How to Feel Confident and Dress for Success – with Roberta Lee, Confidence Coach and Stylist
Confidence. Do you have bags of it or has work and life slowly chipped away at your self-confidence. Perhaps you want to make an impression at work, nail that job interview or simply need some help in clearing some mental blocks that are holding you back from expressing yourself and discovering your signature style. This week in our "Empowering Style" series, I'm talking to Roberta Lee, founder of The Ethical Brand Directory and Confidence Coach. Roberta shares her story and gives some helpful, actionable tips on how to feel confident and dress for success.
Roberta, please introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
I’m the founder of Roberta Style Lee, a coaching and styling business designed to inspire confidence and empower women to be the best version of themselves from the inside out – and doing it in a responsible way. Essentially I’m all about empowering women. My confidence methods explore a positive mindset, a healthy approach to life and a responsible approach to personal style. I believe nothing looks better than knowing your why and wearing your values - that’s the ultimate confidence combo.
What inspired you to combine confidence coaching with personal styling and what impact does it have on your clients?
For a long time, I hid behind my clothes and didn’t really have a relationship with them. It wasn’t until I lost my confidence in my early thirties that I realised that even the best dress and heels can’t hide low-self esteem. I had to dig deep and work on ‘me’ from the inside out and develop a deeper connection to myself and it was only then that I truly discovered my signature style. That’s how I create an impact for my clients, I work from the inside out. Most stylists focus on the peripheral stuff, body shape and colours. Clothes are more than just pieces of material, they shape your identity, influence how you feel about yourself and how others perceive you. Your style is a way of saying who you are without speaking. What we wear should reflect our values.
I share the exact steps and the tools I used on my journey, so my clients can discover their own ‘why’ and create their own signature style. That’s why I loving use the term “style your life happy” because my work goes beyond the material benefits.
Having met you, I would say confidence comes naturally to you! Were you always so comfortable in your skin?
Oh my goodness. Nooooo! People meet me and always comment on how confident I am and compliment me on how I’m dressed. But what they don’t know is that I had to work really hard at it – it didn’t come naturally to me. For a really long time I was emotionally insecure about who I was, how I looked and who I was meant to be. A lot of that stems from my childhood, bouncing around in foster care and having a very toxic upbringing. I never received compliments or was told I was good at anything – so I suffered from very low self-esteem and had to work really hard to build my confidence. But you’d have never guessed because I always used fashion as my armour against everyday life. The one thing I learned early on was that the power of perception and fashion was my tool to get ahead, I would get dressed each day and put my best foot forward. I learned very quickly how to develop my personal style as a way to show people that I had everything together (even if sometimes I was crying on the inside). Interestingly, in my thirties when I had a confidence crash – using fashion and my style just wasn’t enough. That’s why I believe that life-changing make-overs start from the inside out.
Confidence is one of those things we all wish we had all the time. Yet it can be very transient, escaping us just when we need it the most, like in a job interview or presentation. What’s your advice on being more self-confident and can we fake it?
I think there is an element of fake it until you make it! Confidence is a like a muscle and it gets stronger the more we exercise it. I rarely find myself in situations anymore where I let the fear take-over. I allow the nerves to kick-in and remind myself this is what growth and progress feels like. My advice is to get support, you’ll get wherever you want to go waaaaay faster. Why go at it alone when you can go through it with someone else? Find a coach, find a mentor group, be part of a community.
Sometimes we just need to accept that we can’t do everything on our own and welcome a bit of help. It’s hard to be objective about your own habits or personal style and that’s why having a coach or stylist is great, they can help you with all of that. If you need a quick shot of confidence use sports and fitness to boost your endorphins, do power poses, shout affirmations out loud in front of a mirror, put your fail safe outfit on, get your hair done. Do whatever you need to do to get out of your own head and feel present in the moment.
They always say, what you wear impacts your confidence and performance? What are your top tips on dressing for success at work?
This is so true. There are so many studies that look at the psychological impact clothing can have on your performance. It is proven that dressing up and making an effort in your appearance can have a positive impact on your self-esteem and mental focus.
Tip 1: Your outfit should make you feel good about yourself - dress in a way that reinforces your competence, when you look like you’ve got it together (even if you're stressing out) you’ll eventually start to feel like you’ve got everything under control.
Tip 2: Be prepared. Wake up early, wash your hair, do your nails, polish your shoes, shave your legs, pluck your eyebrows, iron that shirt, do whatever it is you do that makes you feel groomed and all the little details are taken care of. Then when you step into the office you can relax, stopping worrying about your appearance and and focus on the bigger picture. This is why I swear by having a capsule collection for your work wardrobe, so you can get changed quickly without having to worry if your outfit looks good.
Tip 3: Think ahead and carry what you need in your handbag. What if it rains, what if you ladder your tights… take care of all of the distractions so you can focus on being your fabulous self at impressing everyone at how good you are at your job.
Is there a fail-safe formulae when it comes to dressing for an interview? What do you think – a dress, skirt or a suit?
Of course it’s industry dependent. For a more traditional office based job I would say it really depends on your body shape and what parts of your body you are most comfortable with. If you hate your legs you may feel more comfortable in a trouser suit. For an interview the only rule is to wear something that is exceptionally tailored, you want to wear a structured dress, or skirt or suit that is well made and compliments your body shape and doesn’t show off too much flesh! People want to get to know you in an interview - not get distracted by seeing ‘too much’ of you.
Are there any faux pas when it comes to accessorising work outfits for important meetings or should we just go to town with the chunky necklaces and dangly earrings!
Fashion faux pas are inevitable when you're starting out and finding a way to express your style. Working with a stylist is probably the only way to prevent that happening - and even then some stylists get it wrong! I think the key is to pick one thing and focus on that, whether that’s your hair, glasses or a necklace - keep it simple. That’s the best advice I can give for an important meeting. I personally don’t think big dangly earrings are suitable in the office.
As you get older it becomes easier to ‘refine’ your style as you know yourself better. Generally speaking, for corporate roles, big earrings are a no-no, oversized statement rings and bangles should be left for after-work drinks. Statement necklaces are great against the classic backdrops of well tailored dresses and crisp white shirts. Team these up with great shoes and a structured bag for a city-chic look.
Never forget to iron your clothes and always keep your shoes polished and heels well maintained. Chipped nail polish is the fastest way to ruin your perfect outfit – always carry the colour you are wearing in your handbag for emergency chips. If you’re a nail polish picker – keep nail polish remover pads in your drawer at work, as you never know when an important meeting may crop up!
How important is it to develop your own signature style for work?
It’s essential! Your signature style is your brand - we are constantly giving away non-verbal signals about ourselves, through our body language, our choice of clothes and self-care rituals. When you look good, you feel good - it's a simple science. And when you feel good you do good. Having self-awareness and presenting the best version of yourself is especially important in the workplace. Everyone is judging everyone, the way they talk, the way they walk, what they eat, the clothes they wear - by creating your own signature style you are taking control of the conversation before it’s even started. How you dress and what you wear speaks volumes - you can never underestimate the impact your outfit can make.
Creating your own signature style is a way to market yourself subtly - you want to stand out just enough that it shows you have the creativity and confidence to step outside of the social norm. To stand out and express yourself shows bravery, but to do it subtly requires style.
For more information on personal styling visit https://robertastylelee.co.uk/personal-styling/