My friend Michelle Moquin dresses people (not necessarily dancers) for a living, a happy solution for people who need to look good but have no idea how to dress themselves. That was me at the beginning of my career. If you know me, you may find this surprising because I’m known for my unique and innovative style. But it was not always so!
Three decades ago when I was beginning my career as a dance teacher, I was a jeans and flannel shirt kind of girl, complete with feminist approved hairy legs. I had no idea how to dress professionally. I greeted my very first student in cutoff jeans and tee shirt (did I mention the hairy legs?). He took one look and beat a hasty retreat.
I didn’t know Michelle back then, so I did the next best thing. I asked my mother for help! She gave me some of her clothes that were timeless classics. I have a couple of photos from my first fashion shoot as I tried on the dresses, but I didn’t get them all on film, which I very much regret now.
One of the missing photos was of a stunning black linen dress. When I was setting out to visit my mother, about an hour’s drive away, I thought I’d wear the black dress. I knew she’d be pleased to see me wearing something she’d given me. When I arrived with a big smile on my face, her first words, with a big disapproving frown, were “LaurieAnn, that dress looks like you slept in it!”
“It’s linen,” I said. “You sit down in linen and it looks like you slept in it.”
“Well,” she responded, “You don’t sit in linen!”
“You don’t?” I said, honestly perplexed. “What do you do in it?”
Exasperated with my stupidity, she never the less did her best to explain. “You get dressed. You take the subway to the Museum. You walk around the museum. You take the subway home. You change your clothes. THEN you sit!”
I grew up in California, but my mother, as you might have guessed, was a New Yorker through and through despite her 30 years on the West Coast by that time. There were no subways within walking distance of my house, but what was within walking distance was my dance studio. I was giving private lessons, so I was able to put on the little black dress, walk downstairs to my studio, give a class, go back upstairs, change my clothes, and sit!
My mother has been gone for ten years, but that little black dress is one of my favorite memories. It was the beginning of a signature look that is now so much a part of me that I can barely remember those cutoffs. It helped me to launch a dance career that has spanned more than three decades so far.
Looking professional is crucial if you’re in business, but I recommend steering clear of what’s in style at the moment unless it happens to truely suit you. It’s worth the effort to find a look that is both professional and expresses your unique personality at same time. If that doesn’t sound like fun, hire someone to do it for you. Make sure you feel comfortable in your clothes and that they make you feel more like the person you want the world to see.
By LaurieAnn Lepoff
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