• Nicole Otchy

What It Actually Means To Dress For Your Personal Brand

Dressing in alignment with one’s personal brand is a hot topic in my world lately. Here's how I incorporate my prior experience with personal branding in public relations with the styling work I do today with my clients.

Personal branding is the process of developing a distinct image that, over time and with consistency, delivers a message to other people about who you are. It's a shorthand message that you alone are in charge of drafting, creating and living every single day to position yourself as an expert at what you do.

Why Personal Branding Matters

The world we live in moves fast, flooding us with information, and (for better or for worse) we form impressions of each other quickly using mental shortcuts. The best way to leverage this is to make a clear and precise statement before you even get to the substance of your interaction. Thinking of yourself as a brand is an extremely effective tool for fast-tracking your professional ambitions.

Not only is using your wardrobe one of the most effective ways of leveraging your personal brand to stand out to other people, it’s an incredibly effective way for us to remind ourselves where we want to go professionally and how we want to feel getting there.

Applying Principles Of Personal Branding To Your Wardrobe

Building a personal brand is a process that unfolds over time, but in order to do it well there are three pieces of the personal branding puzzle you will need to have in place: style clarity, authenticity and context.

Style Clarity

Style clarity is having a personal style that is so well defined it becomes a recognizable signature that people remember you by. It means that you have a specific set of personal style rules that define what you will and won’t wear. Developing these internal guidelines gives you a structure to build your personal style around. Other people don’t have to know about them, and they can (and should) change over time. Style clarity only develops through trial and error.

The true power of a having style clarity is that your style sends the message that you are self-confident and at ease with yourself. Feeling at ease with ourselves is what allows others to feel at ease with us, and it’s one of the primary reasons that so many executives and other people in leadership roles seek out a stylist.

Here are some examples of style clarity that are now iconic:

Anna Wintour's signature bob and sunglasses have been a constant throughout her career.

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Michelle Obama's became recognized as a style icon for her bare arms and well tailored sheath dress.

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Linda Rodin's silver hair and classic style with a twist make her image more recognizable than the beauty brand she founded.

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Alignment in your wardrobe is about having what you wear support you in feeling aligned to with how you want to feel on your best day. Whatever feelings you have when you are excelling at what you do best are exactly the feelings you want to elicit when you get dressed in the morning. Clothing can be used to prime these emotions and feelings – and since you have to get dressed anyway, why not use this to your advantage? (Not to get too nerdy here, but this effect is known as “enclothed cognition” and it’s a real thing).

I have a lot of clients that work from home tell me that wearing yoga pants makes them feel their best, so all pants they buy should feel like yoga pants. Comfort should be a priority but the confusion here is in thinking that feeling comfortable means feeling our best. It can take a little time for our brains and bodies to catch up to our reflections in the mirror when you’re used to dressing solely for comfort. Reminding ourselves (or having someone else to remind you) that you may be sacrificing short-term comfort for longer term connection can go a long way when you’re building a wardrobe that reflects your personal brand.


Context is the most important but least discussed aspect of creating a strong personal style and brand. Most people put their effort in one area of their life and neglect the others when getting dressed. Most of my clients think about what they'e going to wear to work but spend little time thinking about what they're wearing in their personal lives. The consequence of this is that there is a big disconnect between we show up across the many contexts that make up our lives. Understanding how contexts interact with and shapes your personal brand starts with answering two key questions:

  • In what contexts do you regularly show up in? (work, social gatherings, speaking engagements, time with your family, etc)

  • Who are you in each of those spaces and with all of those people? (Example: I’m a leader, I’m a partner, I’m an expert, I’m a trusted resource, etc.)

Of course, there are core aspects of who you are that remain constant across all contexts. Building a strong, dynamic visual brand is about knowing which aspects of our style need to shift to remain sensitive to context, and which aspects need to remain constant for the core essence of our style to come through clearly.

Not only is using your wardrobe one of the most effective ways of leveraging your personal brand to stand out to other people, it’s an incredibly effective way for us to remind ourselves where we want to go professionally and how we want to feel getting there.

Want to see how we can use personal styling through the lends of branding to make you feel more confident and ready for anything? Contact me here.

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