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Carson Kressley on Changing Your Look

Carson Kressley on Changing Your Look

Accomplished stylist, breakout television star, equestrian, author and now fashion designer Carson Kressley is out to help you change your look without changing who you are. Kressley was one of the stars of Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and hosts the new show “How to Look Good Naked.” He is the co-author of the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: The Fab 5’s Guide to Looking Better, Cooking Better, Dressing Better, Behaving Better and Living Better and author of Off the Cuff: The Guy’s Guide to Looking Good. Kressley began his career as an independent stylist, which led to a long tenure with Polo Ralph Lauren in New York where he worked on the design team for men’s sportswear before moving into the corporate advertising group. He has also worked extensively styling catalogs for such retailers as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. Kressley shared why he thinks people are scared of changing their looks, and how they can overcome it.

Why are people so intimidated by fashion?

I think people become intimidated or overwhelmed by anything that they don’t understand or have little experience with. For me it’s math; for others it’s the mystery of why wearing white after Labor Day is such a crime against all fashion humanity. I always tell people, you can have natural flair for fashion or a great innate sense of style, but like anything else, to really get it and do it well you have to study it. And that doesn’t mean going to design school, it just means getting out there, seeing what’s available and even reading up on trends, new fabrics and anything else that might help you learn.

Where should someone start when making this type of change?

Often the first step is the hardest, so make your goal obtainable. It might be as easy as cleaning out your closet, changing your hair color or going for a healthy walk during your lunch hour. I think that anything that has a positive impact, that makes you feel good, is a good place to start. Change often requires taking manageable chances; the rewards can be fabulous!

What are people doing wrong when it comes to changing their looks?

I think the overwhelming thing that people do wrong is not wearing the correct size. Like my grandma always said, “No one wants to see 10 pounds of sugar in a five pound bag.” So wear the correct size, whether you are big or small, because fit never goes out of style. And properly fitted garments look so much better, no matter who designed them, than ill-fitting ones.

What are some of the typical fears and questions people have during the first 30 days of changing their look?

What they really fear is change itself because it is uncomfortable and not “safe.” I think people tend to stick with what is comfortable for them. They like to stay in their comfort zone. I call this Rip Van Winkle syndrome, where people wear a style or repeat a look that was popular when they got out of school and started their adult lives. What they should really be afraid of are pleated khakis and mullets.

How can people work to combat any negative emotions that come up within the first 30 days of changing their look?

I think baby steps make change easier. Instead of a drastic change in one’s wardrobe, start by incorporating small updates—maybe a new pair of eyeglass frames or an updated handbag. Accessories are a great way to start the ball rolling.

Why are the first 30 days of this change so vital?

Just like a diet or a new job, the first 30 days are so crucial to you if you’re striving for a new look. If the first 30 days go well, [you’ll be] inspired to keep it up for a long time.

What can people do to set themselves up to be successful beyond the first 30 days?

Again, small things count. Each day try something new. What looks good is obvious and the compliments—which are great reinforcement—will pour in. If something doesn’t work, no biggie. The point is to keep moving forward little by little and get out of that rut.

Tell us your top three tips for getting through this change.

1. Keep in mind that baby steps can add up, and have a real impact on your life. Get out there and just do something!
2. Keep a tally of the changes you have made and reward yourself—get that new pair of to die for sandals after you have met an obtainable goal. It’s the old “carrot on the stick,” and it works.
3. If you fall off the wagon and go back to your old habits, don’t throw in the towel. Allow for some mistakes, and don’t let them end the cycle of change!


What is the belief you personally go to during times of change?

Neiman Marcus? Oh, the belief, not the place. Got it. I guess I just go to a pretty simple spiritual place with the mantra that everything will work out in the end. And, if it doesn’t, its not the end.

The best thing about change is…

…that it’s exciting.

What is the best change you have ever made?

I guess I would have to say it was leaving a great job at Polo Ralph Lauren to pursue the production of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” I always think about where I would be now if I hadn’t taken that chance and made that change.

For more information about Carson Kressley, visit www.carsonkressley.com.

Posted: 2/8/08

What a great interview! I love Carson Kressley. He was my favorite on Queer Eye. I keep missing his new show, but I hear it's wonderful.