When I first meet a new client, one of my initial questions is what they’d like to prioritize in our work together. And while most are looking for an overall overhaul to their clothes and style, some come to me for help with a specific aspect of their wardrobe. And for many clients, that’s their work wardrobe. Whether they’re having a challenge fitting into a casual corporate culture or they’re not sure how to dress for a new job or industry, we’ll create a work style that aligns with their company and goals, while still allowing for a generous dose of self-expression.
When I work with female clients in a somewhat dressier workplace (such as finance, law or similar), I often see them struggling with being themselves at the office. In many cases, they work in a male-dominated environment – or at least most of their peers and colleagues are men. And in an effort to fit in, they default to dressing like ‘one of the boys’.
I had a client who was the CMO of a Silicon Valley tech company, and when we started working together, she showed me a photo of herself on stage with her leadership team at a conference. All the men were wearing dark suits, and she was the only woman on the stage – and she was wearing a dark suit as well. And I think that was a big miss. Because when your office feels like a ‘boys’ club’, no matter what you do, they know that you’re the girl. So instead of trying to blend in and deny your femininity, I prefer to embrace it. Whether you’re on stage or walking into a meeting or striding into the office on a regular workday, it’s an opportunity to not only express who you are as a woman, but to also embrace it and use it to your advantage. I advise clients to use their feminine power as a tool to achieving their goals. Specifically in a male-dominated work culture, you have the opportunity to stand out and grab attention in a way that guys can’t – so why not use it?
I’m not saying to dress in an overtly girly manner at work, especially if that’s not your thing. But if you enjoy a more feminine style, there are ways to express it in the workplace that are completely professional, yet command attention. And once you’ve got their attention, you’re moving in the right direction.
One of the best ways to stand out at work is with color. If your peer group is mostly men, all you need to do is wear colors that most men don’t. I often say that the benefit of men’s clothing is that they have fewer choices – and the challenge of men’s clothing is that they have fewer choices. But conversely, that means that you have a literal rainbow of options when it comes to choosing colors to wear to the office.
And the best way to decide to what colors to wear to work? Start with your favorites. If you love yellow, shine in a yellow blouse. If red is your thing, wear a notice-me red blazer to your next big meeting. If you’re all about purple, then purple shoes can be your pop color with a neutral outfit. And when you’re on stage, a solid dress in an attention-getting shade is ideal to grab the spotlight and stand out in front of the audience (just be sure the shade contrasts with the stage backdrop). If you’re unsure which colors go with what, read this for 10 color combinations that always work.
PRINT & PATTERN
If you’re more of a neutral-lover, then color may not be your method of choice to embrace your femininity at work. But you can easily do that with prints and patterns as well. Leave the boring stripes and outdoorsy plaids to the men, and go for florals or dots or geometric patterns or animal prints or whatever strikes your fancy. It’s the same story as with color – you have multitudes more choices than men do, so take advantage of your options and express yourself.
SHAPES & SILHOUETTES
The most obvious way to embrace your femininity at work is with the shapes and silhouettes that you wear to the office. And by that, I mean selecting styles that were cut for a woman, as opposed to being copies of traditional menswear:
Instead of a collared button-front shirt, choose a silky blouse.
Instead of a traditional notch lapel blazer, go for a collarless fitted blazer or an open front style or a peplum design.
Instead of trousers, try slim ankle pants or a skirt.
And you can never go wrong with a dress, especially since you can find styles that fit into any office dress code (click here for a few dresses that work with specific body shapes).
I have a client that I’ve been working with for a few years, and recently she told me that she’d like to dress more feminine at work – and that’s music to my ears. She has always embraced color – so we cranked it up a notch with her office outfits. Then we peppered in some animal prints – leopard print shoes (and one blouse), a pair of snake print flats and a zebra print coat and skirt. And when she’s on stage, she’s almost always wearing a dress – for an upcoming presentation, she’s wearing a new red dress and this amazing orange leather jacket we found together. I honestly can’t wait to see photos!!
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