I’m originally from Missouri, the show me state. As a result, I always want to know the reason why or why I’m not supposed to be doing something. I’ve found this holds with professional dress. Not only does it make the “fashion rule” easier to remember, but also knowing why it’s important helps you know when to break it!
Before I started working as an image consultant, I was in corporate (after many years of being in the fashion world.) Once when one of my employers changed the dress code, it wasn’t very well defined, but the one rule that was instated was “no open toe shoes.” Let me just say…I thought this was stupid! As a bit of a rebel but not a full blown one, I immediately shopped for open back shoes.
We didn’t know why they were restricting us, so as soon as one consultant broke the rule, we all followed suit!
So that’s a really long way of me saying that today I’m answering many of my most frequently asked questions about professional dress…and I’m telling you why the guidelines are in place. YOU decide if you want to follow or break the “rule.”
Always keep in mind that your goal of professional dress is to look attractive, memorable and polished, but nothing about your appearance should be distracting. You want to be listened to, taken seriously and known for your work.
Q. How trendy can I be and still be professional?
A. I consider “trendy” clothes as the kinds of things you find at Forever 21 and a lot of the things you see on Street Style bloggers. Overly trendy clothes aren’t as professional as “fashionable” clothes. On the other hand, professional clothes don’t have to be completely plain—too plain of an appearance veers into matronly. You have tons of room for personal style! Read on for more ideas.
Q. Is it sloppy or unprofessional to have your shirt/blouse untucked and hanging out below your jacket?
A. Not necessarily, but it’s important to put some thought into your top. For the style, a flowy blouse looks better than a fitted one. A lot depends upon your environment. Even when worn with a pantsuit, the look still reads more casual than a tucked blouse or top that’s shorter than the jacket.
Q. Are pantyhose a thing of the past and am I only dating myself by wearing them?
A. This is actually the most asked question I’ve gotten starting way back in 2004 and is extremely controversial. In today’s society (especially in Colorado,) very few women are wearing hosiery, especially in the summer, but wearing “pantyhose” is simply more professional than bare legs. In test after test, women who skipped hosiery were viewed as less credible and less authoritative than their hosiery-wearing counterparts.
There is a lot to consider. Get the full scoop on the subject here.
In my opinion, cheap, visible pantyhose are awful and look especially frumpy! Hosiery should be undetectable, and when it is, the look is finished and sophisticated…especially if your legs are a bit spotted or uneven tone. You must take the time to find your perfect color, sheerness and comfort level.
Q. Are open-toed shoes considered unprofessional?
A. The fact of the matter is that toes are distracting. (It’s true! They’ve done studies!) So yes, closed toe shoes are the most professional choice.
That said, it’s almost unfathomable to limit ourselves to closed toe shoes every single day in the summer heat. Both slingbacks and peep toe pumps are good choices with formal business-wear; however, sandals are not as appropriate with a suit. It drags the look of the suit into a more casual realm, decreasing your credibility and authority.
Here’s a guide to choosing a sandal for a business casual look. Lastly, with any shoe that’s open at all, your pedicure must be flawless!
A. Oh, I so don’t believe in those, “Never wear this over age 40” type articles! Everyone’s personal style is different, and everyone’s body is different. Those are the biggest deciding factors.
I think it’s much easier to veer into looking too old/matronly than it is to dress too young. First off, I think if you are wondering if something is too young, it may be and you probably have the intuition about it.
For professional dress, stay away from too short, too tight, too much skin and too casual and you’ll be fine.
Ill-fitting, baggy clothes devoid of any personal style and those that don’t fit correctly turn out to be aging.
Q. How can I look classy and professional on a budget?
A. My favorite fashion quote ever from my good friend and fellow, Bay area image consultant, Elena Daciuk, answers this perfectly. She says, “It’s better to look good every day than to look different every day!”
It’s best to spend as much as you can on a few high quality, basic pieces and look great. Then build the rest of your professional wardrobe slowly.
Appearing sophisticated in extremely cheap clothing is difficult. It rarely fits well and usually has a poor drape. You can alter less expensive clothing to create a more expensive look; however, in the long run it’s better to invest in good quality that will last for years. You can learn the best pieces of clothing to buy here.
Before I took image-consulting training, I saw fashion as fashion and wore what I liked. I knew about clothes and style but nothing about professional dress. It’s the one area of my life that I can really say, “Boy, if I knew then what I know now…” Professional dress and paying attention to all of the details can provide you a huge, long-term payout!
Still not quite sure how to make professional dress work for you? Schedule a consultation with me and let’s get crystal clear about your next steps.
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