Looking stylish isn’t hard — and you can express your personality through your clothes.
Just ask Raquel Riley Thomas, a former Army captain turned model, pageant queen, fashion guru and owner of her own production company.
“A lot of people have what they need in their closets already,” she said. “I just tell them how to put it all together.”
Thomas dubbed her personal style “glam rock,” which she described as combining “military tones” with cool gear that you can find at any trendy clothing store.
“I may have a really fabulous skirt on but I may put some rocker boots with it,” she said. “I like buckles and zippers and spikes, a lot of things that came from my military time.”
If you’re unsure how to combine your military background and civilian style for fashion success, here’s Thomas’ advice on how to look your best.
Figure out what you like
This sounds basic, but Thomas said the first step to developing your own style is deciding what your fashion preferences are.
For her, it was zeroing in on “glam rock” as the look she was striving for every morning while getting dressed.
“It’s like the feminine and masculine mixed,” she said. “I’m still a woman, and I like to dress pretty but like to have a little rock star with me too.”
She advised veterans to find some style icons — from magazine models to fashion bloggers — so they can discover what looks they’re truly into.
Find some favorite clothing items
According to Thomas, the best way to plan an outfit is to pick one item of clothing and go from there.
“That’s how you build your outfits, based off of one thing first,” she said. “You’ve got to figure out, what’s the one thing you want to wear today? If you say you want to wear this jacket, build your outfit around that.”
Pick a pair of pants, a sweater or whatever that fits your mood that day and use that as your jumping-off point.
You can’t go wrong with classic
Some clothes, like blazers and jeans, never go out of style, Thomas said. She also recommended investing in your shoes and, if you’re feeling chic, a nice watch.
Still, it’s unwise to go too far fashion-wise until you have a style nailed down, she said.
“Try not to go too much for trendy until you’re comfortable with knowing what trendy is,” she said. “You’ve got to crawl before you can walk.”
She recommended sticking with neutral colors until you feel ready to diversify your wardrobe.
Know what you’re dressing for
As Thomas put it, veterans need to be aware of what they’re transitioning into so they can tailor their fashion sense accordingly.
“I think it needs to be appropriate and respectful of the area you live in and the company you are working for,” she said.
In short: Know your audience.
“If they’re dressing more conservatively, you don’t have to go in there dressed like Lady Gaga,” Thomas said. “When in Rome, dress as the Romans dress.”
Don’t limit yourself
Thomas said that most folks she knows with military experience have no trouble keeping their clothes looking clean and ready-for-action.
However, she wishes more veterans would embrace the options available to them for looking both tough and fashionable.
“I would like to see more military members stepping out of their comfort zones,” she said. “There’s other things outside that world now that you can really play with outside the military.”