Many of my clients are looking to dress better at work, or at least dress in a way that can support (and ideally, advance) their careers. As part of this, they want to present an image that aligns with their industry, company, specific job and their level in the organization. But sometimes, they hit a bump – especially when they feel like dressing within their current comfort zone misses the mark in utilizing their appearance as a tool to hit their goals. And that’s when they come to me.
Most of my clients express this challenge in a much more blatant way. Some of them tell me that they want to dress ‘younger’, to feel more relevant in the youth-focused world of tech. And conversely, other clients in their 20’s and 30’s say that they want to dress ‘older’, since they are rising in the ranks, overseeing teams, and want a stronger leadership presence. And when we have these conversations, I like to rephrase both requests. For my older clients, we focus on feeling more modern and current with how they dress at work. And for my younger clients, we sophisticate their style to better connect with their position. Read on for 3 ways to do either...
HOW TO DRESS YOUNGER, AKA MODERNIZE
Quite a few of my clients who are specifically looking to dress younger are stuck in a rut. They default to black pants as their wardrobe staple, wear traditional suiting pieces, and haven’t updated their style for some time. They often have somewhat rigid notions of what to wear to the office that harken back to when they first started their careers - and then they’re at a standstill when faced with an ‘anything goes’ corporate dress code. If you’re having these same struggles, how can you transform your wardrobe into something modern and current?
WATCH YOUR SHAPES
Traditional women’s suits and blazers are just that – traditional. They’ve been based in the same shapes for decades and actually echo men’s suiting, and that’s just not a modern way to dress! The first step is ditching the suits in favor of purposely mismatched jackets and pants, and the second step is updating your silhouettes. Trade out your one button notch collar jackets for a multitude of modern styles – moto, bomber, open, drape front, etc.
And clothing shapes don’t only relate to blazers, especially if you refer to your work pants as ‘slacks’. Slim ankle pants are much more current and versatile – and if you’re willing to try a trend, how about a wide leg crop? And what about shoes? Yes, nude patent pumps are a working girl’s staple – but let’s try a sleek bootie or pointy-toe flat or even a stacked heel sandal, just for fun.
Jeans are not only allowed at many companies, they’re often expected. The trick to making them age-appropriate and office-friendly is testing the waters with a uniform dark wash with little to no details. And then, if you’re daring, go for color, or white, or whatever still feels like you.
A denim jacket should also be a staple in your closet, unless you’re in an ultra-conservative industry. It’s a little bit of magic in how it transforms a basic sheath dress into something much more ‘now’.
It’s okay to have fun at work – many offices actually encourage it! And it’s also okay to have fun with your clothes. If your work wardrobe can be described as sedate, somber and very serious, it’s time to add some color, print and overall interest – let your personality shine.
HOW TO DRESS OLDER, AKA SOPHISTICATE
I have a handful of clients who are at the cusp of amazing careers. They’ve paid some dues, have moved beyond individual contributor roles, and now lead teams – but their style hasn’t evolved as quickly. They tell me that they want to appear older, but what we really work on is making them look more sophisticated, so there’s no way they’ll be mistaken for a newbie.
ELEVATE YOUR FABRICS
The amazing thing is that creating a more refined appearance usually isn’t a complete style-shift – it’s more of a style upgrade. And the first place we start is with fabrics. If you’re stuck in all cotton everything, then it’s time to trade up to wool, silk, linen and other finer fabrications. For example, if your go-to work outfit is a fleece jacket, t-shirt and jeans, then let’s switch out to a cashmere cardigan, silk blouse and slim wool pants. It’s the same number of pieces, but with a much different feeling.
UPGRADE YOUR SHOES
Shoes can make or break an outfit – and who wants to cross their leg in a meeting with a client, only to realize that today was they day they wore ratty trainers? If you’re good with heels, then use them to add style to otherwise simple looks. And if flats are more of your comfort zone, go for or a pointy-toe print, metallic ballet flat or a simple suede loafer – it not only coordinates with a more sophisticated style, it adds to it!
TRY A DRESS
I’ve heard it a bunch of times – “I don’t wear dresses to work.” But if you’re looking to distinguish yourself from your team, maybe it’s time to try one. Of course, I don’t mean showing up in a cocktail dress or even going for a ‘power dress’ on the first try – but wearing a well-cut dress in a flattering color is something just different enough that it truly elevates your presence and might just get you noticed in a very positive way. And you can always temper the dressiness of a dress by pairing it with a leather or denim jacket, for a bit of casual edge.
If you’re looking to upgrade your work style, or just looking to more closely align your appearance with how you feel on the inside, let me know! We can schedule a free 20 minute phone call to discuss what you’re looking for and how I can help. Click here to email me.