I saw a woman walking into our building yesterday and was impressed with her understated, yet confident, attire. She had simple hair and makeup, a well tailored navy skirt suit, a neutral shell, stockings and mid height neutral pumps. I wondered, if she’s here to meet with a client, she’s going to impress them. I have the interesting position now to both have clients and be a client. I give deliberate thought to what I wear to meet with my clients in different positions, groups and work environments as well as find it interesting to see what people wear to meet with me.
Short of working at Google (and if you work at Google, welcome and I sure could use help figuring out analytics), I believe that dressing with a degree of formality for client meetings benefits you. I realize some work environments are an exception, but only a few. Even when I was in private practice, if I met with clients in a business casual environment, I still wore a suit to the meeting. Now there are instances where I am in an industrial setting and a suit would be entirely inappropriate because I may have to don steel toe boots. However, last week when I was in such a setting, even though I had to wear jeans (and I wore nice dark denim jeans), I wore a blouse and a blazer (that could be removed to throw on coveralls) to show respect and engender confidence.
This is not about spending a lot of money on your wardrobe. This is about having staple pieces that help you in those first (and second) impressions. Not only do you need to be confident, but you need to look confident and smart wardrobe choices move you toward that goal. Here is my “tip list” for impressing the client:
1. If you wear a skirt, wear stockings. I’m sorry, this may sound outdated, and it is irrelevant if you’re just in your office for the day, but if you are meeting clients or giving a speech, wear stockings. People notice and it looks more professional. I know it’s hot this summer – I don’t care.
2. Leave your crazy stuff at home. I have the cutest pair of high heels with a bow that are leopard print. I do not wear them to meet with clients. I have a bright pink paisley blouse that looks adorable with neutral trousers. I do not wear it to meet with clients. I love bright colors and prints and patterns but I stick to the basics with my meetings. Now that doesn’t mean I avoid all color. I have a beautiful red blazer that I wear with a creme blouse and navy slacks for certain client meetings that don’t involve executives (where I only wear a suit). I wouldn’t wear it for an interview, but it’s entirely appropriate for client meetings or speeches.
3. Wear closed-toe, normal height, neutral color pumps. It’s that simple. No elaboration needed.
4. Dress like a grandmother. Okay, so maybe this is an overstatement, but I was just talking to my teenage niece, who is the most precious thing on the planet, and she was telling me about her favorite fashion site. Oh mercy, I’m glad I’m writing for career women and not about the “on trend” item of the year. Because she loves rompers. You know those things that you dress your nine month old in? Well, turns out they make them for grown women now. Good grief. But in looking at this website, I thought far too much was low cut or inappropriately short. Don’t meet with a client looking like you also have an evening gig. Sit down in the dressing room before you buy that cute dress or skirt so see how much leg you show. Take the earring out of your nose and the bracelet off of your ankle. If you have an arm tattoo, wear a blazer.
Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what to wear for that meeting with executives or judges or high level supervisors:
(First suit from Talbots, next two from Ann Taylor, last one from Nordstrom.)
Here are some ideas for that meeting with a client that is less formal or for giving a presentation (the very last look is only option if your client’s workplace is very informal):
(First outfit from Talbots, next three from Nordstrom, final outfit from Banana Republic.)
Let us in on your favorite go-to client outfit or what you’ve seen done that should be eliminated from everyone’s meeting wardrobe!