Let’s take a moment today to discuss what I am seeing around me as viable options for first year managers to wear to work. A light color shirt with a black bra showing through, whatever make up is still left on their face from their night of partying the evening before and hair that it looks like it was styled in the car at a stop light without a brush. And these all seem to be appropriate. Oh yes, you heard me right. Second year managers are showing up to work like this and complimenting this fashion choice with a strong dictator attitude while they wonder why they aren’t receiving any respect. I can’t imagine why their employees aren’t taking them seriously. I’m sure it wasn’t the smeared crusty eye liner or the fact that it’s obvious they are still hung over from the party they just left a few hours before rolling into work late for their shift.
Ladies…what are you doing?!?! Although you are making it easier for gals like me to climb the management ladder, you are doing your career a HUGE disservice. Please go back to the basic rules your mother taught you about coordinating your bra with your shirt so you don’t look like cheap floozy. For goodness sake, have at least a shred of respect for yourself since you are demanding so much more than that from those of us around you. Some people are fashion-challenged and that is quite alright as long as they are willing to admit it and accept some help to further their career. My mother will attest to the fact that if she hadn’t forced me to wear colors other than black, white and gray in my late teenage years then I would still have a very monochromatic closet. I grew up as a dancer and therefore my wardrobe consisted of almost all black and gray items. I could take them with me to the studio at any point. When mom tried to force color on me I started buying items that were white and then had to face her explanation about how “white was the absence of color” so it was not actually a color option.
Years later I have adapted. Although my wardrobe isn’t large in its color variation, it is quite obvious that I do have a signature color. It is often found in at least one item I am wearing each day and it has become my trademark. It just so happens to also be a color of power, but teamed with my personality it comes off less severe and instead just is a small subliminal reminder to people that I mean business. Donald Trump has his bold ties, Ellen DeGeneres has her laid back sneakers, and I have my hint of a specific shade of red in my outfit each day. It is something people associate with me. It helped me to tie my wardrobe together and find my own style while I was going through college. It is always slight and rarely an “in your face” type of statement. I have always prided myself on being described as a classy dresser. Although my suits for production meetings may have a vintage pin up flair, I can rest assure that I’ll look professional and be taken seriously by those at any level.
I am not saying that being a sloppy or inadequately dressed manager will definitely hold you back, but honestly why would you really want to test that theory. As a friend just recently reminded me, it’s best to dress for where you want to be, rather then where you are sometimes. Yes it means I hoof it in circles for miles upon miles some days wearing heels that are practically making my feet bleed. However, if I am pulled into an important impromptu meeting with my V.P. at least I know that I am representing my work proudly through and through. I dress how I manage; classic but with a flair of creativity and little pizazz. I will admit that I’m aware that it’s not my work ethic that is catching the eyes of some men, but it gets my foot in the door and I am not ashamed of that.
My interview for my current job is a perfect example. I knew the trade mark colors of the company’s logo and the main ideas behind those color choices. I wore a classic wrap dress that just so happened to be the exact colors of everything mentioned above, teamed it with a crisp white blazer (to tame it down a bit) and white sling back stilettos. A month after I started work my boss’s-boss’s-boss approached me and complimented me on that outfit even though I had not worn again since. He said he couldn’t imagine another person trying to pull it off; I made it work just right and left the interview panel talking about how I looked like I belonged here. I purposely made the choice to wear those colors with the intent of getting just that reaction.
You only get one shot to make your first impression, but there is no reason that you can’t try to change that impression down the road. If you woke up tomorrow deciding to turn your outward persona around and start over I bet people would take notice of the change. If it only happened once then people see it as a passing phase, but if you never went back to the disheveled old style you used to embrace then you can turn their idea of you right around. Find your own style, find clothes that motivate you to manage in the style you aspire to use. Then take your first step out into the management world with your new persona. I promise you that you won’t regret it. All I ask is that you promise me you’ll stop wearing your club clothes to your “big girl job.”