I had two vastly different experiences with clients last week.
One client asked me to speak to his small town law office to explain their new dress code – specifically what they COULD wear to work. Clients had started calling him to comment about the overly-casual manner in which they were dressing for work. Uh-oh.
And then I had another client call me to ask for help packing for a 10-day business trip to another country. She has a closet full (as in smashed together there’s so much) of designer-named business clothes, and was still having trouble pulling it all together. (No longer fits, too heavy for the weather, dated, over-photographed, bad color, and the all-too-common “it makes me look fat.)”
What’s common about these two dramatically divergent challenges is that neither had a plan or clear system; there was no specific strategy to dressing for work. And what you get is a bunch of disconnected, random garments of random colors. Nothing works together and worse, their clothes don’t communicate any story, much less THEIR unique story.
And since I’m being dramatic, let me take this one step further -- we recognize superheroes because they’re wearing their superhero costumes – it’s perfectly obvious who they are and why they’re there. Usually they’ve come to save the day, kind of like what women do EVERY day!
In the first case, the young women kept pushing the boundaries of casual dress until the lawyer finally noticed it was affecting his business and his image as a respected law firm.
In the second, this woman is crazy busy so she shops randomly and haphazardly. She has lots of clothes, but I was challenged to put together a working collection for 10 days of business that would fit in a suitcase. We finally settled on her buying a few new things to get through this trip and we’re going to work on her brand image when she gets back. (Here’s a tip, if it doesn’t fit you now, move it to another section of the closet so you don’t keep pulling it out when you’re trying to get dressed.)
In our busy, disconnected world we STILL need to stand out to illustrate our personal message of confident, composed wisdom and experience – the look of leadership. So here’s my short list of how to accomplish this.
Structured garments, like a blazer or jacket over a dress or pants, look more pulled-together and in control. Men read this as ‘disciplined,’ especially if they’ve been in the military. Baggy cardigans are too casual and make you look heavy, they visually add pounds. And you don't look pulled together and in charge.
Cooler colors (navy, royal blue, teal, dark gray, brown, burgundy, black) are taken more seriously. Use these as the canvas of your outfit and add small touches of color or pattern for drama.
Any height of heel is better than flats. Flats are too casual and give the impression of a young, naïve girl. Flats are functional, like you need to traverse the parking lot, or long distances. Change into your closed-toe, heeled shoes when you make your presence known.
Wear SOME make-up to look polished and complete. Light foundation/BB cream, blush, lip color, mascara, at the minimum. If you despise foundation, remember many have the SPF you need to wear anyway, so shop around for a light one you can tolerate. Add powder your face when taking photos so you don't look oily – a matte face is better. I once was the official powderer-of-the-CEO's-bald-head when the photography group didn't want to hire a make-up artist!
And since I’ve referenced super heroes, remember, even Wonder Woman had to WORK to develop her full powers and true destiny.
When you’re ready to find YOUR super power wardrobe, call me. I have resources for every body shape and every business culture. They ARE out there, just harder to find if you don’t know where to look. I’m here for YOU. Let’s get your career headed in the winner’s lane!