Catherine Cassidy is stylish, chic and wise. She’s started Ustyled to help the busy woman develop her own sense of style and build a closet filled with truly wearable items. She has become a great friend of She’s Fit To Lead, and we are thrilled that she will be attending Connect To Confidence on May 21, 2016, and sharing her own unique brand of style advice with us. Welcome to The Fit List, Catherine.
Tell us about how your style evolved?
Looking back, I see my story less about evolving style and more about owning my power, my confidence and my body. My style defines who I am as a leader, an entrepreneur and a woman. Early on, I didn’t like a lot of attention, and I wore more body disguising clothes. I went for the classic, preppy and maybe even a little tomboyish look. I was more of a tee shirt and jeans kind of girl, and that is still the essence of my style, but it’s evolved to be more fun, feminine and bold as I’ve evolved in my career and my confidence – confidence in both myself and my body. . Now, I take any opportunity to wear dresses and heels, and I love to add those fun finishing touches like a scarf or a belt. You have to be practical though – your highest heels and running errands are never going to mix.
You never wore sweats to class. Why?
When I went to college, Juicy Couture was the thing. I did get a Juicy velour track suit for Christmas, and I found I could only bring myself to wear it around the house. It felt great for lounging or studying, but to wear it to class, I’d feel frumpy, dowdy and not ready to perform. Even if I was just in jeans and flip-flops, I wanted to look good and feel good. For me, that’s what it means to show up and be present in the moment, ready to do my best. By the way, it actually really matters. It turns out my intuitive sense in college was confirmed when I learned about “enclothed cognition” (Adams & Galinsky) years later. Students at Northwestern University performed tasks wearing nondescript white jackets – one group was told they were wearing a doctor’s lab coat, another that they were wearing a painter’s smock and the third was told nothing. Those who thought they were dressed like doctors actually outperformed the others! What you wear absolutely impacts how you perform and your level of confidence.
When you started work, your personal style made you seem as if you had a more senior role. I want that too. What are three things I should do?
First, pay attention to tailoring and detail. Find clothes that fit you (or get them altered). For example, make sure your sleeves or pants legs aren’t too long or too short and that your blouse isn’t too big, too small or too low. One of the things that stood out to me with the launch of ‘New Barbie’ is that one of the designers commented that Mattel has a new challenge: Not all the clothes fit all the bodies. It’s the same for you as a woman, not all clothes fit every body.
Second, add some personality. Rock that favorite necklace or ring. Choose something that is meaningful to you and that makes you feel confident.
Finally, introduce some color into your wardrobe. Even if you need to dress very conservatively, a pop of color always works and gives your style some great personality and helps you create your own personal brand. Colors carry their own messages. Cobalt blue for example is universally flattering, communicates a balance between power and cheerfulness, and sends the message that you are confident, loyal and trustworthy. If red or orange is your favorite, use them but know that they can come across harsh in some instances. In the end, as in all things, you have to do you! You’ll know if you’re doing the right thing from how you feel when you’re dressed and the compliments you receive.
What inspired you to start Ustyled? What makes Ustyled different?
I was working as a corporate merchandiser. I loved the job and it was a cool experience. I got to work with the high level executives at BCBG, and I was truly in the middle of everything, but the path to advancement, to promotions and raises felt largely out of my control. I also looked up the chain and saw a life I didn’t want to have – women with no time for their family and not enough reward for the work they were putting in. At the same time, I was also working my way through developing a look. I knew I had to show up looking a certain way irrespective of being both budget and time constrained. I knew I had an advantage in that I did have a sense of what to buy, I had easy access to merchandise, and had a significant discount. I started thinking about other working women with career and family. I realized that I could actually do something to make their lives easier, to help them achieve balance and thrive in the workforce and personally while looking and feeling great. With that, Ustyled was born!
“I realized it wasn’t the power of the dress, but what power the dress allowed me to access.” Tell us about that power.
What you wear on the outside is just a manifestation of your inner self. When I was a merchandiser, I did an entire swimwear line myself, and I had the opportunity to do the presentation to the senior executives. I had to wear black, but otherwise I was on my own. I wore one of my favorite dresses. I got so many compliments, but I realized it wasn’t about the dress. It was my presence in that dress, the confidence I was able to exude, and the sense of my own power just waiting to be realized.
I want to look really put together for my summer internship/new full time job without spending a fortune. What should I do?
Start with foundational pieces. Get 10 great pieces. You can add here and there. If you don’t have anything to wear, you didn’t get those foundational items! You can add pops of color, some different fabrics or other details to keep it interesting. Check out Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, Loft or even H&M. Just be mindful about fit. Price doesn’t matter, but fit and quality really do. Also, have fun! Shopping doesn’t have to be torture or a chore. It’s like you are your own art project, and this is your chance to express yourself.
What makes you feel confident?
I like to feel strong. When I’m healthy, I feel good. I like the look of strong arms. It reinforces to me that I can do it myself!
What does She’s Fit To Lead mean to you? How does someone become Fit to Lead?
You are a leader right now even if you don’t recognize it. We’re so apt to downplay our skills, or to not recognize key leadership skills that we have. Compassion or our drive to help others and to do things for the greater good make us powerful leaders. For example, my mom didn’t work while I was growing up, but she developed an amazing resume through her volunteerism. She never thought twice about offering to help, and there’s an important message in that too. We’ll see more of us rise as leaders as we help one another and recognize one another as leaders. There is huge power in that mutual support.
Be sure to check out Ustyled to learn more.
Thank you Catherine! We can’t wait to see you on May 21, 2016 at Connect To Confidence. Welcome to The Fit List.