Myth: Dressing outside-the-box is never necessary.
Truth: Sometimes it is necessary. My personal style is creative and different from my peers. Once I understood that and I started going with it, it made such a huge difference. I felt better about myself, and that draws people in and commands respect. However, I also had to remember that other people have their own personal style and they don’t have to dress like me. Some people’s personal style is less dramatic and conspicuous and not only are they entitled to that, but it allows them to do better in many areas, just like going with my style allowed me to do that.
Having said that, there are times when an unconventional item or idea is exactly what the person needs to wear.
From me, you get the truth.
It’s true that there are people who prefer to not stand out too much. One fashion guru described one style type as a woman who does her best work behind the scenes and doesn’t do well in the spotlight. If she knows that and works with it, there’s nothing wrong with it. However, there are times when even she needs to stand out a bit.
The best example is the job interview. Contrary to popular belief, the interview is not about your qualifications. The employers already know that you’re qualified: It said so on your resume and that’s why they asked for an interview. Once you’re in the interview, you’re competing against a bunch of other candidates with the same qualifications. Therefore, you need to stand out from that crowd. The easiest way to do that is to add something outside the box to your interview outfit. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate.
There was a young man who was told to wear white shirts with his navy suit for his job interviews but he didn’t feel that white flattered him, so he asked me if it was okay to wear a colored shirt. Since his interviews were for formal places (I don’t remember the exact job except that it was in business), I told him that a pastel shirt would work even better than plain white because it would allow him to stand out visually. He went with that on his next interview and he got the job.
Adding a touch of color is the easiest way to go outside the box without going overboard. It could be in a shell or a scarf or other accessory. If the interview is in a formal or semi-formal place, this unconventional touch is necessary so that interviewers remember you later. If you’re interviewing in a more creative place, then you need a little more than just one small touch. But it’s fine to add just two to three small unconventional touches if your style is more subtle, such as an underpinning in a secondary neutral along with a more dramatic piece of jewelry.
This advice applies to most professional events, especially networking events. Networking means that you’re looking to meet potential new employers and/or clients and therefore you need to stand out at least a little bit.
The other example is with older adult women. There are photos going around social media of older women who pile on the bright colors, wild prints, and crazy styles, and that really is overkill. But that kind of overkill is not common in our circles. What is more common is older women who leave out the fun touches entirely and wind up looking boring. That’s a mistake. As you get older, you need to set the example that tzniut can look beautiful and that getting older is nothing to fear. That means adding one or two unconventional touches to a sleek and simple outfit. When you do that, you’re celebrating your good health and energy as well as your life experience and wisdom. That’s a win-win all around.
What about social situations and events? Is it necessary to dress outside the box? There are fashion gurus who say that it is necessary because you don’t want to just be a wallflower. I don’t agree entirely. I don’t think it’s strictly necessary if your style is more subtle. It depends on what you want to do here. If you hope to use these situations for networking/meeting people, then you need to stand out, and so an unconventional touch is necessary. If that’s not the case for you, then you simply have to consider what will make you feel the most confident and beautiful. My style is very outside the box, and so if I try to go subtle or classic, I’ll feel too self-conscious. If your style is more subtle, then you need to work with that style and feel good about it.
One big question here is about tzniut. There are those who think that bright colors and other unconventional things are not tzniut because they draw attention. The truth is that if your style is more subtle and you work with that, that’s a 100% valid expression of tzniut. However, it is not a higher or lower standard of tzniut than a more dramatic style. True tzniut is not about avoiding attention. It’s about drawing attention to you as a person and not as a body. Of course, we don’t want to wear anything too revealing. But if a bright color (like red), wild print, showstopper accessory or fun style does express things that you like about yourself, then you owe it to yourself to not hide that from anyone, including yourself.
Unconventional ideas and styles abound, and the key is to use them in ways that work best for you.