When I was just starting out in business there weren’t a whole lot of women to look up to for office dressing advice. Dressing “conservative” was the recommendation from everyone for every single business situation.
Have an upcoming interview? Dress conservative.
First day at a new job? Conservative.
Meeting with a client? Attending a conference? Making a sales call?
Conservative. Conservative. Conservative!
In my first-ever office job, I received a performance review with the following comment from my boss’s boss, the (female) CEO: “Chrystal does an excellent job but needs to dress more conservative. Short skirts and tight pants don’t belong in the workplace.”
Was I in hoochie gear? No! I certainly wasn’t conservative but my outfits were cute. I wore lots of vibrant colors and yes, things may have fit a little “snug”, but it wasn’t that bad.
That CEO was just really damn conservative.
Let’s Get Pretty
So now, thanks to all my experience (and inexperience) in business, I’m going to tell you how you can be taken seriously at work while embracing your feminine edge.
Wear clothes that fit. Loose, unflattering clothing is just as bad as spilling out of too-tight getups. Make sure that the prints, cuts and lines all compliment your curves rather than hide or over-accentuate them.
The diva is in the details. Some lace here, a ruffle there, do make a difference. A lot of work clothing now has various feminine features to serve as a friendly reminder that you are a woman. A silky camisole underneath a well-constructed blazer can be the perfect combination of feminine and functional. Just try to err on the side of pretty, not sexy.
Paint yo’ face. Makeup isn’t made to hide your face, it’s there to enhance your features, downplay your least favorite ones and have a little fun! Experiment with different colors and subtle ways to add them into your regular palette. Lipstick is an easy way to add a healthy dose of femininity to your look. Note: Be sure to line your lips and fill them in with the liner before you move onto the lipstick and gloss. This keeps you from looking like a total lip-lined freak when the lipstick wears off!
Rock your locks. Let’s be honest, it just takes too much work to look like those girls in the hair commercials, but if you’re going to wear your hair down, please fix it. Unless your hair miraculously dries like one of those hair models, you must fix it. Wearing your hair up is a little less feminine looking, but if you can’t bear to wear it down, don’t just throw it up in a ponytail or messy bun. Take the time to make it super sleek. Try adding some pretty barrettes or weave in little braids.
Adorn yourself. No matter how restrictive your company dress code is, accessories are a great way to get your feminine fix without drawing negative attention. A great statement piece can transform any look and a little bit of bling is always in style. Shoes are also the perfect way to show your personality with a plain outfit. Everyone, even men, notice a great pair of shoes. So rock those killer heels with confidence!
Can You Work It
When you’re in your work clothes, ask yourself this: Do I feel powerful in this kind of clothing? Do I feel confident? Do I feel like a part of my personality is coming through? Do I feel feminine? If the answer to any of these is “no” then fix it! Throw on some lipstick, rock that hot belt you just bought, put on that silky blouse you love, or go a little heavier on the eyeliner.
Eventually, I came up with a persona I like to call Business Barbie. Business Barbie always wears her long hair down, her makeup is impeccable and she always wears lipstick. Pink lipstick. Depending on how serious the meeting is, depends on how serious her shade of lipstick is. She always wears a dress and heels. Her shoes are worth noting, especially if her dress is simple and then they are really worth noting. She smiles a lot and of course she’s friendly but above all?
Business Barbie Knows Her Shit
You can utilize all these tips but ultimately if you want to be successful in business, you also need to carry these two pieces of wisdom with you:
Knowledge and confidence. Looking good will only get you in the door. Confidence tells you to walk through and knowledge convinces others you belong there.
What about you? Business Barbie doesn’t have to be your thing, but how do you rock femininity in the workplace?
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