Figuring Out Your Professional Style

This week we sat down with Minneapolis native and personal image consultant, Liz Zilka, for a little Q&A on professional style and how to present yourself in the workplace.

After years of doing makeup for television, film and commercials, Zilka expanded her focus to personal style. For the past three to four years, she has been helping people with their closets and professional image. Because of her background, Zilka says “I see things a little differently than most people.”  Style is “about the inner essence to the exterior package.”

Q: How do you help people with their professional style?

A: What I do is I excavate someone’s personal image. Everyone has an image of who they are versus who they’ve been told they are. I try and marry the two by getting to the core of who somebody truly is. The clothing is just icing on top of the cake.

Q: What is it about helping people in this way that makes you want to keep doing it?

A: I love the fact that when I touch base with clients again I see them owning [their style]. I enjoy helping people find their true happiness and become comfortable with who they are. Plus, if they are comfortable, everyone around them is too, so it creates a ripple effect.

Q: Is there a specific instance you can think of where you really noticed the effects of improving someone’s professional wardrobe?

A: I once worked with a female executive at a company who was having a hard time with her outfits. She was trying too hard to fit this image of what a female executive should be instead of being who she was. So we played with some colors and patterns, giving her a slightly more feminine look by infusing elements she already had in her wardrobe. She was able to feel more comfortable after making small changes, and within less than a week, her colleagues were noticing and complimenting her! It really gave her a confidence boost.

Q: What style advice do you have for working professionals?

A: There are a few important things to think about when it comes to work style:

  1. Know the culture of the company you work at as well as your own personal style to figure out where [in that spectrum] you fit in. When you wear the right clothes that represent you, you’re showing up at 120 percent. If you’re not representing you, you’re showing up below 100 percent.
  2. Look for a genuine quality to your image so people notice you, not the outfit you have on. If your clothes and makeup walk into the room before you do, then you haven’t done it right.
  3. Take risks! Everyone makes mistakes. Even the first seasons of TV shows have awkward moments where the wardrobe doesn’t match the character, but over time they find their groove when those characters become more well-established. So give yourself some time to weave through and [figure it out].

Q: Speaking of mistakes, what are some of the biggest blunders you see people making in their professional attire?

A: There are a few common mistakes I see people making:

  1. They dress too trendy. They focus on what’s popular at the moment instead of wearing something they will be comfortable in that reflects who they are.
  2. They don’t take their clothes to a tailor. Only about 10 percent of people can buy an article of clothing off the rack and have it fit. The other 90 percent need to take their clothes to a tailor for them to fit properly.
  3. They underestimate color. Many professionals tend to stay in muted colors, but color is actually a really important aspect to a professional wardrobe. It helps bring out the personality.

Q: What wardrobe advice do you have for people going in for an interview?

A: I would recommend you never wear a brand new pair of shoes to an interview. You won’t be comfortable, which means the interviewer won’t see the real you come across. [Interviewees] need to smile and remember the person [they are]. That’s what’s going to get them the job, not what they’re wearing.

Want to enlist the expertise of Liz Zilka for your own wardrobe? Contact her at and follow her Facebook page, Image by Liz.

Want to read more articles like this one? Check out the Scoop Blog for more professional insights!






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