Favorite Looks from 5 Inspirational Women

Ladies, this is a sponsored post, which means compensation was provided by Zenni Optical. Rest assured, all opinions are my own.

Fashion is not trivial. It is a large part of how you brand yourself to the world. Making deliberate choices about your appearance on the daily does not make you weak or superficial — it’s a sign that you are in control of who you are. (And, shout out to my fellow budget fashionistas: when you take the extra step of making smart financial decisions about your personal style, you’re even more of a power gal.)

History is filled with stories of strong women who also had a strong sense of personal style — Coco Chanel, Mary Quant, Katharine Hepburn are just a few. And today we have Park Geun-hye, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Carli Lloyd, Jennifer Lawrence and so many more showing the world how women can lead and inspire, with grace and style. This post is dedicated to these women, and the unsung women leaders all around us — you and me included.

Enter for a Chance to Win a Pair of Glasses Worth Up to $150

Since this is a long post, I’m putting the contest details up front. I have a Zenni Optical gift card good for a pair of glasses worth up to $150 to give away! Leave a comment on this post about the women who inspire you. Or, share your thoughts on your favorite pair of Zenni frames. Share your comment by June 30 and I’ll contact the randomly selected winner by July 7. UPDATE: I’m extending the entry period until July 15.

Now, on to the looks we love from inspirational women!

#1 Park Geun-hye

Park Geun-hye, the current president of South Korea, is one of the world’s most powerful women. She truly is a woman leading in a man’s world. The data proves it. According to Time.com, South Korea is the world’s 11th largest economy, but ranks 108th on the world gender-gap index. More specifically, a woman in South Korea gets paid about 39% less than a man who does the same job.

Geun-hye’s style is serious and conservative. As you’d expect from a high-ranking leader, she’s all about the monochrome power suit. She does like to let her fashion peek through her powerful demeanor with unique and locally crafted accessories. And the people notice. In 2013, she was photographed with a cloth lavender wallet and the piece quickly became the hottest must-have in town. Oh, and did I mention the cost of this little accessory? $3.

Collage of Geun-hye and her famous lavender purse

What to Copy from This Look

Geun-hye’s color choice is brilliant here. The muted gold jacket is a nice departure from traditional gray or navy, and she pairs it well with a black top and coordinating necklace. Without the wallet, her outfit is perfectly acceptable and appropriate. But throw in that lavender clutch and the whole ensemble speaks of sophistication. Choose accessories you love, and then use contrast to make them the star of your ensemble.

#2 Oprah Winfrey

Of course I’d include Oprah in this tribute; she’s a self-made woman who’s raised millions of dollars in support of educating and empowering women. She’s also very real, which makes her an amazing role model. We have seen her, literally, through thick and thin and from casual to formal. Her Instagram feed alone should be named the 5,000 looks of Oprah. And in all those thousands of looks, she carries herself with dignity and style.

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On our way to red carpet. See you there. #OSCARS

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This elegant number flatters with its criss-cross detailing and waist-height belt. The size of the belt is perfect — adding definition to her waist without creating weird body angles like a smaller belt might. The dress is fitted above the thigh and free-flowing below, which means Oprah’s showing off her sexy curves without taking it too far.

What to Copy from This Look

Remember when drop-waisted dresses were in style in the ‘80s? Well I do, because I look terrible in them. Likewise, Oprah knows what works with her body. If you are uncertain about what styles work for you, invite a few friends out for a shopping day. Try on a range of styles and have your girls take photos. A photo of yourself can give you enough space to be objective. Learn what works and start shopping for those styles. (This also makes for more efficient shopping, if you’re into that!)

#3 Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, like Oprah, has made so many contributions to women, it seems insufficient to try and highlight them here. At a minimum, we know her as our educated, fun, determined and strong First Lady. We’ve covered Michelle Obama’s style extensively over the years, but here’s one of our favorite looks from the First Lady.

Michelle Obama in H&M
Michelle Obama wears H&M at a campaign stop

What to Copy from This Look

The First Lady wears budget fashion, and you can too. Trust your own sense of style and use it to find bargain deals off the rack. The belted sheath is generally flattering, but you may need to experiment with belt widths to find the one that works for you. Michelle’s belt is on the wider side, but it works on her.

#3 Carli Lloyd

Carli is a decorated female soccer player whose resume includes two Olympic gold medals, a Women’s World Cup championship and 2015 FIFA Player of the Year honors. She is also part of a very public complaint against the US Soccer Federation regarding equal pay for female players.

Carli isn’t known for being a fashion icon, but she has shown up well at formal events. In this look, she wears a gorgeous, drapey, ultra-feminine teal dress with a simple cuff bracelet and cut-out pumps. I might’ve chosen a different shoe, but hey, who cares? Her ultra fit legs take the stage anyway. And, she made the right choice with understated hair and makeup.

What to Copy From This Look

Wraparound and toga-style dresses are a shortcut to a glamorous look, as long as the fabric is weighted properly. Bold, solid colors work well in this style, because the folds add interest. Make sure you stand, walk and sit down when trying this style on though — drapey dresses that don’t fit right tend to result in wardrobe malfunctions.

#4 Jennifer Lawrence

If I could high-five Jennifer Lawrence, I would. She earned my respect for her work ethic (how many roles has she had in the past four years?), but became a true role model when spoke out about getting paid less than her male costars. And it wasn’t the complaint itself — it was the way she complained:

I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. I didn’t want to keep fighting over millions of dollars that, frankly, due to two franchises, I don’t need.

This speaks to central challenge women have. We second-guess ourselves. We get sidelined by those self-doubting questions, even when we are successful. Should I stand up and say something? Do I have a right to? Am I over-stepping? Let those doubts pass ladies.

We covered JLaw’s red carpet style in the past, but her casual looks are equally stunning.

What to Copy from this Look

She may be running around town, but this look is PUT TOGETHER. The cut and structure of her navy jacket is almost universally flattering, which makes it a great match with skinny pants. The soft, loose blouse keeps the overall look from being too harsh. When you’re putting together pieces, remember to balance textures and styles. Pair heavy and/or dark items with something light, loose and flowy.

You and Me

Zenni Optical asked me to partner on this post because the company recognizes and respects the women who inspire, motivate and lead. For the sake of context, Zenni has been delivering affordable, fashionable eyewear to women since 2003. It’s a resource for the budget fashionista — you can find glasses (including single-vision prescription glasses) and sunglasses at Zennioptical.com for $50 or less.

Celebrities like Oprah and JLaw have a wide sphere of influence, but their accomplishments are not as impactful as those of the women close to us. My own sister, for example, has a relentless quality to her that’s served her very well professionally. And still, she’s human and humble. My own daughter decided on her career in the 10th grade, and then spent six years of college doggedly pursuing the degree she needed.

Even my own story could be the stuff of a TV drama. Divorced mom of two at 23 with half of a college education. In 20 years that followed, I secured three college degrees, saw my kids through school, sports and college, started a business, and then worked my way up the corporate ladder. Today, I do the corporate thing during the day and manage thebudgetfashionista in my off-hours. (Don’t tell my boss!)

And I know I’m not that unique — you too have a story about you or someone you know overcoming odds. What is it?

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Catherine Brock

Style Editor at The Budget Fashionista
Catherine Brock is a writer, editor and marketer who's been sharing wisdom online since 2002. She's been featured on DrLaura.com, Wellness.com and ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis and KCAL9 Los Angeles. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter.
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