These are the words that came to my mind as I spent an afternoon with Mara McLoughlin, founder of IRL Social Skills. IRL is based in Portland, Oregon and offers virtual social skills training to neurodiverse folks from all over looking for concrete, research-derived guidance and coaching to navigate our inherently social world. Trained as a speech-language pathologist, Mara has since put on her entrepreneur hat by founding IRL and spends her time passionately advocating for the inclusion of folks from neurodivergent backgrounds in all levels of our society.
This culture-changer is on a mission! As Mara told me about her life, it became apparent that her look at times has taken back seat to the incredible work she is doing – and understandably so. You only have so much time when you are leading a revolution!
But we discovered together that it’s Mara’s time to get her groove back. We set aside the oversized sweaters that she gravitated toward out of habit and shook loose some locally sourced items to transition her wardrobe to the colder months. We decided it’s time - time to resume congruency in her look through matching the fierce leader within.
Congruency Look #1: Bad Ass Bomber
There’s nothing that oozes bad ass like a fitted silk bomber. The bomber is a gender-neutral staple marked by a short-ribbed waistband and matching cuffs, promising to play nice with virtually any casual ensemble in your closet. A snug fit around the shoulders and arms with just enough give for a layering tee shirt is all you need in the ideal bomber.
To give this ensemble the pop of color it needs, Mara and I went for a bright and bold white crew neck tee that is gentle on the eyes but simultaneously gets this marvelous woman noticed. We finished the look off with a pair of washed and cuffed skinny jeans and a pair of boots from Modern Vice that will help anyone take over the world. For a busy entrepreneur like Mara, time allocated to find outfits that are both comfortable and fierce are sparse. The beauty of the bomber and these boots is that they elevate any sleepy and casual outfit – all you have to do is throw them on. Look out world!
Congruency Look #2: Crop Top + Sequined Skirt
Even though Mara is busy changing the world, her spunky and playful side was evident as we got to know each other. That’s why I reached for a surprising choice to bring this second look together – a bright white crop top. Originally, this itsy bitsy shirt was received by Mara with a bit of skepticism and perhaps an internal eye roll, but once this bad boy was pulled over her head there was an instant change of heart. While threatening to showcase an intense amount of midriff, the crop top also promises a life free from tucking, shifting and re-tucking as it offers the ideal amount of fabric for the high-waisted sequined skirt we’ve included in this look.
To tone down all the glitz and glam of the sequins, we’ve finished this outfit off with a chambray jacket that cinches at the waist. Denim is the great neutralizer. When in doubt and wondering if your ensemble is grocery story appropriate, you can never go wrong with a classic chambray. Here Mara’s look is giving me “Mara’s gonna have some fun!” vibes, but the chambray adds just the right dose of maturity for this entrepreneur on-the-go.
Congruency Look #3: Duster Cardigan
A duster cardigan is any cardigan that hits at or just below the knees. It is my go-to as we slowly transition from fall to winter. Part of its allure is the luxurious comfort it offers as it feels like an elevated bathrobe, but visually it works wonders and ties together any ensemble.
For this look, we begin with a silky blue and grey floral duster that hits Mara right at the knees. The exaggerated length of the cardigan sends the eyes on a vertical path and works to elongate Mara’s frame. When choosing a duster length, go for ones that hit mid-calf or above. Longer than this and you run the risk of it draping on the floor and appearing like a small child in mama’s oversized clothing. We finish the look off with a French-tucked white tee, a pair of skinny jeans and a slip-on pair of black slides.
This duster cardigan oozes elegance and a bit of dreamy sophistication with minimal effort. It fits the bill for Mara as she effortlessly champions folks working their way through this complicated world during her day-to-day.
It was such a joy getting to work with Mara and learn about her business, IRL Social Skills. If you or someone you know is looking for concrete, research-based social skills guidance and coaching, sign up for one of her upcoming 16-week classes and experience the transformation that her work brings! With her look matching the revolutionary, playful, nurturing leader that she is, it’s congruency time for Mara – inside and out.