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First Impressions ~ Beach Style

By Kimberly Brundage

Photography by Christine Mitchell

Having spent most of my life dressing people in fitting rooms and private homes, I know for certain that there is a direct correlation between how you look, how you feel and how others perceive you. Whoever said “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” couldn’t have been more optimistic about Southern folk. Down here, we may lead a very casual and relaxed lifestyle, but don’t underestimate the power of first impressions and definite style here on the coast. Yes, personality, thoughtfulness, kindness, philanthropy and respect are all incredibly important~ but how you show up comes FIRST so it’s also important to address.

I found a quote online that I loved. Designer Tom Ford said,

“Dressing well is a form of good manners.”

I knew right away that this man had to come from Southern roots and a good mama. Sure enough, he was born in Austin. The other South!

Did you know first impressions are formed within 4 seconds of seeing someone? Even if you are a beacon of health, a yoga mat superstar, the carpool mom or the top realtor in town, at the end of the day, the clothing you wear will be what people see first. Living the coastal lifestyle affords us a luxury most other cities just dream of. We can wear nice shorts into a white table cloth restaurant, open toed shoes to show property or run meetings and we absolutely wear white all year around. Dressing the part, no matter what that part might be, is still vital to communicating the impression of who you are. I’m sure you have all thrown something on in the rush of morning only to feel terrible the whole day about how you look. It is always on those days that you run into literally everyone you know at the grocery store and you try ducking down the bean aisle to avoid making eye contact. I am quite certain that some of you can relate all too well to that example and you know first-hand how your outfit alters how you interact with the day. How many opportunities have you lost because you didn’t properly armor yourself with the best you?

I’m not a psychologist but I am a 40 something with plenty of life experience. Like most of you, I have been 2 sizes up and down the sizing ladder. What I do know is self-confidence plays a major role in our successes. The formula is simple. Dressing well = Higher Self- Confidence. It is true that it takes the same amount of time to grab a pair of jeans and well-fitting tee as it does the worn out sweatpants and hoodie. What pieces in your closet bring out your “A Game”? When you get a minute, stand in your closet and locate the specific items that always make you feel confident and like you can own a room in. Take a second and think about what it is about those items that make you shine from the inside out. Is it because that color looks great next to your skin or because it fits you in all the right places? Figure out what works with the design of those items and buy more of them! How many items hanging in your closet are what we call “benchwarmers”? These are the items that are just plain vanilla, uninspiring and never worn. Try this technique for the benchwarmers taking up valuable space in your wardrobe. First throw on your favorite jeans or shorts that can match just about anything. Line up all those “benchwarmers” and try them on one by one in front of a full length mirror. Pretend you are meeting YOU for the first time. What is your impression? Do you love how you look in it from the front and the back? How you feel when you have it on? Don’t take too much time looking it over either- remember it only takes 4 seconds for that first impression!

It’s important to note that dressing well doesn’t necessarily mean suits, tailored jackets and high heels. It’s about paying attention to the details. For our coastal lifestyle it means, shorts that fit and flatter your figure, dresses that just graze your natural curves, wearing jewelry from a local artist, a nice pair of Jackie O inspired sunglasses with your jeans and even reinvesting in fresh white t-shirts each time spring rolls around. Casual resort style is not sloppy. It’s refined. It’s easy to forget that every day we are making hundreds of first impressions. If you also recognize the important role your wardrobe plays but still have no clue where to start, consider reaching out to a local wardrobe consultant to help you. You deserve the extra few minutes each morning deciding how you want the world to see you. The new friends, your career, your partner, southern mama’s and your first impressions will thank you!

Kimberly Brundage is owner of Style By Kimberly Wardrobe Consulting, wife, carpool expert and mom of two teenage girls living in Sandestin, Florida. She graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Fashion Design, owned women’s clothing stores and helped her girls run a successful tween jewelry company. With over 23 years of experience in personal styling she now distills her fitting room and buying secrets into a fun and focused way of rethinking your current wardrobe. With real-world fashion advice for everyday women, Kimberly makes personal styling affordable and not just for celebrities anymore! For more information check out

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