When it comes to fashion and style your environmental norm is the way people around you expect you to dress. It is the unspoken dress code wherever you are, whether that’s at work, at a party, at a family event, or socializing with friends. 

The world is much more casual than it used to be. The upside of this is that we seldom worry about being underdressed, but the downside is that we are more concerned about being overdressed. This is a recurring theme with my clients. They desperately want to step up their style quotient by dressing up or wearing trendier, more creative, or edgier outfits, but aren’t comfortable challenging their environmental norm. When they do, they invite questions about why they’re “dressed up“. They would rather not attract attention in this way because, ironically, it makes them feel bad about their outfit.

My suggestion to my clients who feel this way is number 5 in my list of New Year’s resolutions”Set the stylish standard and don’t let anyone make you feel bad for dressing in the ways that make you happy.”

Shrug off the commentary and judgement because it’s temporary. If you persevere, you’ll probably find that before long others will be more accepting of your evolving style quotient, and inspired to step it up themselves. I’ve also found that it becomes easier to challenge your environmental norm as you get older. With age comes confidence. Confidence makes it easier to sport an outfit with conviction, which in turn tends to temper negative reactions from others.

There is nothing wrong with adhering to your environmental norm. But in an ideal world it would be just as easy to try something new if it makes you happy, is within the boundaries of your work dress code, and does not prevent you from getting on with your day. I think we get closer to that ideal world every time we brave the environmental norm to wear what makes us happy.