Last week, I traveled with a wonderful friend who is a “Millennial” on a work trip. She’d love some fashion mentoring but takes the position that the 40-something set has a different opinion of what’s work appropriate from her generation. I agree. However, I responded, it’s the 40-something (plus) set that’s regularly deciding who to promote. It might not be unwise to pay attention to how they evaluate executive presence.
So for today’s Fashion Friday, I’ve invited several of my successful women friends to offer thoughts on what talented women tend to get wrong in their offices, particularly when the summer hits. Each one of them is between 40 and 45, doing well in their career in corporate America, and work in industries from oil and gas to health care to corporate services.
It’s worth highlighting I have no advisors from technology, where the dress code is far more casual, or from marketing and arts, where the dress code is far more avant garde.
However, if you are in finance, law, corporate, accounting, energy (office), etc., these all apply.
I have three categories of feedback from the fashion mentors. The “don’t do’s.” The “watch out for this.” And the “mentor’s recommendation.”
These were on the universal Do Not Wear List:
- Flip flops (additional note from one mentor: any backless shoe that goes click clack down the hall all day),
- Maxi skirts/dresses,
- Spaghetti strap or off the shoulder dresses/tops (note from one mentor on the latter: it says I want to sleep with my boss rather than be the boss!),
- Short or tight clothes (same note from a different mentor),
- I also got a don’t wear recommendation on denim dresses/tops, which I think I tend to agree with but would have to see the outfit (and know about an office’s Friday dress policy), as well as no cut out shoulders, which again I think is outfit dependent.
These appeared on the Watch Out For This List:
- Summer skirts are airy and cool for a reason. Check the length, sheerness, and placement of slits before wearing to the office.
- Remember most offices are over-air conditioned in the summer. Dress for the temperature in your office so you don’t run into the unfortunate implications of women in cold air.
- Your hair is a reflection of you too. There seems to be a trend in dirty or unkempt hair. Keep it professional.
Finally, here’s a few Mentor Recommendations:
Balance your outfit: If you wear a more casual shoe (wedge sandal, ballet slipper, etc.), pair it with a more formal outfit in a blazer or dress. Alternatively, if you wear a casual shift dress, pair them with heels. Don’t pair a casual outfit and casual shoes or else you’ll look like you’re going to a pool party instead of the office.
Layer: To one mentor’s point re: some of the unfortunate circumstances women face when in summer clothes in a cold office environment, layering solves the problem. Pair a sheath dress (my go-to summer base) with a pretty sweater or blazer which can be removed once you step into the outdoor inferno.
Add Color: Sometimes, summer can drive you to dress more informally. It’s hard to find the balance on summer work appropriate. One recommendation is to keep your typical office formality (whatever it is at your workplace), but go brighter. Kelly green, ocean blue, mango, sunshine – all beautiful in blazers, sweaters, blouses and even ankle pants (I pull out bright pants on Fridays since we have a no-denim policy).
Here’s a few looks of women getting it right:
Summer can be the MOST fun time for workplace fashion if you heed a few words of wisdom from fashion mentors around you.