The best advice my mother ever gave me was to focus on where I wanted to be in my career, and to dress for that position NOW!” I didn’t always listen to her advice. (She didn’t like me driving an ice cream truck during the summer to finance my university education, but I did it any way!). Her advice, nearly 30 years ago, to think about clothing as an investment has served me well.
Many women leave their studies and jump into the business world without ever learning how to make the most of their personal brand or presentation. (Political correctness gone too far perhaps?) At this week’s women-in-the-city event at Hobbs retailer in London, I highlighted five key mistakes that women make in dressing for the “boardroom”:
1. Shirts/tops – if you are worried about the neckline being too low, then it is too low. Save it for the nightclub. (Yes, this is an obvious one, but still a prevalent mistake, especially among younger women.)
2.Shoes – ever get off the train and hear “click click”. Does that sound instil confidence? Shoes should sound authoritative and the height should make the shoe look stable and confident. No need for stilts in the workplace. If you can’t keep up with colleagues when you’re walking to meetings or trailing through airports, leave the super high heels at home.
3.Hair – if you have to play around with it or have a tendency to twirl it, it’s not the right style or length. Hair should look tidy and be easy to manage during the day without adjustments.
4.Suits/trousers – you don’t need to dress like a man to succeed in a man’s world. Look professional, but develop your unique feminine brand. Unlike the 80’s when I “grew up” in business, today’s fashion can accentuate the feminine figure through stylish tailoring. Take advantage of it!
5.Accessories – an outfit without accessories is like a cake with no icing. Accessories are the magic in a woman’s wardrobe. Like a man’s tie or the color of his shirt, women’s accessories such as shoes, belts, scarves, and necklaces can change the look and feel of the entire outfit.
Whether it’s hair, shoes or clothing, eliminate the fuss- it makes the alpha male feel uncomfortable. Where should he look when a women is adjusting her blouse or her skirt? Should he show his annoyance when his female colleague can’t keep up with him in the hallway on the way to a meeting because her shoes aren’t right for the occasion? Finally, short necklines and short skirt lines send the alpha male into orbit. Forget about him concentrating on the task at hand. Please be more considerate.
One final bonus tip – stretch your budget by mixing and matching. Mixing and matching also allows you to pack lightly for business trips. Buy outfits where the skirt, jacket, or dress can be interchanged. Alpha males also don’t like to travel with females who lug around large suitcases! While we don’t want to look like men, we do want to work with them, and build the best businesses we can together. Having the right dress for the boardroom will help us achieve this bigger goal.