By Karen Keller,
It’s no secret that what you wear says a lot about who you are, your self-esteem, and your professionalism. Additionally, your work clothes “brand” your image on the job. So if you want to be taken seriously and be successful in your career, you have to dress accordingly. But you don’t have to wear stodgy stuff or be endlessly confined in panty hose. As Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man.” And they also make the woman!
Certainly the tradition of women wearing dresses or skirts at the office is still holding strong, but the pantsuit sure has made a wonderful comeback, hasn’t it? Hard to believe that they were incredibly controversial back in the 60s. Remember the wide-bottom style in the 70s (yes, I’m dating myself here!)? Oh, do they bring back memories of all those 70s TV shows I grew up with like Mod Squad, Charlie’s Angels and Mary Tyler Moore. Mary was a great role model for independent working women asserting themselves in the workplace and staying true to themselves in the process. Talk about influence. Oh, and didn’t she look fab in a pantsuit?!
Of course the pantsuit style has changed a lot since it arrived on the fashion scene. Now pantsuits have a much more refined, elegant, and sophisticated look. I have to admit this is my preferred outfit. Maybe it’s the tomboy in me or the fact that I like the warmth of having something on my legs rather than a skirt that can get crinkled in the car and at my desk.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you prefer; dress, skirts, or pantsuits, adding shoes and accessories are also important in deciding how you’ll present the total package.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when sizing up what you should wear to work:
Watch the bangles. In the movie Working Girl, two ambitious women battle it out to climb the corporate ladder. The movie is set in the 1980s, and in one scene, Katharine Parker (played by Sigourney Weaver), tells Tess McGill (played by Melanie Griffith) about her expected dress code, quoting Coco Chanel “Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman.” Tess, who has long frizzy hair, with her bangs back-combed high on her forehead, layers of make-up on, and several bracelets on her wrists, asks Katherine how she looks. Katharine says: “You look great. You might want to re-think the jewelry.” I find it ironic that Katharine only mentions the jewelry, however, there are ways to draw attention to yourself but noisy jewelry should not be one of them!
Pantyhose or not? Some folks in the fashion industry think nylons are old-fashioned and outdated, yet they are still a part of a traditional office wardrobe. I don’t know about you, but I’m not one for wearing pantyhose unless the occasion specifically calls for it, hence my love of pants and pantsuits! Some women, like Michele Obama, don’t wear pantyhose at all. Some women, when wearing pants, will wear dress socks instead of nylons. If there is a dress code where you work, you may have to wear pantyhose. If so, make sure they are a proper fit and the right style for you. If you can’t stand being hemmed in by the control top, get a pair without!
Don’t throw things together at the last minute. With women’s lives being so busy trying to juggle family, kids and work, it makes sense to keep your wardrobe, make-up and hairstyle routine simple so you can do it quickly and easily. However, you shouldn’t skimp on being prepared. Got an important meeting coming up? Try on your outfit the night before, and mix and match accessories until you get the look that feels right. Make sure everything is laid out so that there is no last-minute panic trying to find your earrings or scarf. There’s no feeling worse than arriving at work and suddenly noticing an important part of the ensemble is missing.
Dress for your personality. Whether you’re working in an office where a specific business dress code is in place or you have the freedom to dress as you like, whatever you decide on, dressing “as you” is the most important aspect of the professional image you want to portray. You don’t have to be a fashionista, simply infuse your personality into everything you wear. At the same time, choose clothes that properly fit your body type. They don’t have to follow the latest fashion, as long as they look good on you. Age-appropriate attire is best. Whatever you decide to wear, keep the style consistent. It doesn’t have to be boring either. Go ahead and change things up from time to time, just keep your brand and goals in mind.
Think about how you want to be seen and perceived by those around you; your boss, your colleagues, and your customers. A successful professional image will do wonders for your career and make you a woman of influence in the process!
Karen Keller, Ph.D. is an expert in women’s leadership and assertiveness training. She is also a successful entrepreneur and author. She specializes in the skills of influence and persuasion, executive coaching, mentoring, sales techniques, management development training, motivational speaking, personal life coaching, and corporate training. Discover Influence It! Real POWER for Women now! For your free subscription visit http://www.karen-keller.com.