Wondering What to Wear to the Office, Ladies?

Women need to stop dressing like men and accept their femininity if they want to get ahead in business, according to fashion experts.Gail Foley runs an image consultancy based in Cardiff, Wales, and admits you "see some terrible mistakes." And top of the list is wearing masculine shapes and hiding curves. "Just as men look more authoritative in dark suits, white shirts and red ties (just think of Gordon Brown and how he has smartened up since becoming Prime Minister of the U.K.) so women often think they need to dress severely to be taken seriously in the workplace," she says. "Often women need to show waist more than they do. I use pegs with my clients to pin their clothes and show them they have been wearing the wrong sizes. "It's about getting the right kind of femininity, classic chic." She says that while in theory you should be judged on your ability to do the job, we are all guilty of making assumptions based on appearances. She points to classic research that states that 93 percent of how you come across has nothing to do with what you are saying. For the first 30 seconds after meeting you, people focus on your behavior and the sound of your voice. "It's a shame, but we all make judgments.
"It is a terrible faux pas if you are wearing the wrong thing for business ... If you are wearing something and it's 10 years out-of-date, does that mean you are not current in your thinking too?" she says. "You do see terrible things, like muffin tummies, where people haven't thought about shape. It doesn't matter what size you are ... What matters is what shape you are. If you are curvy you need more drapey fabrics. "Satin blouses are not for bigger ladies, as the fabric is too stiff. "And double-breasted and military-style jackets are not a great style if you are bigger. If you have an hour-glass figure, then show off those curves." She says looking good can give you the confidence "which can mean getting that promotion or that presentation correct." She adds, "You don't have to be up-to-date fashion-wise, but stylish." Vania Jesmond, who owns the Vania Jesmond designer clothing boutique in Swansea, Wales, agrees. "You want to look businesslike and authoritative and [like] somebody people would have confidence in," she says. But that doesn't necessarily mean wearing a "power suit." "Today, for example, I am wearing black trousers and a black wrap-over top, which is a nice look. You can soften it with a necklace, scarf or shirt with the collar out to make it look more classical."
And she says the quality of what you are wearing counts. "Look at investment pieces. The colorings and styles should be something you can wear for a long time." And it's not just women who are affecting their professional image by wearing the wrong things. Men are guilty of it as well. "They are more simple to correct," says Gail Foley. "You tell them a tie doesn't go with a shirt and they will [discard] it, they don't question it. Whereas women have emotional attachments to clothes. You say a top doesn't suit them because they have put on weight and they'll say, 'Oh, my husband bought me this in Puerto Fino for our first anniversary,' or whatever. "Men make the mistake of tending to go for the darker suits -- but if they are auburn or have softer colorings and features (like Brad Pitt's muted tones) [they] need more muted colors. "Asian men for example need deep, rich colors. "And if a man is more rounded, he needs a single-breasted jacket, not a double one." So what should you be wearing in the workplace? Gail Foley has these tips: Top tip this season is waistcoats. Wear them over a crisp striped shirt, even with cufflinks if you want. But a better look is sleeves rolled up or cap sleeves.  
  • Satin, chiffon and silk are great fabrics for little blouses, which will give your trousers and waistcoat combo a feminine touch.


  • Tie necks -- not seen for a couple of seasons -- are also back in. Use them to give color to your outfit. Fuchsia is making a comeback, as is china blue and cappuccino. A stretchy T- shirt or a camisole is another alternative.


  • Look for softer tailoring for jackets and rounded, lower necklines, often with double-breasted fastenings. But if you have a big bust, stick to single buttons. Karen Millen has a lovely, charcoal grey jacket, with a skirt and trousers, which would suit all colorings and can be lifted with a pretty camisole underneath. Soft layers are another way to cope with fluctuating office temperatures.


  • Wrap dresses can be a more relaxed look, particularly under the bigger coat shapes we are seeing. But don't go spending a fortune on them because they are on their way out.


  • Skirt shapes this season are tulip and pencil. If you're more rounded, a tulip is the better shape, but a paneled skirt with a flip or bias is more forgiving.


  • Get on trend with accessories such as shoe-boots and patent bags. Cinch belts are also great for pulling in the Jackie O shifts which are around and, again, are fun for the office.
  • One Woman's Story
    "I've ditched the power suits and the red lipstick," says Deborah Meredith, 35, managing director of City PA in Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan, U.K. She's just had her work wardrobe overhauled by television show, What Not To Wear.

    "Like a lot of women, I had fallen into the trap of thinking because it is a male environment I work in, I have got to dress like a man. "I did a stint in the city and to be taken seriously I had to wear a suit. You want to have the same opportunities as men -- and to be one of them you have to dress like them. The female aspect was long hair and red lipstick. "I wore the power-suited look with red lipstick -- I had worn red lipstick since I was 16 and saw no reason to change it. "What surprised me was Lisa Butcher and Mica Paris, the presenters of What Not To Wear, said I came across as intimidating. They said I was not intimidating when they talked to me, but I was putting up this barrier that made me unapproachable. "They dressed me in wide-legged trousers, wider skirts, not quite A-line but ones that accentuate the waist, almost like a Noughties take on 1950s glamour. "They suggested three-quarter-length sleeves, because full-length ones make the arms look longer. And they put me in navies and browns, not black, because it softens me up. "It has gone down well in the business community. People have come up to me since and said, 'You look far less intimidating.' They feel they have carte blanche to say things like that now that I have been on the show.
    "And they have said they love my hair shorter. It has been long for 20 years, and no one has ever said that to me! "Initially I felt a lot less confident, I have to be completely honest. As well as the natural low after the excitement of filming, for a while I was nervous about going into the business environment not wearing a suit. "But I have been met with so much positive reaction. "Someone said to me that I am as much an advert for my business as the company logo. It is about knowing that people are judging me on how I look as well as my business logo." Source: Western Mail. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. Powered by Yellowbrix.
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