I recently met a woman business owner at a networking meeting who was around 60 years old. She had a short, stylish haircut, bold, modern earrings and necklace, an up-to-date gray tunic sweater, black leggings and black boots. She was carrying an orange leather tote bag and wearing well-done make-up. Her nails were short and polished a dark color. I realized the importance of her entire, overall image, and how she truly looked like a business owner with whom I would want to do business.
I couldn't say the same thing about every woman in the room. I saw over-grown hair styles, ill-fitting clothing, too-long nails and other details that made some of the women look less impressive. They probably had knowledge and competence equal to the first woman, but it wasn't obvious by how they presented themselves.
The differences in these women is in both their clothing and the little things. Every detail counts, especially in a business setting. Even if you don' t notice the small things, when they are combined to present an overall image, they send a clear message--good or bad.
Women who don't update their style in even the smallest ways appear to be behind the times and might cause others to question their abilities or relevance in the job market.
How can you be authentic, real, and true to your best self? Most women would say they want this for themselves. When I speak to groups of women, I always talk about this concept of matching your inside and outside. I give them the list of adjectives shown, and ask them to circle the ones they think describe them, then we talk about whether their current look sends that message out to people around them.
Here are two examples of women whose inside and outside do NOT match.
How about a woman who is a musician, loves art, is warm, modern, friendly and artsy. She is drawn to bohemian styles, but has a misguided idea that she "should" be dressing "professionally" in structured suit jackets and white shirts with collars. She isn't comfortable in these clothes, and feels like she isn't being herself, because she loves more free-flowing clothing like this long, striped cardigan by Free People and that expresses her artistic side more authentically. She will be much happier and more comfortable with herself if she makes some changes in her wardrobe to reflect her true, best self.
Or how about a teenager who wears all black, hats that cover her face, and t-shirts with scary messages, but is confident, strong, intelligent and reliable, and wants to be seen as approachable? Her clothing is sending the opposite message. This outfit from Nordstrom BP shows those around her how she really feels and IS inside.
Take a look at the qualities listed above, then look at the clothes in your closet and think about whether your clothes are sending the message and portraying the person you want to show to the people you come in contact with every day. Be your best, true, authentic self by learning your style and shopping to fit that style.
How do you appear to others at your work place? In the last several years, especially the last decade, the rules have relaxed so much, that I am hearing employers wish some of their employees would dress more appropriately for work. In my opinion, general rules for women are: no cleavage, no spaghetti straps or strapless tops, and skirts or shorts should be below fingertip length. (remember high school?) For men, shirts should have collars for most settings, but here in the Northwest, Microsoft employees can literally wear anything they like. That doesn't always fly with every company, however, so look around to see who is dressed the best, especially in jobs above yours, and follow their examples.
Does your company have a written dress code? I can help put together a simple list or a published manual. How do you decide what to wear to work?
Wardrobe Consultant and Personal Shopper. Love to help women match their outside image to their unique inner beauty.