Confidence on the outside

To begin on the outside, you can develop a sense of personal style — knowing what looks good on you, your own personal statement, the attention to detail that sets you apart. Regardless of your age or economic circumstances or bone structure, you can make a statement that makes you feel good about yourself, and that is the best accessory you can have whether you're looking for a job or a loan or a date. A fun and easy way to develop a sense of personal style is to liven up your wardrobe with clothing and accessories that accentuate the traits you like best.

If you're not sure what becomes you, take a trusted friend to a dressing room or have someone whose style you admire go with you (of course, don't try to copy someone else's style, but if your friend has an eye for what looks good, he or she can probably help you). Public dressing rooms are also great places to ask strangers whether they think a style looks good on you. Strangers are often brutally frank and even make suggestions. You can also ask a salesperson, but be a little careful about trusting someone who's working on commission. The good ones are honest, but knowing which clerks to trust is hard if you haven't shopped much at a particular store.

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If you're feeling a bit scared about trying something new, shop at a resale or discount store. These places often allow you to get more bang for your buck. Don't spend a fortune, but be willing to experiment a bit. You don't have to do anything drastic to find a new look. If your wardrobe consists of dark, sober colors, try livening things up with a bright blouse or scarf or striped shirt or tie; if your idea of casual wear is limited to jeans and concert T-shirts, consider getting a pair of khakis and a shirt that can be worn with or without a tie. Look through a magazine and see what look may work for you. Trust your mirror: Which clothes do you already own that are most you-ish and most flattering?

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