It’s unfair that women in the workplace are often judged (and quite harshly) by their appearance while men totally escape this scrutiny.
Our new Prime Minister is a case in point – when she met German Chancellor Angela Merkel their clothes merited quite a lot of attention, as did Mrs May’s shoes.
A male presenter on a TV show in Canada wore the same blue suit every single day for a year and no one noticed. Well why would they? Can you imagine the comments if a woman did the same? And have you noticed that wrinkly bald men can appear on TV – I think of the Dragons Den presenter and Royal reporter Nicholas Witchell – but almost with one exception (Mary Berry) the women we mostly see are pretty and young.
But away from TV presentation is fashion the key to more success in business? I used to think what I wore didn’t matter in the slightest, that people would hang on my words and forget my appearance. Hmmn .. I’ve come to realise this is not a good way of thinking.
I’ve never been fashion conscious yet when I look at some photos I sometimes cringe crying “How on earth did I look in the mirror and actually go out in that?”. Trouble is I have no capacity for choosing. I still walk out of TK Maxx when I see those crammed rails of clothes as my mind goes blank. A friend who is probably the smartest one I have regularly goes into that same shop but has the knack of honing into the best designer stuff.
What turned things round for me was meeting a fashionista who took an interest for some reason in my wardrobe. Under her guidance I got a new look – clever styling to suit my short frame and big bust. Not only the outfits but mostly importantly the accessories. She suggested wearing an outfit to the office and taking a different jacket and jewellery for after-work events Simple stuff but to me revolutionary. (Look, I told you I didn’t even think of fashion.) She said people would treat me differently with this new look and I scoffed. But it was true, dammit. When I wore the clothes she chose, I looked smarter people really seemed to pay more attention to what I said.
So I have now come to understand that women (and men incidentally) should care more about the way we dress for business. Confidence from wherever it comes – inner peace, clever ideas, what we wear/whatever – will make a difference and get a better response. I often see women politicians on TV and wince at their outfits while not hearing what they are saying.
“Makeover NOW” I have shouted at the TV set. Our new Prime Minister sets a good example – her outfits give her an air of authority (though I am allergic to the leopard skin kitten heels).
I’m indebted to one of my networkers, Joanna Gaudoin, for some practical advice:
“Choose the right style for the right event: A capsule wardrobe means you can look smart for that meeting then take off a jacket and you are at ease for an evening event.
“Colour, yes or no?. Many business women look as if they’re in permanent mourning with the blacks and greys. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with colour in the office. Colours such as greens, blues and purples are mood lifters and here is nothing wrong with that! Selecting something with a subtle pattern or a small item with a pattern is fine though you need to ensure people see you first, not the pattern.
“There is also something to be said for how we wear things – if we feel good in something and confident in our appearance and who we are, we will always communicate ourselves better and others will respond to us better.
“Cycle of success
So if you are going to reach for that spotty top or pink dress, wear it with confidence (and make sure it works for your features!).”
(If you need fashion advice, click here)