Three Definitions of What It Means to Dress “Professionally”

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When I stand in front of my closet in the morning trying to decide what to wear, I’m often confused on how to represent myself professionally, but still incorporate my sense of style into my look. As a student, fashion blogger, entrepreneur, and social media manager, I need to wear clothes that I can easily transition from business meetings to photoshoots to classes (it’s a struggle sometimes!).
I love these professional, straight leg trousers I snatched from Old Navy because they work for almost any occasion. I paired them with a chic orange top with a few cutouts to show my sophisticated, feminine style, and I added some metallic loafers to give my look a fashion forward edge. With this look, I can easily jump from place to place without breaking my personal aesthetic.

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I used to work at a clothing store (which I’ll leave nameless), where I would initially wear what was true to my style when I went into work. But as soon as I walked in, I could feel the pressure as other girls stared at me, looked me up and down, and judged me for not dressing like them. I started to cave and began dressing similarly, but I wasn’t happy because when I looked in the mirror each morning and asked myself, “Am I dressing for me or am I dressing for them?”, the answer was them.

I eventually left that job, but my time there taught me a valuable lesson. I was beginning to lose who I was because I let someone else’s opinion define me. I think when we get into a level of professionalism, we want to change who we are to please our boss or others around us. Never let anyone change who you are, whether it’s for a job, or anything else.

I will dress professionally, but you can always count on me to add my own flair to it and most importantly, express myself.

-H

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As a photographer, it can be challenging to find clothes I can move around in to get that perfect shot and are still professional enough to meet clients for a consultation. My favorite part of the job is getting to know my customers and listening to their stories so I can reflect their beauty through my lens. I need them to be comfortable and open with me, and meeting them with a smile and a professional appearance is the most effective way to let my models know that they have nothing to worry about.

When I’m taking pictures, I have to be comfortable and flexible, so I can catch that perfect angle at any given second. Especially because I frequently work with families and children, I need to be able to move quickly and keep up with hyper little ones! To enable me to do this, I turn to clothes that are more loose and flexible, like jogger pants, loose tops, and leggings.

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I would honestly prefer to simply wear leggings and t-shirts 24/7, but I realize that as a business owner, I need to put a little more effort into my appearance. So, I dress up my athleisure-style outfits by adding some simple jewelry that doesn’t get in my way, like rings and earrings, and by incorporating some fun patterns into my looks. When it comes to shoes, I will wear more stylish flats or sandals for my consultations, but when I’m actually shooting, it has to be tennis shoes all the way. Fortunately, I have a pair of vintage high-top converse, which work with just about any outfit!
-B

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Geometric Black and White Romper

Even just a couple years ago, I thought dressing ‘professionally’ meant wearing dress pants, a button-down shirt, and heels. That was the standard ‘professional uniform’ in my head. So, that’s almost exclusively what I wore on the rare occasion that I attended an event with a business casual dress code. Whenever I put on my ill-fitting, probably-flared dress pants and a boxy button-down, I never felt like myself because I didn’t think there was any room for creativity and personal expression in the ‘professional world.’

It’s taken me until now to really start branching out from what most people wear to meetings and networking events, but I’m so happy I did because when I feel more like myself in my outfit, I act more like myself. I’m more comfortable talking to people and sharing my ideas, and I think people respond to me better because they can see exactly who I am before I even open my mouth.

Black and White Romper and Sunglasses

I love to toe the line and wear things like rompers because the last thing I want is to blend in with everybody else. As a fashion blogger and a soon-to-be fashion business owner, I set higher expectations for myself when I’m getting ready for an event or a meeting. I think that if you’re going into fashion, you have to try that much harder on a daily basis so that people trust you and eventually buy what you’re selling.
-S

Street Style Stars

Photos by: Rainwater Reflections Photography

Brooke’s Wearing:

| Goodwill Top (similar) | Nordstrom Pants (similar) | Goodwill Flats (similar) | Aldo Sunglasses (similar) |

Sabrina’s Wearing:

| Asos Romper | Amazon Heels | Express Earrings | Goodwill Purse (similar) | TJ Maxx Sunglasses (similar) |

Hannah’s Wearing:

| Old Navy Pants | Forever 21 Loafers | Rue21 Sunglasses (similar) | Amazon Earrings |

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Half the Story

Our mission at Ensemble of Elan is to dress with purpose.

To explore ideas that intrigue us, to celebrate those who inspire us, and discover who we are through fashion.

As part of that, we try to be as authentic and honest as we can, but like anyone, there are still sides of ourselves that we don’t exactly broadcast to the world.

We want to inspire those around us to take on the world with confidence, but we don’t want to give you the idea that this is something that comes to us with ease. Because like anyone, we sometimes doubt ourselves and our abilities.

So, we wanted to share with you our #halfthestory, which is a movement to share the half of yourself that you don’t normally share on social media, and we hope our stories inspire you to do the same.

 

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Have you ever gone somewhere and felt like you were out of place?

Now, have you felt that way almost every day of your life?

Most people probably haven’t, but I have.

I suffer from what is called impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. I graduated as valedictorian from my high school, got accepted into one of the most prestigious honors colleges in the country, graduated summa cum laude with my bachelor’s degree, and I am currently holding a 4.0 GPA in my master’s program.

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People have always regarded me as the “smart girl,” but for a long time, I honestly never felt that way.cI always discounted every accomplishment with something along the lines of “I went to a small school, so there wasn’t as much competition,”or “I got in the Honors College because my sister was already in it, and they liked her,” or “The work wasn’t very hard, so it didn’t take that much effort to get an A.” I never credited myself for a single one of those feats.

I hadn’t heard of imposter syndrome until about a year ago, but when I finally read an article about it, something clicked because it perfectly articulated something I’d felt for years. I was truly afraid to write this because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging; I’m not that kind of person (rather, quite the opposite). I know there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way, but don’t know how to talk about it without looking like they’re fishing for a compliment. From all of us out there who struggle with this, I promise we aren’t ‘humble bragging’ because outside validation does nothing to help us.

 

I wanted to share this anecdote from Neil Gaiman because it helped me realize that I wasn’t alone:

Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.

On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of,

“I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an impostor, maybe everyone did.

Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth;

all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

 

The older I get, the more I realize that nobody actually ever feels like they know what they’re doing.

We look at people who seemingly have it all together and forget that they’re people too.

People just like us.

So, if you do feel way out of your league or completely terrified that people are going to discover that you actually aren’t as intelligent or creative or whatever as people think you are, keep going. Someone (probably a lot of someones) saw something in you, even though you couldn’t see it yourself. Try to give yourself a little credit, and if that’s still difficult for you, remember it’s better to be humble and keep striving to better yourself than to think you are the most amazing person who has ever existed and stay exactly where you are.

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This year, I took on quite the workload with being a full time student, working 20-30 hours a week, starting Ensemble of Elan, and taking the first steps to open our sustainable fashion company, Awaken. I’ve learned that being an aspiring entrepreneur often means accepting stress as part of your life.

Many days last semester consisted of waking up and starting my day in school, doing work for two of my jobs in class (sorry mom), racing to business meetings or blog photoshoots as soon as I got done with class, then in the wee hours of the night I would finally start on some homework. I’m only twenty years old, but I have a lot of dreams, so I knew I needed to find a way for me to take them on without my brain exploding from so much stress.

I noticed the weight of the anxiety and tensions start to creep in, and I continually pushed it to the back of my mind or ignored it until I was on the verge of a meltdown every other day. Rather than sharing my feelings with my friends or family, I employed the “fake it till you make it” method, or as some social psychiatrists put it, “impression management”.

 

Many of the things that make a great entrepreneur- creativity, passion, energy- are also the things that can lead to them feeling worthless and sapped of motivation, especially when things don’t go as planned.

There are almost entire days when I lay in bed, just mentally exhausted from all of the tasks I have to do on regular basis. On those days, the last thing I want to do is to post another social media post or create another graphic. But many times, I don’t really have a choice.

So what are we supposed to do to keep stress from overcoming our lives?

Are we just supposed to give up our dreams altogether because they’re too stressful?

 

What has helped me deal with the stress and burdens of being an aspiring entrepreneur is remembering why we started Awaken in the first place: to help promote sustainable clothing in the fashion industry (and because going into fashion has always been my dream). When I refocus my purpose and intentions of why I am doing all of this, it makes it all worth it.

There are days when I am the most positive, encouraging person and I am ready to take on the day, but there are also days when the doubt and fear crashes down like a thousand ton elephant on my shoulders, and I can barely get a single thing done.

On those days, I like to hit up the gym and let out all of my frustrations.

ANOTHER TIP IS TO JUST TAKE A BATH EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE. IT HELPS.

Many of us worship the ideal of perfection, but letting that go can help us release all stress we compound on a daily basis.

-H

 

Be sure to check out the Half the Story Project for more life unfiltered!_MG_5701Hannah’s Outfit Details

Camisole: Target

Robe: Victoria’s Secret

Earrings: Amazon

Sabrina’s Outfit Details

Slip Dress: Target

Robe: Gift

Earrings: Gift