How Dressing With Intention is the Crux of Personal Style

I have been asking friends to take time to think about what Living with Intention looks like, feels like, and means in their life. The conversations have been fascinating. I have asked some of these friends to contribute to my blog by diving deeper into this conversation. Sarah G. Schmidt is the Owner, Founder, and Stylist of IT BY SARAH G SCHMIDT INC. She lives in Calgary, Alberta. When not styling, shopping, or blogging, Sarah can be found indulging in and challenging pop culture – read her blog “More to It” on her site - or out and about in her bustling home neighbourhood of Hillhurst (Kensington). 

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Intention is an easy to understand word for me. It was something that I have had by instinct and over the years I have learned to trust. I found my chosen career by partly looking back and partly looking forward. It took a while to actually open my eyes. It’s funny to me now how obvious it was that looking was key to me actually seeing.

Since I can remember I have been strong willed and a bit of a colourful show boat. I loved clothing, movies, musical theatre, history of greats, and foreign languages I didn’t understand. I was so curious in anything different than what I was exposed to. This was a bit of oddity as I come from a rural Saskatchewan farming family. Real salt-of- the-earth people who are relaxed, family oriented, and humble. My challenge is none of those traits came naturally to me. That simply wasn’t me. I was often stuck between wanting to understand why I didn’t get it and why it looked so easy for them. I didn’t appreciate the life I was given and personally felt guilty for that. I was an inner conflict I only understand now, looking back.

Regardless of how guilty or greedy I felt, I knew I wanted to explore and experience more of the world I saw in those fashion magazines, in movies set in big cities, or adventures had in the books I read. It was that in-my- bones-instinct. I craved diversity. I craved action. I craved a beautiful life.

For me that first real intention meant moving away. I wanted to jump into a new phase and new city where I could learn about different things. If I’m being honest, I really wanted to have a life like the career-focused and living-out- loud gals in the fictional TV show Sex and The City. Me and a mere million other country girls, right?

My first adult intention set was to study business. I wanted to see all that was out there. Because I knew very little in the area I was a keen – and a bit clueless – sponge. I soaked it all up. Near the end of my studies I started to question certain theories and challenge my classmates and professors. I know now that when I start to play devil’s advocate, like when I was a kid, it’s a sign I understand and want to challenge the system. It’s also classic behavior of a heretic, aka: shit disturber. The latter descriptive title reflects me better, yes?

I started my career in advertising where I was exposed to many business models, customers, and industries. If you’re ready to get the metaphorical shit kicked out of you daily but learn a tonne and meet crazy talented people who can sell, sell, sell, advertising is for you. The sheer volume of experience gained is insurmountable, invaluable, and I cherish the opportunity granted daily.

That said, eventually that shit disturber started nattering in my thoughts again and I knew it was time to pivot. My goal was to get exposure to as many different businesses and industries in a short time period. When I chose to walk away I felt I had achieved part of that goal.

Non-profit is where I went next. For the first time career wise I was offered an opportunity out of the blue. It wasn’t my intent but a choice nonetheless. Remembering my younger self that wanted to say “yes” to new experiences, I accepted. The organization’s work was humbling and vital for the community. I drank the Kool-Aid and was full in. It also provided the flexibility to pursue my business that I had just incorporated. See, while I was still in my advertising days I dreamt about starting my own fashion styling consultancy. I wanted to use the skills I had gained as an account lead and apply in an area I was passionate about. I wanted to shake things up and try it a new way, my way. There’s that heretic monster again. What gets me going more than anything else is personal style. That was all the intention or focus I needed.

I started my business in style. Ding Ding Ding! I worked at building my business while working for that non-profit organization. Passion is great but you still need to eat, am I right? A couple years later that same organization that chose me, now - partly because of the economy - chose to let me go. It’s actually quite cutesy and fitting completion of the circle, cha? I accepted this new chapter as a kick-in- the-ass reminder to do what I’m supposed to do. Refocus around the purpose I discovered. Do what I do best. I believe that what I do best and makes me feel the best is styling. The power of dressing for oneself is one of the easiest and most satisfying things one can intentionally do daily. Think about it for a second. What other thing can you do for yourself that reflects who you and who you want to be without having to say or do anything other than putting on clothes? We all get dressed, every day, and I am interested in making more refined, confident dressers.

For some people personal style is a uniform that they wear day after day. Cool. For others it’s a deliberate set of looks for the various places their life takes them. Great. For a few, dressing is the ultimate self-expression. If the three examples were placed on a spectrum, I’m the poster child for “dressing fo yo self” self-expression dresser.

Now when I walk down the street and see a person in what I deem as a lazy outfit, I’m disappointed. It’s not from a place of style snobbery or elitism; I’m disappointed because that person didn’t believe in themselves enough that day to put effort into the way they look. I believe that every person, no matter his or her shape, size, or colouring, can look amazing. But no matter how beautiful they may be one the inside, they are showing that they lack self-confidence if they dress lazy. At the bare minimum they show me that they were not intentionally trying to look their best.

A few things to keep in mind about style and confidence. First, it’s proven that people judge you 1 on your appearance. Second, we, too, know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder 2 . The most important “eye” is the client’s. Third, confidence comes from oneself and confidence is very attractive. I combine all those three things when I work with a client who wants a more refined personal style.

1. I style people knowing that they will be judged. I ensure that the clothing on the person is reflective of who they are. I ask does it reflect their career? Their personality? Their colouring, shape, and phase of life? Is the visual we put out there “go”?

2. Next, does the client see that look and say, “That not only reflects who I am, but it looks good too.” Beautiful. If you are putting your best, sincere version of yourself out there, people will be attracted to that.

3. Finally, if you feel good and look good, your confidence will shine through. With confidence you can walk out into the world and achieve whatever it is that you want to.

Confidence is the whole point of personal style. This is why I do what I do. My theory is that it helps to remove barriers. If you look put together and are confident you’re more likely to get that job, the attention of that person, that audition, that opportunity than if you look like a slob. If you look like a slob others may be inclined to question what else are you a slob about? Don’t let them go there. Look good and then seal the deal with your skills.

Every morning I wake up and consider what version or slice of my personality I want to show that day. I remind myself from time to time that where I from does not dictate where I going. Just because I’m from the country does not mean I have to show up that way. The same is true in the reverse. What I do know is that I choose to express myself and create my future. It’s important to mention that I also ensure it works with what meetings and activities I have for the day and have fun with it (and pack a change of clothes if one look doesn’t work for the whole day. For example, shopping with a client and then heading to a spin class has two different style requirements.)

When I head out my door I feel confident in knowing my clothing is a bit like my own personal armour. I don’t want to waste a single day not being who I am. I am confident in how I look and ready to take on the day. What’s more intentional than that?



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