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Dress For Success: How To Create A Winning Wardrobe

Gabrielle Peacock from Dress for Success Toronto offers a little advice on how women are empowering themselves by finding an office wardrobe that wows….

Dress for Success was formed in 1996 inside a New York City church basement and today the organization offers services in over 150 cities across 30 countries, helping women obtain opportunity and economic independence while outfitting themselves in professional attire. Since 2009, Dress for Success Toronto has helped over 10,000 women in the GTA find their place and move forward in work. Gently used clothing is donated, support services are offered, and women have become empowered through dress and determination.

Gabrielle Peacock is the interim executive director at Dress for Success Toronto and brings 20 years’ experience in the culture sector. We connected with Peacock to deep dive into the fashion of success and see how women are empowering themselves by finding an office wardrobe that wows.

“We know the feeling of wearing an outfit that makes us feel powerful and beautiful. It gives us confidence, a feeling of empowerment and maybe even a little courage,” says Peacock. “Clothes can be transformative.”

Peacock says the biggest mistake when it comes to buying (especially on a budget) our wardrobe is that we opt for “fast-fashions or of the moment trends.” Peacock advises on sticking to classic, timeless pieces that are made with quality fabrics.

“Substituting comfort over style is a slippery slope so you always want to ensure your office attire is appropriate and easy to move around in,” says Peacock.

First impressions do matter and one’s clothing can have a lasting snapshot. As we emerge into the workforce what we wear becomes more important. “[Clothes] certainly provide employers and colleagues with an understanding of how you value and care for yourself which extends to your professional career,” explains Peacock.

So what do we buy and how to we get the most out of our clothes? Gabrielle Peacock shares her top five tips to start doing right now.

1. Quality over quantity
“Buy pieces that will stand the test of time and are made with quality fabrics and have classic designs. A black pencil skirt or pant suit will never go out of style and can be mixed and matched with almost everything.”

2. Reduce & re-use
“So much clothing ends up in landfills. [Keeping] sustainability on the top of the mind, check out the luxury online consignment sites like www.therealreal.com or www.vestiairecollective.com. These are go-to’s for amazing deals on designer staples.”

3. Shake up your routine
“The majority of people wear 20% of their closet 80% of the time. I recently re-organized the racks in my closet according to colour instead of item type and I felt like I had a whole new wardrobe. Plus it is way faster to choose in the morning.”

4. Dress for YOUR body
“Shop for items that accommodate your body shape, whatever it may be. Make your local tailor your new best friend. Often a minor alteration can completely transform the fit of a blouse, skirt, pant, etc.”

5. Donate!
“If you haven’t worn it in the past 12 months chances are you’re not going to wear it anytime soon. Clean out your closet and donate that workwear to Dress for Success Toronto.

Above: Gabrielle Peacock is the interim executive director at Dress for Success Toronto

The key staples every woman needs
According to Peacock, any Canadian will agree that you have to have a “great pair of tall black boots in your work wardrobe that you can pair with dresses as well as look great peeking out from under suit pants.”

Peacock also recommends opting for a dark neutral work bag that can do double duty like carrying a lap top as “it’s really important for a polished look.”

As the chillier weather sneaks closer, Peacock says it’s best to purchase a classic long winter coat, stressing that while some may ring pricey, “think about how many times you wear it.”

“A quality pant or skirt suit can be worn together or on their own and will always look professional and sophisticated,” adds Peacock. A classic white blouse is also essential as it “never goes out of style” and can be worn with everything from “skirts to dress pants to dark denims.”

Peacock also says she’s happy to see a return to traditional fabrics and patterns like houndstooth, tweed and tartan. She’s also loving “the bottle green palette that is showing up everywhere—it’s the perfect neutral and a nice alternative to black.”

We all have our workplace armour that once put on gives us that extra push to take on life. For Peacock much of this armour comes down to her shoes.

“Shoes are crucial to completing and outfit and help me feel mentally prepared to conquer the day ahead.”

The top three show-stopping women
As for strong female representations that hold a strong wardrobe and skill set to match, Peacock points to Amal Clooney, Michelle Obama and Emma Watson.

“Amal Clooney gets it right every time and she is a brilliant defender of human rights,” says Peacock. She describes Michelle Obama as: “The epitome of power woman, her style is classic yet modern. Sophisticated A-line and circle skirt cocktails dresses always scream elegance.” As for Emma Watson, Peacock describes the fashion-forward actress as: “Not only is she a fierce voice for female empowerment, she always balances her vibrant youth with professional and timeless styles.”

Final thoughts
“Ignore the size on the label. What’s more important is to be mindful of the fit, and ill-fitting clothes can look sloppy and unprofessional. Buy the bigger size and tailor clothes as needed to always wear your wardrobe with confidence,” advises Peacock.

If you’re interested in donating your gently used clothing or want to find out more information on how to get involved, visit dressforsuccess.org.

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