I was 22 the first time someone used the word gravitas to describe me in a professional review—and the context was that I lacked it.

Soon after, one of my mentors advised me that if I wanted gravitas, I needed to “buy a new dress and wear big jewelry and great shoes.” When I asked her why, she responded, “You need to see yourself the way you want others to see you. You’re the first person you see every morning in the mirror. And if you feel good about yourself, you’ll carry that confidence with you throughout the day.”

What I know now that I did not know then was that she had given me a gift: The power of positive self-image. This was not an easy gift to receive. As a woman who had been a Size 22, Size 8, Size 12, and nearly every size in between, I carried with me insecurities about my body. Fashion was the last thing I could imagine being at the intersection of confidence and professional success. And yet, I embraced the feedback and embarked on the quest for my first little black dress.

The shopping trip for that first LBD conjured up every demon: “I don’t like my arms,” “I don’t have a bust,” “What is ever going to cover up my hips?” I walked the aisles of an upscale department store frustrated and overwhelmed. And then I saw something that changed everything. A young girl was shopping with her mother for a new dress, and the girl was sharing all the things she wanted in her dress: “I love the color teal,” “I want the dress to have a ribbon,” “Can we get a dress that I can twirl in?” There was such joy; words such as “skinny,” “fat,” “size” were not yet ingrained in her fitting-room vocabulary.

At that moment, I took stock of what I loved about myself (defined waist, great calves, graceful collarbone) and selected a dress with a silhouette that flattered my best features. I indulged on my first pair of designer heels and reveled in selecting a statement necklace that telegraphed my personality. In the process, I realized I was honoring what made me uniquely me. The next day, I took that first LBD out for a spin around the boardroom. Just a few years later, I was promoted to be one of the youngest junior partners in my firm, and would go on to found my own fashion company, Project Gravitas.

Today, I recognize and humbly revere the powerful role fashion has to play in how we take on the day. But there’s a step before that: Having the courage to see the best in ourselves, to let go of the insecurities that haunt us, and to set ourselves up for success in the dressing room. That it is not about you fitting the dress, it is about finding the dress that finally fits you! And when you find it, own your moment in the mirror.

A #BeautyfullreminderIt isn’t about you fitting the dress, it’s about finding the dress that fits YOU!


Lisa Sun is the Founder & CEO of Project Gravitas, Dress Whisperer, statement necklace addict, former 11-year McKinsey & Co. consultant, devoted daughter and generous sister. Instagram: @ProjectGravitas