Updated: Feb 24
This week we’ll be exploring fashion psychology through a memory of my first Wildflowers of London event, and I’ll leave you with seven tips inspired by Big Dress Energy by Shakaila Forbes-Bell (which I’ll also be giving away a copy of at the end of the post) so you can use what you wear to hack your way to success.
Recap - Why chase success?
My obstacles to getting to success all seem to centre around the fact I’m young. I’m 24 years old. Anyone reading this over the age of 35 is probably going to ask me why I’m in such a rush, but I don’t think I’m rushing. I’m learning. I decided I can probably read about some mistakes instead of making them myself, which is bound to save me at least a few years.
I take longer to achieve excellence because I’m still learning, that’s why companies pay for people with experience, however, what I lack in speed I make up for with hours spent. I’m lucky enough to be free of any real day-to-day responsibilities besides my job, my own health and my friends. Those are three big things, but most older people have to deal with that along with a family, pets or parents.
While I have the energy and the time, I want to figure out all the hacks I can on how to be successful at my job because even though there is so much I am wrong about and even more that I don’t know, a lot of people who are smarter than I am have determined being wealthier is more likely to lead to happiness, and what separates wealth from the other nine things on that list is it’s one of the two things on that list I want but don’t have, and I know I can do something about it.
Can what you wear make you successful?
After loads of research on happiness I’ve learned wealthier people tend to be happier. Of course, this isn’t the only factor that contributes to happiness. As we explored last week there are at least nine, but after my house burned down when I was 16, I have this deeply embedded instinct to make sure I have enough to take care of myself and the people I love. I realised a way to make sure that happens is to learn from others and use the tools around me- starting with the clothes in my closet.
But first... a story
I heard about Fashion Psychology at my first-ever Wildflowers on London event, which is a networking group for female entrepreneurs and professionals. I remember being introduced to the group by one of my closest friends Miky, who was a receptionist at the House of St. Barnabas where the event was being hosted. Lou Nylander, who leads the group and would come to be a role model for me, was kind enough to invite her and a plus one for the night to listen in on the panel.
I remember what I wore that night. It was a white & Other Stories dress with puffy sleeves I got from a charity shop for £20. I wanted to look presentable but wasn’t in the mood to stand out. It was my first time in the group and the voice inside my head that likes to feel safe told me I needed the option to hide if I had to. When I got to the event, I wished I’d dressed a bit more business-like. I remember feeling like everyone looked more mature than me (which they were), but to be honest, I didn’t let it bother me much, and like I said I picked an outfit I felt safe in. I’ve always known my greatest strength was ears that listen, not eyes that pick outfits.
I’m going to write this next section purely from memory, and in the following section, I’ll tell you how reality matches up by looking back at photos.
The night’s event was about side hustles and had a panel with four women and was chaired by Lou Nylander who was wearing a long printed dress. I think Lou sat on the left side followed by Shakaila Forbes-Bell, who was wearing a red dress and had her hair in a ponytail and was a fashion psychologist taking care of two children. One of the pieces of advice she said was to wear outfits that make people remember you and start conversations, I remember thinking “whoops” to myself in the crowd.
Next to her was a blonde woman with a ponytail who was wearing a dress, and a blonde woman with long hair who ran a flower shop and was wearing jeans and a nice top. I remember thinking the woman who had curly hair seemed to have a close connection with Lou, but I can’t remember why.
On the end at the right, there was a woman with short brown hair who ran a company called Good-Loop which does advertising that donates partial profits to charities and also did consultancy. The last woman was wearing a yellow cardigan and a floral shirt. I remember she spoke passionately with her hands and seemed to be someone who worked a lot but seemed happy.
Memory is a tricky thing, looking at photos has jogged my memory. As you can see, speakers included Ellie Edwards-Scott, who had the best smile and wore a long dress and had her hair in a half up half down. Obviously, I can’t tell all of what was said from a photo, but in terms of what people looked like and what they were wearing, I think I did okay. It’s worth noting I’ve been exposed to Lou and Shakaila many times since, which is probably why I remember their names. In the spirit of making sure the other three amazing women on the panel get their names heard, I’ve put the speakers list below.
Looking back at the photos, I saw Ellie joined the stage later than the rest of the panel and was actually the one to chair the session. I remember speaking to Ellie after the panel - and she was lovely. I feel guilty for forgetting she hosted the session, but I'll tell you why I forgot.
Lou only introduced the speakers and Wildflowers of London but shared a story I’ll never forget of overcoming an abusive relationship to being a leader in London’s business community.
She has changed so many lives and you can see it in the strength of her friendships. If you’re ever curious about what someone who genuinely is able to empower a soul looks like, find a way to meet Lou Nylander. Lou's story made such an impact on my memory to the point where I literally remember her as hosting the entire session (read here for the power of story telling).
What stood out?
Other than who actually hosted the session, I got a few other things wrong. From left to right I got Chantalle and Nadia’s order mixed up, along with what they did. I was fairly accurate about what people were wearing, but what was notable to me is I got Shakaila’s dress colour wrong, and although I messed up her top being floral, I got Amy’s cardigan colour right.
Shakaila was sitting on a red-orange chair, but I don’t know why I thought her dress was red too. In my head, I think I must have seen her wearing red at another event, but maybe I just saw her as authoritative or passionate and it coloured in her neutral dress in my memories. If you look back up at my description of the event in my memory paragraph, you’ll see Shakaila and Amy were the two people I remembered most about in general.
My memory of Shakaila is likely biased because since this event I’ve read her book, spoken to her and been exposed to her name and story more by Lou, but it’s fascinating to me how much I remember about Amy Williams even after all this time. I wonder how much of it was because of what she did and how much of it was what she wore that caught my attention. After learning more about fashion psychology since the event, I have a feeling it’s both.
Why choose this moment?
If you’ve clicked on the title of this blog, you know the reason I’m focusing on what people were wearing along with what they did is that for the next few weeks, we’ll be exploring fashion psychology. The reason I picked this memory to start with is that this panel was the first time I was exposed to the idea of fashion psychology through Shakaila Fobes-Bell, who is the first Black woman to receive a PhD in fashion psychology and the author of Big Dress Energy.
As I mentioned before, I’ve spoken with Shakaila since, and also read her book Big Dress Energy which focuses on how fashion can transform your wardrobe and your confidence. It’s an amazing read. I finished it in two days over Christmas break and after reading it knew I had to do a blog post on it so other people could be in on what feels like a huge secret waiting to be unlocked.
I’ve always liked clothes, but now I see clothes as a weapon for the wars I face in my life. My new motto is: the pen may be mightier than the sword but whatever you hold, make sure you look good going into battle.
My seven takeaways
What does looking good mean? It’s different for every person. Part of what I learned from Shakaila is personal fashion is something that can change as much as we do. It’s important to play around, have fun and break rules. That being said, to project an image of success, Shakaila had tips I’ve tried since which have radically changed my confidence. What’s below isn’t word-for-word advice, but I have seven takeaways that have worked for me to feel more confident and successful in business.
One: Wear designer to project an image of success
I always had it in my head that designer items were a waste of money, but after reading Big Dress Energy’s section on how designer items project an image of success. I realised how true it was. I bought a used authenticated red Prada bag I’d wanted anyways with the money I got from Christmas.
I would advise against wearing fake items, studies show you’re more likely to be immoral when you wear them.
Of course, you don’t have to spend all your money on designer pieces, but if you’re like me wanted a designer bag but were afraid of being wasteful, the sheer confidence boost that comes from elevated outfits is worth the investment. I personally have found when I wear my bag, people are more accommodating.
Two: Dress like the people you’re going to meet
This will make them like you more. Don’t dress like a carbon copy, but do dress for the occasion. When I read this it made sense and reminded me of the six methods of persuasion.
Three: If you want to make your look seem more expensive, dress in layers
People rate those with more layered outfits as being wealthier.
Four: If you’re always late, wear a watch
People will perceive you as caring about time and will be more lenient with you.
Five: Choose your colours wisely
Looking back at that first Wildflower event, my white dress probably did make me look younger because white projects innocence.
Choosing colours carefully helps me set my intention for meetings and situations I’m going into. I mostly wear white, black, grey, neutrals and red because limiting the colours in my wardrobe helps me buy less. Shakaila actually advocates for playing around with more colours than I do, but as she mentions in her book, you don’t have to follow all the rules.
There’s a whole section of colour psychology covered in Shakaila’s book and I refer back to it now when I go into new situations to help me determine what to wear.
Six: Dress like who you want to be
Most of the time who I liked to be is put together but relaxed. I work out a lot so I wear joggers, leggings and flares. That’s what’s comfortable for me. After reading Shakaila’s book though, I make sure what I wear is curated to what I love and my aesthetic. I avoid feeling or looking sloppy which I can confidently say makes my days better.
Seven: Have a special outfit
What we wear has a powerful effect on how we act and see ourselves. When I want to feel like a boss businesswoman, I realised I need to dress like one. I don’t dress like this most of the time, but I now understand the importance of looking at the part when I need to.
If you have a big event like a pitch or a race, dressing in your favourite outfit or wearing something that makes you feel lucky can positively improve your mindset.
Those are my takeaways. I highly recommend you read all of Big Dress Energy to see what works for you. I found the book groundbreaking. So much so that I’d like to give away a copy so someone else can be let in on the secret.
I'm giving this book away with my own money by the way, it's so good I want the social currency from sharing it.
If you’d like to enter, make sure you leave a comment on this Linkedin Post telling me your favourite item of clothing. Ends next Tuesday 9PM GMT. I hope you enjoyed this week’s blog post, stay tuned next week when I’ll be exploring if religion can make you more successful.
Questions that keep me up at night - the blog for curious people every Wednesday at 9:00am.
Follow me on Linkedin for blog notifications and to see the other cool stuff I'm working on
Follow me on Instagram for lists on what's in and what's out and to be notified of blog posts and behind the scenes on projects
Follow me on Tik Tok if you want to watch me explore new things like Chelsea Football and Islam