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Style Q & A

Q I am going for a business conference. Can you advise me on my mode of dressing and type of cloth and accessories, i.e. shoe, bag, belt, earrings and make up to use? Thank you.

ADear Reader,
This is a very important question indeed and because I cannot see you or have no idea your normal style in clothes, I will give you some simple fail-safe guidelines that will be beneficial to most women. I find that the attitude to work attire in Nigeria for the most is a little confused. The main problems are ill-fitting clothes like too-tight trousers that highlight an already large backside, shirts that are too tight and pull and gape, and misunderstanding of colour and accessories.

At work, the key is to keep things simple and classic. It is really worth investing heavily in your business wardrobe, as it is the most important field to make an impression, a field where people are quick to form first impressions that can stick regardless of whether they are true or not.

Here are a few guidelines.

Hair – Keep it simple and natural looking, pulled back away from your face is always nice and clean but remember to soften it up if you have a strong face, with a little to the front or a side parting. If wearing a weave or braids try and choose a colour that suits your skin tone, if in doubt go for the darkest brown available but steer clear of black. It is often much to harsh for the majority of us.

Jewellry – Again simplicity is key. Choose a metal that flatters you, studs or little hoops for earrings are best – pretty but not distracting or inappropriate. Steer clear of dangly or long earrings, they are very easy to get wrong and come across as unserious. A nice classic watch, simple necklace and bracelet keep the look feminine. Be aware of a running theme between all your pieces of jewellry. They should be all the same metal and work with, not against each other.

Bags/shoes – For a chic up to date look, choose a dark brown or dark blue or any other dark colour other than black if you have it. Ballet pumps look very chic and will ensure your comfort through the day. Whatever you do, don’t wear new shoes and if they are going to be high shoes make sure they are expertly made to offer the you the maximum comfort your money can buy. There’s nothing more unprofessional than seeing a woman hobbling or looking uncomfortable in her shoes.

Make up – Go for muted natural tones. Highlight one feature, lips or eyes (steer clear of red lipstick). Go for a smooth even base and using gold or silver highlighter (whichever suits you best) highlight lightly under the eyebrows and cheekbones for a polished look. Use lip-gloss to keep it fresh.

Clothing – I often find that a dress is the perfect business attire. There is something about the femininity of it that makes one approachable and not appear as though trying too hard. Choose a dress that is simple in a flattering colour and in a shape that you know suits you. This is not the time for experimentation. Failing that choose a nice suit in a classic or interesting shape – this one that Michelle Obama wears is divine, see how the belt just cinches in her waist and adds that vital feminine touch. Again, choose a colour that you know flatters you. If you are brave enough and fashion forward, do like Halle Berry and mix up dark shapely jeans (I don’t think the leather trousers are appropriate for work though!) with a fitted jacket and casual t-shirt – the effect is stunning.

Q  Hi Zainab,
What is the colour that’s best for a fair complexioned lady and what colour cloth suits her best?

Thanks Temmy

A  Hi Temmy,
It is deceptive to assume that all fair skin tones are the same. There are many factors involved including your eye colour, hair colour, whether your skin tone is warm or cool and many other subtleties. If you are serious about using colour to impact your wardrobe for maximum effect, then I suggest you book a colour consultation with me where we can have an in depth one on one session and come up with the perfect solutions.

However, it is relatively easy to decipher what looks good or bad, colourwise by employing the few tricks I mentioned a few weeks ago in “Colour me Beautiful”. Here is a recap.

* In natural lighting, hold up a block of colour, a t-shirt perhaps, near your face and notice how your face reacts. At first you may be unsure but after a few tries you will notice that it either lights up your face or makes it appear sallow. If you are still unsure, decide it is sallow. That lit up look is what people will see when you walk into a room. It is priceless.

* Metallics are a great way to wear neutral shades of accessories, especially that go with everything without resorting to harsh black that drain out the colour from most people. If you do not know which metallic shade you are, try out a silver and gold eyeshadow under each eyebrow in the mirror and you will see which side looks ‘lit-up”. Throw the other one away in a faraway bin!


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