Sara Hawkins of Phoenix is a 42-year-old mother of one and a lawyer-turned-blogger who’s starting to speak on panels and doesn’t know what to wear (she called herself a “fashion disaster”).
Dear Sara (a.k.a Fashion Disaster),
Boy do I feel your pain. Public speaking is stressful, but eliminating the worry over what you’re wearing will help a lot. I don’t need to turn you into a fashion diva, but for sure I can erase the fashion DISASTER scenario you’re playing over in your head.
-You want to be comfortable and dress like yourself, only you want to be a little more polished. You may love Birkenstocks in your day-to-day life, but now’s not the time (as my mother used to say, you don’t have to be THAT comfortable). It also means you need to do your hair, wear a little make up, and put on some sort of lipstick/gloss. This is non-negotiable.
-As for clothes, wear color! Most importantly, wear color around your face, as it will draw attention to what you’re saying. If you insist on wearing a dark hue, navy blue is better than black (it won’t absorb light quite as much). Avoid overly intricate prints (like large florals), but a small graphic print (narrow stripe, small polka dot) is a nice accent, even if you just do it in an accessory like a scarf.
-I do think a jacket is most polished—but you don’t have to wear a “suit.” Gray slacks topped with, say, a jacket in a color (whatever flatters your skin tone) would work. A jacket over a sheath/dress would work, too.
-Avoid clothes that are too big or too small, and avoid anything overly complicated (lots of fabric, unusual closures, etc.) as it distracts. Clothes that are fitted to the body (without puling or clinging, of course), will look better when viewed from the audience.
-Make sure you choose the right undergarments—you want your clothes to lie flat, and to appear opaque (lights make every fabric look more sheer. When in doubt, add a slip!)
-Stay away from any jewelry or accessories that make noise, like an armload of bangles or layers of twinkling beads around your neck. Just like wind chimes it’s pretty, but annoying.
Go! Buy! Be Chic!
Yours in style,