ACRL 2011 – Clinton Kelly Keynote

Final keynote! Full house of cardigans and sensible shoes for Clinton Kelly from What Not to Wear. Shut up! (Connection to libraries is the theme of change.) Wait, he’s a BC grad!? Uh oh . . .


Honored to be speaking in front of a room of smartypants. Sorry to instill fear but “I kind of like it!” Approaching 1,000 transformations/makeovers.

Rule of thirds for how people keep up with their makeovers. Third go forward and nail it! Those are the folks who are the most ready. Another third try, they kind of get it, kind of don’t. They weren’t quite ready. Last third – revert back to old styles immediately. Are not ready for change at all.

Embrace yourself, your flaws, your gifts, and move forward. People who embrace it tend to make positive changes all over their lives, he’s seen this in folks he’s made over and who keep in touch. New jobs, new partners, etc.

Admit it: Style matters. How you dress tells the world how you expect to be treated. What you wear sends a message. When you opt out of style altogether, you’re telling the world you don’t matter, you’re not keeping up, you aren’t relevant. “In an ideal world we’d all be judged on our insides. Nobody else can see your insides.” “But I wanna be comfortable!” No one looked at your sweats and thinks “she looks comfortable.” You can be comfortable and gorgeous!

Stop making excuses: Too busy! Too busy to get a new blouse…but you know everything about every real housewife. You still have to buy clothes, you can buy better ones. Money! Style isn’t about money. The person in the $400 suit can look better than the person in the $5,000 suit – fit. They don’t make clothes that fit my body! Of course they don’t, they make them for size four dress forms. They don’t make clothes for 99% of us!

Honor your body: Maybe 50 of the 1,000 women he’s made over have said “I love my body the way it is.” Your body is a vessel to carry your soul around. Stop hating on it! Get over yourself. Only you care that you hate your body.

Get out of fantasyland: It’s a big land, basically Hollywood. Screws with us – celebs are freaks of nature. Six feet tall and size zero, she’s a freak of nature! Why are we comparing ourselves to them? Advertising – the pictures aren’t even close to being humans. Cover of my book – I was airbrushed to death. People without pores are zombies!

Lose the haters: They’ll bring you down. Change threatens other people. Raises the bar for them. You can reinvent yourself at any moment. He used to be shy but decided, “I want to be popular! I’m going to change.” I like it but it’s exhausting. Dump the friends who make you feel less than fabulous. Surround yourself with people who make you feel great and want to help propel you forward, not hold you back. If you can’t dump them get them to change their behavior. Advice you didn’t ask for? Reply: “That was unnecessary.”

Shut up!: Be careful about criticizing other people. Style is about being confident in yourself. Can’t do it unless you’re able & willing to back it up with help and advice.

Shop with purpose: Have a plan. It’s work. Try on as much as it takes. On WNTW they try on 20 pairs of jeans; two days of shopping for nine outfits.

Two & two rule: Make sure anything you buy goes with two other things you already own. Make sure anything you buy works for two categories of your life (work, weekend, party, etc).

Have a style budget. $35 and up 50% of your style budget on classic, rest on trendier stuff to mix and look modern. Younger, shift the percentage. Never buy anything just because it’s on sale! There’s a reason it’s on the sale rack.

Q&A
Turn up the lights so I can see what you’re wearing!

Leggings/jeggings as pants. Undergrad years are the time, need world’s cutest tush. But really think of them as hosiery.

American man is scared of injecting personality in his wardrobe. Businessmen dress the same. Khakis and white shirt, gray trousers and blue shirts. Embrace color, pattern, texture.

Guidelines, help us! Go into your closet 2x a year. You should feel good when you look into it. Take it all out, try it all on. Fit is everything. No fit, no style. Too tight, get rid of it. Slightly too big? Tailored. Much too big, give it away. Get rid of your “big clothes” so you don’t have permission for your weight to swing back up. Start making outfits.

Rules after your however old. They don’t change much after 40. Everyone can participate in some trend, trick is to know which to skip. Twenty-five women’s trends this year. What speaks to you? Does it show too much cleavage? Does it show too much leg? (Sets up comparison between you & 18 year old. You lose.) Does it involve the belly button? Would a hooker participate in this trend? Never do it from head to toe, pair a classic piece.

Can these tips apply to the transformation of a profession? We went a whole season with the trend “librarians in love.” Tons of careers where people are known for not having great style, at least for librarians people have an idea of what we look like. Take the image and tweak it. We’re at classic and modern.

Thrift stores: Same standards you’d apply at a department store. Right size. Good condition. Be discerning. Wash them!

Thoughts on facial hair and if you dislike it, round faces & double chins: Fan! Can make you look round, try some gel in your hair.

Trends: If I can remember the first go-round, I need to leave it alone. Acid wash is back, it frightens me. If a trend is decade-specific, you might want to avoid it. But some trends come back — shoulder pads. 80s, 40s, not decade specific. Classic style at this point.

Baseball caps: They are OK for when you need to keep the sun out of your eyes. Can be a crutch like anything else, becomes a signature for no reason. Not actually stylish – utilitarian.

Orient a show around buying second-hand and having them tailored. They’ve done it. Tell TLC you want to see more of that, they respond to fan ideas not Clinton’s ideas.

Advice for a guy who’s getting older and fatter and has legacy clothes from grad school: Don’t set up a negative expectation. Think about sophistication. Don’t think about trends, what you used to wear. Shoe is a big deal for guys. A lot to be said about a man and his shoes. Hierarchy: Barefoot, flip flops, cross trainers. Loafter, lace up, oxford. If you’re wearing sneakers casually upgrade to an actual shoe. Stop wearing tee-shirts. Jackets, actual shirts. Structure.

Is your style holding you back or getting you further in your career? Do what you love, wear what you love, make sure your clothes fit.

Let’s talk about the crotch! Shirts that cover it – the leg line looks shorter, you look closer to the ground/wider. Hem the shirt, show a little crotch (men & women).

Change is an opportunity to grow. Find ways to do what you do and still do it as well as you can, with whatever constraints. Can’t run away, hide. Face it, be better. Never run from anything! Don’t hide!

Who is the best dressed audience you’ve ever spoken for. “I can’t see a lot of you, in my mind you look fantastic.” In the South, people come decked out. In the Northeast, not so much. “Do you know who I am?”

Best kind of shoe you should always have in your closet? Highest heel you can wear. If not, don’t worry about it. Stylish lines dedicated to comfort. “A stylish shoe does not have to look look like a baked potato.” Flats. Naturalizer. Sacco. A bad shoe will kill an outfit. “There’s a reason why nuns don’t wear stillettos and strippers don’t wear orthopedic shoes.”

Pregnancy & breast cancer: “Only one girl to lock & load. No reconstruction. Would like to show some cleave, but how?” Pregnancy: show the belly. Wants to do a show on asymmetry.

Hair color. When do you stop? How do you know if the gray looks good? Stick as close as possible to whatever your natural color was. Do what’s right for you at the moment. Huge budget? Whatever you want and lots of touch ups.

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