Those shoes may be straight out of Vogue and that designer shirt may fit your personal style to a tee, but that doesn’t mean you should be sporting them from nine to five. You can’t always trust the fashion magazines to fill you in on office-appropriate attire, says LisaMarie Luccioni, Ohio’s only CIP (certified image professional.)
So Cincy Chic got the real deal from Luccioni and wardrobe consultant J. Lee Rabiner on what fashion choices will help you portray the successful and driven woman you are. Read these before and after accounts from consultations to learn the tricks of the trade to make your look demand the respect you deserve.
Before: Wearing extremely high heels
After: Although heels are the right idea because a couple inches can make a woman appear more authoritative and feel more confident in a powerful position, heels more than a couple inches tall can make a woman come off as unprofessional, Rabiner says. Workplace heels only should be 2 1/2 inches or shorter. A 3 inch heel can be appropriate if it is a medium heel instead of a spike heel, Luccioni says.
Before: Showing too much skin
After: Skirts aren’t the only clothing pieces that cause this professional mistake. (Skirts should be to the knee or below.) Women also tend to wear short-sleeved shirts or shirts without collars. These looks can instantly become more appropriate, however, by pairing the shirt with a nice jacket, Rabiner says. A layering effect can also gives “visual authority,” Luccioni says. Long-sleeved collared shirts are fine without a jacket, but remember that research has shown the longer the sleeve, the more powerful the appearance, Luccioni says.
Before: Dressing in red to exude confidence and power
After: When selecting specific colors, keep color psychology in mind. Different colors can have different connotations from person to person. Red has some of the most varied connotations. While many women wear red to feel more powerful, many men perceive red as a Victoria’s Secret sexy look, Luccioni says. Women can still incorporate red into their look, however, by wearing a more muted red like a brick red, accessorizing with red pieces or covering a red shirt with a nice jacket. Colors also can create a distraction, and women can get to the point where “the colors are wearing her, not her wearing the colors,” Luccioni says. Make sure people are looking at you and not at the bright yellow skirt you bought yesterday.
Before: Adding an unwanted sense of volume to wider areas of the body
After: Pockets and other added material put emphasis wherever they are, so women should be choosy when it comes to the details on their clothes, Rabiner says. Women with wider hips and thighs should avoid pockets on the sides of their pants just as women with a bigger bum should wear slacks sans back pockets. Simplicity creates a more slimming appearance.
Before: Keeping the worn and outdated
After: Part of maintaining a professional look is to keep your wardrobe up-to-date. Wearing worn and outdated clothes can send the message that you are lazy and not keeping track of current trends. Even scratches on a brief case can make a bad first impression, Luccioni says. A seemingly inability to take care of your own wardrobe makes clients question whether you will have the ability to take care of them.
Before: Sporting a romantic style with pastel colors and curvy lines
After: While your personal style might gravitate toward lighter colors and flowy lines, a professional look is best executed with darker colors and straight lines. Pointed, angular collars convey a more powerful message than a rounded collar, and the general rule for professional fashion is that the darker the color, the more powerful appearance, Luccioni says. To maintain personal style while maintaining an authoritative presence, Luccioni recommends something like a brown tweed suit. The brown follows the dark rule while portraying a more earthy look. Also, the stiff fabric of the tweed adds to the strong, confident exterior.
Before: Finishing off with distracting details
After: From accessories to makeup, less is definitely more in a professional setting. Less does not mean none, however. A nice goal for your makeup application is to put on just enough so that a person will neither consciously notice the makeup nor notice that you might need some touchups. Rabiner recommends at least powder, blush, lipstick and mascara “to open up the eyes.” Just as you don’t want your coworkers or clients to focus on your makeup, you do not want them to be distracted by your accessories. Stray away from overly loud colors and shiny metals. “Be aware of the intensity of metals,” Luccioni says. A matte finish to a piece of jewelry is generally more professional than a shiny finish.
Using these general tips can help you look and feel more powerful and professional in the workplace, but for more personal tips, you can consult with Rabiner, owner of Doncaster Fashionistas and associate of Doncaster Cincinnati Studio, or Luccioni, member of the Association of Image Consultants International.