Fashion Advice From an Image Consultant: Interview with Sarah Ward

Today in my networking challenge I am interviewing Sarah Ward. Sarah is the owner of Cable Car Couture Image Consulting.  Since her first makeover in seventh grade she has been helping women look and feel their best ever since. Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your advice with us and helping us look stylish for work!  

In case you are reading this at work and can’t watch the video, you can read all of the great advice below instead!

1) How can we find our own personal and unique style?

One of the first things I do with a new client is to help them develop their own style file. Start going through magazines and fashion catalogs and start pulling out things that you like. Maybe you really like the clean lines of a dress or the vibrant colors in a scarf.  They key is to start recognizing the consistency across their style file. Pinterest is a great way to develop an online style file.

2) What are some clothing staples you recommend for someone in their first job?

Things are getting a lot more casual in the business world these days but the need to look professional has not changed. One thing every professional woman needs to have in their wardrobe is a blazer or a jacket. Someone wearing a jacket is going to hold someone’s attention longer than someone who doesn’t. Perfect for a job interview or if you need to make a really solid first t impression because it will help you appear more credible.
If you don’t work in an environment where something that is really tailored is necessary, rolling up the sleeves of a blazer is going to make it appear a lot more casual or wear a sweater cardigan. If you have a more relaxed dress code, having a collared shirt and something that can just frame your face is going to lift the attention to your face for improved communication. In addition, you should have a solid good pair of pants that flatter and are comfortable.

[Related Post: What to Wear To Work: Must-Have Fall Accessories]

3) What do you recommend for fitting color into your wardrobe?

A couple of years ago, I looked in my wardrobe and noticed that I had so much black and white. I had to make a consistent effort where I had to make myself start to wear color. Now when I look in my closet, it is full of color and there is way less black.
If you own a lot of black, try navy or charcoal, taupe or chocolate brown which are some neutral colors. Or try burgundy or rust or a teal color which are still darker and muted colors but they are a little more exciting than just black. Having those more muted colors are going to be perfect for your work environment because brighter colors like neon and bright pink are really fashionable these days are more party and weekend colors so staying more muted is best for work.

4) What fashion advice can you offer to make a work outfit more interesting?

If you are wearing solids, just add a little pattern in a scarf can go a long way and it can make it look like a whole new outfit.

5) How can we express our personality in the clothing that we wear?

It’s really important to be authentic to who you are in the way you dress.  In our work clothes, it is important to just add a little dose of that. If you love leopard print, you probably don’t want to be wearing head to toe leopard print to a meeting on Monday morning.
Perhaps what you can do is add a little belt that adds an element of your personality or your wallet or scarf has your favorite pattern. It’s not always totally workable to be 100% what your authentic because we still have to be professional and make positive first impressions. Really, when it comes down to it, accessories can go a long way. A great pop of color through a statement necklace or a fun oversized chunky watch. Little things can add personality without it being overkill in the workplace.

6) There is so much selection at the store, how do we not get overwhelmed with everything we could buy?

When you shop with a purpose in mind and looking through your wardrobe and seeing that here are some pieces that I have and then establishing that there are some other things that you would like to add to it. For example, I was searching for a vest forever.
If you are shopping for something specifically in mind, then you are way less likely to deviate and make impulse buys. Also, before you shop is a great time to review your style file that way you can start seeing the looks that you totally love and to give yourself a chance to experiment with your clothes.

7) Do you recommend online shopping or going to the mall and trying things on?

Going to the mall and trying things on is always a good idea because sizing varies so much from brand to brand. Once you have a good idea of how you fit in a brand, it is easier to start buying online. If you have never bought from a brand online before, try a couple of their sizes and see which one fits better and return the one that doesn’t.

8 ) How did you decide to start your own image consulting company?

I had my mom come visit me and she wanted me to take her shopping. I am from Canada originally and we just don’t have the same amount of stores at the more affordable prices that are available in the US. We went out shopping together and she had me pulling things off the rack and telling her it would look really great with her hair color and skin tone. She said about 5-6 times during that shopping experience that I should do that for a living.  You know moms, they are a little biased sometimes:)  We tend to discount what our mothers say sometimes but after the fifth time she said it, it really started to sink in.
I realized I loved this and I am having so much fun!  It doesn’t feel like I am working and if I can do this professionally, that would be great! So I got on Google and three weeks later I was in the classroom with my mentor learning how to start my image consulting career! It was something that was just so natural and I floundered in the business world for several years trying to find where it was I felt like I belonged and all of a sudden, it felt like I arrived. It hit on the things that are the most important thing to me, as far as my values are concerned. And I was also able to feel good, look good and justify shopping.

9) What is one thing you wish you would have known as a young professional woman just starting out in her career?

I wish I would have known more about myself. Once I recognized what my personal values were, it felt like everything just came into place so quickly as far as choosing a career that magnified who I was.  I actually worked with a career coach and we went through values exercise and figured out what are the most important things in your life. I wish I had done that a decade earlier so that I would have had a straight shot in that direction.
But of course, we deviate as we go through our careers and we learn remarkable lessons along the way.  But as you know yourself and you know what is important to you and the lifestyle that you want to live then you can start crafting a career that can meet your personal and professional needs. And to know that there are careers out there that are going to hit on all of the things you love and make you feel fulfilled, alive and that you are making a valuable contribution to the world!  So know yourself and everything will fall into place!

What fashion advice from the interview are you going to implement?

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