Top 10 “Style” Tips I Learned from Clinton Kelly at IAAP EFAM 2011

Aug 12, 2011 | Career Development

As you know, I was pretty excited to hear Clinton Kelly speak LIVE at the International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) Educational Forum and Annual Meeting (EFAM) 2011 in Montreal a couple of weeks ago.  I even managed to get my copy of his book, Oh No She Didn’t, personally autographed! His book includes the top 100 style mistakes women make and how to avoid them.  I highly recommend it! And this week I want to share the top 10 questions Mr. Kelly gets asked by women and what he shared with us at the conference. These are my notes (or sound bites) from his presentation to a room of close to 1,000+ (mostly female) audience members in Montreal.

READER WARNING:  In order to capture and authentically share the essence of Mr. Clinton Kelly’s presentation, I’m using his terminology and phrasing (as acurately as I could capture it) throughout this post. This strays a bit (or a lot) from my typical writing style; however, for the purpose and intent of this post, I’m sure you’ll see why I chose to relay it in his words as much as possible. I think you’ll enjoy it!


Opening comments by Clinton Kelly…

  • How you present yourself is telling the world how you want to be treated.
  • Fashion = a buffet; Style = what you put on your plate
  • Not everyone can participate in fashion; everyone can participate in style.
  • There’s a big difference between fashion and style.  Use style as a tool to help you in your life.
  • On his hit show, “What Not To Wear”, he said there are 3 basic categories: frumps, sluts, freaks.  Frumps have typically forgotten about themselves.  Sluts want male attention in any possible way. Freaks will wear anything to get attention from anyone.  Mr. Kelly’s advice: Don’t get dressed for a man. EVER.  Get dressed because you feel good in it.  Do it for you.
  • There is positive attention and negative attention. Not all attention is good.  Be aware of what you’re wearing and doing in order to attract attention to you.

The top 10 questions Clinton Kelly gets asked by women are:

10. Everyone I know is a slob. I don’t want to look over dressed. How do I dress?

Never EVER worry about what others are wearing. 

Avoid the “Mom Uniform”: white cross trainer sneakers, white wash mom jean, one-size-fits-all t-shirt, and hoodie or one-size-fits-all sweatshirt.

Instead…upgrade the sneakers with colored sneakers. Try some straight cut, dark wash jeans. Wear a blouse that has darts and is more conforming to your shape.  Jackets! Jackets! Jackets!  Get some great jackets to pair up with your ensemble to make it look amazing.

Be careful of anything that looks like a square or a rectangle on a hangar (e.g. t-shirts or sweatshirts).  We have a shape with curves and our clothing should accommodate it.

9. My husband is a slob. What do I do about that?

Men can be trained…just like pets.

Men respond to treats <<wink>><<wink>>.

Don’t berate him when he wears things that you don’t like.  REWARD him when he wears things that do look great.  He’ll catch on.

8. What do I do about my boobs?

Every woman MUST get a professional bra fitting.  That’s the #1 thing they do for every person on “What Not To Wear” even if they don’t always show it on TV.  It’s an absolute must.

You want your boobs to be about half way between your shoulder and your elbow.  A correctly fitted bra will help you achieve this.  You don’t have to fight with clothes so much if you do this because designers make clothes with this in mind.

A professional bra fitting will change your life.

Note: A professional bra fitter isn’t the 17 year old at the mall who works there part time.  A professional bra fitter will most likely be able to look at you and tell you what size you are before you ever get started. She’ll likely have professional business cards as well.

7. What do I do about my butt?

Long legs make you look taller and thinner.

Get a good tailor if you have a flat butt.

Don’t wear a long shirt with a big butt.  If you have a bit butt, only wear a shirt that goes half way down your butt.  You want to cut your butt in half with the shirt, not cover it. (Author’s note: He showed an example with an audience member on stage and it made an AMAZING difference!)

Fix the gaps in the back of pants waistbands. You don’t want all of that extra fabric or the gapping either one.

6. Jeans – How do I find a pair of jeans that fit?

You must try on at least 20 different pairs of jeans before you will likely find a pair that will work.

#1 priority for jeans is to make your butt look cute.

Skinny jeans look best on skinny women.

Narrow jeans at the ankle make you look wide everywhere else…and puts emphasis on the hip, thigh, and rear end.

Straight leg jeans (from the knee to the ground) are the most typical.

But what you REALLY want is a pair of jeans that is straight from the hip to the ankle.

Boot cut jeans are wider from the knee to the floor. They should fit you like a straight leg jean. They work on a lot of people.

Trouser jean is straight from the hip to the ground. These work well on all body types.  They have nice straight lines.

Nice straight lines help lengthen you and make you look taller, too.

5. Heels – I have bad feet, what do I do?

Comfy shoes can also be fabulous.

Stacked heels and wedges are great options.

Heels make legs look longer. Longer legs make you look taller. Taller makes you look thinner.

Give yourself a few more inches with heels and it takes pounds off of your look and appearance.

Wear sandals NOT flip flops!  Choose leather sandals. The only place for flip flops is the shower or the beach. That’s it.

Shoes set the tone of the outfit.

4. Pantyhose – Should you wear them or not?

If you’re going to wear pantyhose, here’s the rule: It should look like you’re wearing hose or it should look like you’re not wearing hose.

Do NOT wear suntan hose!

If you want to look natural wearing hose, go with nude color.  Otherwise, go with other hose colors so it’s obvious you’re wearing them.

3. I ain’t got no money. What do I do?

Style is not about money.  Fashion is sometimes about money and designer logos, etc.

KEY POINT:  You can have great style at every single price point.

If you need labels and logos, you have an insecurity issue.

How clothes fit + how you put them together = what matters.

Always ask this about clothing: Is this serving my highest purpose?

Remember BASE.

A=Age Appropriate
S=Situational Appropriateness

You have to shop within a budget. You’ll end up with stuff instead of outfits if you don’t shop with a budget.

You must clean out your closet at least once a year…ideally twice a year.

Try on EVERY SINGLE piece of clothing.  It will change your life.

If it’s too tight, it goes out the door.  This is mental sabotage. Don’t do this to yourself!

If it’s too big, it goes out the door.  It doesn’t fit.

No fit = no style.

Fit is the essence of style.

If you’re holding onto clothes that are too big in case you gain weight, don’t give yourself permission to go back up to that size.

Once you’ve tried everything on, then ask yourself this:  Do I have 2 other things that this goes with?  You have to make outfits then.  The combinations you need to think about might include: work + weekend; work + evening; evening + weekend.

2. Weight in my belly – what’s the best way to hide a belly?

JACKETS!  They are life savers.

A jacket does the work so your body doesn’t have to. Jackets broaden the shoulder and takes emphasis away from your mid-section.

Jackets are your #1 friend for taking emphasis away from the mid-section.

Wear a good bra.

Find blouses with a knot or twist or wear jewelry below the bust, but above the belly.  It draws your eyes up.

Seams under the bust line also take emphasis away from the belly area. It also makes your legs look longer.

Wear shapewear with evening gowns.

Shiny fabrics make bumps show up more because light reflects off of it.

1.    Dressing age appropriate; not like a 16 year old, not like my mother.

When you start asking, “Am I too old to be wearing this?”  Beware.  The time to start paying attention to this typically comes somewhere between ages 35 and 45…but it’s different for everyone.

When it comes to trends, be careful.  Ask yourself these questions about current trends:

  • Does this trend show too much cleavage?
    • Don’t lead with sexuality first. It tells people that’s all you think you’ve got.
    • Does this trend show too much leg?
    • Does this trend show my belly button at all?
    • Would a hooker look at this and say “that’s the look for me”?

There are trampy trends.  Of the 16 new trends that come out this year, there will be 4-5 that you should probably never wear.

Don’t do a trend from head to toe. Do a trend on one half and a classic on the other half of your body.

Beige shows all of your imperfections.  Be careful wearing beige.

These are the items that make outfits interesting and make people notice you:

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Pattern
  • Shine

Other Q&A/comments before Mr. Kelly wrapped up his presentation:

Elastic waist pants are trouble.  They have too much gathering at the waist.

Regarding accessories and jewelry…during the day you can do a focus piece on your ears or neck plus a bracelet.  In the evening, you can do more.  But you want one focus piece, not focus pieces on ears, neck, and wrist all at the same time.  Choose one element that is the star of the show.  Earring and necklace sets aren’t cool.  You want coordinating earrings and necklaces, but not matching sets.  Beware of a ring on every finger. That’s the mall jewelry look.

Regarding skirts and hemlines…mid-calf hem lines are dangerous. Around the knee is better (if you’re shorter).

Whenever you tuck a shirt into pants, your eyes go to the waistline.


Author’s final thoughts:  Clinton Kelly covers all of these points and 90 more in his fun, entertaining style, and very easy-to-read book, Oh No She Didn’t.  If you want to look fabulous, I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself today!  Some simple tweaks may be all you need to look good and feel great EVERY day.

© 2011 Julie Perrine International, LLC


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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s books — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career and The Organized Admin: Leverage Your Unique Organizing Style to Create Systems, Reduce Overwhelm, and Increase Productivity. And request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at

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