Working with professional women has always been my sweet spot as a personal stylist. I have never been drawn to the glamour of working with celebrities or socialites. I always wanted to work with impressive and accomplished career-minded women. There needs to be a cost involved for someone to actually pick up the phone and hire a stylist. On the surface, sure, everyone wants a style do-over, but to pull the trigger and actually do it is an entirely different story. So it stands to reason that my work with professional women blossomed because the stakes couldn’t be higher for women with rising careers. After 19 years, my experience with working with this type of client is unmatched.
Yet, you don’t begin your career working with professionals at the top. It took me years of developing skills, building trust, and reputation. You work your way up and over time, attract clients who are in leadership positions, like CEOs of major corporations. Today, I will be talking about one of these clients, an amazing woman whom I have given the alias Ms. Incandescent.
How Would You Describe a Female CEO?
When you envision a female CEO what do you see? Do you visualize an icy, competitive, emotionally distant person? Do you imagine that any woman who has gotten to this point in her career has needed to give up all warmth, compassion, or soft qualities? If you said yes, I can’t entirely blame you. First, we have the media to thank for how women who are in leadership professionally have been marginally represented in movies and TV. Second, female CEOs are basically unicorns. Despite the fact that, according to Fortune, there was an all-time high of 23 women in CEO positions at Global 500 companies in 2021, that still only equals 4.6% of the total. Given how underrepresented women are in these leadership positions, it figures that we have only a vague idea of the type of women who have these types of jobs.
Certainly, we can’t paint all these women with one broad brushstroke, but one of the reasons I love working with clients like this is because, on some level, I completely understand them. These women are high-achieving, enterprising, intelligent leaders who are addicted to excellence, and love to work. In fact, while Ms. Incandescent and I were discussing our crazy workload and I described myself as a Border Collie because I am happiest when I am working, she said, “I just might have to steal that.”
In addition, Ms. Incandescent is an unassuming powerhouse with an appearance to match. She has gentle coloring, a genial smile, and a warm, calm personality. In doing some research, I found the leadership board of her company. There was her photo at the top with nearly all white men beneath her. It was incredible to think about what it took for her to rise to CEO. But knowing her, the kind, forbearing power she possesses, the thoughtfulness she always exhibits, and how she listens and respects the expertise of others, what I see in her is someone who understands how to lead, inspire other leaders, and bring out the best in people. I gave Ms. Incandescent her alias because she is bright and impressive with a luminous glow.
Ms. Incandescent’s Wardrobe Needs as a CEO in a Leadership Position
As a CEO, Ms. Incandescent is in a tricky position with regard to her image and how she projects herself at work. Even before the pandemic, the company she heads up, which employs several hundred people and earns several hundred million dollars in revenue a year, is a casual place where she can wear jeans or more casual looks. Her travel schedule can also be dizzying and where she needs to attend all different types of events. Striking that perfect wardrobe balance in her position as CEO can be difficult because dressing more casually while still coming across as the person in charge is delicate. Ms. Incandescent can’t stroll in wearing the same casual pieces as those who report to her, but she also can’t look unapproachable and stiff in looks that are too conservative or rigid because by doing so she may look like the boss but she would also come across as removed, out of touch, and disconnected.
The next challenge is that Ms. Incandescent wears a size 16/18 which is fine if this size range wasn’t the equivalent of a cell phone dead zone, as I call it. Nobody likes to claim these sizes. Few missy brands reach this far and 16/18 isn’t really considered plus-size which means not all plus-size brands dip that low. The offering in these sizes becomes limited especially when a woman has money to spend. Despite the data being more complex than assumed, the public perception is that being overweight is a disease of the poor and among people from lower-income households. This leaves women of larger size with money to invest with few options to shop.
Planning Ms. Incandescent’s Wardrobe
In the planning phase for this season, Ms. Incandescent and I set very clear goals. The first was to create looks that were casual enough to fit her work environment by selecting upscale causal pieces or by pairing lower-end casual pieces with higher-end ones so that the lower-end pieces would look elevated. Second, as you can imagine, Ms. Incandescent’s schedule is incredibly taxing, so she requested a very easy mix-and-match wardrobe capsule. She has no extra bandwidth to think about what to wear in the morning. Third, this capsule needed to cover a variety of requirements when interfacing with others. In all things she does, she needs to represent herself as a CEO, however, all those situations vary greatly.
As the landscape of opportunity continues to widen for women in leadership and dress codes in the workplace further relax, the whole concept of women rising to the top by rubber-stamping themselves into dress-for-success-suited looks is over. In many ways, where I draw inspiration in styling my clients in the current work climate is from my fashion design days and the women I reported to. These were women who knew how to creatively look like leaders. Yet, these were also women trained in fashion. The caveat for women in executive leadership is fashion isn’t their strong suit, no pun intended. So while there is no love lost by women for the old ways of wearing a suit, there is a longing by many of them for a time when all they had to think about was which top to wear with the closet of suits they owned. This is why capsules and easy mix-and-match wardrobes are so appealing.
Ms. Incandescent’s Capsule
Shop Ms. Incadescent’s Capsule
1 Merritt Jardigan 2 Edge-to-Edge Cardigan 3 Shawl-Collar Cotton Cardigan 4 Scoop Neck Cashmere Tunic 5 Lambswool Cable Sweater 6 Cashmere V-Neck Sweater 7 Rib-Knit Linen Sweater 8 Short Sleeve Cashmere Sweater 9 Short Sleeve Linen Sweater 10 Rib Stitch Cotton Sweater 11 Abaca Viscose Sweater 12 Beautiful Flower Silk Cashmere Scarf 13 Valextra Brera Large Leather Top-Handle Tote 14 The Sammataro Jean 15 Jersey Denim Jeans 16 Lightweight Denim Jeans 17 Ribes Sateen Trousers 18 Reims Nappa-Look Trousers 19 Stretch Gramercy Pants 20 Tapered Linen Trousers 21 Charli Top 22 Linen Knit Top 23 Earth Quake Cotton Scarf 24 Mosaic Cashmere Silk Scarf 25 Kate Embellished Suede Loafers 26 Olisa Slip-On Sneakers 27 2.ZERØGRAND Wingtip Oxford 28 Carisa Booties 29 Jalen Flat 30 Wrap Gold Ring 31Gold-Plated & Glass Pearl Chain Necklace 32 Lygia Necklace 33 8 Knot Huggie Earrings 34 Elizabeth Pink Quartz Pendant Necklace 35 Golden Glow Necklace 36 Vicky Washable Silk Tank 37 Evelina Draped Tank 38 Natural Buffalo Horn Chain Bracelet 39 Virginia T-Shirt 40 Modal, Cotton & Silk Printed Scarf 41 Edetta Loafers 42 Gold-Plated Sterling Silver & Labradorite Ring 43 Modern Chunky Sterling Silver Ring 44 Chunky Dome Ring 45 Oval-Link Earrings 46 Goldplated & Blue Agate Hoop Earrings 47 Labradorite & Freshwater Pearl Necklace 48 Freshwater Pearl Mixed-Link Chain Bracelet 49 Gold-Plated Cuff 50 Electra Floral Modal Scarf 51 Fallen Autumn Leaves Modal Scarf 52 Bilia Viscose Twill Shirt 53 Poplin Split Neck Blouse 54 Embroidered Ramie Shirt 55 Long Silk Shirt 56 V-Neck Linen Tunic 57 Funnel Neck Blouse 58 Pleated Satin Ruffle-Trim Blouse 59 Crepe Suzette Twist Top 60 Farina Poplin Shirt 61Fabriano Cotton Shirt
To note before we get into the looks created from Ms. Incandescent’s casual CEO capsule:
- This capsule was built for transition. Given the time of year, I picked pieces to round out the winter season while also introducing some spring pieces. This is why you see some duplicates of pieces in the same colors, like two pinks sweaters. One is linen and the other is cashmere.
- The intention isn’t for Ms. Incandescent to purchase all of it. I always mention this, but to clarify, I build out large capsules so a client can choose what they like and leave the rest without losing its ability to all work together. In addtion, the reason I started capsuling wardrobes for clients was twofold. The first reason was becasue during the pandemic, my work went exlusvively virtual and capsulng wardrobes for clients was the easiest way to explain to a client how to utilize what I picked for them without me being there. Capsuling also started as a helpful tool for me to cross check and make sure my selections were balanced. In time, however, capsuling has become the most requested tool from clients.
- Accessories are a way to get more with less. Ms. Incandescent requested accessories for her capsule, but even if she didn’t, I would have added them because if you want to keep things tight and easy, they are the most efficient and fastest way to change things up. They’re also easy and small to pack. As you will see, in each look, Ms. Incandescent has a variety of accessories to choose from for each look. She can can use shoes to change the appearance of an outfit from more casual to a bit dressier and can switch up and swap out a scarf in lieu of accessories. These are just quick and smart ways to look like you took more time than you did to get dressed.
Outfits Created Using Ms. Incandescent’s Wardrobe Capsule
Where We Go From Here
Ms. Incandescant and I will be meeting up and discussing purchases and considering alternatives I offered as substitutes for pieces in this capsule. Once her buys are received, we will review, talk keeps, and what fill-ins need to be addressed. For now, I want to thank Ms. Incandescent for her permission to share this capsule. Building this beautiful capsule was a wonderful challenge and it has been a pure delight working with her.