I have thirty years of experience dressing professional women.
When a woman reaches a certain level of success then the sartorial rules become more defined. Women are smashing through the glass-ceiling and in today’s highly visual world – what you look like is so important.
Physical comfort and immaculate personal presentation are essential tools to help you get your message across to clients and colleagues.
If you’re working your way up the corporate ladder, this is my definitive guide to dressing successfully:
When dressing a professional woman – I always start with footwear first. The shoe or boot one is comfortable wearing, determines the rest of the outfit.
- It is usual in most corporate environments to have a closed toe policy. Frankly, a classic court shoe with a dress or skirt is the most flattering. You can wear a black shoe with navy and if you can find a comfortable nude shoe for summer and a black patent court shoe for the winter then you are sorted for most situations.
- Be comfortable, avoid very high heels. If you are giving a talk you will present better if you feel balanced and comfortable. Of course, if you are wearing trousers then you have the option to wear a fashionable lace-up or an ankle boot with a bit of a heel to give you some lift, if that’s what you prefer.
Hair and Make Up
- Go for a gentle natural make up look – the aim is to look polished.
- Whether your hair is curly or straight – long or short, the aim is to find a look that you don’t have to touch or fiddle with, as that’s very distracting. It goes without saying that shiny or brightly coloured hair accessories are a no-no.
- Nails should be subtle and neatly manicured – definitely not bitten.
- If you are choosing to wear earrings keep them small and neat– bright colours and dangly earrings can detract from your message.
- A good rope of pearls to light up navy, black or taupe is a useful wardrobe standby.
- A decent handbag reflects your success. Invest in one and take good care of it.
- Your necklace should be static – a pendant necklace is not appropriate as you may be tempted to fiddle with it and it tends to move as you walk.
- Avoid overpowering perfumes
- If you are blessed with large boobs, avoid wearing shirts and blouses its messy and distracting – you don’t want to have a row of gaping buttons.
- Limit the amount of cleavage you show, wear a top instead of a shirt or blouse under a jacket this will give a clean neat finish.
- Purchase a great jacket and ensure that you take it to a good tailor to tweak if necessary. Tip: buy a size up and have it “taken in” to fit.
- Wool stretch and triacetate are great fabrics for tailoring. Invest as much as you can and it will pay you back.
- Tip there are great jackets made from Punto Milano jersey, this is a knitted fabric – its advantage is that it is stretchy and therefore comfortable to wear. Great for travelling.
Trousers or Pants:
- Such a tricky thing here. But in order to keep it professional, fit is key!
- If your pants double as leggings, they are too tight for the workplace. Your business or professional slacks should graze your curves, not expose them.
- Make sure that your trousers are pressed, ironed, or whichever you like to call it, you’d be surprised how much a polished look changes your mood!
- If you find a pair of trousers that you like, buy a couple of pairs to wear on alternate days. Most plus size women wear out their trousers between the thighs. I know I do. If you’ve invested in a suit, it’s worth buying two pairs of trousers. Rest and air the fabric, this will reduce wear and tear and prolong the use of the suit.
- Even though the label may say you can machine wash your trousers, I recommend that you do not. Constant washing removes the dressing from the fabric. They will very quickly look like rags.
- Make sure your trouser hems are correctly shortened and not mopping up the pavement.
- If you’re wearing trousers regularly then an investment jacket is essential. The jacket finishes the look.
- Choose a dress where the hemline is at least to your knees.
- Before you purchase, try sitting in a chair in front of the mirror with the dress on. Make sure you are not revealing anything accidentally.
- There is a difference between a clean neat fit and just too tight. Please avoid clothes that are too tight, sexy body con isn’t relevant to a business meeting.
- Check your back. You might not be able to see your rear view but other people can. Is your bra strap digging in?
- Avoid loud prints and patterns and strong multi-colours.
- Avoid floaty materials.
- Fabric with texture or a geometric print can work well. Contrasting Chanel style tipping can look attractive without being distracting.
- Sleeveless is not appropriate – although there could be some exceptions for this.
- Skirts are not my favourite type of garment for a corporate environment – teamed with a jacket you could look like an air hostess.
- And a skirt just worn with a top isn’t good enough.
If your legs are on show wear tights. Plain nude colour is probably best particularly if you are wearing black or navy.
Wishing you every success,