Dress for Success, Member Monday, Women in business

Member’s Monday – Dressing Expectations by Joanna Gaudoin

Every Monday we are giving the opportunity to our trained consultants to showcase their blogs.  This first week we have a blog from Joanna Gaudoin of Inside Outlarge-man-woman-bathroom-sign-md

Dressing Expectations – Are expectations of how to dress higher for women in the workplace?

What’s your reaction to this question? Have you ever thought about ‘dressing expectations’ in this way before? If you’re a woman, perhaps you feel a bit indignant, if a man perhaps puzzlement… I have been asked this question several times in the last few weeks, in different scenarios and by different types of people- during a radio interview, at a speaking event and during some one-to- one conversations. I think the fact that I have been asked it so many times in a matter of weeks alludes to an answer. It is a tricky question in these times of supposed equality. I have to admit it does make me bristle a little…However, I do think that there are greater expectations of women to present themselves better in the workplace. This means that they are judged more harshly when they don’t dress according to the expectations of those around them; and that is the expectations of both men and women! One event participant was very honest in a comment he made recently, although I appreciate it may annoy many of you at this point…He explained that what men appreciate a woman wearing on a date or in another social setting is frowned upon by men in the workplace. Date or social wear are not seen as appropriate for professional women in the work environment but for a post work outing men do expect more effort, not just office wear. On the other hand, formal office wear worn by men is widely accepted and even actively appreciated by women on an evening out. So this begs the question, why are there greater expectations of women? I believe the first reason is women are expected to know how to dress well and look good. After all, all women are into clothes, shopping and have an eye for these things, right? In reality, this is not the case, many women don’t want to spend time thinking about clothes and shoes and dread shopping! With more and more time pressure too, trying to balance being partner, mother and career woman, there just isn’t the time. Fewer women than men dislike clothes and shopping but more than the media and magazines would like us to believe. Many women I work with berate themselves as they feel they ‘should’ know by now how to look good even though they struggle with the inclination and the time. However, why should women ‘know’? We don’t all have an eye for what looks good on us. If it’s not a natural skill, then it’s like any other, we need help to develop it! Secondly, whilst being female provides more opportunities to dress interestingly and be more individual, the increased scope and availability of accessories and more colourful items does provide more scope for mistakes and harsh subjective judgements. Men will almost always notice something less than ideal on a woman and women will almost certainly do the same of their peers so I guess you could say that’s a double whammy!  Whilst women are likely to notice a badly dressed man, other men are less likely to unless there is something drastically out of kilter! ‘Dressing expectations’ are what they are but what is important to remember is whilst not everyone is always going to appreciate our specific choices most people can appreciate when others look good even if it wouldn’t be their personal choice. Looking good means:

  • Appropriate for the occasion and the environment
  • The right clothing and accessories for our body shape, colouring and personal style.

So some tips to remember:

  • Consider the appropriate dress code not just for your job role but the environment and situation for a given day. Being over or under dressed can leave you feeling very uncomfortable and unfocused on the work task
  • Try to bring out some personality in your outfit in an appropriate way so you are positively memorable; men can do this via ties, cuff links, a patterned shirt. For women there are many options – jewellery, scarf, shoes, handbag
  • For women, think about altering an outfit for a post work event – use different accessories and shoes. TIP: One designer Manifattura Donna, available at www.pinstripeandpearls.com  has detachable elements that come with some of their shirts and dresses such as ribbons and necklaces that fix neatly to the garment; allowing you to relax the feel of the item for evening wear or a less formal meeting.
  • Avoid anything that distracts someone so they are more focused on that element than what you are saying. Examples include cartoon socks for men, jangly bracelets for women
  • Ensure your clothes fit you well and they flatter you. The better you look, the better you will feel meaning you will exude greater confidence and positivity to others, which can only be a plus.

Let me know what you think as it would be great to get some more opinions. Thank you Joanna!

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