Celebrity Stylist and Image Consultant Elysze Held (www.StyleOutoftheCity.com) advises to first and foremost “Flatter your Fabulous…and focus on the fit! Your only fashion ideal should be you at your best! The secret to looking great is choosing clothes that look like they were designed around your body and wearing clothes that look like they were made for you”.
College graduates receive fashion styling from their career guidance centers along with interview tips, job leads and relocation advice. Universities across the country realize that young women need to dress differently once leaving the classroom for the office life in order to be successful. I remember quite vividly a guidance counselor saying “Dress like you already work in the corner office from day one.” Clothes alone don’t make a woman successful but clothes make a silent statement that can make or break many business interactions. Think about the time you wore a cocktail dress to a gown event and you know what I mean. Nothing’s worse than being the one underdressed. Says more about you than your words will relay.
I am in the boardroom now, having passed the corner office a decade ago, and I outgrew my career counselor’s suggestion, so now where do I look for my fashion advice? As women climb the corporate ladder, venture into the entrepreneur arena or transition back to the work force from raising kids to growing a paycheck, the C-Suite fashion information becomes less and less available. Good luck with the trendy magazine rack or Instagram feed. Few fashion magazines share relevant fashion advice on how a successful 40 to 65-year-old woman should dress in the boardroom. Fashion bloggers talk current trends and fashion shows not work place mojo. I look at social media and see the fashion that influential women are wearing and cringe. Ill fitting, un-polished or just plain boring. All which detracts from the woman. As Coco Chanel so famously said, “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.”
Also, work place fashion rules have changed dramatically and continue to evolve at light speed as the internet changes how the traditional office operates. In the eighties, there was a running joke that as a woman, you wanted to dress how a man would dress if he was a woman. My 1987 internship suit had those crazy shoulder pads that made my body look like Herman Munster from the TV show.
My first job, post university, was at IBM in 1990. Women were not allowed to wear pants even with a jacket. A sleeveless dress was fine but if you wore pants, you would receive a memo from your boss. Oh, and I did.
In 1997 after passing the Florida bar exam, I was sent to the court house to cover a motion hearing. I learned more than law that day. One’s peers are a better fashion barometer than your mirror. It was my first lesson on fashion social pressure. I wore open toed pumps without pantyhose. You would have thought I showed up in sneakers from the 50 something lawyers’ disapproving looks.
The next evolution was “Casual Fridays” in 2001. A workplace fashion turning point much like what the industrial revolution was to farming. “All bets were off” in workplace dress codes. Formal workplace style rules were sent adrift causing such fashion chaos that coworkers wore everything from sweatshirts to sport coats resulting in numerous “fashion memos” outlining appropriate casual office attire. The Casual Friday revolutionized fashion reporting as well. Articles sprung up about casual style for the workplace and how wearing traditional suiting showed you were a style novice.
The 2017 C-Suite woman has weathered this fashion evolution while building a successful career. C-Suite women’s fashion is more important than ever because there are no set rules to get you through your fashion fatigue. So where does one turn for relevant styling suggestions? Where do we learn how to use our fashion dollars to invest in a wardrobe that telegraphs we are C-Suite status when walking in the room?
Like the women who’ve come before us, we share our secrets and so I’m sharing my coveted top fashion tips, learned through trial and error, for a successful C-Suite woman.
I start my meetings when I walk in the room, no words needed but my style announces that with me there, we are ready to begin. For the C-Suite woman, styling is much more than getting dressed for the office or fitting in. C-Suite style is about showing your intelligence by how you have designed your presence for impact. C-Suite style is about running a meeting in your jeans and turtleneck because your power necklace says you are the one to be reckoned with. C-Suite style sums up 20 to 30 years of consistently investing in your career and everyone knows it because your style speaks even when you don’t want to.