The “likability” issue keeps happening, and it’s bigger than just politics.

It’s campaign season again, which means that it’s time to put our female candidates on display and strip them bare for any scent of personal attributes that would indicate her unfitness for office. Too fat, too thin, too loud, too liberal, too scary, too bookish, not bookish enough — you know the drill. But the thing that seems to have the deadliest impact to women in leadership is this idea of likability, and lately I’ve been wondering about how this got to be a thing, and how it affects me and other female entrepreneurs.

“I just don’t like her.”

You know you’ve heard it: the whisper campaign that undermines at every turn. It’s inarguable, too: you can’t load up facts to counteract the gut feeling that someone has about a female leader. There’s just…something…about her…that they don’t quite trust. They can’t place a finger on it, but they know for sure that it’s a good enough reason not to vote for her; not to give her a promotion; and not to invest in her startup. …

I had so much more fashion courage back then — can I recapture it?

So…new year, new decade. What are you going to do about it?

If you’re like most people, you posted on social media about a resolution or two, vowed to be more grateful and eat fewer carbs, and you may already be sliding back into the routine you’ve had forever. But a few of you out there are pondering bigger changes — maybe you lost your job and you’re plunging into interviews; maybe you got promoted and you want to start out the new year on a powerful step towards your career goals; maybe you got engaged and you are seeing yourself reflected in someone else’s eyes. …

For all the dramatic technological leaps we’ve made in the past couple of decades, some aspects of how we shop for clothes strangely haven’t changed much at all. Of course, we now have the wonders of online shopping (praise!), but there’s still the matter of guessing your size, searching for the return label when it doesn’t fit and trying your luck yet again. (More than 75 percent of women over 35 experience fit problems at least occasionally.) Stores still need to transport excess inventory, and figure out what to do with all those mountains of passed-over clothes.

That’s all about to change — and far sooner than you think, according to Matthew Drinkwater, the Head of the Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion. In the six years since its inception, FIA has become one of the highest regarded fashion consultancies in the industry, bridging the gap between fashion and technology. “There’s a resistance to change within the industry, and yet the technology that’s available throughout the world right now would allow fashion companies to build their businesses in an entirely new day,” Drinkwater says. “If we can begin to encourage more experimentation within the industry, we will begin to see businesses that are sustainable and successful in serving their customers.” The most successful fashion companies will be those who are early adopters — starting today. “The pace of change is breathtakingly fast,” says Drinkwater. …

Currently hanging in my closet right now, you’ll find a kaleidoscope of dresses from size 6 to XL. Weirdly, despite the wildly different sizes on their tags, they all actually fit me pretty well. I’m an 8 in Tahari brand, a 10 in INC brand, and L or XL in anything from Asia. You get the picture. Like millions of American women, I’ve been required by retailers to cultivate a highly-sophisticated sixth sense just to suss out what size will work for me in any given label, because fit varies seismically.

Several of my go-to retailers, acknowledging their erratic sizing, place a gauge by each item on their site indicating whether the item runs small, true to size, or large, according to user reviews. Inevitably, I’ll still read through the reviews and do mental gymnastics to get a feel for whether this particular blouse stands a chance of buttoning. [Note to retailers: Admitting your problem is the first step, for sure, but how about taking steps to solve it?] …

Like many women, I’ve always loved clothes. Goth dresses helped me express my angst as a teen. Tailored separates and power suits telegraphed my role as a fearless corporate leader in my 20s and 30s (to offset my crazy punk rock clown haircolor). But somewhere in my 40s, clothing designers stopped loving me. Now at age 53, the selection both in stores and online would indicate they’re not even aware I exist.

But I’ve found a solution — a designer who doesn’t just make clothes for me — she makes me feel like her muse. Lara Popa lives in Romania, and she custom-sews clothing with respect — reverence, even — for my midlife curves and an abiding understanding that while my measurements may have changed through the decades, I’m still 35 inside. I have the same sense of adventure, and I want what I wear to reflect that. I like vivid colors and asymmetrical hemlines, and I want to be noticed. Lara has created a number of designs for me over the last couple years, for department-store prices. And she hasn’t just changed my closet — she’s changed my life. …

We have a problem. Our clothes are failing us.

This might seem a little dramatic — but really, stop and think about it. Since the advent of globalization, the allure of slicing costs by outsourcing work to foreign countries has become the norm. It has expanded our borders, made us more aware of the world, and it has multiplied the resources available to us. However, it’s not all good. Globalization has made the very clothes we wear work against us and not for us. They don’t last, they don’t fit, and it’s time something changed!

The US has single-sourced itself into a corner — there is almost no diversity in our supply chain for clothing, shoes and accessories. Some consumers can hold up every item of clothing they own and see “Made in China” tags only. …

In a world of short attention spans and instant gratification, fast fashion has grown to an all time high. Once hailed as a fabulous disruptor of traditional fashion cycles, the ‘see now, buy now” retail model facilitates the transition of new fashions straight off the runway and into our closets faster than ever before. It has made the latest styles — previously only accessible to some — now available to all, at ridiculously low prices. But what’s the real cost?

To understand how fast fashion has become so prevalent in our society, we have to look at where it came from. The Industrial Revolution brought much innovation and created modern manufacturing as we know it. Consumerism was also greatly affected with the advent of efficiently mass-produced goods that made access to new and interesting products a reality for everyone. The streamlined manufacturing process developed during the Industrial Revolution and modeled after Henry Ford’s automobile factory methods of specialization and repetition, has shaped how all fashion is spread and mass-produced cheaply around the world. …

It’s official: according to the fashion industry, I’m no longer sexy so I’m no longer worth creating clothes for. I disagree, and I’m embarking on a new idea to help solve a problem that is plaguing me and millions of other American women like me.

I HATE CLOTHES SHOPPING. It f*cking sucks.

I didn’t used to hate shopping — quite the contrary. I have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on clothing and shoes and accessories. Sales were like a sport for me. I once bought 14 pairs of shoes in one day. I could spend 6 hours combing the racks for bargains. …


Dana Todd

CEO, Balodana Fashion. Recovering marketing exec. Internet pioneer, Searchie, culture omnivore. US Patent #7970754

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