Marie Claire’s Anne Fulenwider on the workplace style tip she got from Barack Obama

FAN Editor

Anne Fulenwider has served as the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire magazine since 2012. As a journalist who climbed the ranks with very little fashion experience, she says she’s learned a key lesson about style since stepping into her role.

“I learned fashion as I got here,” she tells CNBC Make It, “and one of the things I’ve learned is that there’s really no perfect thing for everyone to wear. Just wear what is going to make you feel comfortable, powerful and confident.”

She says everyone should have their go-to piece of clothing that makes them feel their most powerful self, be it a dress, pair of pants or a necklace.

Fulenwider has met with many powerful people and fashion industry influencers, but says she learned about the importance of a go-to uniform from former President Barack Obama.

“What I have found about dressing for work every day is that you just need to find the three silhouettes that work for you,” she says. “I learned this in an interview with Barack Obama. In all of the decisions he had to make as president all day, he really didn’t have time for some of the small decisions. So, he made a decision early on to only wear blue suits.”

She says Obama also had his go-to shoes. This way, he spent very little time in the morning trying to figure out what to wear.

In a 2012 interview with Vanity Fair, the former president explained how a workplace uniform helped him to eliminate what many psychologists call decision fatigue.

“I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make,” he said. “You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Research shows that if you spend too much time on small decisions, then you’ll have a harder time making more important decisions later in the day.

Business leaders like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs agree. During a 2015 Facebook town hall meeting, The Wall Street Journal reports that Zuckerberg was asked whether he would wear his t-shirt and jeans uniform into his 80s. The young CEO laughed at the question and said that he wears a uniform because he would prefer to focus on the bigger picture of things rather than his clothing.

Fulenwider says the fashion industry is the same. If you notice, she says, many professionals in the industry are known for always wearing a white shirt, or trimmed pants or a shift dress. In her own life, Fulenwider says she’s tried to implement a uniform on most days, but admits that it’s hard to stick to.

“It’s why fashion magazines are in business,” she says. “Women have a lot of choices and that can be paralyzing.”

Video by Beatriz Bajuelos Castillo

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