Last week, I spoke at a benefit for Bottomless Closet (called Smart & Sexy Day) on behalf of The Women’s Alliance in honor of Women’s History Month.
The event was aimed at helping low-income women prepare to re-enter the workforce. My role was to talk beauty basics, provide style tips and aid in boosting self-confidence so that those in attendance would walk away feeling self-assured, eager and employable. Or, on a more basic level – to encourage them look and feel their best.
Now, a story:
On the morning of March 13, I was ready. I’d spent the entire week prior preparing, I wasn’t late upon arrival at the venue and I even had time to iron my blouse. (All of these things are a rarity, admittedly — especially in tandem.)
As I sat, sipped my coffee and listened intently to the first presentation of the morning, I realized in horror that the entire hour was devoted to preaching and teaching a more traditional dressing route – neutral slacks, pantyhose, avoiding patterns, and absolutely “no colored shoes.”
The audience nodded intently. I gnawed on my cuticles.
Well, f–k. Guess what I was wearing?
This ensemble, but with black pants: A striped blazer, colorful floral blouse and — per usual — matching neon shoes. (I almost went with the outfit in today’s post, but changed my mind last-minute.)
This type of talk is to be expected, I suppose, but it was right before my speech. Me, the “Tryer of Trends” and resident Fashion Blogger. Accordingly, I’m a walking “Don’t!”
I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I couldn’t ramble off my agenda of print-mixing and preach the art of a subtle statement shoe. And my gut wasn’t telling me anything but the fact that I should’ve eased up on the pastry buffet.
I stood up, made my way to the podium, grabbed the mic and tossed my speech in the trash.
“Hi, I’m Hallie. And I have a lot of explaining to do,” I began. They laughed.
The next 30 minutes transformed into dialogue — a discussion on how today’s slow-to-rebound economy can prove difficult for all of us. Combine that with not having the right outfit to make a great first impression at an interview and it can create impossibly paralyzing barriers. (This is why Bottomless Closet is such a fantastic organization!)
I was surprised at how seemingly foundational the questions being asked were.
“How do I wear make-up?” One woman (with pretty porcelain skin) said.
“I hate my eyelashes,” said another. “And can I wear color?”
As I stood in front of these women and swallowed back anxiety over my own personal image issues, it dawned on me that there’s a deeper business of beauty and confidence that we hadn’t yet tapped into.
You can’t apply beauty. It’s not something you buy or acquire or consume – it’s something you have to be. You can’t rely on your style or your looks to sustain you — what’s fundamentally beautiful is grace and compassion for yourself and those around you.
I know it’s super-cheesy and you’ve heard it before in some way or another, but that’s what hugs the heart, fills your soul and validates your external beauty.
Poise. Compassion. Grace. And a healthy side of sass (comma, bitches!).
Thank you to TWA and Bottomless Closet for having me last week. Want to know my own personal take-away that goes beyond beauty? Whether it’s a 30-minute speech or life in general, sometimes it’s best to go it unscripted.
*Wearing: The Limited blazer (40% off with code FASHION), Cynthia Rowley blouse, Express pants (styled here and here). Topshop pumps (similar), BaubleBar necklace | *Beauty: YSL Rogue Volupte lipstick in Rose Opera (#29), NARS blush in Love Joy, Benefit Gimme Brow