#StoriesOfStyle: Do you feel like you in a professional environment?

Author: Joanna Gaudoin

It's always a tricky one: how to look appropriate for work or a professional function, but still remaining true to your personal style. Getting that perfect balance is quite an art.

Image consultant Joanna Gaudoin from Inside Out works closely with clients to ensure they project their best self in a professional environment. So today she's sharing with us her best tips for dressing authentically either at work or when accompanying someone to an office do...

As a woman, do you feel you can dress authentically for work? When you open the wardrobe each morning, do you feel inspired and excited about your options?

If you don’t, then you are far from alone. Many women’s working wardrobes are full of uninspiring items that don’t really bring them joy. Often they are items bought because they tick the suitability box and that’s about it.

This means two things; firstly that many women are not bringing any of themselves to work in terms of their visual appearance - no hint of personality. Secondly they are just blending in. This is often not even due to external pressure but a subconscious impulse to fit in, this is particularly prevalent in professional services where often a woman’s wardrobe (like a man’s in this sector) contains many neutral suits (grey, black, navy etc.) with perhaps the only difference being that some are skirt and dress suits, rather than trousers.

So what is the implication of this? Does it in fact matter if it’s just about going to work and getting the job done? 

I would say a resounding ‘yes, it does’. The reason being that we spend a lot of time at work, the majority of our daylight hours in fact, so it’s rather depressing to have to shy away from feeling ourselves for so much of our lives. Research also shows that when we feel more ourselves, we perform better in our work.

There is of course a challenge though. In some sectors, particularly the creative ones, people can generally dress just as they please but in many sectors there is a need to be appropriate. This is especially the case in professional services where strong technical skills and knowledge are required and clients are paying high fees, there is a sense of expectation with how lawyers, consultants and the like might look. However, this doesn’t mean outfits can be devoid of personality, in fact with increased seniority, it’s even more important to demonstrate a sense of personal style. 

So how can we be appropriate and be ourselves? Particularly in a more formal office environment

  • The starting point is to think about what’s right for our day – that of course takes into account our role, what we are doing on a given day, who we are meeting etc.
  • Unless we need to be really formal, wearing interesting colours is great – we generally look better in them if they suit us and our choices on a given day can reflect who we are and how we are feeling that day.
  • Accessories are a great way to reflect our personality and feel authentic without being too over the top, if that’s not appropriate so think about what jewellery, scarf, shoes or bag could help you feel more like you – what reflects your ‘wardrobe personality’ and helps you feel more authentic. Someone that would select a costume necklace from the shop East is likely to have a very different authentic style from someone wearing classic pearls.
  • Remember, not everyone has to see it for you to feel good and like you, for example just knowing you are wearing your favourite underwear can help, another idea might be a more interesting suit jacket lining.

Remember these tips apply whether you are a working woman or just have the occasional formal meeting or other event to go to.

As women we have an enormous opportunity, to be memorable for something as we have far more ‘tools’ than men. In a formal environment, all they really have is tie, cufflinks and at a push socks! Think of all the possibilities where we can show some personality, even if just a hint – bag, shoes, scarf, jewellery, clothing detail, items with far more colour and/or pattern. The only warning is to avoid going overboard, pick your personality statements carefully! But, whatever you do, never let ‘blending in’ be your main goal particularly as you climb the corporate ladder. It’s not about being a slightly feminised version of a man unless that is truly your style!

So what are you waiting for? How could you inspire yourself more each day and add more interest and personality to your working wardrobe?

About the author:

 If you’d like to discover your wardrobe personality        and understand better what suits you, as well as get  lots of ideas on how to bring more interest into your    working wardrobe, Joanna Gaudoin can help you. She  has run Inside Out Image for 5 years, following a  decade in the corporate world and re-training as an  Image & impact Expert. She has helped many women  gain confidence and look and feel great, whilst feeling  like them at work. If you’d like to receive her free 6 part  ‘Boost Your Personal Impact’ guide by e-mail just click  here.

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