your personal style is anti-conformist, own it. I commend it. If you do love following a good fashion trend, you don’t need to hit every single one. And certainly don’t hit them all at once.
Wearing White After Labor Day
Yes, you can. The “rule” is deeply rooted in elitism. Not all etiquette rules are. In fact, most are rooted in practical, considerate, and well-reasoned communication. This one, however, is not.
Since my approach is to toss out the silly and keep the tried-and-true courtesies, here is the consensus: don’t think color—think fabric. Warmer weather calls for lighter-weight fabrics, and cooler weather calls for some weight to the clothes you wear. Etiquette’s place here is in the practical application. It’s not the color—it’s the cloth.
“I had a friend in college who wore white year-round because she knew it looked good on her,” Seay says. “It taught me early on that if something flatters you it’s truly timeless and seasonless. The key to wearing white after Labor Day is to do it with confidence! White makes an excellent fall and winter color if you mix it with the seasons’ rich hues and switch lighter fabrics for heavier ones to add a little texture and warmth to the look.”
Historically, etiquette told us to save the sparkles for sundown. Today fashion has offered us some tempting flash to brighten our daytime. Here’s how to nail the look and not seem “too much” at work or on a lunch date.
“Be creative when it comes to the bling,” says Robertson. “Shoes with embellishments are a perfect way to sparkle during the day with a clean tailored ensemble.” Peck and Seay agreed. Keep it one accessory piece.
Etiquette rule—help a friend out. Be clear in your attire suggestion.
This one is for hosts planning the party. We want to show up the part, but we don’t have your party-planning vision. Help a friend out and be clear.
P.S. don’t take it too far. Hosts, you have the whole invitation space to get creative. This is the one place we need super-clarity. Use Roman numerals for the date—we still know what day it is. Use braille for the message—we can still get the details of what, when, where, but tell us something creatively vague and we’re stuck somewhere between frustrated and annoyed.
Here’s my honest take on unclear attire wording: it’s mean-girl lingo. You know something we don’t and it’s going to make you look good and us look silly. That’s an etiquette fail. Conversely, remember it’s a party—not just your own personal photoshoot. Telling people exactly what to wear is too much. When listing the attire suggestion, unless the venue requires something like a jacket for gentlemen, remember that this is truly a suggestion. Use common terms, a well-known theme, or a specific color.
Handbags After 6 pm
Size matters. As much as I love my daytime carryall, the handbag for dinner is decidedly different. Seay said it best. “They don’t need to be tiny or evening bags but limit the large bulkier bags to your daytime look,” the influencer explains. “Smaller bags add that extra level of formality and elegance to dress up any evening look, even if it’s just a pair of jeans.”
Shopping with a Stylist
Employing the expertise of a stylist is rising in popularity. If you haven’t used this service, you likely have questions. I asked Reed Robertson what to expect to pay for their time/expertise. His answer: “If you come to us in Highland Park Village, you only pay for the items you buy.”
“Different stylists charge different amounts based on experience,” Seay explains. “Some stores and shopping centers offer stylist services gratis. I think finding someone whose style brings out the best in you is worth every penny. Discuss the stylist’s fee during your initial consultation, to assure that you stay within your budget.”
That’s key. When in unfamiliar territory, ask. If you assumed wrong, be ready to learn something new. Be prepared to pay for time and expertise, which is something you should know upfront. Peck and I discussed over-sellers. Sometimes when I have a stylist I regret getting talked into things, or I simply don’t want to use someone because I don’t want to fight the feeling of being oversold.
Her advice: “Don’t forget to be gracious. Everyone is working their hardest and a thank you for helping can go a long way these days.”
The Timeless Trend: Confidence
You’re good. The truth is that with your shoulders back and your head up you rock something far less-than-latest and people would be attracted to your aura despite your look. Confidence is a superpower. Fidgeting and second-guessing are kryptonite. All my experts agreed on this above all. Which is the best news yet.
Whatever you put on, it’s the icing on the cake. Start with gratitude and great intentions. Go out with your head-turning look and that great clutch, but don’t forget your kindness and a few good questions. The latter makes you look far better than the fashion. Get to know people. Slow down. When you focus on the efforts made around you, the shift outside yourself is inevitably attractive. Maybe give a few of the compliments you’d love to hear—sincerely of course.
I promise, dear reader friend, you look fabulous. Make someone else feel as beautiful.