Audience Analysis and Adaptation

Pink button down: Wal-Mart. Brown belt: (thrifted.) Denim colored trousers: Merona for Target. Watch: Fossil.

Today, I lectured on audience analysis and adaptation– everything from observable demographic characteristics to psychological profiling.  I teach my classes that the more they know about an audience, the better speech they can prepare and deliver.  Getting dressed is quite the same.

Different occasions call for different types of clothes– cocktail dresses to costumes, tennis shoes to tennis bracelets, conservative suits to comfy clothes.  Being stylish and well-dressed, in my opinion, is partially comprised of being dressed for the situation.  Think about how many times you see someone and you think “Oh my, she’s wearing that?!”  How many times have you seen someone dress incorrectly for a job interview?  Maybe they were too dressed up, but mostly people are too dressed down.

Sometimes, it can be overwhelming trying to pick out an outfit that is appropriate for each situation. Often times, when we rely on the tried and true it can start to feel like a uniform– and very blah and uninspired.  I have found, if you look at the so-called style icons (Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Coco Chanel, Princess Diana, Twiggy, Jacqueline Kennedy, Grace Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, etc.) it is not what they wear, but how they wear it.  (And accessories.  Accessories make you unique.) Audrey Hepburn turned a basic black top, skinny cropped pants, and ballet flats into a statement.  Twiggy is the epitome of ’60’s style with her pixie cut, eyelashes, and short frocks.  And you can be a style icon, too.

When you are wearing “basics”– a white button-down shirt, black pants– it is a must that they be the highest quality that you can afford and not be too basic.  Yes, that sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not.  There’s the basic white button-down, and then there’s one that has those special details: french cuffs, ruffles, a tie, tuxedo-style, etc.  Not to mention fit.

No matter how much you spend, an ill-fitting piece of clothing will always look cheap.  But, even a department store piece can look more expensive when it is well-fitted.  And if you can’t get a great fit off the rack, for heaven’s sake find a tailor!  They are very nice people who can help take you from so-so to stylish with some well placed pleating, darts, and hemlines.

Tweed blazer: (thrifted.) Pearl necklace: unknown. Pink button-down: Wal-Mart. Denim colored trousers: Merona for Target. Brown shoes: Mudd. Watch: Fossil.

This outfit is comprised of very basic pieces: a button-down shirt, trouser pants, and a tweed blazer.  And, the fit could be better. But, it didn’t feel blah, or uninspired to me.  I felt pulled-together, comfortable, and confident.  And this is important when you have several people staring at you, hoping that you will impart some great knowledge onto them.  Sometimes, that can be a tall order.

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