5 Secrets to Great Style: A Fashion Coach Defies the Notion that Style is an Inherited Trait

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Contrary to popular belief, style is not innate, but an acquired taste, explains Susan Sommers, fashion coach and founder of Dresszing™, a visual communications company. For those who don't have a role model to teach them the ins and outs of style, the author of French Chic developed a unique 5-step approach with French roots.

Contrary to popular belief, style is not innate, but an acquired taste, explains Susan Sommers, fashion coach and founder of Dresszing™, a visual communications company.

To teach her male and female clients and subscribers to her free newsletter, Style Flash, ways of developing their personal style, Sommers developed a unique 5-step approach with French roots.

While living in Paris researching her book, French Chic, she noticed that all her stylish friends had a French stealth weapon, called maman, or mom. Not only the sartorial role model for her daughter(s), she was also the catalyst for instilling a physical confidence in her offspring, whether male or female, which has little to do with appearance.

Sommers adapted her advice for those who don’t have a role model and suggests trying these 5 Gallic-based ideas on for size:

1. Identify your image. Clothing allows us to project any image we want. You simply have to decide how you want to be perceived, and then dress for it. What you do, what you like and what looks good on you are your major considerations. One exercise is to select an adjective that sums up the impact you want to make. For a financial advisor, the word might be, "wealthy" (How much credibility would a "poor" expert have?) Then look for clothing that conveys this attitude.

2. Imitate a stylish person. Copy someone who exudes the image you seek. This person could be the most successful person in your organization, someone you've met at an event or even a stranger you glimpsed in passing. Perhaps he or she is on the cover of your favorite business publication or even a model wearing a great look in a fashion magazine.

3. Emphasize your assets. Select silhouettes, items and colors that not only work with your image, but also express your personality and play up your best features. Don't forget that “great” bodies come in all sizes and shapes. “I know how difficult this can be when clothes are shown only on tall, skinny girls and young, hunky men, “ says Sommers, pointing out that sometimes believing in yourself takes work. She suggests turning an imperfection into a uniquely personal distinction. Another idea is trying to get into the best shape you can, since physical activity can help put you in touch with your body so that you feel better about it, while improving the way you move and carry yourself in your clothing.

4. Stand tall. When your posture is perfect, your clothing looks better, whatever your height or size. So walk with your head up, shoulders back, ribcage raised and stomach in. Comfortable shoes help.

5. Befriend a tailor. You can’t be stylish if your clothing doesn’t fit, no matter how expensive the garments. Pieces that are too large undermine your power; those that are too small do the same and are uncomfortable to boot. The most modern silhouette for both men and women is slimmer and more shaped and this usually takes tailoring.

Her last, very personal secret? Take a risk. Stretch your limits a bit and try a touch that will set your look apart and give it punch. For a man who usually sticks with a French blue shirt and striped tie, it could be a pattern-on-pattern look (striped shirt with a dot tie, for example). For a woman who tends to under accessorize, it could be an eye-catching brooch or necklace or whimsical shoes. Or, an entire outfit that's slightly, just slightly, unexpected.

For more information about Susan Sommers and Dresszing—and to sign up for free style tips—please visit http://www.dresszing.com.

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Susan Sommers