What the Heck is ‘Smart Casual’? Q&A with Professional Style Expert Devoreaux Walton

Image and style consultant Devoreaux Walton
If you want to feel like a toad, meet up with an image and style consultant on Casual Friday. This was how I felt when I met Devoreaux Walton for coffee recently.

Devoreaux had introduced herself after a presentation I gave on “Getting Past the ‘Ick Factor’ in Marketing,” and it was easy to see why she’s a style consultant. Perfectly dressed and coiffed, she exudes a poise and confidence that, were she not so warm and friendly, might cause resentment among the slightly less poised and coiffed (speaking hypothetically, of course).

I wanted to pick her brain about the intersection of professional style and business development. True, nobody’s hiring a lawyer solely because he or she is well-dressed. But there’s no denying that looking the part plays a role in a lawyer’s ability to make rain.

Particularly for women lawyers, professional attire can be a minefield. There’s a maddeningly short distance between “provocative” and “frumpy.” As Devoreaux told me, however, men struggle with style almost as often as women do.

I asked about her work (she’s the founder of The Poise Pursuit), how she found herself in helping other people style themselves, and how she helps lawyers and other professionals who want to make a great first, third, and 16th impression.

Q: How did you get started as a stylist?

I’ve always had a true love and passion for clothing and style. About 10 years ago, I began helping friends and family get dressed for different occasions in their lives – from job interviews to parties to corporate presentations. I pursued a MBA degree after college and went into the marketing field at various technology companies. As I was working in Corporate America, I realized I wanted to do more than continue styling others for free, and I started my firm, The Poise Pursuit, offering etiquette and style consulting services to elevate the companies, careers and lifestyles of business professionals around the world.

Q: Any advice for women on finding a professional style that is fashionable and flattering, but still work-appropriate? Some clothing lines for professional women are so dowdy, but it can be a perilous line between fashionable and “inappropriate for work.”

In general, professional women who want fashion-forward but appropriate pieces can look at Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and White House Black Market. Clothing that features elements based on current trends, such as particular fabrics, colors or prints, are fun ways to be fashionable and appropriate for work. This season Ann Taylor has a lot of yellow, blue, and black-and-white colors in for the spring season. A great example of a fashionable and appropriate piece is this particular gingham blouse, which can be paired with a blazer or cardigan and trousers or a skirt for the office. Playing up the current trends in your work wardrobe will keep it lively, fresh and fashionable – not dowdy – for the office.

Q: Where are your favorite places to shop with clients in the Dallas area?

It varies with the client, depending on their budget, body type, and personality, but a few of my favorite shops for men are DLM Supply in Oak Cliff, Gariani in Addison, and Ken’s Man’s Shop in Preston Hollow. A few of my favorite shops for women are Wolo Boutique in University Park, Y&I in West Village, and Alice and Olivia in Highland Park. I also frequent Nordstrom, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, and Ralph Lauren with clients.

Q: Do you have any style client success stories you can share?

I recently worked with a mid-level manager at an aerospace company for a 1-day appointment on a Saturday. She and I went through her closet and did an audit, then I coordinated outfits for her to wear to work. On Monday afternoon, I got a text from her, happily sharing she was getting compliments on her outfit at work all day – and even her boss noticed! She typically never received feedback on her attire and was overjoyed. About six months later, I received an email from her sharing she had been promoted to a Director role. She didn’t know that she was being considered for the opportunity and had never even applied for it. I am so proud of her and happy that she has seen a transformation, not just in her career, but a major improvement in her ability to be confident and self-assured in her worth, talents and abilities. I have no doubt that she will soon be an executive at her firm. She has the experience and skills, and now looks the part!

Q: What services do you provide?

My ideal clients are entrepreneurs and corporate professionals, both women and men. My style services include individual consulting to refresh or completely overhaul a client’s wardrobe and image. We audit their current image and style, then determine what is working and not working to build the foundation of their new style – customized to fit their specific body type, career field, personality and lifestyle needs. My etiquette services include one-on-one consulting sessions to teach modern etiquette principles, such as networking, business skills, and dining protocol, to help professionals confidently communicate and navigate social situations. I also teach professional appearance and attire seminars and business and dining etiquette seminars for corporations.

Q: How are offerings structured? 

My style consulting services include a 1-day session, a package to refresh Dallas style expert Devoreaux Walton helps a client in a dressing room.a client’s style, and a package to fully reset a client’s style. Based on their needs and level of how much “tweaking” their style needs, I customize all style services for my clients. My etiquette consulting services include a similar structure, a 1-hour session, a 1-day session and a 6-week program, all based on the needs of a client to learn modern etiquette principles and either upgrade or fully transform their personal brand. My group seminars are typically either 2-hours, 4-hours, or 8-hours for corporations, based on the etiquette topics they want their team to learn.

Q: What is the future of dressing for success? 

Today’s society is far more casual than it used to be. Wearing a suit is classic, and will always be acceptable – but going forward, it may not be the go-to outfit it used to be.

Take, for example, the recently created dress code, “smart casual.” Smart casual is becoming the norm for acceptable attire for the office instead of business professional or business casual. Smart casual is a more relaxed, yet still polished, version of business casual.

We will continue to see dress codes evolve going forward. Yet, we still must honor the dress codes of the past, when appropriate. The attire most appropriate for Black Tie won’t change. What we will see change is the rise in popularity of more casual dress codes instead of more formal dress codes at social events. It will be more common in the future for you to be invited to a function with a Cocktail Attire dress code instead of Black Tie.

Amy Boardman Hunt Muse CommunicationsAmy Boardman Hunt is all about helping lawyers find their voice and showcase their expertise. When she’s not doing that, she’s trying to find great hiking spots in Dallas. If you know of any – or you need a legal marketing muse – drop her a line at amy.hunt@muselegalpr.com.

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