What is acceptable office dress code for a woman?
A very useful graphic landed on my desk this week and prompted me to return to this age-old subject.
We've also had International Women's Day with a theme of 'Women in the Changing World of Work' so it's very apt.
Professional women are now regarded as more capable and successful than ever before and many have worked themselves up the corporate ladder gaining a great deal of respect.
So although we may think that we've earned the right to make our own decisions over the way we look, there are still guidelines to follow if you want to be taken seriously in the workplace.
Femininity was once something to be hidden under severely tailored suits but during the nineties, the professional woman began to feel free enough to express her own personality in her mode of dress and a softer image became more acceptable.
Informality in workwear generally has gained pace over the years.
Employers are reluctant to stipulate an office dress code so it’s by no means unusual to see a pair of jeans where once you would have expected a smart suit.
In times past unspoken guidelines of dress were stringently followed. But times have changed and it's sometimes difficult to distinguish the boss from the receptionist.
But your male colleague, whether he's wearing a business suit or jeans, is never going to be mistaken for a secretary!
The link between identity and appearance remains strong because you are your own best business asset at all times.
We all know about the ‘first impression’ at an interview but an appropriate image can have a powerful influence on the development of any career.
It's often said that women who wear makeup earn more than those who don't!
I'm sure there will be many different opinions about that. But ridiculous or not, it's part of the uniform, part of being properly put together and looking the part.
It's not just personal style and grooming that's noticed. When you walk into a room your gestures and body language speak volumes too.
Confident, professional, efficient, competent – are these the words your image is conveying?
It's easy to achieve a workable and flexible wardrobe if you think classic and capsule. The cut, style and detail of a 'classic' doesn't date quickly and will take you from season to season.
A small capsule collection of classic styles in quality fabric, preferably natural fibres, will look good for many years if you look after them.
Always buy the best you can afford and they'll earn their keep many times over. The higher the wool content the softer the feel and the easier it will move with your body.
Invest in an Online Color Analysis so you can identify a main neutral color to form the backbone of your co-ordinated wardrobe - suit, jacket, skirt and coat. The other shades in your color family will allow you to add touches of accent colors so you can mix and match for great versatility.
Ensure that everything you buy fits you well and flatters your body shape - comfort is important for the varying situations that the day may throw at you.
Invariably, a woman needs to prove herself to be capable of competing in a man’s world and appearance is a powerful form of communication – albeit one over which you have complete control.
When your visual presentation is impressive people will want to listen to and take note of what you have to say.
Appropriate workwear will always vary from industry to industry
but this handy reminder of the acceptable guidelines, from British work-wear retailers T M Lewin makes it easy for both men and women to crack the office dress code.
Many years ago the term ‘dress for the job you want’ was coined – it still works today!
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