(This is going to end up in the book in some form)
First – you need to know who you are, and what you’re about. You have to start from a solid foundation, or you’re going to end up in costume-land.
But having understood yourself, what bits do you want to advertise today? All of us are multifaceted beings.
So what do you want to tell your audience (your audience is everyone who can see you) today?
When you’re at a job interview, you want to emphasize those parts of your character that will get you the job. Ambition, efficiency, intelligence, forthrightness, work ethic, knowledge, etc. That’s why we wear higher-contrast colors to job interviews, we want to look more intense.
When you’re at your BFF’s house, and she’s suffered a loss, you want to emphasize: Comfort, friendship, shared memories, love. You want to be accessible – this is neither the time for the silly-string hat or the power suit. A soft sweater probably hits the right note.
When you’re meeting someone new, you have to decide what bits of yourself to offer up – are you at a coffee klatch or on a date?
All of this sounds truly daunting, like you need a closet the size of the Serengeti to cope. Not true. You need a basic wardrobe that reflects the usual circumstances in your life, a few pieces that fit in with virtually everyone’s lives, and a pile of accessories to dress things up or down.
The more closely your closet matches the real you, the more flexible it is. The soft sweater and skirt that you wore to your BFF’s house when she was mourning is the same soft sweater and skirt you wear to the coffee klatch. To assist the mourning, you accessorize minimally and somberly. To the coffee klatch, you indulge whimsy and sparkle – it’s the perfect time for a conversation piece.
A suit appropriate to the courtroom can be worn to interviews. That’s why I encourage you to start with the most basic colors in your wardrobe – the more basic the color scheme, the more flexible it is. But maybe you want a candy-colored suit for church – no problem, if that’s who you are. You wear it as a suit to church, as a jacket over jeans to lunch with the girls, a skirt with a blouse to work.
And that brings us back around to choosing a palette for yourself. IF you’ve done that, all the pieces in your wardrobe will work together – so even if you’ve chosen a candy-colored suit, the blouses and slacks and skirts that are already in your closet match – it increases your wardrobe exponentially instead of standing alone. (Caveat: Fabric can un-match something that matches by color – your henley doesn’t match your silk evening jacket, even if they look as if they came from the same dyelot).
Know thyself – and know thy audience.